Movie Log 2006 (With Mini-Reviews!) - Vol. 5


Continued from Vol. 4

--Italics indicate a repeat viewing--

232. 8/29: Little Miss Sunshine (2006, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris) - As I had been looking forward to Little Miss Sunshine for some time, I decided that this would be the movie I'd see on my birthday. And, unfortunately, an hour and forty-six minutes later, I wished I had chosen something else. Little Miss Sunshine has a very solid cast (Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano, and Abigail Breslin, all of whom I like quite a bit) and some truly hilarious moments, but the massive flaw here is that the film is eccentricity for eccentricity's sake. There are no characters; there are personalities. There's the horny old man, the smug motivational speaker, the strung-out and neglectful mom, the angsty teenager who's decided not to speak to his family, the precocious wannabe beauty queen, and--get this--a gay suicidal Proust scholar. Surprisingly, this last one, by far the most farfetched and outlandish of the bunch, is the most believable, with a wonderfully low-key performance by Carell. Directors Dayton and Faris don't bother to treat these Saturday Night Live sketches of people as, you know, real ones, so at times the characters' ideals seem to bounce around so often that they come off almost schizophrenic. There's hardly a realistic moment in the whole thing, and the movie almost annihilates itself with a horiffic train wreck of an ending that, God help me, I wish I could just forget. The only really effective scenes in the film feature either Carell or Dano, and their touching, almost profound moment together near the end smacks of a much better, much wiser movie, one where there are actually characters and situations. I wish I had seen that movie. C+

233. 9/1: Comic Book: The Movie (2004, Mark Hamill) - I've no doubt that Hamill has his heart in the right place with Comic Book: The Movie, and as a hardcore, life-long fan of comic books and all things nerdy, I appreciate his passion and what he's tried to accomplish. But also as a hardcore, life-long fan of film, his glaring shortcomings are unfortunately obvious. This direct-to-DVD mockumentary was filmed at the San Diego Comic-Con, a geek mecca which I almost was able to attend for the first time this year, and is a sort of Christopher Guest-style look at how far impassioned fans will go to make sure that Hollywood studios won't destroy their characters (and I do mean their characters; freakish possessiveness comes with the position). Unfortunately, Hamill is no Guest, and his poor directorial skills coupled with some lackluster acting ruin what could otherwise have been some truly hilarious moments. The cast is brimming with geek celebrities like Bruce Campbell, Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Paul Dini, and Billy West, among others, including Animaniacs voice actor Jess Harnell, who provides the only real laughs as stoner cameraman Ricky. Like I said, Comic Book: The Movie is a heartfelt effort and I'm sure that all involved had a blast making it, but it needs to be more This Is Spinal Tap and less obnoxious home movie. D+

234. 9/1: As Good as It Gets (1997, James L. Brooks) - Director Brooks, who I am only familiar with via 2004's underrated Spanglish, wrangles two genuinely fantastic performances from Jack Nicholson as obsessive-compulsive Melvin Udall and Greg Kinnear as bitter gay artist Simon Bishop. The two are superb, and both deserved their Oscar nominations (and, in Nicholson's case, a win). However, Brooks' female lead, Helen Hunt, is annoying and screechy, due in large part to his uneven screenplay, which shifts back and forth from amusing to irritating throughout its running time. Brooks' weak female characters are also evident in the later Spanglish, with a highly annoying Téa Leoni and a rather irksome Cloris Leachman. It's this unfortunate weakness that leads As Good as It Gets, despite all its flashes of brilliance and great dialogue ("You make me want to be a better man" is one of the most romantic lines I can ever recall hearing), to not being a wholly pleasant viewing experience. I got a headache going back and forth between smiling and rubbing my weary temples at Hunt's scenes. But it's not a bad movie, no, just--and excuse the horrid pun--not as good as it gets. Harold Ramis has a superb cameo, though! B-

235. 9/4: A Hard Day's Night (1964, Richard Lester) - There are some movies so shell-shattering and so genuinely unique that, as you watch them, you're not aware of how truly brilliant they are. First there's the irritation at what could be another tepid attempt at breaking the mold, then there's the appreciation of its novelty, then the disappointment that it's nothing but a novelty, and then the sudden, profound realization of the film's underlying brilliance. I've experienced this several times upon watching something truly fresh and new--always with the same dread that that last phase might not come into play--and every time, it's heralded something very very special. The most recent experience of the like that I've had is with Lester's A Hard Day's Night, and that's really saying something, considering that the film is forty-two years old as I write this. A Hard Day's Night, The Beatles' first big screen venture, is a seminal motion picture, and one that, as far as rock-and-roll comedies go, might never be touched. As a huge Beatles fan, I initially found myself enamored by just seeing the Fab Four onscreen, but then as an appreciator of film as art, I became enthralled by Lester's brilliant, rule-breaking direction, which is at times very surreal and almost sort of avant-garde. Each Beatle, from John Lennon to Paul McCartney to George Harrison to Ringo Starr, has always had a unique identity, and screenwriter Alun Owen, who followed the gang around to get a feel of their lives and personalities, uses them to teriffic effect. Lennon's silly wit ("I declare this bridge open!"), McCartney's laidback charm ("Are you close with your father?" "No, actually, we're just good friends."), Harrison's deadpan ("He's proud of his drums. They loom large in his legend."), and Starr's game mockery ("Ah, you've got an inferiority complex, you have." "Yeah, I know, that's why I play the drums: It's me active compensatory factor.") all light up the screen and leave it blazing at full flame for 87 wonderful, truly unique and undeniably hilarious and masterful minutes. Plus, considering The Beatles are without a doubt the greatest band of all time, the music, like, totally rocks. A+

236. 9/4: Magical Mystery Tour (1967, George Harrison, Berard Knowles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr) - Written and directed by The Beatles themselves (plus veteran director Knowles), this one-hour TV special proves that, yes, even geniuses make a blunder or two now and then. And, trust me, Magical Mystery Tour is a huge blunder, one of the most pointless and irritating things I've ever watched. Apart from some great songs--this special sucks, but the album is one of the group's very best--it's basically just a bunch of bizarre footage of people traveling on a bus and doing strange things that make little to no sense and won't matter a lick even if you're a hardcore fan. Heck, even The Beatles themselves regret this film--which was really shoehorned onto them mostly by McCartney--with Lennon later describing it as, "The most expensive home movie ever made." And not even a decent one, at that! D-

237. 9/4: Yellow Subarmine (1968, George Dunning) - Okay, so apart from the brilliant songs featured throughout Yellow Submarine, The Beatles don't actually voice themselves and participated very little with the film's making. And, yes, Dunning and the animators are the same people responsible for those abysmal Saturday morning Beatles cartoons. Yellow Submarine is so magical that I found myself not caring about all that. It's a kooky, zany, completely whacked late 60's acid trip that perfectly interprets The Beatles' spaced-out music, boasts some extremely inventive animation, and has a very clever, funny script that perfectly hones in on each Beatle's distinct personality. The imagery within is highly surreal and abstract--but not pretentiously so--and while it's not quite as great as The Beatles' first big screen outing, A Hard Day's Night (I've still yet to see their second, Help!), it's much better than their previous TV special Magical Mystery Tour and epitomizes the groovy, hippy flower power generation. My personal favorite bit is the one at the end with the actual Beatles; it's a profound, joyous moment that will leave you singing your heart out along with those wonderfully weird and wild lads from Liverpool. A-

238. 9/5: Bad Day at Black Rock (1955, John Sturges) - If you want an inane thriller with barely any hint of tension and with hilariously inept acting, and which leads up to a wholly unsatisfying and unrevelatory conclusion, Bad Day at Black Rock is one you'll want to be seeking out. Maybe it's because I'm not a fan of director Sturges (and I know that most don't agree with me there) or maybe it's because Spencer Tracy's "fearsome" cowboy opressors are armed with horrible dialogue ("I'm half horse, half alligator." Ooh, scary. Seriously. That's not frightening. At all.) and are acted by folks that seem to come from every bad TV movie you've ever seen. Tracy, who's always been a very good and capable actor, here seems mostly constipated, and I blame Sturges' bland direction (though, however, I must make note of the exceptional cinematography, which at least helps to distract from the lackluster goings-on taking part onscreen) along with Don McGuire and Millard Kaufman's tedious script, taken from Howard Breslin's story Bad Day at Hondo. Maybe if I were around for Bad Day at Black Rock's intitial 1955 premiere, I would've found it a challenging, subversive moral drama most seem to liken it to, but all I know is that what I saw would more likely fit the description of a bumbling, unexciting, silly piece of tosh that should be relegated only to late-night showings on TNT alongside those horrible Charmed repeats. D+

