The prior discussion was here - I explain in post one why this was moved but in short it was because it was too long. The most recent stuff on this list is the stuff at the bottom
I started over here a campaign of sorts for some of us to see at least 50 movies this year and then compare notes. It doesn't matter if the movies are old or new. TV series on dvd (which is pretty much how I see 95 percent of my tv shows) count… but with one season counting as one movie.
Here is my list of movies I saw last year… and yes I came up a few short. I am SUCH a slacker.
I had some rare free time Saturday so I decided to write up my list of movies I've seen so far this year. These are in no particular order. If others want do the same that'd be great.
Last year I tried to write more full-length reviews – this year some reviews are a few words and some are a full review. If you want me to elaborate on an opinion or challenge me feel free – I'm always open for a good debate.
1,2,3 – Lost – Seasons 1-3 – Well, I've done it – I watched all 3 seasons of Lost. In January I decided I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I didn't make my goal of watching all the dvds in time for the start of season 4 – heck, I didn't even finish season 3 until this weekend, a week or two after season 4 ended. I almost quit early in season 3 when the writing and plot were driving me crazy. But then I began reading not only Television Without Pity's recaps of every episode (I love that site and read all of its recaps for all of the shows I watch) but also Steve Watt's great Lost in the Vines recaps and that kept me going.
I hope season 4 comes out on dvd before season 5 starts so I can catch up in time to actually participate on time in the discussions for season 5, which is supposed to be the series final season.
For what it's worth season 3 has some cool extras, the most interesting of which is called the Lost Book Club. It talks about the books mentioned or shown on the book. Stephen King's The Stand is cited by the writers as both an influence and inspiration for the show but also being akin to Lost in that it's long and sprawling.
There is, as with most things Lost, meaning behind every item mentioned, and this includes the books. It is no coincidence, for example, that Juliet's favorite book is Stephen King's Carrie, whose character, like her, is, in their words "vulnerable" yet capable of "commiting an act of great atrocity."
The idea of Desmond saving one book – a Charles Dickens novel - to read before he died was stolen from author John Irving supposedly having the same plan. And the writers think Sawyer would really identify with some of the characters in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.
I also wrote a separate review of Season One of Lost here
4– Kung Fu Panda – Fun. Cute. Think Shrek meets Jack Black. It took me a while to get used to Dustin Hoffman's voice but it worked. I haven't liked a Jack Black movie since High Fidelity and School of Rock but I liked this one. I left feeling like I needed to go eat some noodles
5 -Devil's Playground (Documentary about a fascinating Amish ritual - I reviewed it here. It was one of many weird movies I showed at my Unitarian church, partially because how often does one get the chance to show movies like this or Dogma or Life of Brian at church?
6, 7 - Shootist and El Dorado – Normally I'm not a fan of John Wayne movies. I don't think he's that great an actor and most westerns are pretty blah.I was underwhelmed by El Dorado. I liked the Shootist (starring Wayne as an infamous murdering marshall) more for two reasons: first the final 30 minutes were pretty thrilling. But second, and more importantly, I was entertained by the variety of the cast. For example Ron Howard was in it. You know, the guy from Happy Days. And Harry Morgan aka Colonel Potter (check) of MASH played the town marshall, though not very convincingly. I kept expecting him to ask Radar for help. (The New York Times review of the movie, when it came out in 1976, said Morgan "grossly overacted" and said Wayne "looked more like a (train) conductor… than any kind of Western Hero."
Lastly, Jimmy Stewart played his doctor. It was fun to see such a varied cast. Only after it ended did I realize that the female lead was played by Lauren Bacall. I thought that voice sounded familiar.
8 – Rio Bravo – I might have appreciated El Dorado more if I'd seen it AFTER I saw Rio Bravo which I belatedly realized was a sequel of sorts. Rio Bravo blew me away from the long dialogue-less opening scene (a bigger deal then than now when Wall-E raises eyebrows because for much of that movie there is almost no dialogue). Hey, I wonder if I'm the first person to mention a John Wayne movie and Wall-E in the same sentence. But I digress (hey, I didn't name my newspaper column in college "Butki's Babbles for nothing). Rio Bravo is an excellent movie although I could have done without the singing by Ricky Nelson.
8 - Indiana Jones - I gave the movie my take here.
9,10 - Born Free and Duma While a bit dated – loved the scarfs! – Born Free is a cute story about a couple raising a lioness. Enough said. Duma is charming on a different level. Warning: It might make you want to go get your own pet cheetah.
11 - Bringing Up Baby – I love this movie. It's a classic screwball comedy with great acting by Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. If you've never seen it you should go do so.
