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January 02, 2013

Movies seen over Christmas Vacation

Saw lots of movies over the Christmas vacation. The best of them was Looper which Susie and I ended up talking about off and on for several days. Very nice writeup of the Time Travel rules it follows here. Basically, the Rainmaker revenge/creation aspect doesn't work but otherwise it is very good. Pretty sure it is the best Time Travel movie I have ever seen ****1/2

Also enjoyed The Hobbit ***1/2 but not sure others will, as the length will definitely bother some. I thought some of the excess action scenes, the mine chase with the goblins under the Misty Mountains in particular, went on way too long but otherwise really enjoyed it, particularly the incredible visuals of Rivendell and Bag End and to a lesser degree Erebor. As expected, with the much lighter and Hobbit-based story of The Hobbit, I did not have the HUGE problems I have with Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies.

The Bourne Legacy *** was fair but very confusing to follow all of the outside political stuff; I thought the worst of the series so far.

I really did not like or get The Life of PI *1/2 and it felt incredibly slow to boot.

Posted by aarondf at 04:25 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

Movies seen over Christmas Vacation

Saw lots of movies over the Christmas vacation. The best of them was Looper which Susie and I ended up talking about off and on for several days. Very nice writeup of the Time Travel rules it follows here. Basically, the Rainmaker revenge/creation aspect doesn't work but otherwise it is very good. Pretty sure it is the best Time Travel movie I have ever seen ****1/2

Also enjoyed The Hobbit ***1/2 but not sure others will, as the length will definitely bother some. I thought some of the excess action scenes, the mine chase with the goblins under the Misty Mountains in particular, went on way too long but otherwise really enjoyed it, particularly the incredible visuals of Rivendell and Bag End and to a lesser degree Erebor. As expected, with the much lighter and Hobbit-based story of The Hobbit, I did not have the HUGE problems I have with Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies.

The Bourne Legacy *** was fair but very confusing to follow all of the outside political stuff; I thought the worst of the series so far.

I really did not like or get The Life of PI *1/2 and it felt incredibly slow to boot.

Posted by aarondf at 04:25 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 22, 2011

Movies - The King's Speech

Just watched this on DVD and really an excellent movie. Performances by Firth, Rush, Carter, Jacobi, and the child who played Elizabeth all just wonderful. Quite powerful. For me definitely better than The Social Network or anything else I saw last year. ****

Posted by aarondf at 10:14 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 16, 2010

Movies: The Hurt Locker and Avatar

Well, over the weekend probably watched the two best movies of last year. Saw The Hurt Locker on DVD and then Avatar at the 3D IMAX theater where it was still like completely sold out on a Sunday afternoon, with me arriving twenty minutes early and still only getting a mediocre seat. Thought both movies just excellent and would have a hard time choosing between two such different films for Best Picture.

Don't have a lot to say about Avatar beyond the obvious; story and acting mediocre but the visuals just SO amazing and technically SO well done that just an incredible experience and well worth waiting for the 3D IMAX experience.

The Hurt Locker was pretty much a perfect movie, with excellent acting, plot and great script. The scenes which most strongly affected me were at the end, with James at home in the supermarket and then at home with his son, after experiencing just unbelievable risk and stress and pain and yet I had no trouble at all understanding why he signed up to go back, to do a job which was meaningful, exiting beyond all bounds, and which he is really good at. Ebert's review really worth reading too.

Is a GREAT small movie better than a movie that has flaws but also advances the movie epic a huge leap forward in various ways. Not clear.

Posted by aarondf at 02:25 PM | Movies | Comments (9)

January 14, 2009

Movies: Man on Wire

This documentary about the wirewalk by Philippe Petit in 1974 between the Twin Towers in NYC is amazingly good. The background, actual walk, and aftermath were all fascinating and the film incredibly well put together and I was quite surprised at some of the early 'planning' footage. Watch this! Among the top 5 documentaries I have ever seen. *****

Posted by aarondf at 12:21 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 02, 2008

Wall-E Was Wonderful

Went to see Wall-E last night at Fresh Pond (although right by my house, this theater is just a dump, screen actually had a several square inch hole in it and tiny 100 person theater) and I thought it was really wonderful, probably my favorite Pixar film yet, and that is an accomplishment! Particularly adored the space-dance sequence and the wonderful art history closing credits sequence. I can't say I would seriously think this a very good film for kids, but for adults hugely recommended and the themes I found very powerful and affecting. *****

Posted by aarondf at 12:46 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 30, 2008

Movies: In Bruges and Persepolis

Both of these were very good. In Bruges ***1/2 and recommended if you don't mind some blood and violence.

