Recent Movies I've Seen
This journal started on 1/9/04. I will only review movies as I see them. I won't review anything from the past since it is not fresh in my mind and I want to be fair about my reviews. Also, there may be some days where I don't post a long review because I'm short on time.
Jeeper's Creepers - *** 1/2 - 1/8/04 - I'm a weathered horror movie fan, meaning I don't get frightened very easily. Most horror movies lately have resorted to what I like to call the "Boo! Effect," where really the only way to get a jump from the viewer is to have something suddenly jump out of the quiet dark. As far as I remember, "Jeeper's Creepers" did not use this cheap effect once. Instead, they played on my anticipations and my fears of the unknown to keep me holding on to my blankie. It was a real emotional thrill ride, no slashing masked men around here! My eyes were literally glued to the screen. I repeated "Oh My GOD" during the whole film. I hardly do that anymore. Since this film kept me completely disturbed, I give this movie 3.5 stars. The ending had me a little disappointed because I wanted to know just who the villain was and WHY he was who he was and why he did what he did and WHAT ON EARTH DOES HE WANT??!!!! None of these questions were answered and I'm hoping that "Jeeper's Creepers 2" will fulfill my needs. Perhaps that was what made this movie so fascinating, though. Perhaps if they gave too much information I wouldn't have been nearly as interested. The search for the truth is the main ingredient, I guess!
The Hours - * 1/2 - 1/9/04 - Stay away, I warn you. This is probably the most depressing movie I've ever seen. I'd be curious to know just how many people committed suicide after watching this film. I wanted to like it, because it had some great actors in it, and it even had a complex and challenging plot that made you think, but alas it was the plot that was just so gloomy. They should have just kept this dreary story in the book where only the people who enjoy being bummed-out could read the tale. Why bring it to the bring screen? I have been told I am over-optimistic about movies, giving good ratings to even the movies that my friends didn't enjoy. Well, here ya go: a movie that I wished I had never seen.
Big Fish - *** 1/2 - 1/10/04 - You must go see this movie! (But for those of you who need a little more motivation, here's my review.) This is a mythical, lyrical story of an aging man who has spent his whole life telling the story of his life in, um, rather exagerated fashions. This is a real sweet adult fairy tale, sure to capture your heart. I was smiling a lot in this movie! And besides, girls: Ewan McGregor is an adorable creature!
The Italian Job - *** - 1/11/04 - I've been hesitant to see this movie because I was judging the movie by its cover. I knew before I watched it that it is a guy-flick. Well, I was proven right. It reeked of manliness. There were heists, boat and car chases, and real techie electronic toys aplenty for those of you that hunger for those types of things. It kept my heart pace up and by the end of the movie my palms were sweaty and my nails were bitten almost down the the quick. It is a must-see, but because it's so overly manly, I won't buy it anytime soon. There was really only one woman in the whole movie. Poor Charlize Theron!!
Jeepers Creepers 2 - *** - 1/16/04 - The plot continues. This time the winged flesh-eating creature preys upon a broken down bus full of high-school kids. Still would like to know just what this thing is that comes around for 23 days every 23 years. Curious tale....
Out of Time - ** 1/2 - 1/16/04 - Denzel Washington's character becomes caught up in a web that he must unweave quickly, or else! I was glad to see the movie and thought it was good but it's not the type of movie I'd buy for my collection.
The Order - *** - 1/16/04 - An ancient order of priests, the last of their kind who are known for exorcisms and other ancient Catholic rites, encounter a mystery known as the Sin Eater. I really enjoy movies with Catholic mysticism, like Stigmata, etc., so this one is right up my alley.
The Whale Rider - **** - 1/17/04 - I now have a new favorite movie. My husband also gave this movie 4 stars and it is odd for the two of us to agree on the value of a movie. Take this as a motivation to rent it! Young Pai faces a challenge as she is something she cannot help: a girl. She comes from the Maori tribe of New Zealand, where the rite of the chief is passed on to the first-born male. Pai's twin brother dies at childbirth breaking the line of ancestry. The movie shows the complex relationship she has with her grandfather, who has been disappointed all these years in the fact that his only grandchild is a girl. The story line grows as Pai faces challenges put in place by her stubborn grandfather, and watching her grow in spite of her grandfather's old ways is the gem of the movie. Also adding to the magic of this movie is the soundtrack that is composed by former Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard. You really won't be disappointed and might just find yourself falling deeply in love with this film as I have. It really is proof that no movie is like a Sundance movie. Don't be frightened off by the accents of the actors. At first it may seem difficult to follow but your ears will grow accustomed to it in a short time. Don't give up on it in the beginning because you'll be glad you didn't.
Wrong Turn - ** - 1/17/04 - Ever see the movie "Deliverence?" Good. If you have you don't need to see this one. If not, maybe you might choose to just to get a sick view of nasty inbred mountain men victimizing a group of stranded motorists. Take the nasties of Deliverence, add some axes, bows and arrows, and cannabilism and you have "Wrong Turn."