239. 9/5: Dinner at Eight (1933, George Cukor) - An exquisite dramedy, Dinner at Eight is an elegant piece of fine craftsmanship from Cukor, screenwriters Frances Marion and Herman J. Mankiewicz (the latter of whom would later go on to co-write Citizen Kane with Orson Welles in 1941), and the ingenious, star-studded cast. There are plenty of stand-outs, from Marie Dressler's old has-been actress who still considers herself a grande dame to Jean Harlow's conniving sexy little blonde, as well as many others, but it's Lionel Barrymore who steals the show as a sad, arrogant, disreputable actor of yore...a nice moral counterpoint to Dressler's role. The script provides a winning ensemble piece for this winning ensemble, and it's a match made in Heaven; Dinner at Eight nimbly balances itself between human drama and human comedy--with a little bit of old school Hollywood exaggeration thrown in for good measure--more successfully than most films are able to anymore. An excellent film from an excellent director, an excellent writing pair, and one fantastic cast. A-

240. 9/6: El Mariachi (1992, Robert Rodriguez) - I'll be the first to admit that, considering the film was made for only $7000 and shot in two weeks under difficult conditions (mostly due to budgetary restraints), El Mariachi is an impressive feat visually. Director Rodriguez originally intended it to be a sort of calling card video that he'd shop around studios to land him a job, and as far as that goes, it's mildly successful. But unfortunately, though a great body it does have, under the hood, there's not much to bother with; the engine barely works. El Mariachi basically functions on the intelligence level of a Steven Seagal flick, though Rodriguez has managed to spruce it up quite a good deal with his flashy visuals. This, however, does not a good movie make, and Rodriguez's talents have never really matured: I was never truly impressed by his body of work until last year's startling Sin City, though much of its storytelling and stylistic traits came from the glorious mind of Frank Miller. However, if Rodriguez can finally get to consistently making films that have interesting enough characters and stories to match with his visuals, I'll be first in line for each and every one of them. C

241. 9/7: Help! (1965, Richard Lester) - Help!, The Beatles' second live-action feature as well as their second collaboration with director Lester, is nowhere near as good as their first, the rock-and-roll comic masterpiece A Hard Day's Night. A Hard Day's Night was an odd, surreal, breathtakingly vibrant bit of handiwork, whereas Help! is a far more commercial outing. Though that's not to say that it doesn't work: The charm of The Beatles and bits of funky inspiration on Lester's part liven up the cheesy special effects and acting from the other players...really, Help! can be seen as a spot-on James Bond spoof with some really great music. There are classic bits of Beatles comedy, and it's great to see Ringo Starr again as the gamely self-mocking, downcast drummer which everything bad always happens to (in this case, he comes across a sacrificial ring that gets some mad scientists and an ancient tribe after him). Help! is very kooky, kookier even than A Hard Day's Night: I dare you not to be happily bewildered by what the film titles, "The Exciting Adventure of Paul on the Floor." Help! doesn't always work, and it's nowhere near as emotionally or visually striking as A Hard Day's Night, nor as funny, but it's still a breezy piece of entertainment and sports some beautifully-filmed performances of some of the Fab Four's best songs. B

242. 9/8: Hollywoodland (2006, Allen Coulter) - I am positive that anyone coming out of a screening of Hollywoodland will have this exact same thought: "Ben Affleck is back." Yes, Hollywoodland, a confused but compelling film about the possible homicide/suicide of TV Superman actor George Reeves, movie studio corruption, and the emotional and moral conflicts of a Hollywood detective (portrayed in fine fashion by the always-reliable Adrien Brody), makes the former Pearl Harbor and Gigli star (look, I liked Jersey Girl, okay?!) relevant again. In fact, if he doesn't get an Oscar nomination for his performance here as the troubled Reeves, I will be very surprised...this is probably his greatest work (with the possible exception of Dogma). It's an honest, vulnerable, multifaceted performance, and he outacts everyone else in the picture, including Brody, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, and two Deadwood stars, Molly Parker and Larry Cedar. In fact, Affleck's performance is so fascinating and the story of Reeves' life so riveting that, in contrast, it makes the story of Brody's detective trying to discover whether or not someone did indeed murder Reeves seem rather uninteresting. Really, the biggest problem with Hollywoodland, and what keeps it from being as good as it could be, is a meandering screenplay by Paul Bernbaum that jumps around far too often for its own good; the last half-hour is particularly muddled, though revived by an ingenious sequence involving both Brody and Affleck in which debut feature director Coulter really shows off his wonderful neo-noir sensibilities. Hollywoodland may not soar up, up, and away like Reeves' Superman, but it is a movie this summer revolving around the Man of Steel that didn't bore me to sleep, and for that I give it my blessing. B

243. 9/10: Dave (1993, Ivan Reitman) - God bless Kevin Kline. I can't imagine that anyone but Kline, the affable actor whose presence can make even the worst of movies (like 1999's Wild Wild West) semi-tolerable, could've made Dave seem classier or more inspired than it actually is. Because, though a neat concept it does have, Dave takes the traditional Hollywood route and has quite a messy script by Gary Ross, who would go on to much bigger and better things (take his masterpiece Pleasantville, for example). Within the first eight minutes, what little story there is has been set up and the movie cotinues on in rote fashion, expecting us to feel something for characters we barely know. Frank Langella sneers, Sigourney Weaver glares, Ving Rhames blankly looks around, and Kline gets us to actually feel something. He has a wonderfully goofy but serious charm, and infuses the movie with a life and a passion that director Reitman just can't muster. However, there are some nice little details, such as cameos from Oliver Stone and a bit part by Ben Kinglsey, and if you look closely, during one of the press scenes, there's a Clamp Cable News camera from Gremlins 2: The New Batch in the back of the room. Ah, those pesky Gremlins. They should've been onhand to rip this conventional doldrum to shreds. C

244. 9/11: Beverly Hills Cop (1984, Martin Brest) - Remember back when Eddie Murphy was funny, and edgy, hilarious R-rated blockbusters came out pretty regularly? Well, if you can't, don't worry, just pop in a video of Beverly Hills Cop, with Murphy at the peak of his career, and in one of his best films. Beverly Hills Cop had an interesting production history: Various writers wrote various drafts over a span of almost 10 years, almost always molding it as a serious drama, and eventually Sylvester Stallone was cast as Axel Foley, only to drop out two weeks before filming began. Murphy was quickly brought onboard, and it changed wildly from a drama to a comedy; Murphy had to work closely with director Brest to patch together various drafts of the screenplay to match the feel of the movie that they were planning on making. Whenever they got stuck, Murphy would just come up with something onset. Thus, a good deal of the film was improvised or hastily thought up by the actors, and what we get is an absolutely hilarious film that manages to retain elements of its hard-nosed crime drama origins, always remaining fresh and exciting. Apart from Murphy's great star turn, there's also an hilarious Judge Reinhold, and great cameos by Bronson Pinchot and Paul Reiser. Eddie, if you're reading this--which you're probably not--I beg you to get back to making great, adult-oriented fare like this, and stop turning out sludge like The Nutty Professor II. Please, Eddie! We need you! A-

245. 9/12: A Home at the End of the World (2004, Michael Mayer) - There's a great big heart beating within A Home at the End of the World, and first-time director Mayer has managed to assemble an impressive cast featuring Colin Farrell, Dallas Roberts, Robin Wright Penn, and Sissy Spacek, as well as a smart script from Michael Cunningham, taking from his own novel. Unfortunately, at some point, A Home at the End of the World becomes all heart and no substance. It's a happy, warm movie, with traces of the sad and bittersweet, but Cunningham stops long before the actors do. The movie keeps going without a story or any real character drive, propelled forth only by the strength of its fine ensemble. This is not to say, though, that the film is not a good one: It is, just not as good as it thinks. B

246. 9/12: Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994, Mike Newell) - One of the freshest and most engaging romantic comedies that I can recall having seen, Four Weddings and a Funeral is just a lovely, hilarious film with fine acting all around and an honest, wry, witty, and intelligent screenplay by Richard Curtis. I'm not sure, though, if it would've worked without star Hugh Grant, the kind of actor who can pull off the charming cad, but who does so in such a natural, self-effacing, bitter, and flawed manner. He's Prince Kinda Charming, and though his performances in his films rarely vary, they all work for the kind of thing that he's trying to accomplish and why, I assume, he's cast in the first place. The only real flaw in Four Weddings and a Funeral is Grant's romantic interest, Andie MacDowell. I've never been too keen on MacDowell, but I can't say why. She by no means does a bad job here, but her performance is still infected with the kind of curious unpleasantness I feel while watching her. However, this is not to take away from the splendid goings-on in Curtis' script, with energetic direction by Newell. Filled to the brim with wonderfully dry British humor and honest, hilarious romantic misadventures, I give Four Weddings and a Funeral a buoyant recommendation to the optimist in us all. A-

