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

Capsule Movie Reviews 2005

The Producers

Pittsford Plaza 12.30.05

Mel Brooks' 1968 original is one of my favorite film comedies, so I found it very irritating to watch Matthew Broderick (who I normally enjoy very much) try to recreate Gene Wilder's performance practically shot-for-shot. The best thing about this movie: Will Ferrell (no surprise there).

Rent

The Cinema 12.29.05

Maybe it's a good thing that a movie about people living in squalor and dying of AIDS feels dated. The movie felt like the period piece it now is, which is a bit weird since it was so groundbreaking as a stage musical. And the last 10 minutes or so were completely ridiculous; I hate it when movies use cheap, underhanded tactics to make me cry.

King Kong

Tinseltown 12.14.05

It pains me—nay, grieves me—to say this, but I was disappointed. Don't get me wrong; this movie is certainly worth seeing. But I wanted to LOVE it. I wanted to buy the DVD in eight months and watch it over and over again with all the commentary tracks and deleted scenes. But I didn't, and I won't. There are several reasons for this. First, the movie is at least a half an hour too long. Nearly an hour has passed before the party is even aboard the boat, and I for one could have done with a lot less dinosaur action. Second, many of the effects are, for lack of a better word, cheesy, particularly the aforementioned dinosaurs. And lastly and most grievously, the movie suffers from what you might call a George-Lucasian overload of "stuff." In far too many scenes there is just far too much going on, all of it in sharp focus and all at the same depth: a flat wall of activity crushing down on your eyeballs until you just don't know where to look. When the dinosaur herd is chasing the crew on Skull Island, there are bodies and limbs flying across every square inch of the screen. When King Kong bursts onto a busy Manhattan street, he seems to fling dozens of taxicabs simultaneously. Eventually I wanted to yell, "Enough with the flinging! Could you just fling one taxicab at a time so I can see it!" There are, of course, some amazing moments. The scene with the giant millipede creeping closer and closer to Naomi Watts' face sent our audience into audible squirms. The shot with the beauty and the beast sitting quietly atop the Empire State Building before the biplanes descend is lovely. But it is telling that the shots that work the best are those in which one thing is happening to one character. When the audience has something to attend to and focus on. So like I said, color me (reluctantly) disappointed.

A History of Violence

Movies 10 12.13.05

I'll say this for David Cronenberg: The man sure likes his gaping head wounds. And it's good to see Viggo Mortensen kick a little ass (and show some too!) without the chain mail and armor. Though he does "whip out his broadsword" in this movie, if you know what I mean.

Syriana

Pittsford Plaza 12.11.05

Sooooo, I'm guessing the makers of Syriana intended for their film to be impossible to follow. Yeah, that must be it. The film is a metaphor for the complexities surrounding U.S. oil interests in the Middle East, and how that world is so complicated that no one person can ever fully grasp or understand all of it. Yep, I'm sure that was it.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Pittsford Plaza 12.10.05

I didn't read the Narnia books as a child, so when I started to read them recently, I didn't find Lewis' world as imaginative or exciting as Tolkien's (whose books I had read in my youth). And the four children in the books are really undeveloped as characters, unlike the Harry Potter kids who have captured my attention as a grown-up. That being said, I think the movie works better as a movie than as a book. The big battle, which only takes place as a past-tense conversation in the book ("Yeah, there was this big battle; sorry you girls missed it. Edmund almost died.") comes alive against the New Zealand (where else?) scenery.

Ice Harvest

Pittsford Plaza 12.03.05

I haven't seen John Cusack in a movie in a long time. I've missed him. This was a nice, tidy little film. It's a very dark, depressing, but funny Christmas caper, perfect for the holiday season. Strip clubs, marital infidelity, and no less than six murders: I think this movie would serve as the perfect bitter chaser in a double bill with It's a Wonderful Life.

Walk the Line

Pittsford Plaza 11.29.05

I loooooves me some Joaquin Phoenix. There was a point in the movie when I forgot I was watching a biopic and thought I was just watching a good story about an interesting character. But with music. Amazing music.