Underworld - *** - 1/17/04 - A centuries-old battle continues between the vampire clan and the lichens. (Lichens, by the way, are werewolves.) When the Lichen leader, Lucian, perished in battle centuries ago, the remaining Lichens fleed. However, the remaining Lichens, though few in number, still are waging war against the vampires. One of the vampires weapons is a female hunter named Seline. There are many mysteries to unravel in this movie. I really felt the movie was complex enough for me to want to watch again. Also, the complete movie is filmed in darkness which really adds to the effect of this gothic film. I will watch this again, and in fact I will probably purchase it.
Freddy vs. Jason - 1/2 star - 1/18/04 - I asked my husband if it was possible to give a movie 0 stars, and he seemed to think that it deserved at least something, so I am giving it a half-star. The ONLY reason I'm giving it ANYTHING is because of a cute scene where a giant catapillar-Freddy brought a bong in to a room where a stoner was smoking pot.In the 80's I was a true fan of the "Nightmare on Elmstreet" and "Friday the 13th" films. This film is downright ridiculous. The acting is horrible, and I'm wondering if Robert Englund was off his rocker when he agreed to do this film. If anything can finally put Jason and Freddy to death, it's this movie. I couldn't wait for it to end and kept looking at my watch. Don't see this movie unless you're masochistic. I didn't even take a chance on watching "Friday the 13: X" because the whole thought of seeing Jason in outer space made me want to die of laughter. "Freddy vs. Jason" is a glorified film for fans of WWE to get their kicks in one five-minute scene where Freddy and Jason go at it with hard-rockin' music. Good luck to those of you who choose to watch it. I'd be curious to know what you think of it.
Bitter Moon - *** 1/2 - 1/24/03 - This is probably one of the most depraved movies I have ever seen. It's a Roman Polanski film. (I usually have high regard for his films, so it's no surprise to me that I "enjoyed" this one.) Nigel (played by Hugh Grant) is on a cruise ship with his wife. He meets a strange couple, the crippled husband and his lovely young French wife, Mimi. The story he tells is one of extreme sexual passion and the consequences of a greedy sex life. (A strange sex life, at that!) There are two extremes to this relationship. This movie had my gut tied up in knots the entire time I was watching it. I was still having flashbacks from the film the next morning! I really can't recall having a movie effect me in such a manner. This movie is NOT recommended for the more "reserved" people.
Gangs of New York - *** - 1/25/04 - First of all I want to point out that I LOVED the soundtrack. There was a little music from a group I really enjoy, the Afro-Celt Sound System, in this movie as well as other great tracks. The movie was a little long but definitely worth sitting through. Hardly a boring moment at all. The beginning starts off with
2001: A Space Odessey - * - 1/25/04 - I really hate giving this movie just one star. I feel I owe the movie more since it's developed such a following, but honestly I had to force myself to stay awake. I've seen bits of it before but always fell asleep. I wanted to see all of it so I picked it up from my library. I finally got to see the ape-man beginning and even the strange ending, instead of just the slow-moving space scenes with classical music. (That's where I'd usually fall asleep.) I believe the movie would have done more for me had it been 30 years ago. During its time it would have been the most awe-inspiring film with it's beaufiful space footage. But in this decade there is so much more, now. There were just too many quiet moments, and the whole mystery of the movie was more than I could bare. I still don't understand what the ending represented. Nor do I understand the whole purpose of the discovered monolith, unless it simply symbolizes the beginning and the end. Too weird for me, or maybe just too philosphical. But more than anything, too boring. I still have many questions left unanswered, though, and I feel compelled to find the answers.
Finding Nemo - **** - 1/27/04 - I now understand why this DVD has been a top seller! I know people are nodding their heads in disgust to know that I gave a Disney movie four stars. Well, my husband (who is 57 I might add) gave it "one-thousand stars." (Put aside the fact that I love everything Disney. This movie stands alone as a great film! And certainly not all Disney movies win four stars from me.) The most noticeable element of this movie is the vibrant colors that were used in the animation. I thought I was right there swimming in the sea along with the other fish! The story line also deserves a mention because there was never a boring moment. Disney deserves a "bravo" for implementing handicaps into the film and using them to show that anything can be achieved even if you have a "lucky fin." The search for Nemo leads to many adventures and new friends that both children and adults alike will be captivated equally. Don't be mistaken into believing that this film is only for children. It is an "everyone" movie, and it is a "feel good" movie. To summarize, this movie is simply a LOT of fun to watch. I would watch it more than once in the same day and I can't say that for too many movies.
Chocolat - *** 1/2 - 1/28/04 - In a small self-righteous village in France, where everyone goes to church and tries to uphold an appearance of morality and virtues, a newcomer arrives and opens a chocolate shop. Vianne is a little different than everyone else because she "does not attend church" and she wears red shoes when "all the other mommies wear black shoes." The mayor is angered because she opens the shop just as the Lent season begins and brings into town a little bit of temptation. Vianne brings a little bit of magic to everyone in this film, showing that big things really do come from small bites. Sometimes it is the "heathen" that brings good change into a town that desperately needed it, especially when that same town was inhibited from the pleasures of life by their own doing. The village needed a little "pick-me-up" and Vianne and her chocolate shop is just what the doctor ordered. Johnny Depp has a smaller role in this movie as Roux, a charming "riverrat" who shows up just in time to show Vianne that subconsciously she has something inside of her that needs awakened, just as she has helped everyone else awaken. This movie made me laugh and it made me cry. It is truly a memorable movie that will warm everyone's heart and send a little magic their way. Be sure to have a box of chocolates nearby while watching the film!
