July 2003 Archives

Identity

We went to the theater to see Identity. Being a big John Cusack fan, I expected something worthwhile. I wasn’t disappointed. The movie is a classic type thriller with a group of people trapped by a storm in a run down motel in the middle of nowhere. There is a parallel story of a convicted murderer whose mental competence is being examined to determine if he can be punished for his crimes. In the motel, the characters are forced to try to figure out who they can trust as one by one, characters end up dead.

I found the movie tense and exciting. As he often does Cusack plays a sort of everyman that is easy to identify with. The way the movie plays out, is interesting, but not entirely satisfying to me, but I still enjoyed it quite thoroughly. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it an 84.

Spy Game

We watched Spy Game off of cable. The movie stars Brad Pitt and Robert Redford, each a star of their generation known for their appeal to the ladies. Redford plays a CIA agent who is nearing retirement when he learns that Pitt’s character, who has worked for Redford many times in the past, is in trouble in China.

We learn the history of their relationship through a series of flashbacks that show how Pitt got into his predicament and what Redford is potentially sacrificing to help him. He of course has to do this while skirting the CIA rules as the CIA is more than willing to abandon Pitt for political reasons.

I found the movie interesting enough to enjoy seeing it once, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by it. I doubt I will see it again. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 77.

Get Over It

We watched a recording of Get Over It. This was an unremarkable teen comedy. It was on the sweet side of the teen comedy spectrum, well away from the more crass or vulgar jokes of some others.

Two of the stars Kirsten Dunst and Colin Hanks are fairly appealing, but ultimately this movie covers no new ground and is fairly interchangeable with any other movie of the genre. For this reason, on my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 69.

Panic Room

We watched a recording of the Jodie Foster Movie Panic Room.

As a straightforward thriller sort of movie, I guess it was fine, but I wasn’t as impressed as I hoped to be. The setup of a single mother locked in a panic room with her medicine dependant child while thieves attempt to get at a hidden cache of valuables locked conveniently in the room with them was a bit formulaic and overwrought for my taste.

As an aside, I may have been thrown off by my own misinterpretation of the commercials and trailers for the film. In them, the ceiling of the panic room is engulfed in a swirling blue something. For reasons that I can’t explain now, I thought that this was some sort of supernatural portal sort of thing. As a result I was really looking forward to seeing how they would write something like this into an otherwise straightforward plot. It turns out that they didn’t. What I thought was supernatural was in fact just the rapid burning of a gas build up.

As a result I was vaguely disappointed in the movie. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 69.

We Were Soldiers

We watched a recording of We Were Soldiers. The movie stars Mel Gibson as the leader of an experimental army unit that is sent to Vietnam very early in the conflict. I thought that it was an excellent, but very unflinching in showing the violence of ground combat.

Inevitably, war movies give you more back-story about the soldiers on one side than the other. As a result one is drawn to hope for the success of the soldiers on that side of the fight. This movie is no exception.

This movie does, however, bring up the question of what is the true cost of the success of the protagonists. The story focuses on a battle in which the North Vietnamese Army lured the American unit into an ambush of sorts. Several of the Americans did see the battle coming. Despite long odds, the Americans prevail while suffering a large number of casualties. The irony of the situation is that a total catastrophe for the American troops might have made American political leaders reconsider the depth of American involvement long before Vietnam became a national issue.

The movie also has some gut wrenching scenes of the families left behind. I thought this was a tough but very good movie. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it an 86.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

We went to the theater to see Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. I had no real choice in the matter as Kathy has a major fascination with anything surrounding the phrase “Pirates of the Caribbean”. As a result she was looking forward to the movie since the moment she heard the title.

Luckily for me, the movie was fun. I thought it had a good plot, which provided an effective framework for some exciting battle and special effect scenes. The dialogue was funny and interesting without standing in the way of plot progress.

The movie is ultimately made by Johnny Depp playing one of the most unusual pirates of all time. He manages to both a swashbuckling hero type while simultaneously seeming to channel Cher. It is a very odd, but very compelling performance.

Some have said that the film is too long, but I think that it flows well if you get into it. Though Kathy would probably rate it higher, on my scale of 1-100, I rate it an 88.