Harry Potter and
the Goblet of Fire

Tinseltown 11.18.05

I want to see it again tomorrow. And maybe take in a matinee on Sunday. Just fantastic. I think this was the first of the series that actually improved on the book. And Daniel Radcliffe seems to have found his acting chops. My only quibble: my favorite character, Ron, still gets short shrift in my opinion. That said, he was a lot less of a muggy idiot in this film. Added bonus: this was the first film I'd seen in a theater with digital projection. Impressive.

Good Night and Good Luck

The Little 11.04.05

George Clooney's look at the crusading journalism of Edward R. Murrow during the McCarthy era was not as preachy as I had been led to believe. It was very well acted, unexpectedly funny, and a facsinating look at the medium of television in its infancy. My favorite scene was the scene with all the TV reporters celebrating in the bar after the first McCarthy broadcast, but then waiting anxiously for the morning papers to find out how their broadcast reallywent. In 1954, the most important opinions were still levied by the print medium.

Everything Is Illuminated

The Little 10.31.05

This one started out a bit shaky. The first 20 minutes or so were quirky for quirkiness sake. But then is found its way, mainly when Eugene Hutz hit the screen with his gangly, toothy, wide-eyed, sad optimism. And Elijah Wood wasn't half bad either.

The Aristocrats

The Little 10.22.05

This movie has been playing forever at The Little, and I finally got around to seeing it. The "joke" these comedians tell isn't even funny (more specifically, the punchline isn't funny), but the movie itself is often very funny. The best bits were Gregg Rogell's telling of the joke to a NYC Guardian Angel ("the act ends with a big circle jerk around grandma. And here's the kicker: Grandma is dead.") and Larry Storch of F Troop fame delivering his filthy rendition in an upper-crusty English accent.

Safety Last

The Dryden 10.18.05

I've never seen any of Harold Lloyd's films, including this 1923 classic (which includes the iconic scene where he hangs from a clock above a Los Angeles street). The presenter described Lloyd as the "forgotten third man" of silent comedy after Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Lloyd didn't try to make any artistic or political statements about the human condition in his films; he specialized in daredevil comedy and always brought the funny. When you realize that he uses no trick photography or stuntmen and that he *really is* climbing a 12-story building, it makes the gasps and roars of laughter from the audience all the more deserving.

Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Greece Ridge Center 10.06.05

Scored some free sneak peek passes through work, but I would have gone to see this anyway; I never miss a new Wallace and Gromit. This feature film had all the wonderful touches of the Aardman shorts: clever visual puns, crazy-fun chase scenes, cute little animals that go insane. And again with the non-photo-realistic animation. Who needs CG when you've got claymation!

Serenity

Culver Ridge 10.02.05

Too much to say for a "capsule" review (see right). I will say this: When I pick a favorite character on a Joss Whedon show, nothing good comes of it.

Corpse Bride

Culver Ridge 9.28.05

I've decided that I love animation that does not strive for photo-realism. It was this failing that made the birds in Valiant kinda creepy. This movie was also kinda creepy, but in a fantastic, curly-cued, Tim Burton kind of way. The good kind of creepy.

An Evening of Bitter Films

The Dryden 9.23.05

The Dryden hosted this retrospective of every animated short from the amazing Don Hertzfeld, who was also there in person to talk about his work. The man himself? Not so amazing. It's hard to watch an arrogant guy attempt self-deprecation. The cartoons, however, *are* amazing. The show was sold out and I've never heard an audience laugh so loud and long at stick figures attacking each other.

Broken Flowers

Pittsford Plaza 9.19.05

And people criticized Lost in Translation for being slow. This was reeeeeeeaaaaally sloooow. I did like it though—the mystery of it and the theme of what we know and what we can't know about even our own lives. But it just kills me sometimes how critics think Bill Murray is a genious when half the time he's just sitting there. That said, the carrot-eating scene *was* genious.

Valiant

The Cinema 9.17.05

The premise of this movie—British carrier pigeons fighting the good fight during World War II—was so promising that it's really a bummer the movie was so lame. The animation isn't up to Finding Nemo standards, and the way the pigeons' beaks were animated was often just creepy. The humor devolves into multiple shots of birds crashing into buildings/trees/each other, but The Office's Ricky Gervais is the one standout. He also has the best line: "I may not be conscientious, but I do object."