247. 9/14: Heathers (1989, Michael Lehmann) - If you're the kind of budding screenwriter that I am, big on the satire and the irony and the sharp dialogue and the frustrating yet fascinating characters, Heathers has the kind of script that you lie in bed awake at nights desperately wishing that you had written. With a bizarre, outrageous, perverse, and cynical script by first-time feature writer Daniel Waters, Heathers is a brilliant debut for both he and first-time feature director Lehmann. Everyone here is at the peak of their careers: Winona Ryder never had this much wit and bite again, Christian Slater has yet to top his manic yet subdued performance here, and apart from Mallrats this is just about the only truly decent thing Shannen Doherty was ever involved with. Touching on subjects of murder, suicide, disestablishmentarianism, and sexuality, Heathers is a well-deserved blast of vitriole in the eye of John Hughes' cheesy 80's teen flicks. Despite--and, actually, because of--all of the serious topics that it discusses, Heathers is absolutely hilarious, with dialogue that crackles without effort and lively and charismatic performances from the entire cast, though primarily Ryder and Slater. I'm not sure if a movie like this could be made outside of the strangely excessive society of the 80's, but I do know that it works just as well now as it probably did back then. A

248. 9/14: Do the Right Thing (1989, Spike Lee) - Do the Right Thing starts off as a comedy skewering racial differences and then slowly, progressively, and kind of terrifyingly veers into a drama exploring those differences and what they can lead to on a hot summer's eve when a few wrong words have been said and tempers are running high. One of director Lee's first big breaks and a clear indicator of his talent, Do the Right Thing is just like its author is: Frustrated, exasperated, angry, intelligent, cynical, and, despite it all, hopeful that maybe it can wrought some changes in this old, stationary racial world of ours. The first half takes a bit getting used to--if anything, Lee's style is very unique--but the second brings it full circle to a powerful, poignant end where the laughs have not been forgotten, but where they're just harder to come by. Besides Lee's visual skill and his superb screenplay, Do the Right Thing boasts a talented cast consisting of the likes of Lee himself, John Turturro, Danny Aiello (who actually steals the show as an aging Italian pizzeria owner), Bill Nunn, Rosie Perez, Ossie Davis, and, quite memorably, Samuel L. Jackson as a radio announcer who acts as a sort of emotional narrator throughout the film. Again, much like Lee, Do the Right Thing may have its shortcomings, but when it follows its title's advice and does the right thing, it does it very right indeed. B+

249. 9/15: Blackboard Jungle (1955, Richard Brooks) - Despite having been released over 50 years ago, Blackboard Jungle is still a powerful, searing indictment of inner-city school systems (they may have actually gotten worse since this), as well as a taut exploration of racial and class lines, and also the relationship between a teacher and his students. To say that that is all that Blackboard Jungle is about still simplifies too much of it, so I won't try to go on, I'll just say this: Blackboard Jungle is a fascinating, brilliant film with a fantastic star turn from Glenn Ford plus great direction and a terrific script by Brooks, taking from a novel by Evan Hunter (perhaps better known under his crime novel psuedonym "Ed McBain"). The stark black-and-white cinematography by Russell Harlan deftly illustrates (if not quite as elegantly as the later To Kill a Mockingbird) the racial tension in the film, even if there are only two non-white students featured onscreen, including a young yet still superb Sidney Poitier. Brimming with unexpected violence of all varieties--physical, verbal, and psychological--Blackboard Jungle is an incredibly powerful film and one whose message still rings true, loud and clear. Plus, it actually ushered in the era of rock-and-roll with its brilliant use of Billy Haley and the Comets' classic but previously little-heard tune "Rock Around the Clock." A

250. 9/17: Malcolm X (1992, Spike Lee) - This is the fourth film I've seen from director Lee, and the first one that left me with the impression that Lee finally realized just how talented he was and was truly beginning to harness his energies. Perhaps inspired by his subject matter, iconic African-American civil rights leader Malcolm X--whom he had trumpeted before, especially in Do the Right Thing--Lee comes up with a riveting look at the life of the man himself, perfectly showing his transformation from an uneducated hoodlum to a Black Pride speaker to a Muslim accepting all races and speaking not just for African-Americans, but for all people in all the world. Lee is in big, epic biopic mode here (and for good reason, as the film is about three-and-a-half hours long), leaving behind some of the stylistic oddities and self-indulgences that hampered his other works. Despite all of this, however, the entire endeavor wouldn't have worked without a fantastic leading performance, and Denzel Washington more than delivers in the title role. He even, quite effortlessly, looks like the man. As most who know me can attest to, I've not been a big fan of Washington, but now I understand why he's so acclaimed and why he's one of the most important black actors since Sidney Poitier. Both Lee and Washington achieve their best work when on a subject they obviously both feel very passionately about, and their passion is infectious. A-

251. 9/17: Bang the Drum Slowly (1973, John D. Hancock) - In the year 1973, Robert De Niro gave one of his best performances in one of the best movies ever made. Unfortunately, De Niro was in two films in 1973, and this isn't the one that was a masterpiece (that, dear friends, would be Martin Scorsese's unforgettable Mean Streets). No, I'm afraid to say, Bang the Drum Slowly is a tepid, overly sentimental Hallmark kind of outing, with a definite movie-of-the-week quality to it. De Niro plays the supporting role, though the pivotal character on which the weepie plot spins, of a baseball player diagnosed with Hodgkin's, and he's not even that good. Michael Moriarty, the film's real star, surprisingly steals the show away from De Niro, and delivers a superb performance in desperate of a much better movie. Basically a far inferior go at a Brian's Song-type deal, Bang the Drum Slowly, despite a fine Moriarty and a good score, just doesn't make the cut. C-

252. 9/18: The Barefoot Contessa (1954, Joseph L. Mankiewicz) - I can't say that The Barefoot Contessa is as great as writer-director Mankiewicz's previous look at stardom, the seminal classic All About Eve, but it's a testament to the film's greatness and Mankiewicz's skill that it comes really, really close, far closer than I ever would've expected. Starring the ever-brilliant Humphrey Bogart as a veteran movie director whose career has hit the bottom but who finds a star in Ava Gardner's title barefoot contessa, the film is a cynical, bitter plunge of the knife into Hollywood's throat, the same Hollywood that indeed produced the movie. There are plenty of conventional avenues that the film could've taken, but Mankiewicz is far too intelligent to let that happen, allowing Bogart's melancholy narration to override any kind of melodramatic sentimentality the audience may be expecting, and to remind them that what they're watching isn't a fairy tale, it's one woman's life-long pursuit of a fairy tale and the sad, painful truths she finds underneath all the glitz and glamour. Gardner ably plays a star who is beautiful and talented in every respect, but who is as seclusive as she is famous, baring her soul to few, and using her stardom as a means to find the happiness that eluded her childhood. There's a lot of deep emotional shading in The Barefoot Contessa, and it's just as troubled, uncomforting, bittersweet, and ultimately, as fascinating as life itself is. A+

253. 9/18: Serenity (2005, Joss Whedon) - Completely by accident I happened to come across Serenity as it was playing on HBO, and considering the fact that I have both my Firefly and Serenity DVDs loaned out at the moment, it was quite the delightful surprise. This is the first time I've ever seen the film chopped up in fullscreen, and while there are certain changes--some of the action scenes don't come across as exciting and some of the jokes don't work as well without the widescreen aspect of all of the busy things going on in the sidelines of Whedon's bustling, complex future world--it's still as great as it always has been. Plus, considering the fact that Sci-Fi Channel was running a Firefly marathon earlier in the day (also, unfortunately, in fullscreen instead of glorious widescreen), this was even more of a treat. As soon as I get my Internet modem back and can stop using library computers, I will hop on Whedonesque before you can say, "primary buffer panel." A+