I first saw it a few years ago because it was included in this book: The A List: The National Society of Film Critics' 100 Essential Films. I had pledged to see all 100 movies and read the the accompanying essays and reviews essay about them in this book, The A-List. It was part of my continuing campaign to further educate myself about the arts but especially about cinema.
I saw it again at a church movie night about two weeks ago.
13 - Five People You Meet in Heaven – This was better than I expected. I expected it to be sappy, new agey nonsense but it was actually entertaining and an intriguing way of looking at what heaven might be like.
14 - Leatherheads - This is one of those movies that should have worked but didn't. The actors were good and the writing sounded like it could work but it just didn't click. I think it would have helped if it had been cut a bit shorter
15 - Michael and Me: Reflecting On Michael Moore's Sicko
16 – Soldiers in the Army of God – This is one of the most unsettling documentaries I've seen in some time, even more so than Jesus Camp . I'd picked it for a discussion because someone told me it'd make a good sequel for what could happen when the kids from Jesus Camp get older and bolder. God help us if that's true. This is a behind-the-scenes (with plenty of interviews) look at the nutjobs who think they are doing the lord's work by planning and killing doctors who provide abortions.
Making the viewing of this movie even more unsettling was that I watched it with a woman who survived the Holocaust so each time the abortion was termed a modern day holocaust I'd look at her and think ok, as tasteless as I found that comparison she must hate it even more. That experience is part of what led to this article on things not to say unless you want to expose your ignorance.
17 – Sweeney Todd- I just couldn't get into this which has less to do with the quality of the film but my interest in musicals, albeit one directed by the great Tim Burton.
18 – No County For Old Men. Good movie. That said, I'm not sure it deserved the Oscar or was even the Coen's best picture – I liked Blood Simple and Raising Arizona much better- but it was still pretty good.
20 – Into The Wild - The best review I've seen of this movie came here by Phaedrus. What I wrote there was:
I've said this elsewhere but normally I think movies are inferior to the books but there's been two notable exceptions and this is one of them because the movie has his "sister" narrating, expressing a viewpoint I don't recall being as strong in the book.
22 – Shane – I didn't think I'd like this one. As I said above I'm not much of a fan of westerns with the exceptions of ones like The Searchers which raise issues of hate and bigotry (link to article about that one) That said, the pull of this movie is the relationship between an older man, Shane, played by Alan Ladd, and a young boy who worships him. It's been more than seven years since my dad died but still movies with a good father-son-type relationship (in this case they are not really father and son but the boy acts like he'd prefer him as a father) draw me and bring back a flood of memories, good and bad, about my own dad. Even without
23 - Documentary Movie Review: Oswald's Ghost
24, 25 – Mini-Docu-Reviews: The History of the Joke and When Stand Up Stood Out
26 - CSI – Season 7 – I think this series has gone downhill over time (and it doesn't help that there are now 300 shows sort of like it) but weak episodes of CSI (like recent books by Robert Parker) are still better than the average program. But that's not necessarily saying anything. I guess one could call CSI my tv guilty pleasure but I'm not sure I necessarily feel guilty about it.)
27 – Once – Mykola wrote the best review I saw of the movie. I wrote many comments over at his review. Long story short I was blown away by this movie. It's a bit slow but I think that helps with the feel of the movie. The music is incredible.
28 - Anatomy Of A Murder - This title inspired my piece on my love of things most fowl . This movie has been widely praised and deservedly so. Not the best Hitchcock-Jimmy Stewart movie (I prefer Rear Window) but still one of the 100 best movies ever made.
29 - Numbers -
I have seen the show before but never in sequential order and I didn't know until recently that they are using real math. Last night I watched the commentary for the pilot and the actor who plays the head geek said that in preparing for his role he listened to the lost tapes of Richard Feynman and said he even cribbed part of a line from Feynman (the line was "let's do an elementary exercise and by that I don't mean it's elemental") which the actor shortened to 'Let's do an elementary exercise" (which robs the sentence of the best part) but when the actor said that line was a shout-out to Feynman I was quite pleased. I love Feynman.
Unfortunately while I really like what they are doing on the first season (I'm halfway through it) from what I've seen of the more current episosdes they have gone way downhill. From one recent episode I saw it looked like they were starting to take stories straight outof the headlines, a la Law And Order (a franchise I despise, but that's another story.)