The Constant Gardener

Pittsford Plaza 9.12.05

A nice tidy little thriller, though I thought it strayed a bit in the middle with the multiple flashbacks. At one point I think the movie lapped itself. But that is a minor quibble. The writing and the performances were fantastic, and one gets the depressing sense that the filmmakers had one foot firmly planted in reality while telling this story of the poor and desperate exploited for profit by big drug companies and the government.

Brothers Grimm

Pittsford Plaza 9.04.05

Didn't work, sorry to say. Bits of it looked amazing (notably the shattered mirror queen and the torture device with the glass snail helments). Bits of it looked really lame (namely the wolf). But the main failing was that the story and the characters didn't make sense long enough for us to care about either.

40-Year-Old Virgin

Pittsford Plaza 9.02.05

Everything Steve Carrell does is funny. I already knew that. But I didn't know he could be so likeable in such an ordinary, down-to-earth way. In a movie that could have been a broad, baudy comedy, he gives it unexpected heart. Not that it's not baudy. Favorite line: "She's a sexy grandma. *My* grandma looks like Jack Palance. You should fuck her and then she'll send you a check for $12 on your birthday."

Crash

The Cinema 8.29.05

I've wanted to see this for a long time, but I kept putting it off. It felt like a "homework movie." Turns out, I needn't have worried. Rather than finding it depressing, it was actually pretty enlightening. And it's so well-written that every little piece of the story manages to fall into place without being predictable.

Happy Endings

Pittsford Plaza 8.13.05

Steve Coogan is on my laminated list (I had to bump Jude Law after I Heart Huckabees) and that's the main reason I wanted to see this movie. Coogan didn't disappoint, but the movie as a whole was a bit flat. Not terrible, just not good. And the little cutesy title cards got on my nerves, especially when they were used to tell the audience what the characters were feeling. If the actors can't convey that themselves, then we're in trouble.

Hatchet Man

The Dryden 8.11.05

Another in the Dryden's "pre-code" series, this 1933 film stars Edward G. Robinson as the Chinese (Chinese?!) "enforcer" during a Chinatown gang war. The all-Caucasian cast struggles through their roles with varying degrees of ridiculousness, and the big pay-off ending (which is actually quite clever) doesn't really make up for the plodding pace of the rest of the movie.

Bicycle Thief

The Dryden 8.10.05

I'd only ever seen this film as part of a class in college, so it was good to get a chance to see it on the big screen. The guy doing the intro at the Dryden described this film as a "men's weepie," and I think he was spot on. As the father and son struggle to survive in post-war Italy, your heart breaks as this man fights a losing battle to control the forces that are completely outside his control.

Footlight Parade

The Dryden 8.04.05

James Cagney is all-singing and all-dancing in this 1993 Warner Brothers musical. The plot: Cagney's company produces "prologues," the live musical numbers that used to run in movie theaters before the main feature film (this is in the days before movies were preceded by 20 minutes of incredibly stupid trivia questions and ear-shattering ads for XBox and Fanta -- "Wanta Fanta! Don't You Wanta Fanta Fanta!"). The movie was shown as part of the Dryden's "Pre-Code" series, which explains the abundance of boobs, butts, and thighs in Busby Berkeley's elaborate production numbers.

March of the Penguins

The Little 8.02.05

This film was very cute, and it is amazing to think of what the crew had to go through to make it happen. Who knew that penguins could inspire such an enthusiastic, "little girl" reaction in me (throughout the film I kept clapping my hands and whispering "Look at the pen-gies!" at odd moments). The one thing that stuck with me, however, is our tendency to anthropomorphize the "cute" animals: the penguins are "in love," their separations are "difficult," their reunions "joyful." If this had been a film about fish, the penguins would have been the enemy.

Cinderella Man

The Cinema 7.31.05

I'm starting to think that Russell Crowe can do no wrong (unless you count throwing a telephone at a hotel worker's head, cuz that is wrong). For such a huge movie star, he still manages to completely embody any character he's playing, so that I always forget I'm watching Russell Crowe. Compare this to, say, Tom Cruise, who always seems to be playing Tom Cruise. And fingers crossed for Paul Giamatti; maybe he'll finally get that Oscar nod for his great supporting turn.