254. 9/21: Slither (2006, James Gunn) - In the grand tradition of Tremors (the high school in the film is even named after Fred Ward's Earl Bassett) and Shaun of the Dead, Slither is an ingenious horror-comedy that piles on plenty of laughs while having just enough genuine scares to satisfy horror fans. It's a parody, yes, but also one that, like the aforementioned films, takes itself seriously as a gore-crazed 80's-esque scarefest. Starring my cap'n, Nathan Fillion from Firefly/Serenity, Slither is pure entertainment from start to finish. Writer-director Gunn, who wrote the lackluster Dawn of the Dead remake a couple years back, seems a completely new talent here, livening up the screen with inventive, elaborate, hilarious, and chilling gore setpieces, where before he indulged in glib social commentary and, well, I don't know if I can ever forgive him for his running zombies. Slither is one of the best horror movies in years, and certainly of the decade, even though it's far funnier than it is terrifying. Fillion is great--and here I add an obligatory "duh"--and so is the rest of the cast, including Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry, and Michael Rooker (who was actually in the Firefly episode "The Train Job"). If you're a horror fan, a gore fan, a comedy fan, or even just a Browncoat hungry for more of Cap'n Tightpants (albeit as a much dumber, goofier police sheriff), Slither will hit the spot. A very, very refreshing slice of entertainment. A-

255. 9/21: Ghostbusters (1984, Ivan Reitman) - I blame Ghostbusters. For what, you ask? For shaping my taste in many things: My lifelong fascination with the paranormal, my infatuation with ghost stories, my love of Bill Murray, and my attempt to contact Harold Ramis (I wrote him a letter and never got an answer back). Most importantly, Ghostbusters is to blame for my discovering the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series: It was about the supernatural, so I was already intrigued, and then when I saw its playful mucking around with conventions and dry humor, I thought, "Hey, I know this..." Once I became enamored with Buffy's wit, intelligence, and, significantly, its brilliant dialogue, I became enraptured with Pulp Fiction, which got me into quality filmmaking. So, in a roundabout way, Ghostbusters (and my mother, who first showed it to me) is the reason I dig movies as much as I do. It's still hilarious and wicked intelligent...I mean, it's supposed to be another blockbuster comedy, yet Dan Aykroyd quotes the Bible (albeit inaccurately; Revelations 6:12, not 7:12) and as Ramis' Dr. Egon Spengler expounds, there's an elaborate mythology surrounding the film's primary villain which involves a serial killing surgeon, cultists, and demonic worship. Yep, this is how I like my comedy. Witty, dry, classy, and with a dark undercurrent. This is also the first time I've ever seen the movie on the big screen, at a free showing at my library, and it's still one of the funniest movies ever made as well as the best sci-fi comedy of all time. It's really wonderful to see it with an audience. I'll just leave you with this sage piece of advice from Ernie Hudson's Winston Zeddemore: "Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god...YOU SAY YES!" A+

256. 9/23: The Black Dahlia (2006, Brian De Palma) - It's always been apparent that De Palma likes noir. On second thought, he doesn't just like it; he's as obsessed with the genre and its trappings as much as Josh Hartnett's detective here is obsessed with Mia Kirshner's murder victim. So, based on James Ellroy's revered noir novel, which in itself was a fictionalized account of true events, The Black Dahlia is a big sloppy wet kiss to the genre and those who made it work back in the day. Emphasis on "sloppy." While De Palma's visuals are quite engaging and stylish, his narrative structure is haphazard and clumsy, and what little life the movie does have is sucked out by Hartnett's deadening, lifeless narration, which makes it clear that Hartnett has probably seen Double Indemnity way too many times. The rest of the actors are just as flat and boring, especially the usually compelling Scarlett Johansson. That's not to say that there aren't interesting things going on in the film, as the primary themes are obsession and possessiveness, but De Palma never stops his campy merry-go-round of morbidity and gratuitous lesbian sex long enough to explore these themes properly. The Black Dahlia is a crime movie where the crimes are notorious excess and a director too obsessed with how he's making what he's making instead of just what he's making. C-

257. 9/26: The Beatles Anthology (1995, Bob Smeaton, Geoff Wontor, and Kevin Godley) - Any Beatles fan's wet dream, The Beatles Anthology is an exhaustive ten-hour-long documentary charting the group's very early formative years (back when Pete Best was still drummer, and before that even) right up to the bittersweet end (though the making of Let It Be was filled with pain and unease, they at least got to end things merrily with the making of Abbey Road). Instead of there being some sort of narrator or host, the three remaining Beatles at the time the film was made (Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison, who passed away in 2001), along with people like George Martin, Neil Aspinall, and Derek Taylor, plus John Lennon via interview footage before his murder in 1980, tell their story the way it actually happened, and it's a fascinating, honest account that will rivet the viewer. The group's stories, anecdotes, and discussions are interspersed with some truly amazing archival footage, especially in the early parts of the film. We get extensive looks at The Beatles' live performances, from early stuff in Germany to playing for the Queen to their first groundbreaking appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and, perhaps most memorably, their famous first concert at Shea Stadium. The movie expounds the meteoric rise and bitter break-up of the Fab Four in a way just as unique, colorful, and compelling as John, Paul, George, and Ringo themselves. If there are any faults, it's that Yoko Ono is only briefly mentioned despite the fact that she's widely held to be the one who created rifts in the group in the first place, and still I've yet to see one Beatle discuss the whole Charles Manson "Helter Skelter" thing. But those minor quibbles aside, if you want the best account of the career of the best music band of all time, in their own words, this is not to be missed. A+

258. 9/27: Final Destination 2 (2003, David R. Ellis) - A slight improvement over the first Final Destination, Final Destination 2 and those behind it make the same mistake of taking the flick too seriously. Yes, there are some much-needed bits of humor here and there, the kind that the dull and flat first could've used. But director Ellis and screenwriters J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress are still trying to treat the series as a legitimate horror franchise instead of just going for the kills, which is really all that the audience is there for in the first place. Like its predecessor, Final Destination 2 has ridiculously elaborate and silly death sequences, but too much time is spent on trying to make the wafer-/paper-thin (whichever is thinner) characters appealing instead of, y'know, revelling in their deaths. There is one truly spectacular death sequence (a major pile-up at the beginning that sets up the rest of the film), but, despite a few hints of the amusing, Final Destination 2 desperately needs to learn how to have fun. C

259. 9/27: South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999, Trey Parker) - Heralded by Stephen Sondheim as the best musical of the last ten years, South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut never really lives up to that praise (Chicago, Moulin Rouge!, and Rent beat it out), but it still remains one of the funniest, sharpest, and most concise media satires in recent memory. The songs are indeed great and the social commentary absolutely hilarious, but there remain a few nagging things that keep it from being as great as the TV series that spawned it. Firstly, some of the bits are structured as television material (there are some odd cuts to black throughout that remind one of where the commercials would go), and secondly, it all feels a bit rushed. Still, though, I'm hardly complaining: South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut is unabashedly offensive and outrageous, but also smart and very very funny. Parker and co-creator Matt Stone do a better job on the small screen, but their big screen effort is commendable unto itself. B+

260. 9/29: The Illusionist (2006, Neil Burger) - The tricks behind Edward Norton's title illusionist, Eisenheim, may be top secret, but the magic that fuels The Illusionist is on clear display for all to see. While director Burger's screenplay, taken from a short story by Steven Millhauser, may be rather slight and straightfoward, the cinematography by Dick Pope is fantastic and the score by Philip Glass is riveting. However, most importantly, there are three very strong performances that elevate The Illusionist to the realm of the superb: Norton is his usual intense self, Paul Giamatti plays against schlubby American type as an uptight British lawman, and Jessica Biel gives what is by far the best performance of her career. So, while there is nothing truly amazing about The Illusionist, the talented people behind it, foremost the director and the cast, make it a highly entertaining, spellbinding little drama...and that's no illusion. B+

261. 9/30: Barry Lyndon (1975, Stanley Kubrick) - A gorgeous film with a leisurely (some might say too leisurely, but I'm not one of them) pace, Barry Lyndon is a lavish masterpiece about one man's life circa 18th century Ireland, taken from the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. The title character of Barry Lyndon, played brilliantly by Ryan O'Neal, is a hard one to peg: He is arrogant, he is self-serving, he is unfair and cruel...but there's also an underlying tenderness and a streak of destructive love that proves not only destructive to those he considers his loved ones, but ultimately, it's most destructive to himself. Basically, I guess what I'm trying to say is that Barry Lyndon is a human figure, yet another insignificant player in this wacky Broadway revue we call life. But it's Kubrick who makes Barry's tale as fascinating and as compelling as it comes across in this beautiful three-hour epic of intimate proportions, along with some marvelous assistance from cinematographer John Alcott, costume designers Melina Canonero and Ulla-Britt Söderlund, and score composer Leonard Rosenman. The film is such an expansive, ambitious undertaking that it took 300 days over a span of two years to complete it, and Kubrick even spent 42 days editing one scene, a scene that wasn't even really that complicated. Some of the scenes are even lit only by candelight! It all comes together as an expressive, intriguing, and unusual yet distinctly Kubrickian masterwork. A+