30 - The Office – Season 3 – The Office started out fresh with great writing but each season seems to have dropped a bit as far as being funny with some of that humor replaced by pain. I mean, I know they say humor is pain plus time but that doesn't necessarily mean pain is funny to everyone. It took me a while to make it through season 3 because I was finding each episode less funny and more cringe-inducing whereas with prior seasons it was cringe-inducing AND funny. I'm not sure if I'm even going to watch season 4 when it comes out on DVD.
The British version might have been on to something when it stopped before it got redundant and less funny
31-34 - Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3d, Jaws: The Revenge - I was working at a house where the resident watched these four movies together. Were it not for that I would never have seen these four movies.
The first Jaws was the first scary movie I saw. I recall it scared some from swimming but not me. But my brother, being the kind of guy he was, would play the Jaws soundtrack (or at least he said he did) while lifeguarding on the Southern California coast and watch swimmers decide to come back out of the water. Fear trumps pleasure.
For the other three Jaws movies I was reminded of movies like Nightmare on Elm Street only instead of Freddy Kreuger coming back each time it was this shark.
Movie #36 and 37 Paper Moon and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Saw both of these last nite at my church movie night. I'd seen the latter before but it was more than ten years ago so by the end I'd forgotten exactly what happened and was as much on my edge of the seat as the first time. The writing and acting on this movie are just breath taking.
Paper Moon was great. I see now why some have spoken so highly of Tatum O'Neals tour de force as the lead actress at age 7 I sort of cringed each time she'd be shown smoking not because I thought it was real (I'm not that dense) but because it made me think of how much it would freak out the anti-smoking folks if that were to happen in a movie today. It also reminded me how much I love the book and movie of Thank You for Smoking.
It was interesting to see Madeline Kahn in a serious role – I'd only see her in comedies and satires (Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein) and had no idea she'd also played straight, serious roles as well.
This morning I read the Wikipedia entries and Roger Ebert's reviews on both movies because I like to hear the trivia stuff and compare opinions with my favorite critic.
However, I think Ebert completely missed the mark in his review of Butch Cassidy, which he says
You can see, in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," the bones of the good movie that could have been made about them.
But unfortunately, this good movie is buried beneath millions of dollars that were spent on "production values" that wreck the show. This is often the fate of movies with actors in the million-dollar class, like Newman. Having invested all that cash in the superstar, the studio gets nervous and decides to spend lots of money to protect its investment.
Ebert does get one thing right – the criticism of the ending:
And then the violent, bloody ending is also a mistake; apparently it was a misguided attempt to copy "Bonnie and Clyde." But the ending doesn't belong on "Butch Cassidy," and we don't believe it, and we walk out of the theater wondering what happened to that great movie we were seeing until an hour ago.
BTW, if you've not seen Bonnie and Clyde you need to – it's one of the best early attempts at the type of stylized violence that thanks to directors like Quentin Tarantino are so in vogue these days
A few trivia tidbits: Director Peter Bogdanovich wanted to change the name and after hearing the song "It's Only a Paper Moon (by Billy Rose, Yip Harburg, and Harold Arlen)" had an idea. Wikipedia then says:
Seeking advice from his close friend and mentor Orson Welles, Bogdanovich listed Paper Moon as a possible alternative. Welles responded — "That title is so good, you shouldn't even make the picture, you should just release the title!" Director of photography László Kovács used a red filter on the camera on Welles' advice."
The Simpsons referenced the movie in an episode, according to Wikipedia
"it is referenced by name when Homer Simpson and Bart Simpson try to trick Ned Flanders into receiving a fake Bible by saying that his deceased wife, Maude ordered it before she died. This prompts Ned to say after a few moments, "Wait a minute, this sounds like that movie Paper Moon...".
Switching movies, according to Wikipedia,
Goldman's script, originally called "The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy," was purchased by 20th Century Fox for $400,000. The two starring roles were originally given to Newman and Steve McQueen, but McQueen left after failing to come to an agreement about which actor would receive top billing. Warren Beatty was considered for one of the lead roles, and Marlon Brando, who at the time had minimal box-office draw, was considered at one point due to his role in an earlier Western, One-Eyed Jacks. At one point, Max Olsen and Paul Newman were expected to star, and they discussed using the new "staggered but equal billing" later introduced for The Towering Inferno. Eventually, Newman and Robert Redford were chosen, but initially Newman was to play Sundance and Redford Cassidy. 20th Century Fox did not want Redford to play the part, but director George Roy Hill insisted. Redford later noted that this film catapulted him to stardom and changed his career forever.
My god, can you imagine Brando in one of those leading roles? I sure can't.
In the scene where a railroad car is blown up, the railroad car was built for the scene out of balsa wood and toothpicks. The budget only allowed for one take, and therefore an unusually high amount of explosives was used. The explosion was huge, and the line "Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?" is reported to be an ad lib, according to locals who observed.