Persepolis was really good, but I did wish I spoke French in watching it. Having to deal with the subtitles was much more annoying than usual, for two reasons. First, they weren't up that long and they were B&W on a B&W movie with no background box so very difficult to read. Secondly, the visual style is so cool and well done that not being able to fully appreciate it as I was constantly struggling to read the subtitles and so not able to fully appreciate the rest of the picture was annoying. ****

Posted by aarondf at 02:56 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 19, 2008

Movies: Forgetting Sarah Marshall & There Will Be Blood

I went to Forgetting Sarah Marshall a couple of weeks ago with friends but forgot to mention it ;) Anyway, movie was great - smart, funny, gorgeous Hawaii scenery making me want to go. The characters, although pretty bizarre actually felt very believable and honest. Mila Kunis (of That 70's Show) is much better than I expected but all the actors are great. My favorite Apatow movie since The 40 Year Old Virgin. ****

There Will Be Blood, on the other hand, is a very different story. I just couldn't get into this at all and basically found whatever other people and critics liked about it completely missing the target with me. Didn't like any of the characters and couldn't really figure out what the movie was trying to say. I barely even managed to get through it. ** Punch-Drunk Love is the only PTA movie I've ever really gotten into.

Posted by aarondf at 10:53 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 15, 2008

Movies: I am Legend (Blu-ray)

Well, largely thanks to my brother's encouragement (and actual buying of in the end), I got a Playstation 3, primarly as a Blu-ray DVD player. It actually also turns out to improve playing of non-Blu-ray movies too as it interacts better with my TV. Anyway, I yesterday watched I am Legend (from Netflix) which was only ok as a movie but really did look good ***. My brother sent along 300 which I have seen before and loved but really want to check out on Blu-ray (of course I originally saw it in Imax so will be about the only movie where the Blu-ray is actually a reduction in quality over my initial viewing).

Oh, and on the Playstation games front, if anyone has any games which they wouldn't mind loaning me for a week or so and think I would like, let me know. My brother sent along Lair (great visuals but not very good gameplay) and MotorCross (good gameplay and visuals but I am not that into racing games, especially playing solo) and so far those are the only two I have tried.

Posted by aarondf at 04:06 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 04, 2008

Movies: Into the Wild

I was really impressed with this film, in a lot of different respects. The acting and cinematography are all great but I was also very impressed with some other small aspects, like surprised at how well the text across the screen letters worked. I for some reason had thought I had read the book but, after seeing the movie, I obviously hadn't. If the movie is an accurate representation of his time, it is an incredibly impressive set of adventures and relationships to build over two years, all while sticking to his decision to not communicate at all with his family - a pretty incredible story. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 01:12 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

March 20, 2008

Movies: Enchanted

Although I had heard only good reviews of this, it was still better than I expected - just adorable and enchanting. The filmmakers and actors (particularly Amy Adams) take a hokey idea and implement it so beautifully that it almost completely works (the only thing that really doesn't is why doesn't Robert realize that she is something miraculous when he sees her abilities with animals). The first half of the movie in particular is just absolutely great. Incredibly light and super-sweet and highly recommended. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 03:43 PM | Movies | Comments (1)

March 14, 2008

Movies: No Country for Old Men

Not at all surprisingly, I thought this was absolutely excellent. Wonderful writing, acting, cinematography and story and an unbelievably memorable character in Anton Chigurh. I was particularly impressed by how smart all the significant characters are. Everything they do is sensible and thought out, even if doesn't work out so well in many cases. Was totally confused by the ending but that was pretty obviously intentional and didn't detract from the movie. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 05:32 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 25, 2008


Enjoyed the Oscars last night, although I sped through them a fair bit. Was happy with pretty much all the winners, especially "Once" for Best Song (although disgusted with them for not letting Markéta Irglová speak at all - at least they brought her back out and it turned out to be about the best acceptance speech of the night). Even though I haven't yet seen it, I was greatly rooting for "No Country for Old Men"/the Coen brothers and very glad it won the major prizes - I'll see it as soon as comes out on DVD. The only winner I kind of disagreed with was Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton", who I think is an excellent actress but didn't think her role here that interesting. Wilkinson in the same film was far more impressive. However, I guess the competition (many of which I haven't seen) was far greater in the male Supporting Actor category than the female one, which is very sad but often the case.