Radio - *** 1/2 - 1/29/04 - Fans of "feel-good" movies like "Frequency" and "October Sky" will adore this movie of a mentally underdeveloped young man who wonders the street. He walks by a high school everyday and watches the football team practice. The coach notices him and befriends "Radio," the name he receives because of his obsession with radios. The story line that follows shows that not only does Radio need the friends he makes, but the town and high school really need Radio as well. This is based on a true story. You will need tissues. I went to bed that night feeling a warmth I'll never forget. When I know a movie like this really happened, it means all the more to me.
Swimming Pool - ** - 1/29/04 - What the??!!! This is what I would call an "artsy" movie. Don't ask me what that means. Basically, it's a movie my boss will probably never see. *giggles* OK, I'll let up on him a bit. Let me say my dad will probably never watch this one, either. I'm surprised Blockbuster had this one on its shelves because of all the nudity and sexuality. It wasn't rated by the MPAA so that is probably how Blockbuster justifies it. There is even a warning on the label that no one under 18 can rent it. A mystery writer goes on a small vacation to her editor's home in France thinking she'll be alone and in an atmosphere conducive to her writing a new novel. The editor's sexually-liberated daughter shows up unexpected and needless to say a lot goes on in the house that "distracts" the author, leading her into a complex mix of hatred and jealousy. A mystery begins to occur as the two begin to develop a relationship of trust and inspiration, the type of inspiration a writer might just need to write an exotic mystery novel. I don't really understand the ending of the movie which is why I give this only two stars.
The Nightmare Before Christmas - ** 1/2 - 1/30/04 - Oh I so badly wanted to give this movie at least three stars. This is another lesson to me to never watch a movie I used to love as a youngster. It just didn't dazzle me as it had the first time I saw it. It once held such magic! I believe at the time, 1993, the claymation was the biggest thing and with all the spooky little creatures I was in heaven. I still LOVE all the little sickos in the movie but the story line and now aged claymation didn't do as much for me. I think I'm spoiled on Pixar. :( Jack Skellington is the Pumkin King of Halloween and he's getting a little tired of the usual scene. (No rhyming was intended here, sorry!) He goes off on an adventure to find something more, and that is when he runs into Christmas. The "nightmare" that ensues is pretty funny and back in 1993 it was the funniest thing in the world to me, I even got a watch from Burger King in '93 with Skellington on it! The movie is only 90 minutes long and I probably would have enjoyed it more had I watched it on its respective holiday, but I wasn't as charmed as I was a decade ago. Still, the little monsters in the movie were excellent! Despite this, I believe this movie is a must-see for everyone, just to be able to say you've seen it. I would consider it a little piece of history.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico - * - 2/1/04 - I can't even review this movie. I tried watching it for 20 minutes and turned it off. I'm heartbroken that I didn't fall in love with this movie since Johnny Depp was in it. I hadn't seen "El Mariachi," nor had I seen "Desperado," but I still don't think I would have enjoyed this movie even if I had. At first I didn't think I enjoyed it because I was confused at the story line, but even my husband who had seen "Desperado" said he couldn't get into the movie. My dad and stepmom tried watching it a few weeks ago and each gave it very poor reviews. Well, what can I say... At least we tried! Sorry, Johnny! I still love you!!
A Passage to India - *** - 2/1/04 - This is the last film David Lean directed. (David Lean is of "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai" fame.) Based on the classic novel by E.M. Forster, this movie tells of a story of British racism in India during the early 1900's. A young woman, Adela Quested, travels to India to visit her fiance. Traveling with her is her fiance's elderly mother, Mrs. Moore. Mrs. Moore is utterly astonished at how the British treat the Indians, and even shows shame at her own son's ill treatment towards them. Her son is the magistrate. Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested befriend an Indian doctor, Aziz Ahmed. Aziz is overwhelmed at how friendly Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested are towards him and in his excitement he plans a day trip to the mysterious Marabar caves with them, to help show them around India. While there, inside the mystifying caves, something happens to Miss Quested and Aziz is accused of raping her. What follows is a court battle as well as a battle for the inner personal truth. Synopsis aside, I was horrified at how the British treated the Indians. I had never really thought of it until watching this movie. For shedding some historical light, even if it is historical-fiction, I give this movie two thumbs up, as well as give it three stars for completely weaving me into the story. In the beginning, I was slightly wary that it might turn out to be a boring historical-fiction film, but quite the contrary. I was glued to the "tube" in my anticipation to find the fate of the characters in this movie. The movie was completed in 1985 and it took over 30 years to see it completed. In the beginning, Forster did not want to sell the screen rights to the play for fear the movie would be seen as either pro-British or pro-Indian. I will admit that while watching it I despised the British's treatment of the Indians so perhaps it wasn't as objective as Forster had hoped, but what is there to be objective about in unfairness?