The Island

Pittsford Plaza 7.29.05

I ended up liking this movie a lot, but there are a few little logical gaps to leap over. For example: why, in this tightly monitored facility, is Ewan MacGregor allowed to wander the halls pretty much undetected for the first third of the film? And isn't his friendship with crazy tech guy Steve Buscemi a tad convenient? Plus, the last 20 minutes are absolutely ridiculous. What was the point of that turbine thing, other than to have something huge wildly careen through a building? And MacGregor must be wondering when he'll get to make a movie that doesn't include a pod chase. My favorite bit: when Ewan the clone confronts his "sponsor." Double MacGregor, double my fun!

Howl's Moving Castle

The Cinema 7.22.05

My first thought while watching this film was just how bright it was: the array of colors is often dazzling. And while the story is a little less accessible than Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, the sheer imaginativeness of this world that Miyazaki creates more than makes up for it. The one clinker: Billy Crystal as the voice of the fire demon Calcifer. His "Miracle Max" shtick stood out like the auditory equivalent of a sore thumb.

Wedding Crashers

Pittsford Plaza 7.18.05

If I could have looked at myself during this movie, I'm sure I would have had a stupid grin on my face during the whole thing. Most of it was goofy fun, and bit of it were freakin' hilarious. Plus, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have better onscreen chemistry as a couple than Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Favorite line: Fine, I'll just go put ice on my balls and spit up blood. (Guess you had to be there.)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Pittsford Plaza 7.16.05

The 1971 film is on my laminated list of favorite movies of all time, so I was fully prepared to dislike this remake. Only it wouldn't let me! The film was inventive, funny, twisted, and gorgeous. From the early scene with the "Small World After All" puppets catching fire, which went on a *little* too long and thus crossed the line from funny to disturbingly hilarious, I knew I was in for a treat.

Madagascar

Pittsford Plaza 7.13.05

This one was really cute, and the lemurs cracked me up. ("We will all be saved because of my plan! Now, who wants a cookie?") I also liked all the visual references to "grown-up" films like American Beauty and Planet of the Apes. The Twilight Zone pun just killed me ("It's a cookbook!"), but I don't think many of the teens or kids in the audience got it.

The Mouse That Roared

The Dryden 7.10.05

The Dryden is doing a "Peter Sellers Sundays" series in July and August, and Mr. Goddess presented this 1959 gem in which the tiny republic of Grand Fenwick declares war on the United States. I was really looking forward to seeing this one, and I wasn't disappointed. It was so fun, with lots of visual jokes and silly Goon Show-esque moments. I had to put my hand over my mouth at least twice to stop myself from laughing.

The War of the Worlds

Pittsford Plaza 7.02.05

The first 20 minutes of this movie are phenomenal, the way Speilberg just drops you right into the alien invasion with no setup, no character development, no soundtrack even. Just -- WHOOMP! -- aliens. Deal with it.

The Quiet American

The Dryden 6.30.05

The 2002 version starring Michael Caine is a vastly superior adaptation of the Graham Greene novel than the 1958 version screened a couple weeks ago. It is amazing though now both Caine and Michael Redgrave seem to have been born to play the role of cynical journalist Thomas Fowler while giving two completely different performances: Caine's more cunning and lovesick, Redgrave's more gullible and nonchalant.

Layer Cake

The Cinema 6.27.05

I love a good British gangster movie, and this is a *great* British gangster movie: slick and stylish, great dialogue, great performances. And I don't know where Daniel Craig's been hiding, but he is one fine piece of manhood.

Raise the Red Lantern

The Dryden 6.22.05

Director Yimou Zhang's (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) first international release was shown as part of the Dryden's series on costume design in film. And there certainly were a lot of costumes. And no ass-kicking. The film looked beautiful: with its saturated colors and long lingering shots, it often felt like you were watching a series of paintings go by. The pace is very slow, and it's not until the end that you realize how much has actually happened in this house, where four wives plot against each other for the favor of The Master.