I also noticed in watching the Best Picture montage that I have seen every winner (again, briefly excepting this year) going back to 1972 (although some ages ago and don't remember at all really). Given that, I just added "The French Connection" and "Oliver!" to my Netflix queue which would push it back to 1966.

Also, I hadn't so much directly noticed it but really was a great year for Europeans, taking all of the acting prizes and Best Song and probably some others.

Posted by aarondf at 12:01 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 13, 2008

Movie: Diggers

This is a small but excellent movie about Long Island clam diggers, set in 1976. It is filled with atmosphere, of both the time and place, and the acting is all excellent. There is nothing amazing or that unusual about it but very well crafted. ****

Posted by aarondf at 06:04 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

October 15, 2007

Joyeux Noel

Really enjoyed this movie about fraternization between German, French, and Scottish troops in the front-line trenches of WWI at Christmas. Feel-good movie with interesting things to say and think about at the same time in terms of war, death, religion, music, etc...

Posted by aarondf at 12:26 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

August 13, 2007

Movies: Once

Saw this at the Capitol in Arlington with a tiny audience but really is a wonderful movie. The acting (particularly Alaistair Foley in the lead who has a wonderfully expressive face), writing, cinematography and visuals of Dublin are all just absolutely great. The only negative was that some of the Irish accents were quite difficult to follow and if I had been watching at home on DVD, I definitely would have turned on subtitles. Still, a beautiful small movie and highly recommended. ****1/2

Also watched Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock, a documentary on the 2003 Burning Man festival which I also thought was excellent, with the caveat that I have never been (would like to go but worry about all the dust and all making it too uncomfortable). ****

Posted by aarondf at 04:07 PM | Movies | Comments (1)

May 21, 2007

Movies: Blood Diamond

This movie really works as all of an excellent and entertaining movie, a political statement, and a presentation of the horrors of a civil war I knew little of. Scenes of young boys driving into a peaceful village and just wildly shooting everyone in sight were shockingly powerful. The acting by all three leads is absolutely first-rate, although I found Jennifer Connelly somehow just too movie-star gorgeous for her role. Recommended. ****

Posted by aarondf at 04:14 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 02, 2007

Movies: The Queen and Control Room

Saw two very good movies recently, one just out on DVD and the other from a few years ago. The Queen tells the story of the British royal family dealing with the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana and features an amazing and Oscar winning performance by Helen Mirren in the title role. Blair and Prince Charles I didn't find as effective, mostly I am sure because of having more exposure to the real people. Michael Sheen just doesn't have the same charisma level or speaking talent as Mr. Blair and Alex Jennings portrayal of Charles tries to model his odd awkwardness but it just seems a different one than the real Charles has. Still, an excellent movie that I really enjoyed. ****

Control Room, about the start of the Iraq war and the Al Jazeera Arab satellite channel, I should have watched long ago. It was so interesting the differences between the absolutely useless official military statements to the press and the much more real and realistic talks with Lt. Rushing, Hassan Ibrahim, and some others with Al Jazeera. Listening to those official statements, it just seems no surprise the mess we are in now if our leaders had attitudes anything like that. ****

Posted by aarondf at 10:39 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

March 16, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

Really enjoyed this. The acting by everyone in the film is excellent, particularly Maggie Gyllenhaal who commands every scene she is in. I've always liked her but in this movie she is much more powerful than in anything else I have seen her in (note, haven't seen SherryBaby). ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 12:41 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

March 13, 2007

The 300

Andrew pointed me to a trailer for this like 8 months ago and I have been looking forward to it ever since. Went to see it last night at the Jordan's IMAX in Framingham and have to say it exceeded my high expectations. The visual stuff was just absolutely incredible (the best of any movie I have seen for years), really feeling like a comic book brought to life. And I thought the plot stuff was pretty effective as well. The Spartan politics stuff was not very interesting or believable but something was needed for quick breaks from the long and intense action sequences. The warriors seemed to me to have a very believable attitude - not wanting to die but accepting that they were likely to do so and believing in Leonidas and that their deaths would be worth something. The training and esprit de corps they have is very well presented too. Highly recommended if you can handle the blood and see it on the biggest/best screen you can. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 01:49 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

December 05, 2006

Cars and Heroes

Finally watched Cars, the latest Pixar movie, on DVD last night. Wonderful animation, writing, humor, visuals and voice acting as usual. ****

Also watched the end of the first half season of Heroes, which started out good and just keeps getting bettter and better with each episode. If you have missed this up until now, I highly recommend it. For the past few weeks, has been my favorite hour of TV.