2/6/04 - Spirited Away - **** - I don't know if I'm overly-sentimental about this movie because it was my first introduction to the world of "anime," but this movie charmed the socks off my feet. My best friend, SandDanz on Listology, brought this movie over to my house as she and I both have been wanting to get me started on Japanese cartoons. The instant I saw these transparent dark spirits floating around, I knew it was right up my alley. Although the story line is completely different, the movie was slightly reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. It was a very tender, sweet, at times haunting movie. There are many oddities in this movie to keep you intrigued.
2/6/04 - Secondhand Lions - *** 1/2 - Another "feel-good" movie you may want to add to your collection. (I can't believe how much Haley Joel Osment has grown!) Fourteen year-old Walter is taken by his no-good mother to stay with two eccentric uncles (played VERY well by Robert Duval and Michael Caine). While there, he learns the magical story of how the two uncles, Hub and Garth McCann, came across their fortune. Walter, Hub, and Garth become close as the days go on and the stories of their lives are shared. Somethings may be more important than money. I must repeat that Duval's and Caine's roles as the two uncles are superbly done! They couldn't have cast two better actors for these roles. Poor little Osment, on the other hand, is somewhere between the cute little boy he used to be in "The Sixth Sense" and a deep-voiced boy on the edge of puberty.
2/7/04 - Y Tu Mama Tambien - *** - Two sexually curious boys, Tenoch and Julio, invite an older woman, Luisa, on a small trip to a beach which the two boys created in their imagination as a way to entice Luisa to come along with them. Along the way, the three experience a wide range of emotions ranging from lust to hate. Julio and Tenoch indulge in the sex "lessons" they receive from Luisa. This is a sexually explicit movie and as such is not intended for children nor for the more conservative of society.
2/8/04 - Dragon Pink - *** - This was a 3-episode series of anime that my best friend brought over. Pink is a slave-cat and for obvious reasons I won't go into details on the story line. This particular type of anime is called "hentai." This was part of my weekend introduction into the world of anime and I have to say... I think I just might like it!
2/8/04 - Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland - ** 3/4 - This was a little half-hour anime cartoon that played on the story of Alice in Wonderland. Little Miyuki-Chan falls into a "rabbit" hole, along with a Playboy Bunny-girl on a skateboard, into a magical world where all the characters are females who lust after innocent Miyuke. There are adult themes in this DVD.
2/9/04 - Thirteen - *** - Grab me some Pepto Bismol and remind me never to have kids. This movie was about as much of a roller coaster as "Requiem for a Dream" was. Whew. My stomach was in knots and so was my husband's. It was quite the emotional gut-wrenching movie about a 13-year old girl who transforms from a sweetheart into a wild-child that would be any parent's worst nightmare. I wasn't like that in 1991 when I was 13, but I can imagine there were some kids in school who were. In fact, looking back now, I can see a lot of similarities between the two ill-behaved teenagers, Evie and Tracy, and some of the kids I was in school with. I believe this film paints a realistic picture of some teenagers' lives and the downward spiral that starts from peer-pressure and ends in waste. The camera work in this film was just stunning and even added to the realistic yet somehow surreal experience I gained from this movie.
Rabbit-Proof Fence - *** 3/4 - 2/10/04 - This was a thoroughly engaging film about three young "half-caste" (half white/half Aboriginal) girls in Australia who are torn apart from their tribal family by white people who are attempting to halt all interracial breeding. Much like the white people did to the Native Indians of the North Continent, the white Australians attempted to acclimate these children into their society to control everything that goes on in their lives. It is a harsh reality, one that will grip you in the gut. The girls are taken to a school for "half-castes" 1200 miles away from their home to learn how to fit in with white society. There they are forced to attend church and learn the white man's ways. The story revolves around their harrowing adventure back home on foot by following a rabbit-proof fence - built by farmers to keep rabbits from their farms - all the way home. This movie is based on a true story. I would be depriving you of the complete effect if I didn't mention how outstanding the musical score is. Peter Gabriel was nominated for a Golden Globe at the 2002 awards for this effort.
The Omen - * 1/2 - 2/11/04 - Robert and Kathy Thorn give birth to a stillborn child. Robert hides this truth from his wife by adopting another baby and pretending that it is their own so as to protect Kathy from the painful truth. As the child grows, strange things begin to happen and a seemingly crazy priest attempts to warn Robert of the true origins of their child, Damien. Robert soon begins to realize that their adopted son is the antichrist and begins to try to prevent the prophecies from occuring. While this movie may have been a hit in its own time, I found it very slow-moving and boring. The film quality, however, was excellent and the colors were vibrant and the focus was sharp. Even the little boy who played Damien looked evil and convincing. I know this movie has a following, but it's not a wagon I'll be jumping on anytime soon.
Chicago - *** 1/2 - 2/13/04 - This was a highly entertaining musical filled with sexy fun and song. The music was exciting and worthy of a soundtrack purchase for sure! The costumery definitely deserves mention as well. Roxie Hart shoots and kills the man she is having an affair with and ends up in jail. She ends up under the aid of a money-loving lawyer played by Richard Gere. (I must admit it was funny seeing Richard Gere sing and dance!) Watch as they "dazzle" the jury to try to get her acquited of murder. I was drawn into this movie immediately. Honestly, at first I wasn't all that excited about watching it, but my best friend brought it over tonight and the second it started I was glued to the t.v. screen. I soon found myself singing along to the music and dancing on our mid-movie break! (My poor dear husband and sweet best friend, they had to witness that!) Because of the musical content, this movie has high replay value, and that is what bumped it up from three stars to three-and-a-half stars.