" In the US version of The Office, the character Dwight (in a moment of comedy) compares Michael Scott to Mozart and himself to Butch Cassidy (who he says are legendary friends).
All in all, both are great movies, worth checking out and this was a good example of a time when I got more out of it after reading the Wikipedia trivia.
38 - The Dark Knight - Saw Dark Knight last nite. My only regret was that I didnt see it until about 11 pm so I wasn't as alert as I'd like for the last hour. Now I'm going back to look at my seeds about heath channelling sid vicious, media mistakes, etc to see if I agree with these ideas.
I thought the movie was very entertaining. As others have mentioned I too had trouble at first getting used to Bale's voice.
I thought the fight scenes were pretty well done.
Ledger's performance was amazing.
And NOW I finally know what the pencil reference some made about the movie is all about.
Adds new meaning to the line about the pen being mightier than the sword.
#39 - Hellboy 2 - My opinion falls between the praise of this one and the criticism of this one. It made me laugh, though, which is what I most wanted. The irony was I went to the movies to get away from trolls and talk of trolls here and guess what was in the movie? Trolls! Argh.
#40 - Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein - Just watched this. Funny. Not laugh out loud funny but pretty funny. Nuff said.
#41 - Across The Universe – I wanted to like this movie more than I did. I mean, I love the Beatles, their music, their lyrics. Heck I once turned "yesterday" into "guppday" and sang it to my late great pet guppie at about age 7.
But this movie seemed spotty to me. Parts seemed forced, while other parts seemed genius. The casting of Bono and Eddie Izzard seemed perfect but did they need to throw in Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix clones?
Roger Ebert loved it but I think James Berardinelli nailed it better here when he said
One could never argue that Across the Universe isn't ambitious. However, like many ambitious movies, this one fails spectacularly. Glenn Kenny of Premiere magazine called it "the perfect disaster" and, while I think that's a little harsh, I understand where he's coming from. Elements of Across the Universe are shockingly awful and the film lasts at least 30 minutes past the bearable stage. But if you like the Beatles and the idea of hearing about 20 covers of their work fills you with a perverse joy, this may be the movie for you
My biggest beef was that it was sooo much longer than it needed to be, like a double album that would have been better as a single album.
The two dvd set has some extras which adds a bit of background about the movie but won't make you like the movie if you've decided by then you don't like it.
# 42 - God Grew Tired of Us - A documentary about the Lost Boys of Sudan. I knew some information about this awful situation but this filled in a lot of gaps. It seemed to lack closure but so does much in life – including the situations of many involved. Very thought-provoking, especially about the difficulty a few had assimilating into the United States.
It made me outraged all over again about a local backlash against some African immigrants who were located here. Many locals were absolutely hateful to them.
# 43 - Freedom Writer -- Great inspiring movie. It triggered this memoir piece
# 44 - Wall-E - Now THAT was a visual feast. I loved it.
I nominate the cockroach for best supporting actor... actress.. insect?
Amazing how much the movie did with absolutely no dialogue at all.
45 - Juno - I was supposed to screen this movie at church for a discussion but nobody showed up. Frustrating. The teens didn't want to see it with a-dolts and adults didn't see the appeal.
I read before hand the reviews by Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli and both pretty much nailed it.
This from Ebert sums it up:
Jason Reitman's "Juno" is just about the best movie of the year. It is very smart, very funny and very touching; it begins with the pacing of a screwball comedy and ends as a portrait of characters we have come to love. Strange, how during Juno's hip dialogue and cocky bravado, we begin to understand the young woman inside, and we want to hug her.
Has there been a better performance this year than Ellen Page's creation of Juno? I don't think so. If most actors agree that comedy is harder than drama, then harder still is comedy depending on a quick mind, utter self-confidence, and an ability to stop just short of going too far. Page's presence and timing are extraordinary. I have seen her in only two films, she is only 20, and I think she will be one of the great actors of her time.
But don't let my praise get in the way of sharing how much fun this movie is. It is so very rare to sit with an audience that leans forward with delight and is in step with every turn and surprise of an uncommonly intelligent screenplay. It is so rare to hear laughter that is surprised, unexpected and delighted. So rare to hear it coming during moments of recognition, when characters reflect exactly what we'd be thinking, just a moment before we get around to thinking it. So rare to feel the audience joined into one warm, shared enjoyment. So rare to hear a movie applauded.
I also read the comments about it at Wikipedia and was encouraged by this comment: :
The film has also received criticism from members of both the pro-life and pro-choice communities regarding its confrontation of abortion.