Posted by aarondf at 02:59 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

November 13, 2006

Movies: The King

Posting this as a very strong anti-recommendation for the movie The King, which I found really distasteful and greatly regret watching. Had I known what I was getting in for, I would have stopped this in the middle but thought it might change course. The movie is not badly made, just the plot I found so negative as to be a trial to have watched and I now desire to completely forget the movie. I have no idea what got me to add this to my Netflix queue in the first place but whatever it was, was unfortunate. *1/2

Oh, Deep Discount Dvd ( is currently having their 20% off everything sale using the code SuperSale if you want to order any DVDs. Not sure how long this will last. I just ordered Duma, Dirty Pretty Things and A Very Long Engagement among others, all of which I loved and commented on here before. If anyone local wants to borrow any of these, let me know.

Posted by aarondf at 12:35 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

September 08, 2006

Movies: United 93

This is just an amazingly good film and I hugely recommend it. Only one of the actors did I recognize at all and most of the people in the movie you barely even get first names for, and for none do you get a backstory. Despite this, the film is riveting and fascinating. The film is also completely apolitical, for the most part just showing normal people reacting to an extraordinary situation. I was a bit surprised at the ineffectual military response shown. Not only are they not able to get authorization to engage the civilian planes (which is of course massively politically tricky AND involves communicating up to the highest level and so not surprisingly difficult) but they can't get planes in position fast enough to act, even if they had had the authority they needed. I'm sure this has now massively changed but am surprised how bad it was then, even in such a unexpected situation. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 01:17 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 31, 2006

Movies: Duma

Been so distracted with looking at and thinking about houses to buy and now to rent that haven't been posting much but this movie was so good I must make an exception for it.

Tale of a boy in South Africa whose family adopts a baby cheetah and later turns into a coming of age adventure tale. The cheetah footage is all real, no CGI, which is pretty incredible. Not only is the story beautifully told and the characters interesting and likable, the cinematography is breathtakingly gorgeous with wonderful African rhythms to accompany it. Just an incredibly appealing movie and I really wish I had seen it on the big screen. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 05:24 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 29, 2006

Movies: Wordplay

Finally saw Wordplay last night since I hadn't been able to make any of the group outings to see it. Was really fun to see so many friends and Palindrome teammates and all in it and the movie was excellent too, with the solvers for the most part presented quite sympathetically, with one exception that I didn't like too much but really my only complaint against it. Also, thought the music and graphics were very well done to quite reasonably show an activity that would on the face of it seem very difficult to present in a movie. Highlighting a few clues at a time a bit before they were solved on screen, and thus giving the audience a chance to figure them out, seemed a really effective way to draw the audience into the puzzles. The Merl Reagle "Word Play" puzzle construction sequence was also fascinating and the celebrity simultaneous solve of it really fun. ****

Posted by aarondf at 12:16 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 23, 2006

Movies: Producers and Rumor Has It

The new movie version of the Broadway Musical The Producers was expectedly very good and fun, with me of course particularly liking the addition of the wonderful Uma. ***1/2

On the other hand, I was surprised at how much I liked Rumor Has It and actually found the plot to be quite reasonable. The idea is that this is a movie about the family that The Graduate was based on one generation later, but this fact never came out so even the Jennifer Anniston main character, who is the granddaughter of the Mrs. Robinson character, doesn't know it. When she finds out, she not surprisingly wants to find out what really happened and meets up with Kevin Costner, who plays the Dustin Hoffman character. Both Anniston and Costner do a great job with their roles and I just really enjoyed the movie. Big props to the writers for taking what seems an outrageous premise and making it quite believable, as basically every action the characters take is a reasonable one. ****

Posted by aarondf at 03:33 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 10, 2006

Movies: Walk the Line, A History of Violence and Tsotsi

Walk the Line was nothing really special to me but very good performances and well done ***1/2.

