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goddess of clarity: a blog about politics, culture, and serenity

Capsule Movie Reviews 2004

Gorilla At Large

The Dryden, 12.30.04

Another in the Dryden's 3D fest, and boy was this terrible. Luckily for the audience, however, it was so terrible that it was, in fact, hysterical. Anne Bancroft pays some serious dues starring as the lusty trapeze artist who falls victim to the titular gorilla, played by some poor actor in one of the worst gorilla costumes ever committed to film. When "Goliath" is carrying Bancroft up to the top of the roller coaster, our audience lost it as the dummy he was actually carrying was flailing about, all wooden arms and legs akimbo. Craptastic.

House of Wax

The Dryden, 12.29.04

Part of the Dryden's year-end 3D fest! This is the 1953 remake of the 1933 version we saw last week. The 3D is so fun! I really wish it had caught on. There is one scene where Charles Bronson (playing the deaf-mute assistant Igor) runs into the shot from the front and I swear to god for a second I thought, "Who's that idiot running in front of the screen?" This was followed immediately by the thought, "Duh, it's a 3D movie. God, I'm an idiot."


The Little, 12.28.04

There is something about Laura Linney. I don't know what it is; she's just fantastic, and she makes everyone around her seem more "real." While this film did occasionally fall back on some of the old biopic cliches (you just knew mean old prude John Lithgow would have one horrible childhood experience that would explain everthing in his adult behavior), overall I thought is was a fair and very entertaining portait of its subject.

A Very Long Engagement

The Little, 12.27.04

A very good movie. I loved Amelie, and the same whimsical touches director Jean-Pierre Jeunet used to frenetic effect there are used here to underline the absurdity and poignancy of war. Plus, art nouveau Paris looks beautiful, as does the sepia-toned cinematography.

Finding Neverland

The Little, 12.21.04

This tear-jerking biopic was a two-sleever for me; my sweater was soaked and I was covered in snot by the end. Talk about manipulative! I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd had the dog die as well before it was all over. Still, Johnny Depp is pretty amazing, as is the kid that plays young Peter. The scene where he smashes his little theater stage in anger at the dishonesty of the grown-ups around him is a real eye-opener. Plus he's cute as a button. I can see why Depp wanted him for Willie Wonka.

Mystery of the Wax Museum

The Dryden, 12.19.04

This 1933, two-color Technicolor horror classic was screened at the Dryden as part of their Fay Wray memorial weekend. This was the film she did right before King Kong, and she does quite a bit of screaming in this one, too. The fast-talking brassy blonde reporter and the flinty thirties dialogue ("I tell ya yer yella, see.") make for some unintentionally funny scenes, and one wonders whether the wax museum sub-genre isn't ready for an update. This year zombies, next year ... wax museums?

The Big Parade

The Dryden, 12.10.04

The 1926 silent classic was screened at the Dryden with a print restored from the original camera negative, which MGM thought had been lost. The technical stuff means a lot to the folks at the Eastman House, especially since they did the restoration. I just thought it looked cool. The World War I battle scenes and sweeping love story really hold up, and a three-hour silent film zips along in no time at all.

A Dirty Shame

The Little, 12.07.04

I think John Waters phoned this one in. The last 20 minutes or so are completely ridiculous, including an unspeakably vile cameo by David Hasselhoff(!?). Some very funny moments, like the Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting, and some pretty good performances (I especially liked "Big Ethel") aren't enough to save this movie from itself.


Pittsford, 12.03.04

A really good movie that was a lot funnier than I expected. Everyone has had one really crazy weekend or has one really crazy story to tell. But it's once in a lifetime. Today's "quirky" movies (think Garden State) lead us to believe that every day in the characters' lives is wild and crazy. Sideways reminds us that this is not the case, but that our real lives are plenty crazy enough, thank you. Plus, Paul Giamatti is awesome. How does he get his lip to quiver like that when he sees his ex-wife again? Must be why they call it acting.

Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

The Dryden, 11.20.04

This rather worshipful documentary about the life of leftist historian Howard Zinn was released in June of this year. Mr. Goddess did the introduction at the Dryden for the Rochester premiere; it looked pretty near sold out, which is a rare occurrence. The film did make me appreciate Zinn's viewpoint a lot more. However, never have 78 minutes of film made me feel like such a useless loser. Why haven't I changed the world yet? What have I done ... oh, look, Seinfeld DVDs...

Vera Drake

Pittsford, 11.15.04

If Richard Curtis' England (see below) and Mike Leigh's England ever came into contact, I think the whole island would explode on contact. There's no way someplace so cheery and someplace so depressing can exist together in a rational universe. Seriously, this is a wonderful movie. The performances are brilliant up and down the cast, the story is simple, but the drama in it leaves you gasping. Should be required viewing for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason

Henrietta 18, 11.13.04

A bit of harmlessly entertaining fluff that isn't nearly as entertaining or fluffy as the first one; the pace-killing detour into a Thai prison (!) certainly doesn't help. Still, the rematch between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant is well worth the price of admission. Plus, Colin Firth gets wet! Yeah!