Batman Begins

Pittsford Plaza 6.19.05

One quibble: the reactions to the "psychotropic drug" seemed to vary widely among the people affected by it: from Tom Wilkinson becoming a shreiking, useless mess, to Katie Holmes just kinda sitting there in the Batmobile. But that's it. Everything else: awesome. P.S.: Cillian Murphy is just about the weirdest loooking dude in movies.

The End of the Affair

The Dryden 6.16.05

It's a Graham Greene double bill tonight at the Dryden, kicking off with this 1955 adaptation of Greene's classic love triangle, set in London during World War II. I found it, frankly, unimpressive and not a little boring (with the exception of John Mills scene-stealing performance as the private detective). The "affair" happens way too quickly, with no chemistry at all between Van Johnson and Deborah Kerr (though this is no fault of Kerr's) and the last half of the film is all Catholic guilt all the time.

The Quiet American

The Dryden 6.16.05

Now this is more like it. The 1958 version of this film was the first American movie filmed in Vietnam, before that troublesome Gulf of Tonkin incident. Michael Redgrave is fantastic as the world weary British journalist Fowler, and one wonders why anyone would leave him for the squeaky nerdiness of "the American," Audie Murphy. The movie makes a significant departure from the book and the later adaptation starring Michael Caine, depicting the American as an innocent do-gooder out to help the Vietnamese people. Well, what can you do? It's 1958.

Secrets & Lies

The Dryden 6.14.05

The Mike Leigh fest continues, with what is probably my favorite Leigh film. More than any other of his films, I think Secrets & Lies really hits home and makes you think that perhaps your ordinary, messed up life could be made into a movie, too.

Life is Sweet

The Dryden 6.07.05

I would call this film one of director Mike Leigh's "Bleak Trilogy" if he had only made three such films. (See Naked, Secrets and Lies, All or Nothing, Vera Drake. He even made a film called Bleak Moments, for goodness sake.) I joke about Mike Leigh, but his films are at their best when they make you think about your own life. Most movies don't do this; they make you think about the movie you're watching. This movie makes you think about your own family, and how one misspoken word over dinner or afternoon tea can bring the whole chummy artifice crashing down.

Brighton Rock

The Dryden 6.04.05

The Dryden is doing a Graham Greene festival this month, and this 1947 film is a British classic, though I had never seen it. Richard Attenborough plays the completely irredeemable teenage gang leader Pinkie Brown, and it's a great performance. Though why the innocent waitress Rose should fall head-over-heels in love will him, I'll never know. "You've been so good to me, Pinkie." When?! Sometime in between ignoring you and abusing you?!

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

The Little 6.01.05

According to the filmmakers (and I have no reason to doubt them) the attitude that led to the fall of Enron can be summed up thusly: "We are so smart and clever to have come up with these ideas, that it is only good and proper that we get rich off them. And anyone who raises objections to this is obviously a lesser man who can be ignored or, if necessary, destroyed. We deserve this." Stomach-churning moment: In the days after Sept. 11, Ken Lay compares Enron to the World Trade Center because the company is also "under attack" (by an SEC investigation).

Fever Pitch

The Cinema 5.23.05

I've always liked movies made from Nick Hornby books more than I like Nick Hornby books, and this film was no exception. I saw the original British version of this film (mainly because it starred the lovely lovely Colin Firth), and the story makes a graceful transition to the world of baseball.

Robots

The Cinema 5.23.05

Dreadful. Humorless. About as fun as watching a sick child play with a broken toy on Christmas morning.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Pittsford Plaza 5.20.05

I'll be writing more about this later, but for now let's just state the obvious: this movie was by far the best of the three prequels, in terms of both the effects and the story. Lucas finally gets to the point—the only point worth getting to in all the prequels— namely, how does Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader? And the stage is finally set for the Star Wars story we all know and love.