A History of Violence was a much more interesting film, with excellent acting all around, particularly by the wonderful Viggo Mortensen. I won't say much because I strongly recommend getting this and watching it. I would be curious what people think of the final shot in the movie - is the future visible in this shot and if so, what is it (written cryptically intentionally to avoid spoilers)? ****1/2

Tsotsi won the academy award for Best Foreign Language film but I thought it was just too predictable and I didn't buy the level of transition in Tsotsi's character from the scene where he is beating up Boston to his behavior later. Tries to push a bunch of emotional buttons but in too obvious a way to affect me **1/2.

Posted by aarondf at 12:05 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

March 20, 2006

Movies: V for Vendetta

I loved the graphic novel when I read it a couple of years ago but was very nervous about the movie, particularly given Alan Moore's having his name removed from it (although that was mostly in reaction to the execrable League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie). I also am not at all a Matrix or Hugo Weaving fan and V stars Weaving (behind the Guy Fawkes mask) and was done by the Wachowski brothers.

Well, I was incredibly pleasantly surprised by the movie, even with a Two Thumbs Up review in advance. Other than a significantly more (in several ways) upbeat ending at the end, I thought the movie was pretty faithful to the comic and just plain excellent. The general design of the movie, and particularly the opening and credits, deserves a special mention as it was just amazing. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 04:31 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 27, 2006

Movies: Wedding Crashers and Red Eye

Wedding Crashers was laugh out-loud funny in many places and very good. However, it didn't have the heart of other even better comedies of the sort like There's Something About Mary and The 40 Year Old Virgin so ****.

Red Eye absolutely does keep one in suspense but the plot is so ridiculous (seems like she could turn him in at almost any point but the running off the plane and avoiding all security so easily and all was just crazy) that it was totally impossible to suspend disbelief. The killer's plan also just seems insanely ridiculous in the first place to involve her so significantly. **1/2

Posted by aarondf at 12:05 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 22, 2006

Movies: Grizzly Man

This got good reviews generally and I just don't know why as I thought it was not good at all. We of course know the ending and that is ok but watching this psychologically unstable guy (and his almost equally strange ex-girlfriend) for 90 minutes was just more than I could take. Some of his footage was pretty incredible but his commentary gets in the way of even that. *1/2

Posted by aarondf at 12:58 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 02, 2006

Moveis Lately: Quick Notes

Seen a bunch of movies as usual lately so will catch up with some quick notes on some. The one that particularly led me to post was the romantic comedy The Tao of Steve which was both very funny and quite thoughtful at the same time. Highly recommended. ****1/2

Saw Murderball, Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room, and The Aristocrats which were highly regarded (at least the first two) documentaries from last year and all were pretty good but I didn't enjoy them quite as much as they had been hyped, probably just a case of too high expectations. ***1/2 for Murerball, *** for Enron and The Aristocrats.

Lord of War was quite funny and a bit scary. A satirical but also serious at moments look at the black market in armaments around the world and the corruption and blind eyes that let it take place. ****

Thumbsucker was also definitely worth watching. ***1/2

On the not recommended list are 2046 which I just didn't get into at all and ended up fast-forwarding through much of and Saraband which had some quite good scenes but didn't overall keep to a high enough standard.

On the pretty good list, but not enough to actually reommend, and all at about 3 stars are Truman, Mostly Martha, Broken Flowers and Italian for Beginners.

Posted by aarondf at 04:01 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

December 02, 2005

Movies Lately

Saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last weekend and quite enjoyed it. Some of the visuals (particularly just the landscapes) were absolutely beautiful. I didn't remember that book that well for some reason so wasn't sure of the whole plot and didn't notice most of the stuff removed, like the House Elf subplot, but the movie was still quite long so probably a good choice. ****

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I didn't think was nearly as good as the original and really didn't like Johnny Depp's (who I normally really like) take on Willie Wonka - took too many chances and some of them just didn't work for me. I also detested the Oompa Loompa musical numbers and actually fast forwarded through most of them. **1/2

War of the Worlds - very good performances by Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning but the plot was a bit odd and how one character survived never seemed to be explained at all. Spielberg seemed to be mostly trying to portray what humans do (good and bad) in desperate times when there is no authority but I am not sure that concept worked with this movie's plot that well. Cruise also seems to be making a very poor decision in heading for Boston - seems like heading West away from the population centers would have been the much smarter route. **1/2

Posted by aarondf at 12:31 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

November 18, 2005

Movies: Fever Pitch and the Interepreter

Watched both of these in the last couple of days and both were very good.