262. 9/30: Serenity (2005, Joss Whedon) - So, yeah, I know, it's my second time watching it this month, but I swear it was by accident! I came downstairs and someone else had it on the TV, and I...just...couldn't...resist...myself. But it worked out nicely: I didn't realize it when I first sat down, but it eventually came to me that this is the one-year anniversary of Serenity's release (though I got to see it earlier). Happy birthday, Serenity! I'm sure that your franchise prospects will look much shinier some years down the road. A+

263. 10/3: The Grudge (2004, Takashi Shimizu) - I admit that there's hardly any character development, the script is pretty lax, and the entire thing feels slightly low-rent...but it's still a guilty pleasure. It has some genuinely creepy imagery--those kids, man!--and it's actually very well-filmed. Shimizu manages to bring the same somber, spooky atmosphere he employed in the original Ju-On, of which this is a remake. While there's something lost in translation, The Grudge still works. It's rather disappointing to see Sarah Michelle Gellar in her first post-Buffy big screen lead role reaffirming the same "helpless female victim" stereotypes that Buffy worked so hard to challenge and eradicate, and in truth, she doesn't have much to do here. Any Buffy fan knows how amazingly talented she is (if any of you amongst the uninitiated don't believe me, immediately check out the season five episode "The Body," the most heartbreaking piece of drama I've ever seen), and she deserves more. But for a creepy, twisty, diversion, this works. B

264. 10/4: Barton Fink (1991, Joel Coen) - As any writer knows, the task of writing--though you may enjoy it--is not easy, especially when faced with outside interference. The pure embodiment of the anxiety and exasperation that accompanies such writing can be found in John Turturro's subtle, fascinating performance as the title character of Barton Fink in the Coen brothers' marvelous look at the perils of studio writing and which can be (and has been) interpreted as a thesis equating Hollywood with Hell. Turturro's genius is matched perfectly with the equal genius of John Goodman as Charlie Meadows, who initially appears to be the kind of middle-class, hardworking, unrespected man that Barton has been assigned to write about for a wrestling picture. Goodman has rarely been better than he is here, and his performance is just such brilliant work that it's a shame to realize how truly underappreciated he is by the industry. There are also smaller, yet still excellent, turns by John Mahoney, Tony Shalhoub, and Steve Buscemi, but what really makes the film is the Coen brothers' script, which is an exaggerated look at the Old Hollywood filmmaking industry, but insightful nonetheless. They wrote the film while having writer's block on Miller's Crossing, and their frustration and uneasiness is clear to see. Barton Fink is a tortured, bleak movie, and so is its star, but it's also funny and far truer than I wish it were. The Coens' best after Fargo. A-

265. 10/6: The Departed (2006, Martin Scorsese) - As soon as we hear the sounds of the Boston harbor, the silhouetted form of Jack Nicholson walks into frame, and the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" begins to play over the soundtrack, we know that we're back in the hands of Scorsese as we know and love him, again a master after a string of underrated films like Bringing Out the Dead, and bloated epics like The Aviator. Remaking the Chinese thriller Infernal Affairs (which I unfortunately am yet to see) into a dizzyingly complex and very American crime drama, Scorsese has the third masterpiece of his career on his hands, after 1973's profound Mean Streets and 1990's massively influential Goodfellas. The script by William Monahan is classic gangster material, and it gives a lot of meat for the film's cast to work with, and what a cast it is: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, and even Anthony Anderson all do some of the finest work of their respective careers. It's really strange, but in recent years, I've actually come to respect DiCaprio as an actor; as Billy Costigan here, he gives his second great performance, after his brilliant portrayal of Frank Abagnale, Jr. in Catch Me if You Can. It's hard to pin a performance here that isn't worth a nomination (especially Nicholson's itense turn as Frank's hard to imagine that he's never worked with Scorsese before), and if I'm correct, Scorsese will again have directed a slew of talented people (including himself) to many well-deserved nods at the Oscars next year. A brilliant film from a brilliant director, and one of the best American crime films in years. A+

266. 10/7: La Battaglia di Algeri/The Battle of Algiers (1966, Gillo Pontecorvo) - It's amazing how much this film, a documentary-style look at the Algerian revolution, resonates with a modern audience forty years after its initial release. This is one of those films that proves, if it's made with skill and meaning, the power of film is timeless. Unfortunately, exactly why the message of The Battle of Algiers is still relevant today is because of the troubled times we find our world in, especially America: The ill-fated "war" on Iraq, the ignorant/tyrannical Bush Administration, the complete invasion of and subsequent lack of privacy. In fact, as the French government in the film begins to demolish parts of Algeria to quell their fight for independence, it's impossible not to think of the USA's raid on Iraq and our oppression of their freedom. For this, The Battle of Algiers is an important film that is almost required viewing. It's also an important film because of the talent in front of and behind the camera; Pontecorvo's direction is realistic and frankly depicts acts of startling violence, the score by master Ennio Morricone and Pontecorvo is one of the best I have ever heard, and the actors--most of whom were not professional--all give wholly believable performances which never feel even the slighest bit artificial. For a film that's powerful both politically and technically, The Battle of Algiers is almost as good as you can get it. A+

267. 10/11: Le Beau mariage/A Good Marriage (1982, Eric Rohmer) - I'd be a hypocrite if I said that movies with an insane amount of talking and little else are worse off because of it, as not only do I admire many filmmakers who employ that technique (Whedon, Tarantino, Bergman, Smith, etc.), but I also do the same in all of my writing. Where Rohmer's A Good Marriage fails is that it never succeeds in making any of the talk actually, y'know, interesting. Béatrice Romand's Sabine is vapid and selfish, and not inherently likeable...again, I'd be a hypocrite if I said that that puts the character at a disadvantage, but Rohmer tries so hard to make her sympathetic and relatable without offering us any evidence as to why. And, to go the other route, her shallowness is never used to make a point about anything (modern romance, her station in life, the list goes on), which could actually be used as a tool to gain audience sympathy. Instead, we're left with a lot of uninteresting characters talking about uninteresting things while none of the people involved seem to be particularly interested in what is that they're doing. C

268. 10/11: The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005, Judd Apatow) - I was gonna swing by my uncle's, so I thought I'd rent this and he and I could have some laughs. We certainly did--it's always better to watch a comedy with family or friends--but there was also something else to this viewing: This is the first time I'd seen the unrated cut that tacks on an extra 17 minutes to the movie, and which apparently is the only version available at Blockbuster. The movie does feel a little too long with the extra material, now running at a little over two hours and ten minutes, and some of the added stuff was left on the cutting room floor for good reason (excepting a couple of great bits here and there, like a subplot concerning Cal's career as--way way surprisingly--a novelist). Still, it's great to have a sex comedy that can be deemed epic, and which far exceeds the level of lowbrow American Wedding frat boy antics. A-

269. 10/13: The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005, Judd Apatow) - I watched it with the commentary, and it was a pretty good commentary, though not a must. There are some interesting tidbits about casting and the filmmaking process--it's unsurprising in retrospect but still amazing how much of the movie was completely improvised--but some of the cast members are simply duds as commentators, like Romany Malco and Gerry Bedknob. At least Seth Rogen and Apatow have some hilarious things to say, though the fact that Steve Carell and Paul Rudd say almost nothing, and that Catherine Keener isn't present, is rather disappointing. A-

270. 10/15: The Thin Red Line (1998, Terrence Malick) - Malick's The Thin Red Line is a beautiful, poetic exploration of life and death, hesitancy and action, will and choice, all amidst the bloody battlefields of Guadalcanal during World War II. The star-studded cast members (and there are famous faces aplenty: Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, John Travolta, Nick Nolte, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, John Cusack, Elias Koteas, and some others) are all rendered equal, their distinctions truly blurred by the painful monotony and grime of battle. The movie's theme is one that will always be relevant: Why do we fight, why do we go to war, and why must we kill others to accomplish our means? The cinematography by John Toll, as well as the scenery, are both beautiful and crucial elements that texture the atmosphere and enrich the mood, as always in a Malick film. All of that said, though, there is one relatively minor complaint I must register: During the film's final act, things begin to drag before a superb climax, making the movie feel like it's ended almost half-an-hour before it does. Still, this is a highly commendable film, and one of the best war movies of the last decade. A-