Lost in Translation - * - 2/18/04 - Could there ever have been a more pointless film made? Bill Murray must have REALLY been in a mid-life crisis to want to even take on the role of a man going through a mid-life crisis in a movie that really has no plot and is completely and utterly boring and pointless. It leads nowhere. A waste of time. As a woman married to a man 32 years her senior, I had high expectations for a film that involved a younger woman and older man. Boy was I disappointed. The only reason I give it one star is because of the interesting Japanese lifestyle that is showcased since the characters are on trips to Tokyo, Japan. Personally, I'd like to know what all the hype about this movie was about. As my husband bluntly put it during the film, we were "bored on the edge of our seats." One this is for sure, the reviews on this film must have been "Lost in Translation."
Capturing the Freidmans - *** - 2/18/04 - Never before has a documentary evoked so many different emotions from me: disbelief, pity, hatred, anger, disgust, sorrow, joy, and shock. The majority of this film is actual film footage shot by the Freidman family. The father of a family of three boys is accused of molesting young boys in a class that he teaches, and soon one of his own sons is also under the suspicion of joining his father in these crimes. I was caught in a whirlwind of a variety of thoughts, and found myself confused and not knowing whether to feel sorry for them or hate them. THAT is how objective this documentary is. I found myself just wanting to slap their mother, even audibly mumbled "What a witch!" a few times. Being accused of molestation is a serious thing, one that has to be handled with the utmost care. One wonders when watching this whether or not the police handled things properly. I don't know what to feel. I was disturbed in any case! I was astonished at how "normal" the family acted even under the circumstances of the accusations; they kept on filming their lives on video tape! The family, especially the father and sons, were deeply obsessed with recording their lives on film, and that is what helps make this a great documentary.
Colorful - * - 2/19/04 - Japanese Anime, English dubbed. I don't even know what to say about Colorful, it was so weird. It really all boils down to a bunch of guys drooling over girls' panties. It was just plain goofy in some parts, and really was just in such a disarray that I found it hard to endure.
Under the Tuscan Sun - *** - 2/20/04 - A recently-divorced book-reviewer goes on a vacation to Italy and compulsively buys a broken-down house. As she repairs the house, she repairs her own life. Meanwhile she befriends some interesting characters that intertwine themselves into her life and become a part of her "family." While repairing her house and life, she learns that there is more to living than having a man. I became completely immersed in the characters. The character-development was especially well done.
Under the Sand - ** - 2/21/04 - Charlotte Rampling plays a woman who one day falls asleep on the beach, only to awaken and find that her husband is missing. Did he drown? Did he abandon her? As time goes on, she pretends that he is still in her life; she talks as if he is in the present, even sets two teacups on the table as if he is there. Before long she begins hallucinating that he is still around. She attempts to begin another love life while trying to come to terms that her husband might really be gone. I only gave this movie two stars because I thought it moved along rather slowly, although my husband seemed to enjoy it more than I did. I don't know how old Charlotte was when she played this role, but I hope my body is as kicking as hers when I'm that old. She played the stern Englishwoman in the movie "Swimming Pool."
Iris - ** 1/2 - 2/22/04 - Iris Murdoch (played by Judi Dench as the older Iris, and Kate Winslet as the younger Iris) is a free-living well-recognized author who falls in love with a rather "nerdy" man who later becomes her husband. As she ages, she begins to suffer from the symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease and faces losing what she cherishes most: her talent to put words on paper and make meaningful literature out of them. It is saddening to watch as even she realizes that her mind is slowly distancing itself from her grasp, and once it is almost completely gone, her dear husband must face losing her to a nursing home. The movie didn't pick up my, or my husband's, interest until about a half-hour into it. In fact, we almost turned it off. I'm glad we stuck with it. Iris was a very endearing woman, and her cherished husband was such the gentleman for the way he was devoted to her.
Farewell My Concubine - **** - 2/22/04 - Two young boys endure harsh training at the Peking Opera training school, and later become famous actors in the opera scene in China. Admidst a swirl of political party takeovers, we watch the friendship of Douzi and Shitou go through many obstacles as they take the lead roles in a popular opera in China: "Farewell My Concubine." Douzi is forced as a young boy to take on the role of the female in the opera, counterpart to the masculine King, played by Shitou. Perhaps many things influence the development of Douzi, but he is subtly homosexual and develops a deep fondness for his stage-partner Shitou. Shitou soon becomes engaged to a woman, and Douzi begins to experience jealousy as the woman comes between the two. Political shifts also make the relationships in the movie more difficult. If you've never studied Chinese history during the Cultural Revolution, get ready for your new class - which serves as a backdrop to the main plot - in "China - Cultural Revolution: 101." Foreign films are really a great way to learn more about the world you live in. I've learned so much, already, perhaps even more than I've gained in history classes. This movie had such wonderful character development that I found myself not wanting to let go of the characters once the movie was over. The next day I went to my library and picked up the book. Never have I wanted to endure redundancy by reading a book after watching a movie, that is, until now. After watching the movie, I learned that the actor who played the lead role, Leslie Cheung, committed suicide by jumping out of a hotel room in Hong Kong last year, 2003, in April. The world of cinema lost a great actor with that occurrence. It is speculated that hardships endured during a relationship with his male lover may have led to his depression, but it had been denied by Leslie Cheung before he committed suicide. Leslie Cheung Memorial
Joy Ride - ** 1/2 - This movie was a fun thriller/horror type movie. I wouldn't put it on my "greatest movies ever" list, but it was an entertaining movie. Take two young men (boys?), one in college, the other, his brother who is slightly on the delinquent yet very cute and funny side, and a girl the two of them lust after, played by LeeLee Sobieski, and you have yet another movie that plays to the fans of the Scream trilogy. It had a slight "been-there-done-that" feel to it, but I still caught myself all tensed-up during the most suspenseful parts. In Scream you had a sicko calling on the phone and chasing people with a knife. In Joy Ride you have a sicko stalking three college-aged kids with a CB-radio and chasing them with a semi-truck.