Fever Pitch is a sweet romantic comedy centering on the miracle 2004 Red Sox season, whose surprise ending the filmmakers nicely adjusted to. Fallon and Barrymore are both very funny and likeable and just a very fun film. ****

The Interpreter is filmed in New York and inside the United Nations building (first film ever allowed to do so) and is also excellent. The plot is a bit confusing at times but the performances of Kidman, Penn and Keener are all very strong. Previously, I have never been a fan of Nicole Kidman but here she is VERY good and also prettier than in any other of her films I've seen. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:47 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

October 11, 2005

Wallace & Gromit and Serenity

Went to see both of these over the weekend and thought both were excellent. I had incredibly high expectations for W&G and it surpassed them. Was worried prior to the movie as went to a midday showing on a very rainy Saturday and there were a ton of loud kids in a totally full theatre but once the movie started things were fine. I loved all the details, like little stories shown on the newspapers and great horror movie references, many of which I'm sure I missed since its not a genre I know much about at all. Absolutely brilliant and massively recommended for all ****1/2 Nick Park is a genius and I was sorry to hear yesterday about the Aardman studio fire destroying a ton of their old work but Park seemed to be taking it amazingly well based on a quote I read.

After seeing W&G I watched the Ebert and Roeper review and was quite shocked (along with Ebert) to find Roeper giving it thumbs down. He must just not get the British humor I guess but amazing to me.

I didn't think Serenity was quite as good but still excellent. It was definitely far darker than the show was, which kind of talked a dark storyline but didn't actually show it. For the most part I thought it worked really well except I didn't buy the one character's reform at the end at all. ****

Posted by aarondf at 12:35 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

September 27, 2005

Movie: Brothers

This is a Danish movie and got quite good critical reviews but I'm really not sure it makes a lot of sense. I found the early part pretty boring up until Michael's horrible choice. After that, the movie completely changes dynamics but things don't make sense to me. Why is Michael not looked at by a psychotherapist after such an ordeal - even not knowing the specifics, I would think this would be standard operating procedure. And then, even if not earlier, why doesn't his wife or military superior suggest it? It is incredibly obvious to his wife that something has radically changed with him and that he won't tell her what happens and yet she doesn't suggest therapy? I just found myself incredibly distracted from the movie's strong points by the constant question of - why doesn't Michael seek or be forced into therapy? The movie almost seems to be an add for therapy, showing what happens when you undergo a horrible ordeal and refuse to deal with it.

I am also curious what the military reaction in most countries would be if it came out exactly what happened and the full circumstances around it? Would he be court-martialled and with what expected punishment? Or is this most horrible of things possibly acceptable (in a horribly tragic way) in this most extreme of situations, resulting possibly in an honorable discharge and therapy.

Oh, I gave the movie a somewhat random ***. Some parts deserve better and some worse.

Posted by aarondf at 11:56 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 18, 2005

A Very Long Engagment - Beautiful, Powerful

Wow, the team of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and star Audrey Tautou made the best movie of the year for me a number of years ago with the light and beautiful Amelie and have now probably done it again with A Very Long Engagment. This film is visually absolutely beautiful and brilliant in most of it, contrasting with horrible but still brilliant in the scenes at the front (the movie takes place during and following World War I). Roger Ebert has an excellent review up which does have some spoilers towards the end.

This movie is in French so I of course watched with subtitles but the cast (including Jodie Foster in a small role) is uniformly absolutely excellent, every person perfect for their role. Absolutely kudos to the casting director.

Go out and get this movie. I only regret not having seen this movie in the theatre, as the cinematography is absolutlely incredible and deserves the big screen. *****

Oh, also, watch the first part of the credits which are done in an incredible powerful (to me at least), albeit fairly simple, way.

Posted by aarondf at 12:47 PM | Movies | Comments (1)

June 27, 2005

Movies: Intimate Strangers and He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Both of these are moderately recent foreign (French in both cases I think) films that I got from Netflix which were quite interesting in their own ways.