271. 10/16: 25th Hour (2002, Spike Lee) - One problem that I've always had with Lee's films is that he acknowledges the line between proving a point and becoming preachy, then continues to unsuccessfully tread that line before stumbling over onto the preachy side. Even his excellent Malcolm X was at times a touch too preachy, no matter its subject. Thus, it is with great happiness and admiration that I report 25th Hour is the first of his films that I've seen that manages to perfectly walk that tightrope while still delivering some important truths. Though the film primarily focuses on Edward Norton's Montgomery Brogan as he endures the last day before he is imprisoned for seven years on a drug trafficking charge, what it's really about is how the city of New York operates in an immediate post-9/11 world. There are several sequences featuring haunting shots of Ground Zero, as the characters loom above, peering out from high-rises and balconies, dicussing their lives, their futures, and what the world could possibly have to offer them. Lee executes all this with a finesse and subtlety unusual to his work, delivering a film that is as emotionally powerful as it is relevant and timely. It's essentially a film about fear, desire, and possession, and the film offers a brilliant cast to deal with these matters, including the aforementioned Norton in one of the best performances of his stellar career...his minutes-long angry diatribe to a dirty bathroom mirror has got to be the highlight of anything he has ever done. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Brian Cox, and Anna Paquin also deliver unanimously fine performances, creating what is to date the only true masterpiece of Lee's career. Here's to hoping that it's not the last. A+

272. 10/16: Tarnation (2003, Jonathan Caouette) - It is no exaggeration to say that I've never seen a film like Tarnation. I don't even think there is another film like Tarnation. Essentially, this is a documentary about Caouette's bizarre life, which came to a start when his mother (whose parents subjected her to years of massively damaging shock treatments when they were convinced she was faking her temporary paralysis) gave birth to him after his father, who was not aware that she was pregnant, decided that things weren't going to work and skipped town. From there, Caouette explores his formative years, as he develops into a homosexual with a flair for dramatic art, be it making a school production of a musical based on Blue Velvet or making experimental short films. It's amazing how much of his life he was able to capture on film; though it can be said that Caouette is an egotistical narcissist, I think that's missing the point of how truly enthralling his strange life is, and how brilliant the film he puts onscreen is. To simplify things, I'll call it the Citizen Kane of PowerPoint presentations: Tarnation was edited with Apple's iMovie, so some of it at times feels primitive, though that just enhances its raw power. While, in the end, I'm not exactly sure what to think of Caouette--I'm sure that everyone will have a different interpretation, and that it could be debated for years--I'm certain that Tarnation is a gripping must-see for anyone who's sick of March of the Penguins-type documentaries. There's no pomp here, just life. A

273. 10/18: Feast (2005, John Gulager) - The resulting product of the insanely addictive third (and final) season of Project Greenlight is finally available to me via the wonderful technology of DVD, and I was very excited to see it. While I am quite pleased with it, that doesn't mean that there aren't some big problems: The script by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton was generally agreed by those involved with the show to not be the best of those submitted, just the one most likely to make money (which it didn't), and it shows. Though Feast is as much a send-up of gore flicks as it is one, there are sequences that are a little too written, action movie-esque stuff that doesn't even work within the film's ironic atmosphere, and some of it's too immature (a giant monster humping a mounted deer head doesn't sound that funny, and it's even less so on screen). Still, if you're a fan of cheesy, splattery horror flicks like myself, you'll have a good time with Feast, even though it's not even scary in the slightest. Director Gulager's filmmaking chops are very evident; the camerawork, shot composition, and cinematography are all very striking and impressive. The game cast also helps the movie along, ranging from Henry Rollins as a touchy-feely (in more ways than one) motivational speaker to a brief appearance by Jason Mewes as...himself. Not a particularly noteworthy movie, nor a great horror-comedy, but still lots of fun. B

274. 10/18: Scarface (1983, Brian De Palma) - The first half of De Palma's update of Howard Hawks' 1932 gangster masterpiece (which I am dying to see) is a taut and compelling character study, with a boiling Miami and an intense turn from Al Pacino as aspiring Cuban drug lord Tony Montana. It's a brilliant film at that point. Then Tony actually becomes a drug lord, and the second half becomes everything that was wrong with the 80's; it's glib, campy, cheesy, and insanely excessive. Tony's famous exclamation of, "Say hello to my little friend!" sounds kind of cool until you hear him shout it in context, and then it comes across like a markedly awful piece of dialogue from a terrible Steven Seagal flick. It's so sad to see the film's sprawling ambition reduced to little more than garish clothes, bad music, and way over-the-top shootouts. Pacino never delivered another subtle performance after this, and his career, with a few exceptions, has suffered for it; ah, what could have been. C+

275. 10/18: The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978, Eric Idle and Gary Weis) - A note of forewarning: If you're not a hardcore fan of the Beatles--and I mean hardcore--you're apt to find most of this strange, unfunny, and rather dull. If you are a devotee of the Fab Four, then you will find The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash akin to something close to comedic perfection. Originally a bit from co-director and star Idle's TV show Rutland Weekend Television that gained popularity from being featured on an episode of Saturday Night Live (back in its classic years, decades before it sucked as much as it does now), All You Need Is Cash was the very first mockumentary, documenting the legendary legend of the Rutles, a band from Liverpool who seemingly took over the world. A sublime parody of the crazed media whirlwind surrounding the Beatles, this has Idle and Weis directly parodying famous moments from the group's history, creating exact fascimilies that are awe-inspiring for how extensive their exactness is. There are also great bits of Idle's Monty Python-esque humor, from the opening camera shot almost mowing over his reporter to Yoko Ono portrayed as Hitler's daughter. Brilliant cameos also abound: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, and even George Harrison himself all add to the fun. Idle said later that all the Beatles enjoyed it (though George and John had the least amount of reservations), and for good reason: This mocks their career without mocking their genius. By the way, if you're a non-initiate that wants to join in on the fun, listen to all of their albums, grab the brilliant Beatles Anthology, then pop this in and watch your loving fan obsession pay off in spades. A-

276. 10/19: The Lake House (2006, Alejandro Agresti) - Let it not be said that I despise what have unfairly been deemed "chick flicks." They're just as ripe fields for brilliance as any other type of film. But for every When Harry Met Sally..., there's a sappy chick flick like My Best Friend's Wedding. And you know what's worse than a sappy chick flick? A ponderous sappy chick flick, and that's unfortunately what the very dull The Lake House, taken from the acclaimed South Korean film Il Mare, is. Like a Hallmark card, the film is filled with flowery prose but is devoid of one shred of sincerity. Despite a great concept--two people living two years apart fall in love across time using a mystical mailbox as a means of communication--the film never does anything interesting with it, and instead is intent to be as predictable as any other Hollywood romance you've seen this year, or any during the last ten. The non-existent chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves doesn't help...especially considering that twelve years earlier, before Bullock lost her edge and Reeves turned into an android (it should be said that that is not a dig at the underrated Matrix sequels), they were oozing with palpable chemistry in Speed. It's easy to grasp why The Lake House was made (to target a broad female demographic and to take their money), but very difficult to comprehend why so little was done with such potential. I need to see the original. C

277. 10/20: La Belle et la bête/Beauty and the Beast (1946, Jean Cocteau) - The closest thing to an actual fairy tale ever to grace the screen, Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast is an excellent melodrama that's completely on par with Disney's lauded animated version that would hit screens 45 years later, and actually sports some beautiful imagery that its 90's counterpart simply cannot rival. Perhaps the most accurate adaptation of the classic tale out there, Cocteau's film, like any great fairy tale, can be rather dark and cruel at times--with cynical social commentary peeking around the corners--but retains a sense of optimism and the power of love. Henri Alekan's haunting cinematography is a perfect complement to the sort of magical realism the film employs, scenes of the Beast carrying Belle to her chamber exquisite works of art. The special effects are very impressive for the time, and there is one transformation scene that completely destroys any seen in The Wolf Man five years earlier. Dark, beautiful, and haunting, Beauty and the Beast is, at its core, about human nature and honest love...and what more can one ask for? A-

Continued in Vol. 6

Hey, my latest e-mail to you failed, I got a failed delivery notification... is it working OK?

Unfortunately, man, my Internet modem blew out and I've been forced to use the library computers for about the past week, but I can't access my e-mail here.

I'll e-mail you when the company sends the new modem and I get things up and running again.

Hey, bud. Too bad about the modem, that really sucks. JoC is practically dead without you. Hope you can get back soon! Dig the new reviews...although you pissed me off twice. You can guess which.

Later, man.


El Mariachi and As Good as It Gets? ;-)

Yeah, I can't wait to get back to JoC...and, um, did you notice that they cancelled my Netflix membership? 'Cuz of the whole frozen bank account thing and not being able to pay. But, we're working on that right now, and Netflix did indeed save all my information, so once we're able to get a new account or a card or something, that should be fine...

And, by the way, you should totally watch A Hard Day's Night.

That sucks about Netflix, man. Hope that works out.