I take that as a good sign. That said I did not see Waitress or Knocked Up (two other movies getting attention for being about teen pregnancy– neither held much interest or appeal for me.
The movie is by Jason Reitman. I loved his adaptation of Thank You For Smoking
I highly recommend this movie and am kicking myself for not seeing it earlier.
The extras are cool - the deleted scenes add some context and the commentary is interesting.
Besides any movie with Belle and Sebastian can't be all bad.
I'll end this mini-review with this exchange:
Punk Receptionist: Would you like a free condom? They're boysenberry.
Juno MacGuff: No, thanks. I'm off sex right now.
Punk Receptionist: My boyfriend wears them every time we have intercourse, it makes his junk smell like pie.
and this one:
Juno MacGuff: Ow, ow, fuckity-ow! Bren, when do I get that spinal tap thing?
Bren: It's called a spinal block. And you can't have it yet, honey. The doctor said you're not dilated enough.
Juno MacGuff: You mean I have to wait for it to get worse? Why can't they just give it to me now?
Bren: Well, honey, doctors are sadists who like to play God and watch lesser people scream...
[Juno lets out painful scream, Brenda checks her watch]
Bren: Hey, can we get my kid the damn spinal tap already?
Speaking of which, House returns, I think, next Monday and I won't be around to recap the first episode because I'll be a) on a cruise ship headed to Jamaica and b) on my week-long Newsvine fast. so... if anyone wants to recap that first one for me that'd be excellent.
46 - V For Vendetta
As usual I read the reviews of three reviewers I respect: James Berardinelli, Roger Ebert and David Edelstein
I think James B summed it up best when he described it as
a visually sumptuous concoction that combines political allegory, bloody action, and a few stunning cinematic moments into a solid piece of entertainment. While it's true that the film at times overreaches and its connection to its graphic novel inspiration is tenuous, V for Vendetta mostly succeeds playing in the same sci-fi thriller arena as Aeon Flux and Ultraviolet. First-time director James McTeigue is relentless when it comes to pacing, rarely letting things flag for extended scenes of flabby explosion. And if there are times when V for Vendetta is overwrought and chaotic, those lapses are easily forgotten in the midst of the rousing nature of the experience.
The plot is a little dense at times, with the whodunit? elements never quite mixing with the edgier thriller aspects. And the Guy Fawkes stuff (he was a Catholic extremist who tried to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605) seems extraneous (probably because I'm an American).
There are plenty of ideas. Some would argue that's what the screenwriters, the Wachowski Brothers, are best at - giving viewers things to think about. Although there's a fine line between smart material and over-the-top hokum, V for Vendetta mostly stays on the right side of the demarcation. The movie asks questions about the price we're willing to pay by giving up freedom to feel safe (a far cry from "Give me liberty or give me death!"), and argues that the term "terrorist" is defined by perspective. There's an eerie speech about the power inherent in the destruction of a symbolic building that will have nearly every American envisioning the shadow of Osama bin Laden looming over the World Trade Center.
I love the way Edelstein sums it up:
As they demonstrated in The Matrix and its ponderous sequels, the Wachowskis gravitate to messiahs who strive to overthrow repressive social orders, but V for Vendetta never bogs itself down in religious allegory or woo-woo mysticism. It's a pop hodgepodge. V is part Zorro, part Cyrano, and part Phantom of the Opera, with a touch of Tim Burton's Batman. His mask is modeled on Guy Fawkes, executed in 1606 for attempting to dynamite the English Parliament, and that smiling papier-mâché visage seems remarkably alive—especially when it's underscored by Weaving's rolling baritone. The actor (he was the antichrist Agent Smith in The Matrix) is currently bringing down the house as a preening, sadistic Judge Brack opposite Cate Blanchett in Hedda Gabler at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; he's a hambone with a rapier edge.
I agree with him on this criticism:
V for Vendetta is otherwise pretty black-and-white—maybe too white in the case of Evey, a colorless ingenue who spends much of the picture lolling around V's underground lair with its vintage jukebox and works of "forbidden" art. Evey might seem less of a goody two-shoes if she'd begun—as in the graphic novel—by turning tricks for money; and her relationship with another TV host, a melancholy teddy bear (Stephen Fry), is yawningly platonic. After Evey's head is shaved and she endures a marathon torture session, we expect great things. It's a lapse in the screenwriting that her new fearlessness is barely tested; she's a Joan of Arc who never fights. But Portman's watchfulness and unaffected beauty keep you entranced—and the movie from drifting into camp. Whatever else it is, V for Vendetta is not frivolous. The Wachowskis—one of whom is reportedly in the midst of a sex change—introduce a lesbian martyr to make a plaintive case for the right to be what one is.