Intimate Strangers is about a woman who ends up with a tax lawyer as her psychiatrist after knocking at the wrong door and not giving him a chance to point out her error till too much was said and he was intrigued by her story. The movie is kind of slow but quite interesting. ***1/2

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not stars Audrey Tautou of Amelie fame in a very strange role and film of which I should say little to not give it away. The movie is fascinating but not really that pleasant. **1/2

Posted by aarondf at 04:55 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 16, 2005

Movies: Better off Dead

John Cusack is his usual funny, likable self in this 1985 dark comedy. However, while this movie has some absolutely hillarious individual moments, it is overall bland and entirely predictable. ***

Posted by aarondf at 01:36 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 09, 2005

Movies: Howl's Moving Castle

I was hoping for greatness and this wasn't but even a middle of the road Miyazaki movie is excellent. Gorgeous visuals and cute, funny and endearing characters (the dog and scarecrow were my favorite) as always. ****

Posted by aarondf at 11:04 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 03, 2005

Movies: Cinderella Man

Went to a free screening last night of Cinderella Man which I thought was very good. A very strong cast were all at the top of their game and the boxing cinematography was astoundingly good. Predictable feel-good piece but very well executed. They gave out a limited number of nice quality shirts and hats too - giving out swag is pretty common at these things but these were of better quality and more understated as ads than is usual. ****

Posted by aarondf at 12:07 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 19, 2005

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Went to the midnight opening last night with a group of 10 or so friends.

Well, this didn't measure up to the reviews I had been reading beforehand. The last 10 minutes or so are absolutely excellent, basically perfect, but the rest of the movie didn't do much for me. I think the primary reason is that Hayden Christiansen seems to be a just plain bad actor, delivering all of his lines in a very wooden fashion. True, the dialogue is pretty lame to start with but he brings no energy or passion to it at all; compare him to the excellent job done by Ewan McGregor with similar material. On the effects side, some things were very nice but others were overdone and there were so many effects shots that it was hard for any to stand out. The visual of the volcanic planet at the end also looked just plain fake to me, not believable at all. The political references to Bush and Nazi Germany also seemed way too heavyhanded and forced. **1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:16 AM | Movies | Comments (1)

May 17, 2005

The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino

I got from Netflix last night this recent film adaptation of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, which features an astoundingly amazing performance by Al Pacino as Shylock, who I found myself deeply caring about and rooting for in a a play steeped in anti-semitism, and this despite his wish for the death of a basically good (but anti-semitic as are all the Christians in the play) man. Pacino's amazing performance almost makes the rest of the play seem drab and trite in comparison, as we so know (even if not knowing the play in advance) the obvious result of the Portia-Bassanio love story. Jeremy Irons as Antonio and Lynn Collins as Portia playing Balthazar are also quite good. Pacino's ***** performance raises my overall rating to ****.

Rober Ebert's review is also excellent and well worth reading. Seeing this reviewed on Ebert & Roeper is what made me sure to add it to my Netflix queue, and almost to go earlier to see it in the theatre.

It is as always so interesting to see a play with different casts. I remember seeing an excellent production of this play many years ago off-off-Broadway in a performance starring Sigourney Weaver as Portia where she, with her powerful presence, absolutely stole the show. In this film performance, no other character can compare to Pacino's incandescence.

Posted by aarondf at 10:58 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 03, 2005

Movies: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Went to this with a bunch of friends last night and I really enjoyed it. They kept almost all the best lines and cool visuals I had hoped for and most importantly the characters were well done and the movie held to the spirit of the books. The major changes were Zaphod's two heads being done differently (and not as cool but certainly vastly easier to do effects-wise), the new Malkovich character, the major expansion of the Arthur/Trillian relationship, and the much greater Vogon involvement. None of these were great but its true that not really that much happens in the book so the padding was probably necessary. Some of the visual stuff was really beautiful including parts of the dolphins opening, the Earth MkII construction and the Magrathean 'factory floor' and displays.