God, Hollywoodland looks amazing. I can't wait to see it. A Hard Day's Night looks pretty good.

Recap of my first-time viewings since you've been gone:

Scent of a Woman - ****
V for Vendetta - ***1/2
Modern Times - ***
Super Troopers - **1/2
Crank - ***
Accepted - ***
Invincible - **1/2

I also rewatched The Island. It was...okay.

Dude, go on JoC from the library. Estefan FREAKED OUT when Wes was having fun with his user title. It was even revealed that he has OCD! Crazy shit, man.



Oh! I've tried collect calling your house on myriad occasions, and I always get a message saying that your number no longer accepts collect calls. What's going on there?

You could even go to and use AIM Express.

Well, first off, I can't get on JoC at the library.

Secondly, I have no idea why the phone won't accept collect calls. We were having troubles with our phone earlier, though. When did you try to call?

V for Vendetta better than Modern Times? That makes me want to cry. :'(

My Netflix account is back up, by the way...and I saw that you gave Primer 2/5?! Blasphemy!

I've also been rewatching Buffy with my parents, who are seeing it for the first mom's been a fan, and we had watched the first two seasons together a couple years ago, and my dad's always disliked it...but I've finally won him over, and though he won't admit it, he is so digging it. As evidenced when we finished one disc and I was putting the set back on the shelf and he said, "PUT IN ANOTHER DAMN DISC!" Yeah...he's digging it.

And, dude, reliving Buffy...if you're impressed with the first disc of the first season, I can't wait to see what you think when you get to the really good stuff.

And, yeah, I'll see if comes up here.

Sucks about JoC, man.

I tried on Friday from the mall, and sometime earlier in the week.

Yes. Sorry to say, but Vendetta was far better. Times was very good, though. I was a lot more impressed with it than The Gold Rush.

Rewatched Primer. I'm not gonna call it bad, but I will call it impossible to understand. Hence, the low rating.

Will definitely see more Buffy soon, but I've got a few classics coming from Netflix that I need to see beforehand, such as Butch Cassidy, Ed Wood, On the Waterfront, and Manhattan.

Hope AIM works, yo.


Why'd you like Vendetta? Just curious. I found it hackneyed, convoluted, cheesy, and boring. ;-)

I understand Primer, if you want me to help fill in the gaps...

Those movies you're getting are some of the best ever made. Hope you enjoy them, man.

And, yeah...AIM won't work from here. And neither will Whedonesque! I'm lost without my Joss news fix!

Primer itself is a gap. But do explain, if you like.

I've seen some of Ed Wood on IFC and loved what I saw. All the others sound great.

Any idea when the new modem's coming?

I will say this about Vendetta:

That V-word monologue was awesome. Then again, I've also heard that it's one of the few bits in the movie true to the book, which would make most of the props go to Alan Moore.

(Psst...speaking of Moore...get your hands on a copy of Watchmen...)

Ed Wood is actually the only of your choices that I don't give an A+, but it still rocks.

Well, the company said they sent out the modem on Wednesday, so I'm REALLY hoping it's here by tomorrow. If not, I will be one frustrated AJ. I've had to go to the library to do my school lessons, which, y'know, sort of defeats the purpose of being homeschooled.

As for Primer...well, okay, the time travel thing is pretty easy to get. They go back, and then realize that they have doubles, and as time goes on, their doubles keep going back, creating more versions of themselves, until the doubles start taking over their lives, and then, not sure if they're the originals or copies anymore, they move on. Well, at least the one guy does.

That explanation probably doesn't help at all. I'll watch it again soon and see if ya have any questions. I'll still stand by my claim that it's one of the best sci-fi flicks since 2001.

Very interested in Watchmen. And yes, the V-word monologue was awesome.

Your explanation was extremely helpful. Made me realize that I never, ever want to see it again.


You bastard. I could watch Primer countless times and still discover new subtleties.

Nice about the camera!

Tonight I watched United 93 again. Damn, what an intense and amazing film. Have you bought it yet?

I'm gonna try to see Hollywoodland and The Black Dahlia this weekend. Both look excellent.

Butch Cassidy and Manhattan arrived today. Can't wait to check 'em out!

How's school going? It's alright for me. Luckily, all of my subjects are far easier than last year. Even computer isn't as much of a bitch. But, yeah, making a map of Africa is so annoying. I'd say more about it, but I'm not sure how censor-happy this site is.

Anyway, ttyl.

I have more boards to mod on JoC! :-D

I haven't bought United 93 yet; I blew all of my cash buying Veronica Mars: Season 2. Season 3 starts on October 3, so I wanted to be able to catch up. So far, it's rocked heartily.

Hollywoodland is pretty good, but I agree with most critics: Ben Affleck is far better than the movie itself is. And, yes, The Black Dahlia looks superb, I can't wait for it.

Butch Cassidy is one of the best westerns ever, and Manhattan is excellent, with some of the best cinematography ever. I'd give the former an A+, and the latter an A-.

Sucks about that whole making a map of Africa thing. School's going pretty well for me. It's funny, though, the only subject that I'm not in the 90% range on is English...the one I'm best in! What kind of crap is that?

And, dude, I had an eye exam today and now I have to wear glasses. Apparently, I'm slightly farsighted. This sucks, though; I didn't want to have to wear fucking glasses ever. Oh well...


All right, dude. I'm here.

Wow, how could you not be doing great in English? You were the most well-worded person on JoC.

Interesting about the glasses. Sucks, man. Have you ever had vision problems before?

I've only done two English lessons so far; got a 74% on the first and a 100% on the second, which gives me an 87% average so far. Stupid first lesson and all of its technicalities.

No, I've not really had vision problems before, but I always have had a hard time seeing road signs until I'm right up on them. The doctor said this was because I had a stigmatism in both eyes. He said my problems are very mild, but still enough to warrant glasses.

I was thinking about going for the really really round rims, because, y'know, John Lennon. But then I thought, "Wait, everyone else is gonna see 'Harry Potter,' not 'John Lennon,' and as much as I love Harry, I don't want people calling me that." So, yeah. I got a different kind. It sucks, though.

Oh, by the way, I'm up to 44 pages on Electrical Banana. I got to write the first drug trip this morning; it's pretty fuckin' wild, man.

Awesome about EB! Can't wait to read it. And here, sir, is a FUCKING HILARIOUS conversation between Wes and Esty. In bold is the part that is just perfect, brilliant, and made me laugh so much.

TaRhEeLMaN89: eli likes to abuse his power
TaRhEeLMaN89: he always deletes me posts or edits them
Estf77: Yeah, I know.
Estf77: Yeah, I know.
TaRhEeLMaN89: caddyshack
TaRhEeLMaN89: ***
Estf77: I had a good laugh, but now it would be really nice if you respected my user title and change it to what I want.

Didn't you say that you were go to treat us with better respect? I'm just asking for one small favour. It's not like I want you to kill Stephen Harper (which, believe me I don't). I just want you to change my user title to the one I want.