Tortilla Soup

We recently saw Tortilla Soup off of cable. I enjoyed this little family drama/comedy centered a family of a widowed father and his three adult daughters.

Much of the stories conflicts surround the family dinner table as the father is a chef and his food is his primary way of expressing himself. Each of the daughters has a different source of conflict with their situation in life, from the one pushed to succeed, to the one who has subserved her personal life to staying near her father, to the youngest whose new relationship is challenged by her family and here lack of role models.

I wasn’t overwhelmed by this movie, but there are much worse ways to spend your time. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 75.

Memento

We recently watched a recording of Memento. This was the second time we had seen this great film, having previously seen in the theater.

This film has two very effective elements that are combined to wonderful effect. The first is that the protagonist is a man out for revenge for the murder of his wife who can’t form new memories. As a result he can remember anything that occurs to him over any significant length of time without making some record of it. His records include Polaroids, note, written records, and even tattoos.

The second important element is that the story is shown in reverse order. Thus the movie starts with the protagonist exacting revenge via murder, and then shows what lead up to the result. Now for the sake of clarity, the film doesn’t literally run in reverse, rather a scene occurs in the standard manner only to be followed by a scene that preceded the last one in chronological order.

The brilliance of this approach is that as audience members, we have no more information about facts in any given scene than Leonard, the protagonist. Only after seeing a scene is it revealed how Leonard acquired those facts that he used to make decisions. This highlights how a straightforward fact can be changed once one learns of the context surrounding it.

This structure allows one’s impression of Leonard to change several times as the movie progresses. Unless you are very adverse to violence in films, I highly recommend Memento. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 93.

Tape

We recently watched the movie Tape. I thought the movie was great, but Kathy didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. She did still think that it was good though.

It is a film adaptation of a one set play. The entire movie is set in one low rent hotel room over a few hours with three onscreen characters. The three characters who have known each other since high school and there lives have diverged significantly. One is now an assistant DA, one is a filmmaker and one is a drug dealer.

The story starts by examining the relationship between the two men, the filmmaker and the drug dealer. In addition to the divergence of circumstances, there is a major difference of opinion over whether one of them raped the now assistant DA when they were in high school.

Once one is badgered into admitting to rape, it is revealed that the conversation has been audio taped. Shortly thereafter, the assistant DA arrives on the scene. Her law enforcement role raises the tension as the taper tries to manipulate the tapee.

The movie continues to explore the way different people build different narratives around one set of events.

If you enjoy these sorts of movies, I am sure you will enjoy this one. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it an 85.

Stuart Little 2

We recently watched another sequel. This time it was Stuart Little 2.

Unfortunately, like most sequels, this one is a significant decrease in quality from the original. The title character is of course a talking mouse that lives with a human family as an adopted son and brother. This is a children’s movie. I am sure most kids that liked the original will also enjoy seeing more of Stuart’s adventures, but most adults will be a little bored as this one lacks the humor component that made the first one better.

The film did have some good special effects, but I can’t recommend it for adults. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 41.

The Brothers

The Brothers was our most recent movie, and I have to say that I found the story of 4 men who are each trying to come to terms with what it means to be adults was an enjoyable experience. As professional and successful black men, they face some interesting challenges, ranging from their responsibility to their race when dating, to where to look for role models in how to interact with women, and on to their responsibility to serve as role models to younger men.

As the ensemble of actors plays these friends, they each go through overlapping story arches. Why not incredibly insightful, I always enjoy movies that seem to really provide a glimpse into the life of others. This is just that sort of movie. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 78.

Resident Evil

We watched a recording of Resident Evil. I have to laugh at myself for actually watching another movie based on a video game. Ultimately I find it interesting that this crossover has in recent years been centered on games with female protagonists, whereas movies with male main characters are much more likely to be made into video games.

I think this might say something important about each of the two mediums, but I don’t want to dwell on it long enough to figure it out. As a movie, I was originally going to say that it was a sub-par action sci-fi movie, but given how bad that genre is I guess I will say that it was pretty much par for the genre. As a result, on my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 39.

Life or Something Like It

WOW! We watched a recording of Life or Something Like It. I remember how quickly this movie went through its theatrical release (light speed), but not even that could prepare me for what a waste of time this was.