Donnie Darko - *** - 2/28/04 - A psychological thrill-ride of a movie, Donnie Darko is a young man with mental problems who encounters the possibility of time travel. Watch carefully and you'll be rewarded with the true meaning of the ending!
Phone Booth - *** 1/4 - 2/28/04 - I find it absolutely amazing how a movie based almost exclusively on a phone booth and a telephone can cause so much intensity! I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole film. Honestly, I never even considered renting this movie because I thought a movie like this would be boring, but I caught it on HBO and was rewarded handsomly in watching it.
Lantana - ** 1/2 - 2/29/04 - A movie full of interesting plot twists. The beginning was a little slow but once the plot picks up there is a reward to be had in watching this film that dives deeply into the intimate lives of several characters. When a woman is murdered, these characters - who at one time had nothing to do with each other - find in time that they had more than they thought in common with one another.
Pinero - ** - 2/29/04 - This movie is a portrayal of the "Nuyorican" poet and playwright Miguel Pinero. Pinero wrote the play "Short Eyes" based on life in prison. It's a harsh look at the life Pinero lived, a life enveloped with crime, drugs, and disease. I'm not the one that picked out this movie, so I wasn't that interested in it even before it began. After watching the street life of Pinero I felt dirty!
American Splendor - ** 1/2 - 3/1/04 - American Splendor tells the story of a man who leads a less than exemplar life. Harvey Pekar is the author behind the comic book series known as American Splendor. This movie is based on a true story. For the first half hour or so I kept asking myself what I had gotten myself into. I was like, "why do I want to sit here and watch a movie about some slob?" Eventually, the movie started to turn into an almost voyeuristic adventure. "REVENGE OF THE NERDS!" *giggles* Really, I was kicking myself in the beginning for having picked out the movie, but right around the time Harvey met Joyce it started to get interesting. If anything, that movie can serve as a useful tool to make anyone feel good about themselves. How bad can life get? That movie definitely is a very intimate portrayal of life at the bottom of the well. Even though Harvey disgusted me mostly, at times I felt pity for him and even anger at David Letterman for bringing Harvey on his show to use simply as a punching bag. When I witnessed that, David Letterman instantly became scum right along with Howard Stern, for poking fun at someone who really doesn't know he's being poked on. What makes matters worse is that I'm almost led to believe that Harvey is the way he was because of some mental illness, a slowness, perhaps, and that he can't help the way he is and that he was being taken advantage of. Also, I was very satisfied at the film for allowing me to see the real Harvery Pekar behind the scenes. In the end, it was truly a bizarre subject for a movie. I wouldn't put it on my favorite movie list simply because it WAS so bizarre, but I feel that everyone should see it once just to get a taste of a different kind of cinema. The rest of the characters have their own sick charms as well, in particular the monotone nerd, Toby Radloff. HA! That guy just cracked me up. The film was a stunning peak into an oddball's life!
Coldcreek Manor - *** - 3/5/04 - A couple and their children pack their bags and leave the city to buy an old house out in the country. Little do they know the history that comes with their new property. This movie was a nail-biter!
Bend it Like Beckham - ** 3/4 - 3/6/04 - Two girls with overburdening parents fight for the right to play what they love most: soccer. One girl, who is Indian, is weighed down by her parents who seek the old way of life where women lead the life their parents choose for them. The other is weighed down by a mother who wants her girl to be more feminine and go after things in life that the usual girls go for: boys, clothes, etc. It's a cute movie - definitely worth watching once for some good fun.
25th Hour - *** - 3/7/04 - Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) has just one day left before going to prison for dealing drugs. Monty isn't really a bad guy - he's just been "caught" and must now pay the ultimate price. We get to see Monty say his "goodbyes" before going to the big house. The main plot is a fun ride; even the subplots are up to par with the rest of the film.
Matchstick Men - *** 1/2 - 3/8/04 - As someone who openly admits to being diagnosed with OCD, I may be particularly biased in regards to this movie. Nicholas Cage plays a con-artist named Ray who suffers heavily from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This movie really sheds a humourous light on this disorder and watching his antics were completely comical. Ray is very ritualistic in everything he does. Then one day Ray finds out he has a 14 year-old daughter. When she becomes a part of his life everything that once was in order begins to change, and perhaps for the best! Maybe having a daughter around was the medication Ray needed after all.