Kingdom of Heaven

Pittsford Plaza 5.09.05

It pains me to say this, but I was unimpressed. All the performances were very good (I especially liked the prancing evilness of Brenden Gleeson) and Orlando Bloom was well-cast (and let's face it, Orlando is a fine piece of manhood; I could watch the light bounce off him for two and a half hours, no problem). But the pace as a whole was plodding, and the hand-to-hand combat scenes were confusing and went on too long (that "Saving Private Ryan" effect got old real fast). It just didn't soar, dammit.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Pittsford Plaza 5.04.05

As a fan of the books, radio series, and TV series, all I can say is "Ehh." It wasn't terrible. The way they visualized some things, especially the Infinite Improbability Drive, was fantastic. The casting was so-so (Arthur and Zaphod = great; Ford and Trillian = not so much). But mostly the elements they chose to knit together as a story just didn't fit. It's not that the movie needs to be absolutely faithful to the books; it just needs to work as a movie. This story didn't. Still, you can't go too far wrong with Douglas Adams.

Rebecca

The Dryden 4.28.05

For the first time I really understood why the folks at the Eastman House goes nuts over nitrate screenings. During the opening sequence of this Hitchcock classic, I looked around the theater thinking someone had left some house lights on or something. Then I realized the light was coming from the screen. The film was simply luminous, with every light source in every shot cracking brightly off the screen.

Dear Frankie

The Little, 4.25.05

This movie had "happy ending" written all over it. Even the most cursory of glances at the movie poster would reveal much of the plot. Still there were enough little surprises along the way to keep it interesting, and the performances (especially by Gerald "Phantom" Butler) were very good. Plus it was filmed in Scotland. And Scottish films with happy endings are rare and must be encouraged.

Sahara

Pittsford Plaza, 4.19.05

There is a scene in Sahara where Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, and Penelope Cruz are looking at a cave painting in an village in Mali, and this painting somehow leads them to figure out how a Civil War ironclad ship, a mysterious disease, and a no-good business man are all, in fact, connected. "Find the ship, and you'll find the source!" If you can get through this scene without laughing out loud, you're a better woman than me.

Downfall

The Little, 4.14.05

Fantastic German film looks at Hitler's last days. It left me thinking that there were probably a few people in the Nazi Party who were truly nuts (Hitler and Eva Braun) or evil (Goebbels), and a whole lot of people who just couldn't bring themselves to surrender. It's easy to say, "Fight to the last man!" but what does that mean in practice? Old ladies and little kids shooting at the Russians until the Russians destroy them all?

Sin City

Pittsford Plaza, 4.11.05

I loved it! A blockbuster cast, a slick and original visual style, and a compelling story told by real characters through witty and cutting dialogue. Take that, Sky Captain!

The Animation Show

The Dryden, 4.10.05

This was the third annual festival of animated shorts put together by Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeld. My favorites were the Bill Plimpton short "Guard Dog" (Plimpton's stuff is always good) and a Polish short called "Fallen Art," which was so disturbing and completely hilarious. The opening sequence is available online.

Gunner Palace

The Little, 4.07.05

A really remarkable documentary that follows a year in the life of an army field artillery unit holed up in a bombed out palace once owned by Uday Hussein. The film doesn't hit you over the head with any political point of view, but I couldn't help but come away from it thinking that these guys, many of them fresh out of high school, are getting killed and becoming killers for no real reason other than the current administration's desire to remake the world in its image.

Millions

The Little, 4.05.05

Danny Boyle puts his visually frenetic and often fantastical style to work in a much lighter picture than, say, Trainspotting or 28 Days Later. The film's two main conceits—that the "Lives of the Saints" really do come alive for the young hero, and that the British pound is about to be replaced by the Euro and thus the boys' new-found riches must be spent in a hurry—work remarkably well and provide lots of humor to this heartwarming tale.

Les Choristes

The Cinema, 3.26.05

This film had gotten mixed reviews; some critics wrote it off as a kind of French Dead Poet's Society. But I found it charming; utterly predictable and cliched, but charming.

The Sea Inside

The Cinema, 3.26.05

I started tearing up during the first five minutes of this film and didn't stop crying for much of the rest of it. You can't help but empathize with the characters, and that's where the emotion comes from. Contrast this to Finding Neverland, which was just a cheap weepie.

Bride and Prejudice

Pittsford Plaza, 3.06.05

OK, so the politically correct "messages" in this movie came across as preachy, and the actor cast as the American Mr. Darcy was awful (imagine if Bill Pullman and Greg Kinnear had a brother who couldn't act). But do such things matter in a movie so wonderfully silly and joyful as this one? I submit to you that they do not.