I thought that the story of a television reporter who changes her life because she believes a prophet who says that she will die in the near future, might show on some level the value of living each day as if it might be your last. If that had been the sum of the movie, it might have been bearable, but for some reason they creators felt there needed to be a love story thrown in to boot.

The only noteworthy thing about the movie is how they managed to make Angelina Jolie look like Ashley Judd. Why? Who knows? On my scale of 1-100, I give this movie a 34.

The Deep End

We watched the suspense drama The Deep End. This story of a mother who in protecting her son from being accused of murdering a man with whom he had a relationship is very well done. Because the mother’s actions are tied to her unwillingness to come to terms with his sexuality, the situation rapidly goes from bad to worse.

I thought the acting was great throughout. I enjoyed seeing Goran Visnjic from ER fame in a different type of role. He plays a pivotal role in what happens to the family after the initial death.

I think most people will find this movie compelling, but not amazing. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 79.

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde

We went to the theater to see Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde recently. I am not quite sure why I was so disappointed by this film.

I didn’t really have high expectations, but I guess I was deceived by how much I enjoyed the original. The story of a Barbie type woman who has enough intelligence to succeed at anything she puts her mind to is moved in this sequel from Harvard Law School to Washington DC.

After further consideration, I have decided to lay out my thinking on why this sequel is quite inferior to the original. Reese Witherspoon is again excellent as Elle Woods, the young woman who has never believed that there is anything she can’t accomplish in both. I think that she personifies a genuinely uplifting idea that forms the core of both movies. In this one, unfortunately, the basis for her quest is a plot contrivance, rather than a believable occurrence.

Further, the original succeeds by putting her in a position where a little luck and real perseverance might lead to success. By moving the sequel to DC and having her overcome setbacks in Congress as an aid to a Congresswoman, the movie goes from something that might happen without anyone hearing about it to something only the most politically naive would believe is realistic.

Please don’t get me wrong. I didn’t think the original was truly realistic. It simply built and sustained enough momentum to allow me to suspend my disbelief. I don’t think LB2 managed to build that moment.

I you are thinking of seeing this, you won’t watch a horrible movie, but the original is worth much more of your time. On my scale of 1-100, I rate this a 68.

The Sweetest Thing

We recently watched a recording of The Sweetest Thing. This chick-flick comedy was mostly bad with a few funny moments. In particular, I want to say they got a good laugh out of me from the destruction of the mannequin.

If you are thinking of watching this, I am sure there is something better available. For a list of what I think are some good movies, check out my list of movie ratings. On my scale of 1-100, I rate this a 36.

Not Another Teen Movie

We watched a recording of the spoof film Not Another Teen Movie. The movie intends to be a spoof many recent teen themed movies.

As a spoof, it wasn’t horrible. People’s enjoyment of this movie will depend on how familiar they are with the teen movie genre and how much they enjoy spoofs. I must warn potential viewers that by spoofing movies that often involve low humor; this movie often manages to go lower than the original.

Not a waste of time, but not great. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 50.

The Fast and the Furious

We finally got around to seeing a cable recording of The Fast and the Furious. I can understand why the film appeals to people in the age range and sensibilities range of the films characters enjoyed it. Having never longed for the really fast car, I was less impressed.

The film focusing on a bunch of street racers with fancy modified cars, I just didn’t really feel any sympathy for any of the characters. Some of the actions scenes were pretty fun though. On my scale of 1-100, I rate this a very actiony 67

Impostor

We recently watched a recording of Impostor off of cable. It is a true sci-fi film starring Gary Sinise as weapons scientist. He has worked in the development of a secret weapon to be used against an unseen alien enemy. He is then accused of being an alien imposter who has taken the place of the real scientist.

With decent actors and good production values, it is unfortunate the script and direction end up creating only a mediocre film. The various twists and turns that should develop the tension and surprise or delight the audience left me somewhat bored. As a fan of science fiction, I will go see most sci-fi films.

I was really hoping for a great film because so many science fiction films are really just action or horror films in an exotic setting and this one tries to be a little better than that. I guess in my opinion they failed. On my scale of 1-100, I rate it a 64.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

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