Almost Famous - **** - 3/9/04 - First of all, let me say simply this: Great movie, great soundtrack!! Strangely I discovered the soundtrack before the movie. The soundtrack is what inspired me to rent this DVD. This is a heartfelt coming-of-age movie, partially non-fictional, about a young music fan/journalist named William who is given the opportunity to get away from his difficult mother and tour around with a band named Stillwater. (Stillwater is a fictional band based on the bands Led Zepplin and the Allman Brothers.) Rolling Stone magazine - not aware that William is only 15 - put him on assignment to do a cover story for their magazine. It was quite a magical tale about the love of music and the love for the people who make that music, as well as just how difficult it might be for a journalist, who befriends the band, to be objective in his writing about them. A++ for this movie. Here is a Rolling Stone article about how Cameron Crowe got Led Zeppelin's permission to use their music in his movie: Rolling Stone article
Mona Lisa Smile - *** - 3/14/04 - Julia Roberts stars as Katherine Watson, a freethinking "Bohemian" who gets a job teaching Art History at the all girls Wellesley College. In the early 1950s, girls weren't supposed to think about an ideal career. They were expected to marry rich husbands and be housewives. Katherine Watson wants to change this way of thought and uses methods in her class to show the girls that they are free thinkers. Katherine is frowned upon by some colleagues and even a few of her own students. I'd hate to think where women would be today if women like Katherine didn't exist!
The Way Home - *** 1/2 - 3/14/04 - This was a very tender and sweet South Korean film. Sang-Woo, a seven year old is sent by his mother, who is in search of work, to stay with his mute grandmother. Sang-Woo is a very selfish boy who is spoiled by the city life. At first, he is very disrespectful of his 75-year old grandmother. As time goes on, however, Sang-Woo begins to learn to love her. The transformation of Sang-Woo and the patience of the grandmother is profoundly moving. This was just a simple 88-minute movie - proof that big things come in small packages.
Kandahar - *** 1/4 - 3/14/04 - Directed by the Iranian Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Kandahar tells the story of the women's plight under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The actors are so real that at times I wasn't even for sure if they were really acting or just being filmed. The plot follows the Afghani-Canadian Nafas as she treks through the desert in search of her sister, who in just a few days is going to commit suicide due to her unhappiness at the oppression. When they were younger, Nafas' sister had her legs blown off by a land mine, and Nafas and her father escaped to Canada, leaving behind her sister.
Crash - * 1/2 - 3/15/04 - This ranks right up there with some of the strangest movies I've ever seen. Basically, the storyline revolves around a strange group of kinky people whose fetish of choice is car crashes. Just a gratuitous sex film. I can understand a lot of fetishes, but this one was just a little strange, therefore the plot didn't really pull me in.
The City of Lost Children - * - 3/16/04 - I rented this French movie from Netflix based on all the great reviews it had. I'm not convinced! I turned it off halfway through and I haven't done that to a movie in a long time. I always try to at least force myself to finish what I started. I was so bored by it that at 8:30pm when I turned it off I went straight to bed.
Winged Migration - **** - 3/21/04 - As a fan of the film Baraka, I was in search of yet another documentary featuring breathtaking scenery and enhancing music. I've found that and more in Winged Migration. Containing minimal narraration, this film captivated me with stunning imagery of birds flying over picturesque scenery. Not your usual documentary on animals, this film also won me over with its superb soundtrack. I am a fan of the Himalaya soundtrack, and while watching Winged Migration I thought the music sounded similar to Himalaya's. Indeed, at the end I learned that it was the very same composer who created this enrapturing music. I wholeheartedly recommened this remarkable film. It's one of the few DVDs I'd like to own.
Cabin Fever - ** 1/2 - 3/31/04 - I'd put this one in my "guilty pleasures" category. While not a great film, I was kept entertained throughout the movie. The acting was so-so, perhaps better than I expected for your run-of-the-mill horror movie which features the usual group of young adults stranded in a cabin in the woods. The villain in this film is a skin-eating bacteria of sorts that is all-consuming and contagious.
Lagaan - ** 3/4 - 3/23/04 - To be completely honest, I had no idea that I was in for an almost 4-hour Bollywood musical when I first began Lagaan. The second the movie began, I was in a mild state of culture shock. Lagaan was to be my first "Bollywood" film. Seeing 19th-century poor Indians in their full atire was very shocking to begin with, but when they began their song and dance, I was hypnotized by this unfamiliar territory. I did not know Lagaan was a musical. My husband looked at me in disbelief when the music began. As strange as it was to me at first, the movie began to grow on me as I became involved in the story and the dilemma the poor farmers faced as the ruling British forced a harsh tax on the Indians. Lagaan is the Indian word for land tax. The local British cantonment is controlled by a snobby arrogant Captain Russell, who passes on the news that there will now be double Lagaan. The farmers of course protest, as there has been a severe drought. Captain Russell offers the head of the protest, Bhuvan, a chance to waive the taxes for the next three years if they beat him and 10 other British soldiers at a game of Cricket. However, if they lose, the lagaan will be tripled. Captain Russell's sister, Elizabeth, sneaks behind the captain's back and teaches the Indians the rules of the game. What follows is a lengthy three-day match. Will they win or will they lose? Watch to find out!