I'm asking you very kindly.
Estf77: That's my PM I'm going to send him.
TaRhEeLMaN89: ight
Estf77: Oh and why did you should me your Caddyshack rating?
Estf77: Is that a good PM?
Estf77: Do you think he will reply?
TaRhEeLMaN89: I was making conversation
TaRhEeLMaN89: maybe
TaRhEeLMaN89: I dunno
Estf77: Well, let's find out.
Estf77: Is he the one hidden?
Estf77: I have an idea.
Estf77: Do you think it's possible for you to give me your password so I can change my user title?
Estf77: You can change your password right after.
TaRhEeLMaN89: you've gotta be kidding me
TaRhEeLMaN89: do you have that bad of OCD
Estf77: I actually do.
TaRhEeLMaN89: yea, I could tell
Estf77: Do you know how many times I wash my hands every day?
TaRhEeLMaN89: no
Estf77: Plus you did with Will and he's a spammer.
TaRhEeLMaN89: do u have a job
Estf77: A lot.
TaRhEeLMaN89: I never gave will my password
Estf77: No and believe me, I'm tying.
TaRhEeLMaN89: when did I ever give will my password
Estf77: This summer I sent some sample reviews to some newspapers and they didn't even reply.
Estf77: When Skoal turned into an admin?
TaRhEeLMaN89: mark is his name
Estf77: Yeah.
TaRhEeLMaN89: and no I didn't
Estf77: Sorry. I forget.
TaRhEeLMaN89: I dunno what you're talking about
TaRhEeLMaN89: do u know what skoal is
Estf77: school, right?
TaRhEeLMaN89: no, tobacco
Estf77: Well, you learn something new every day.
TaRhEeLMaN89: smokeless tobacco that you put in your mouth and get a buzz out of it
Estf77: Is it possible for you to make me an admin for two seconds?
TaRhEeLMaN89: no
TaRhEeLMaN89: dude, get over it
TaRhEeLMaN89: you care that much
TaRhEeLMaN89: ?
Estf77: How would you feel if somebody did that to you?
TaRhEeLMaN89: I'd get over it
Estf77: I just don't like people connecting disgusting phrases with me.
TaRhEeLMaN89: it's a fucking movie forum
TaRhEeLMaN89: not like you know anybody
TaRhEeLMaN89: personally
Estf77: It's still not very nice.
Estf77: I'm pretty sure you don't like when he deletes your posts.
Estf77: Very similiar situation.
TaRhEeLMaN89: I just repost them
TaRhEeLMaN89: do u smoke pot
Estf77: No. I've never done drugs.
Estf77: Or drank alcohol.
Estf77: Nor will I try.
TaRhEeLMaN89: u won't drink?
TaRhEeLMaN89: why
Estf77: Um, heard of people getting killed because they drank.
Estf77: Yes, I'm that obsessive compulsive.
TaRhEeLMaN89: ok, im sure you'll become an alcolhic
TaRhEeLMaN89: alcoholic*
TaRhEeLMaN89: do u take medicine for ur illness
Estf77: Have you realised I'm the only person whose never swore on the board?
TaRhEeLMaN89: yea, why
Estf77: I don't have an illness. I'm just very cautious.
Estf77: Because I've never said anything where a curse word was needed.
TaRhEeLMaN89: are u popular
Estf77: In school?
TaRhEeLMaN89: yea
Estf77: Well, my school isn't like the ones you see in John Hughes films.
Estf77: brb
TaRhEeLMaN89: what is it then
Estf77 signed off at 8:41:56 PM.
TaRhEeLMaN89: private school



Can't believe all the fun I'm missin'.

Yeah, I wish you could've been around when that took place. Has the modem arrived yet?

Not yet, man...not yet...

Just got home. Gonna watch Manhattan tonight, most likely -- that is, if studying for my geography test isn't a bitch.

Manhattan - A

On the Waterfront - A+
Ed Wood - A+ (REALLY REALLY loved this one.)

And, OMG, Esty told me he faked that whole OCD thing. Something's fishy.

Hollywoodland - B+

Really liked it, Affleck was AMAZING.

Yes, Affleck was fantastic. He was actually far better than the movie as a whole was.

And, dude? You should see Heathers, if only for this great quote:

"Fuck me with a CHAINSAW! Do I look like Mother Theresa?!"

I've also seen some other movies, and I'll get to those later...

LOL. I'll definitely try to see it soon.

The Black Dahlia is getting trashed. Did you see it yet?

Chris has been banned from JoC, for being a prick after I apologized for being a prick. LOOOOONG story. But, yeah, he's gone.

Chris, Mjazi, and possibly Alex Blanchett organized a major spam of JoC. A war may be beginning to rage. We're winning, though! :-D

Crazy, man.

I haven't had a lot of time to surf the 'net considering homework and the fact that I'm still using the library computers.

Didn't see Black Dahlia yet, heard it wasn't so great, but I still wanna see it.

Tomorrow I should have enough time to finally write mini-reviews for the four zillion other movies I've seen since Heathers.

And I look forward to reading them! :-D

By the way, you NEED to watch The King of Comedy. It's fucking excellent.

Have you any clue whatsoever as to when the modem's coming? WE NEED YOU!!!!!

I've always been interested in seeing The King of Comedy.

The company actually said the modem should be here by tomorrow. If it's not, I'm gonna blow a gasket. Considering I don't even think I have a gasket anywhere on my body, that's probably gonna be pretty painful.

And, wow, I've actually written 69 pages of Electrical Banana. This stuff is going FAST, man.

And, hey, I have a temporary e-mail address you can mail me at until I get my modem and my SBC account is back up.

I wonder what that's in reference to? ;-)

Speaking of, Sci-Fi Channel had a Firelfy marathon yesterday and Serenity was on HBO. It was like a gift from God.

Nice about EB! Can't fucking wait to read it!

I actually saw some of that marathon, sir. There was one episode - I think the title was "Out of Gas" - that was very excellent.

And I just glanced at your EaC page...and you saw Do the Right Thing?! How could you not tell me?!

Yes, I was watching "Out of Gas" yesterday as well. It's one of the best of the series, as well as one of the best television episodes of all time.

And, yeah, I kept meaning to mention Do the Right Thing. But at least my mini-review of it is now up!

Plus, I read the V for Vendetta graphic novel. While the V-word monologue was unfortunately not actually in there, it was just...amazing. What's seen in the movie just barely scratches the surface of what's in the comics. You NEED to read them.

I applied for a job at the movie theater...and I'm now about to apply for jobs at Subway, Hot Topic, and some other places. Any suggestions?

You could also try Blockbuster, although you NEED to work at the movie theater to get me fodder for my upcoming REWRITE of ED.

I'd love to read 'V' sometime...although I probably won't find time to, sadly.

Excellent new reviews, dude, although I was expecting you to like Do the Right Thing more...



I dunno about Blockbuster. I, like, don't like the people there. :-D

You're rewriting ED? Nice. Be sure to add that scene I wrote with the vanilla wafers...

Dude, I really disliked the beginning of Do the Right Thing, but eventually I started digging it.

Nice about My Names Is Earl. I know the new seasons of it and The Office start tomorrow night, but I might miss them because one of the libraries around here is holding a free showing of Ghostbusters at 6:30.

Speaking of the new TV season, I saw the first episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on Monday, and it was AWESOME. I'm already hooked. God, I love Aaron Sorkin. Matthew Perry's great in it; I think you'd like it. I tried to watch the first episode of Smith last night, but it was just so bland and boring I tuned out. Tonight I'm watching the first eps of Jericho, which looks good, and Kidnapped, which looks like it could go either way.

Hey, do you like How I Met Your Mother? I think it's kinda fun, Neil Patrick Harris is great. Plus, it has my beloved Aly. It's not a great show, but I saw a few eps last season (I actually got a DVD of the first eps of that and Everybody Hates Chris before they aired because I was an Entertainment Weekly subscriber) and caught the season premiere on Monday. It's a guilty pleasure of mine, I'm beginning to think.

Can't wait for the new seasons of Lost and Veronica Mars...both start on the same night, I think! My head will probably explode in joy.

Sir, I would never forget the vanilla wafer scene. That was just hilarious.

I have to ask, what was so bad about the beginning of "DTRT"? That credits sequence was an odd way.

I wanted to watch "Studio 60," but couldn't. Looks pretty good. I've never seen "How I Met Your Mother."

w00t on 'Mars' and 'Lost'!

Hey, did the modem arrive?

"Studio 60" repeats Sunday night, gonna tape it.

I'm glad the wafer scene is memorable. ;-)

I detested the opening credits of Do the Right Thing. You know, with the exception of Inside Man, I haven't liked the opening credits of any Spike Lee movies, not even the opening credits of Malcolm X.

I actually found out that Lost starts a day after Veronica Mars. Oh, well. Still awesome.

The modem STILL has not come. However, my glasses came in today and I'm picking them up tomorrow...

I've been getting a lot of CDs from the library, and I've listened to some really great albums like Imagine by John Lennon and The Soft Parade by The Doors. I strongly recommend both, especially the former, which at times rivals even the best that The Beatles ever did.

Speaking of the Fab Four, I have now listened to all 13 of their albums. Before this month, I had only listened to six of them in their entirety! The only two I didn't think were perfect were Let It Be, which was almost perfect, and Yellow Submarine, which I kinda could've done without (despite the excellent "All Together Now").

I never realized how much I truly enjoy music...

I'll definitely try to check those albums out soon...or, y'know, download all the songs from them.

I hope the glasses don't turn out to be a bad thing for ya. Good luck!

By the way? I got a fucking 99% on a killer algebra test today! Life is good.

I'm guessing you're at the library right now, for the Ghostbusters showing?

I have been enjoying your reviews more and more but I admit to being concerned. It will be difficult to find the time to read four zillion reviews... let alone write them. I am worried that the quality will suffer. Perhaps not at first, but after a couple zillion it's hard to maintain standards.

Standards, shmandards. We all know I'm only in it for the possible book deal. Because, of course, Simon, Schuster, and all those cats read my reviews regularly and totally want me to get out something by next summer to compete with the next edition of Video & DVD Guide. ;-)

Ah, if only.

It appears that I have seriously miscounted. When I said "four zillion," I apparently meant "five." It seemed like a lot more and a lot more stressful the other day.

I knew there was a reason I'm not good at math.