That said his summation is spot on: " But even without the nudge-nudge parallels, V for Vendetta's Pop Art mixture of revolutionary symbols from history, literature, and painting feels gladdeningly subversive. "
In contrast the review by Roger Ebert comes off as a bit pedestrian and whining, i.e.
The character of V and his relationship with Evey (Natalie Portman) inescapably reminds us of the Phantom of the Opera. V and the Phantom are both masked, move through subterranean spaces, control others through the leverage of their imaginations and have a score to settle. One difference, and it is an important one, is that V's facial disguise does not move (unlike, say, the faces of a Batman villain) but is a mask that always has the same smiling expression. Behind it is the actor Hugo Weaving, using his voice and body language to create a character, but I was reminded of my problem with Thomas the Tank Engine: If something talks, its lips should move.
Lastly Ebert raises an intresting question I'd curious what you think of, namely should a movie critic read a book or, in this case graphic novel, on which a movie is based?
The film has been disowned by Alan Moore, who also removed his name from the movie versions of his graphic novels From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but then any sane person would have been unhappy with the Gentlemen. His complaint was not so much with the films as with the deal involving the use of his work. I have not read the original work, do not know what has been changed or gone missing, but found an audacious confusion of ideas in "V for Vendetta" and enjoyed their manic disorganization. To attempt a parable about terrorism and totalitarianism that would be relevant and readable might be impossible, could be dangerous and would probably not be box office.
On the one hand his job as a movie critic/reviewer is to judge the movie itself. On the other hand couldn't he - as the other two seemed to do - do a better review had he been able to compare it to the source material?
This topic came up sort of when I interviewed Ebert:
Scott: When a book is adapted for the screen do you try to read the book prior to seeing the movie? What about reading screenplays?For example, I recently seeded at Newsvine your review of the latest Harry Potter movie and you made a comment that some readers at the site thought odd – you made a comment about whether future movies would be able to still be PG-13 and some wondered if that was because you have not read the Harry Potter books (have you?) or if it was a statement of yours on the rating system.
Roger: I only read the first book. Quite enjoyed it. I don't make a point of reading books before their movies, however, because my question should be, how good a movie is it, not how good an adaptation? If I have read the book, that inevitably enters somewhere into the review.
Do you agree?
I am trying something different with these reviews, namely incorporating other reviews into my own review. I thought I'd note that before someone swings by and says, "hey, that's cheating" or some such
I saw the Michael Clayton and Bourne Ultimatum movies while on my cruise and as I have noted elsewhere if you watch them on a ship while reading creepy novels you can well find yourself getting a bit paranoid. i.e. if the government is not spying on you than your work colleagues are.
I decided to wait until I returned to land and re-acclimated before writing up mini reviews on both movies..Besides, I also wanted to see the dvd extras and read a few other reviews.
I am glad I did because both movies have excellent commentary tracks. I don't know about you but I love to listen to the directors explain their thinking behind movies. Sometimes it's added insight, other times it's just weird trivia but I usually find myself enjoying and appreciating a movie more after listening to the commentary tracks.
So here are my thoughts...
The film moves so fast it is hard to remember to breath which is good in a way because it helps you better identify with Matt Damon's character of Jason Bourne, who is trying to sort out what is going on. It has the kind of intensity of other great movies like Run Lola Run and indeed Roger Ebert begins his review by saying, "Run, Jason, Run."
In a way it reminds me of the great TV series Burn Notice in that both have protagonists needing to go jump through so many hoops with just one seemingly simple but truly elusive goal in mind namely "the truth." The obvious difference is there is humor in Burn Notice whereas the Bourne series (of which this is the third) are notably humorless and understandably so since it's addressing issues like assassinations and espionage.
Damon's turning into a believeable action star with this series (I always felt that Ben Affleck was the weak link in their partnership). Damon does a great acting job in this movie as does Joan Allen and Julia Stiles.
As with The Bourne Supremacy, the director is Paul Greengrass, who perfected his faux-documentary syntax in Bloody Sunday (2002), the story of the 1972 Northern Ireland civil-rights march that exploded into a massacre. In that film, the you-are-there approach made brilliant artistic and moral sense: You understood the historical forces in play; you also understood at least something of what it felt like to be in the middle of the melee. In United 93, he used the same techniques to re-create the events of 9/11 onboard the only plane that didn't hit its target. His aims weren't quite as clear as in Bloody Sunday, but the movie worked as journalism and (arguably) therapy. He took an event that many of us could barely bring ourselves to imagine and gave it form.