The Last Temptation of Christ - *** - 3/27/04 - Writing a review on a "spiritual" film will always be difficult, as the probability of offending someone is high. But, alas! Anyone who is a pious Christian would also probably find themselves highly offended by this movie, anyway. The Last Temptation of Christ gives us a "fictional" angle on the life of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion. In this film, Jesus seemed somewhat arrogant and disillusioned, but definitely confused. This is not the Jesus many of us learned about in Sunday school, folks! As a non-Christian, this film was easy for me to digest. In fact, I thought it very well done and exceedingly brave in the face of those who would surely picket against it. Also worthy of mention from this movie is the soundtrack composed by Peter Gabriel. I have it on CD and have loved it even before seeing the film.
About Schmidt - ** 1/2 - 3/28/04 - Jack Nicholson plays a retired insurance actuary living a somewhat "everyday" life. He's married to a wife he doesn't recognize, mostly because she's not young any longer, and has a daughter in another state about to marry a waterbed salesmen. He doesn't think the man his daughter is about to marry is "up to par" with her. When his wife dies and he is suddenly left alone and facing what it means to be just that - alone, he goes on a long road-trip in his RV. It is ironic that a film about such a boring topic could be played out so interestingly. It was watchable, and Nicholson perhaps helps in that arena.
The Wicker Man - * 1/2 - 3/29/04 - Uh, yeah. A horror musical? I rented this movie because it has Christopher Lee in it and also because of all the reviews on Netflix and I'm still wondering what all the rave is about? It's basically the usual seventies softcore porn film. It even has a nude chick dancing and singing. Mercy! Police Sergeant Howie visits an island off the mainland of Scotland to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Howie, a devout and rather self-righteous Christian, is appalled at the way the islanders live. Their religion and way of life focus on sex and rituals; it is a pagan religion. When the crops aren't producing fruits, Howie begins to suspect that the islanders are holding the young girl hostage to use her as a sacrifice to one of their gods. Watch this movie at your own risk. And, was that a wig Christopher Lee had on? That was, um, quite the hairdo! (I suppose I can forgive that as it was probably the fashion in the seventies.)
The Nightmare on Elmstreet - ** 1/2 - 4/3/04 - I've seen this movie quite a few times, but mostly in the eighties and early nineties as a youngin'. I have to admit that this movie has somewhat lost its charm on me. This is probably due to the evolution of special effects that has taken place over the past ten years.
Empire of the Sun - *** 1/2 - 4/4/04 - This is the second viewing of this movie. This time I caught it on HBO. More of a review to come.
Beyond Borders - *** 3/4 - 4/4/04 - Review to come.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre - *** - 4/4/04 - To be completely honest, I was a little worried about watching this, based on the critics' reviews of the movie. I had never seen the original. Yeah, I know. Shocking that a horror fan has never seen the original TCM. I think that horror movies get a lot of bad raps from the critics. Why let Roger Ebert see TCM and allow him to review it? He's a "normal movie" guy. Let a horror fanatic watch it and critique it! Then it might have gotten the reviews it deserved. I was petrified throughout the movie. I could almost SMELL the rot and decay of human flesh. I could FEEL the fear of the victims as I trembled in my seat, wondering what fate would befall the group. Many horror movies these days don't leave me on the edge of my seat, muscles tense in anticipation. The remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre did that and more!
Office Space - *** - 4/5/04 - First I have to say that I've never been a big fan of comedies. However, after hearing countless jokes based on this movie at my current job and previous jobs, I decided it was time to bite the bullet. Luckily for me it was a free "rental" as a coworker brought it in for me to borrow. Fed up with his love life and job, Peter goes to a hypnotherapist to seek help. When the hynotist keels over before "waking" Peter up, Peter begins a new chapter of his life as he takes on a careless attitude. He doesn't show up to work and could care less what his condescending boss thinks. Strangely, his new attitude wins him a promotion. However, during a reorganization, two of his friends are laid off and the three begin to plan a get-rich scheme at the price of the company they work for. Nice revenge tactics! It's odd just how similar this movie is to our everyday lives in the cubicle at work. You just have to laugh, regardless of whether or not you like comedies, simply because it hits so close to home.
The Missing - *** - 4/11/04 - Review to come. Yeah, yeah. I've been slacking, I know! Work has picked up so the time I have to write reviews comes in small doses, now. :P
The Magdalene Sisters - *** 1/2 - 4/13/04
Kill Bill Vol. 1 - *** 3/4 - 4/16/04 - All is good except for one far-fetched fighting scene towards the end of the movie.
Gothika - *** - 4/17/04
Audition - ** 1/2 - 4/19/04 - Holy moly. This Japanese film requires a strong stomach. Even I couldn't bear some of the scenes. I caught myself covering my eyes in some parts!
Cold Mountain - **** - 7/4/04
Welcome to Mooseport - ** 3/4 - 7/8/04
My long reviews are going to be cut for a while due to my career, but I'll still post the movies I've seen to this list with the number of stars I believe the film deserves.