The Incredibles

Henrietta 18, 11.06.04

So many animated features today take a overly simplistic story, add some trite but merchandisable characters, throw in some toilet humor to make it appeal to "all ages," and call it a movie. The Incredibles is the antithesis of this trend. It is an amazing movie before it is an amazing looking movie. Though it is quite amazing looking. Check out the hair on each character when they sit down to dinner. Cool.

Yes Men

The Little, 11.05.04

This documentary made the festival rounds in 2003, including Toronto and Sundance. It's about a group of political satirists who create a parody Web site for the WTO, and then start getting invited to conventions by people who don't realize the site is fake. They attend several conferences, making increasingly outrageous statements about globalization and third world labor. The fact that these statements are never criticized, and in fact are applauded, tells you all you need to know about global capitalism. Plus, it's eye-wateringly funny.

I Heart Huckabees

The Little, 10.23.04

I thought Mark Wahlberg in particular was awesome. He had these ridiculously "deep" lines to deliver about the nothingness, interconnectivity, and petroleum and he managed to come off as a real human being, not to mention funny. Wish I could say the same for the rest of the cast. My doubts about Alfie grow stronger by the day.


The Little, 10.16.04

The original Japanese version (sans Raymond Burr) finally made it to Rochester this weekend. Very cool if you ask me. Adheres to the "don't show the monster until at least a third of the way through the movie" rule of all good monster movies.

Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry

The Little, 10.14.04

I was surprised by how much this movie moved me. I've seen the "How do you ask a man to be last man to die for a mistake" clip, but I'd never seen the whole speech. It's amazing. It really gives you a sense that there is only one truly good man running for president this year.

Shaun of the Dead

The Little, 10.02.04

The scene near the beginning, when Shaun and Ed first realize that there is a zombie in their garden and try to kill it using kitchen gadgets and Shaun's record collection ("The Batman soundtrack?" "Throw it.") before eventually bashing it to death with a cricket bat and settling back down on the couch to finish Ed's Coronet? I haven't laughed so hard in a movie theater in a long time.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Regal Henrietta, 09.25.04

OK, so it looked cool. But that's all it had going for it and it wasn't enough. There was no fun or joy in the action sequences or in the story as a whole. I think Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow were meant to be recreating some sassy, brassy, Nick-and-Nora style relationship, but to be fair you can't really do that with such snappy dialogue as, "Did you cut my fuel line?" And when does an "homage" become "downright theft"? I think I saw Lord of the Rings, Tron, Metropolis, The Day the Earth Stood Still, King Kong, Jurassic Park ... all in the first reel!


Pittsford Plaza, 09.18.04

I may be proven wrong, but I'll bet Oliver Stone wishes his upcoming Alexander were half as beautiful as Hero. It's so great to see an epic film where you can still tell that the swarming armies are comprised of real people.

Shrek II

US Airways, 09.13.04

The first time in a long time I've seen a good movie on a plane. My favorite bit: When the giant gingerbread cookie goes after the "Farbucks" latte sign ("Leave it, you stupid pastry!"). And Antonio Bandaras and Jennifer Saunders were hysterical.

Mutiny on the Bounty

The Dryden, 09.04.04

Mr. Goddess presented this film as part of the Dryden's Charles Laughton tribute. I've seen this film many times, and am always entertained, mostly by Laughton. His performance almost makes me overlook Clark Gable's melodramatic style and the fact that nearly everyone else on the ship seems to hail from Nebraska.

These Are the Damned

The Dryden, 09.01.04

This was shown as part of the Dryden's "Not on Video" series. It's a 1961 Hammer Horror co-production that starts off as a straightforward, cheesy British teen romance romp and then rather suddenly turns into a sci-fi melodrama involving a group of radioactive children. The opening song ("Black leather, black leather, smash smash smash!") will haunt you for days.

Garden State

The Little, 08.24.04

I don't know, maybe I'm just too old for angst. I went into this movie expecting to really like it. And while the story was really fresh and Zach Braff was compelling onscreen, I only got about five minutes into the movie before feeling that everything and everyone in it was trying waaaay too hard to impress me. I mean, the World War I motorcycle? The boat in the junkyard?! Can't anyone just drive a Toyota Celica and live in a shack or something?

The Bourne Supremacy

Pittsford Plaza, 08.18.04

Excellent thriller, but there's no way that taxi chase happens. It crashed, what, six times?! Nevermind. There is something reassuring about political thrillers set in Europe. They have that comforting Cold War glow about them. It's like, "Oh look, it's the Russians. Boy, I miss the Russians."

Napolean Dynamite

The Little, 08.02.04

The funniest awful movie I've seen in a long time. Barely there story, absolutely no character development, flat photography, freakin' hilarious. Favorite scene: the dance, with Forever Young blaring across the gym. Laughed? I nearly died.

The Village

Pittsford Plaza, 07.24.04

I liked it, but I was a minority of one among the four friends I saw it with. When you go into a film trying to "figure it out," you're bound to be disappointed. The scales-falling-from-your-eyes moment (like in The Sixth Sense) only happens when you're not trying to anticipate it.