If some of you rent Bloody Sunday then I will finally get around to seeing United 93.
A few valid criticisms were made by the critics whose reviews I read. James Berardinelli wrote in his review that
Bourne is always on the move, sometimes acting as the hunter and sometimes being the quarry (and often both at the same time). One could argue it's a little exhausting, but the action is consistently excellent - if only the same thing could be same could be said of the manner in which Greengrass has chosen to film it. Looking back on The Bourne Identity, it's easy to be impressed by the clarity with which Doug Liman directed the action sequences. Greengrass, on the other hand, prefers fast cuts and an unsteady camera. Even during static shots (such as a simple conversation with close-ups), it's as if the cameraman has Parkinson's. Things aren't as bad here as in 28 Weeks Later, but there are brief instances when the inability to figure out what's going on diminishes the effectiveness of the action. Still, it's hard to deny that Greengrass' approach generates intensity.
and Edelstein also makes a fair point
I loved watching The Bourne Supremacy and might have loved The Bourne Ultimatum if I didn't, by now, know all Greengrass's moves-and if I weren't so sick of being motion-sick. The on-the-fly documentary style was first employed in fiction films to say, "This is different. In exchange for a handheld camera's limited vantage, you'll get the texture of a real place and the urgency of real time." Seeing someone like Greengrass, whose work had moral authority in Bloody Sunday, use the same techniques so promiscuously, to make the bone crunching crunchier, drives home the bitter truth. "Reality" is virtual-just another tool for bludgeoning you stupid.
Roger Ebert gets off my favorite comment about this movie so I'll give him the final word:
Ultimatum" is a tribute to Bourne's determination, his driving skills, his intelligence in out-thinking his masters and especially his good luck. No real person would be able to survive what happens to him in this movie, for the obvious reason that they would have been killed very early in "The Bourne Identity" (2002) and never have survived to make "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004). That Matt Damon can make this character more convincing than the Road Runner is a tribute to his talent and dedication. It's not often you find a character you care about even if you don't believe he could exist.
In addition to both movies leading to paranoia they have something else in common - intensity
As David Edelstein writes in his review of Michael Clayton,
It's not one of those jittery motion-sickness pictures that accelerate around every narrative curve. It holds to a measured beat, to the point where you feel a growing impatience-a good impatience, like when you're reading some potboiler and can't breathe too easily and can't turn the pages fast enough. Maybe that's why the climax, a dialogue in which no voice is raised, is so smashingly cathartic and why the line "I am Shiva, god of death" will enter the lexicon. The dénouement, the last shot of the film, is hauntingly strange and sad; I didn't want the image to fade to black.
I loved the movie for exploring important topics like morality and ethics and good personal values.
As Edelstein writes,
Michael Clayton is about characters who inhabit the gray area between morality and immorality, where everyone has a different definition of what constitutes ethics. As in real life, these people are not "good" or "evil" - they are the end product of choices, some right and some wrong
All of the acting is exceptional, especially that of Clooney (playing Michael Clayton) and Tilda Swinton, playing a cut-throat person.
The movies does an exceptional job exploring a whole host of imporant issues. I am going to again give the last word to Roger Ebert:
I don't know what vast significance Michael Clayton has (it involves deadly pollution but isn't a message movie). But I know it is just about perfect as an exercise in the genre. I've seen it twice, and the second time, knowing everything that would happen, I found it just as fascinating because of how well it was all shown happening. It's not about the destination but the journey, and when the stakes become so high that lives and corporations are on the table, it's spellbinding to watch the Clooney and Swinton characters eye to eye, raising each other, both convinced that the other is bluffing.
I recommend seeing both movies. Just don't do it if you ever suffer from any paronia:)
Now on to some shakier fare....
There is a house I sometimes work at where the resident seems to watch an incredible amount of bad movies. This is the guy, for example, who watched all four Jaws movies. Mostly he keeps his tv locked on the Sci-Fi channell. Well, Sunday he watched two more bad movies and this time I took the extra step of reading the rviews... When I left he was watching something truly atrocous called Swamp Thing, so bad it was almost - but not quite - good
This review in Variety sums it up - this movie is a mess. It had potential early on as it began to develop different charcters living together in a New York City tenement,,, but squandered it with rats (!) becoming the focus of the story. Incidentally I seem to be seeing rats everywhere I look since I saw the movie so I am shaking my first now at the filmmaker, Jim Mickle.