Hotel Rwanda

The Little, 3.03.05

Finally saw this in its last showing at the Little, and I think Paul Giamatti may find a sympathetic ear in Don Cheadle. His performance is amazing; if only he were playing a recently deceased and much beloved figure in popular music, he may have been in with a chance.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Movies 10, 2.26.05

I only went to see this movie because it was nominated for so many technical Oscars (and it was the $1 matinee), and it ended up exceeding my total lack of expectations. I haven't read the books and now I really want to. Plus, the two leads were very good. Or maybe they were just so darn attractive I couldn't help but be drawn in.

Million Dollar Baby

Pittsford Plaza, 2.22.05

I guess it would have been too much to ask to simply have Hillary Swank lose the fight at the end. Not in a Clint Eastwood movie; that wouldn't have been nearly bleak enough. I'm just surprised the helplessly goofy "Danger" was allowed to walk out of that film alive.

National Treasure

The Cinema, 2.03.05

When the appearance of your action hero elicits giggles from the audience, it's not a good sign. Nicolas Cage was unbelievably bad, but the movie itself was mildly entertaining and Philadelphia looked good on screen. There was a bit of geographic compression going on when they run from the Italian market to City Hall in, like, two minutes, but what the hell.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

The Cinema, 1.29.05

I've always been a fan of Wes Anderson, most fervently of Rushmore, and this movie didn't disappoint. I've had a problem lately with deliberately "quirky" characters who practically jump up and down on the screen screaming, "Look how offbeat I am!" But this whole film is so over the top, that the actors, particularly Bill Murray, seem to be playing down the quirkiness, almost playing it straight.

In Good Company

Culver Ridge, 1.27.05

A light and fluffy comedy that stayed just of the right side of smarminess, thanks to fantastic performances up and down the cast. Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid were fantastic, I thought, and you ended up really caring about these characters. Plus, Carter Duryea's intense, balding, junior executive boss reminded me so much of a former Microsoft manager I once worked for (especially during the basketball scene) that I had to laugh out loud.

Incident at Loch Ness

The Dryden, 1.22.05

Mr. Goddess presented this "mockumentary" at the Dryden. It features the legendary directory Werner Herzog (of Fitzcarraldo fame) and his crew as they try to make a documentary about the Loch Ness monster, but producer Zak Penn doesn't seem to think reality is interesting enough. The film goes on to delightfully skewer the pretentiousness of filmmakers who search for "the truth."

House of Flying Daggers

The Little, 1.14.05

I was so excited to see this movie. But I must admit that, while the movie was of course unbelievable, I liked Hero a bit better. I thought the love story in House of Flying Daggers was a bit strained, and toward the end, comical. Though the bamboo scene more than made up for any of my quibbles. It even shut up the couple sitting behind us who talked for pretty much the rest of the film. Shut up for two hours, will you?! Just SHUT UP!

Apocalypse Now Redux

The Dryden, 1.08.05

I saw this movie on its opening weekend in 2001, but Mr. Goddess did the intro for this at the Dryden last night. So I went along. I know this is, like, movie heresy, but I really don't *like* Apocalypse Now. If Coppola's point is, "War is Insane," thanks, I get it. The whole movie makes me feel like I'm watching a snuff film. From the scene on the sampan with the puppy, I just wanted the movie to end. And it kept on ... not ending. And I kept remembering scenes that had yet to happen and thinking, "Oh God, we haven't even gotten to the spear through the chest scene yet." I was actually relieved when they started sacrificing the cow, cuz at least the end was in sight. "This is the end / Beautiful friend, the end." Indeed.

The Aviator

Pittsford Plaza, 1.01.05

A very entertaining film that makes you appreciate your own balanced brain chemistry. Leonardo diCaprio continues to impress, and Cate Blanchett is unbelievable as Katherine Hepburn. There is a scene--when she comes home to tell Hughes that she is leaving him for Spencer Tracy--where she smiles this wild frenzied smile and she just embodies Hepburn somehow. My only real complaint is that one of my faves, John C. Reilly, is totally wasted in this film. And by "wasted" I mean "underutilized," not "drunk."