And to add to my paranoia (or perhaps see some some political symbolism) I just saw, an hour ago, a dead baby bird in front of the county's republican headquarters. I'm considering calling the animal CSI to see it's a dead dove of peace.
My usual criticism of Stephen King is that his books have weak endings but Roger Ebert, in reviewing this movie, correctly notes another problem but this time one that is not King fault: ""Needful Things" is yet another one of those films based on a Stephen King story that inspires you to wonder why his stories don't make better films.
For every one that does ("Carrie," "The Dead Zone," "Misery"), there are three that don't. In this case, the problem is that the characters are unattractive and the plot, once it reveals itself, lacks any surprises. You know you're in trouble when a movie's about Satan, and his best lines are puns."
The movie has a good cast, from Ed Haris as police chief to Max Von Sydrow as an unusual old man who provides people with their "needful things" (thus the title),be it a baseball card for a boy or a sports jacket coveted by a man. But there's an unusuak way they have to "pay" for their purchases.
James Berardinelli asks a related question I was thinking as I watched this movie:
How is it that a film with a good cast, stylish direction, and an intriguing premise can turn out mediocre? Perhaps if the production crew had known the answer, Needful Things would have been a far more engrossing and satisfying motion picture experience than it actually is....
Needful Things is another example of a good idea gone awry. This seems to happen with alarming frequency when a Stephen King story is involved. In Leland Gaunt, Needful Things wastes one of the year's most intriguing villains, and the film builds to an apex that isn't there. By the time the end credits roll, a lot of people will be wondering if that was really everything. Sadly, the answer is yes, but at least the time invested is repaid in part by the fine performance of Max von Sydow.
These two movies are so bad they are almost good. The key word in that sentence is "almost."
Skip these two movies - you will thank me later.
51 - CSI - Season Seven
I am going to wait until I get my computer back to make this a separate article so I'll store it here and here for now and, meanwhile, feel free to disagree with it.
Normally, in my experience, tv series become less interesting in later seasons. Witness, say, MASH or Moonlighting or other shows that jumped the shark. Incidentally one the other articles I've written by hand but not yet typed in is a review of the Jump the Shark Book by the author of the site by that name about when every show jumped the shark. I'll probably post that after the first of the year.
There are exceptions, of course: Buffy and West Wing, for example, hit their stride after the first season.
So I guess I should narrow things and say cop procedural often become less innovative after the first season, partially because they have to start dealing with problems like how are they doing to handle an ensemble cast and there is less attention on, say, excellent plot twists.
So I watched CSI season seven with some hesitation and trepidation, worrying it was going to be boring and predictable.
The dvd has some excellent extras. Oh, I should mention I watch many tv series a season or three behind, watching them via dvds from my local library (a bit shout out to Washington County Free Library).
There is a dvd extra about the episode involving Cirque De Solei, for example.
But the best part of the season 7 extras focuses on what truly made season seven stand out, namely the miniature killer. Learning in an extra that the inspiration for this plotline was a woman who wanted to be a cop, back in those awful days when women could not be cops, and would make miniature crime scenes so detailed that they are still studied and used as a teaching tool.
This information added to the fascination season-wide story arc leading to one of the most fascinating villains ever on the series.
This all led up to the season finale and the starting episode of season 8. I can't yet say how season 8 is since the library hasn't yet made it available to me. Which is fine since I've been instead catching up on seasons one and two of 30 Rock, which I absolutely love, while also watching Chuck and Dexter via Netflix.
But I digress.
Also of interest for CSI fans is an extra about the Living Legend episode, which is the one where the Who's Roger Daltrey demonstrates his impressive acting chops playing everything from a large older black woman to a Hispanic guy.
All in all, it's a great season and if you liked the series adn this season I'd strongly suggest you check out the extras which are on the final dvd of the season's dvd set.
(Later I'll post my review for Bolt, which I saw last night)
Movie #52 - On Saturday I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It was on AMC with a scrawl of trivia which, in this case, I totally loved. I loved some of the trivia nuggets like that one of the girls in the movie had to pretend (for shame!) to like chocolate. And, for example, Wilder refused to do the movie unless they let him do his first appearance – halfway through the movie – the way he did, where he first appeared handicapped. The idea was that from that point on nobody would know which of his affectations was real. Brilliant dark chocolate, er, comedy.
As I often do these days after I see a movie I go read the reviews to see what "real" movie critics think and I was surprised to see most didn't like it. But my man Roger Ebert loved it and included it in his new book of Four Star Reviews (which I have been gradually paging through). His review of it is here and he is so right.
I look forward to watching it again sometime and listening to the cast commentary. (Yeah I'm a geek but I love the behind the scenes stories)