Only lines I really expected and the movie didn't have were the description of humans and earth as "so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea" and "mostly harmless". I highly recommend this, even if you haven't read the books, as long as you like Adams' style of humor. ****

Posted by aarondf at 11:05 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 15, 2005

Elektra'fyingly Bad

Man, this movie was terrible and I really liked Daredevil and thought this was a character they would have a hard time going too wrong with. Wow, was I mistaken. This movie had absolutely nothing going for it. Idiotic plot, annoying kid, lame and stupid action, horrible dialogue, it had it all. In much of the dialogue, one could predict the next response by just thinking 'What is the lamest cliche response he could say to that last lame comment?' Oh, thats it. *

Posted by aarondf at 10:29 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

March 29, 2005

Movies: Troy

Haven't posted in a while for some reason and this isn't the thing that
got me to do so - will post that in a moment. Ok movie. Its been a very
long time since I read the Iliad but they of course changed a bunch of things,
the Briseias romance being one of the more major ones. Still, I liked it as an action pic better than I had expected to ***.

Posted by aarondf at 01:28 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 25, 2005

Movies: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds

Another wonderful Miyazaki film, apparently his first feature. He has an incredible gift for gorgeous visuals, incredibly appealing characters and engrossing storylines and this was no exception. A very strong vocal cast here again doing the English version including Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman and Edward James Olmos. ****

Posted by aarondf at 11:42 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 24, 2005

Movies: Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry

How did this guy lose to W! This is an excellent and interesting documentary/propaganda film, entirely biased towards Kerry but not in a bad or dishonest way, as I feel Michael Moore's films are. Moore's films leave me feeling almost unclean as I have to fight against the crap and manipulation he is throwing at me, not knowing what is honest and what is not - yes, it is all real footage but one can definitely be lied to with editing and Moore does it constantly. I think this film getting wider attention might have helped Kerry but who knows. Anyway, worth checking out ****.

Posted by aarondf at 02:23 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 14, 2005

Movies: Lone Wolf and Cub

Watched two installments of Lone Wolf and Cub, "Baby Cart in Peril" and "White Heaven in Hell". These movies are extremely bloody and pretty ridiculous as Lone Wolf at times kills literally hundreds of guys himself (even more than Uma kills in Kill Bill v1 against the Crazy 88), although maybe it isn't completely crazy if he is that much better than they are - I wonder? Anyway, I enjoyed both although probably should have spaced them out more ***1/2.

Posted by aarondf at 04:38 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

Movies: Freaky Friday

This was surprisingly enjoyable, with excellent performances by Curtis and the gorgeous (and talented) Lindsay Lohan. ***3/4 (first quarter star rating I've given but I was torn).

Posted by aarondf at 04:34 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 04, 2005

Movies: The Bourne Supremacy

Well, this movie and the one before it, The Bourne Identity are just simple action movies but they are very good action movies. Matt Damon, surprisingly, fits very well into the role and seems very believable as this small, quiet guy who can suddenly explode into action. ***1/2.

Posted by aarondf at 11:54 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

January 27, 2005

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

This movie was very cool looking in an old adventure serial style and was a pretty fun action movie too. However, some little things quite annnoyed me as the heros are spending time chitchatting on multiple occasions while they have less than 10 minutes to try to save the world. I also was a little surprised at the ending. I thought Jude and Gwynneth were going to save the earth but be stranded on the rocket and go off to colonize a new world of beautiful kids, with the ark animals. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 12:26 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

January 25, 2005

Movies: Silver City

Excellent movie involving the crossovers of politics and business and how much you can get away with if you have the right connections. Danny Huston is amazingly good in this movie. Well worth getting. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:26 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

January 21, 2005

Movies: 42 Up

I finally watched the latest in Michael Apted's brilliant Up Series and it continues to be fascinating. Not surprisingly, there isn't nearly as much change between 35 and 42 as there was between 7 and 14 but it was nice to see the improvements in Bruce and Neil's lives and the friendship they had developed.

It really would be great if a series like this existed for other countries, given the significant impact the cultural background has on the people. In the US, I wonder if the class restraints would have been as strong and hope not.

Posted by aarondf at 11:28 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

December 15, 2004

Movies: Dodgeball

This movie is of course very stupid but ROFL funny at a number of points and well worth getting if you want a dumb but incredibly funny slapstick comedy. There are also a ton of cameos in it from well known people. ****

Posted by aarondf at 01:06 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

November 30, 2004

21 and 28 Up

I watched the next two installments of this series and continue to find it an amazing, seminal piece of film making, exactly what something like PBS in the US should exist for (not of course that this series has any connection to PBS - it doesn't). The meta-effects were more, as expected, than in the previous ones but not as much as I expected. Nobody in the series seemed to have significantly had their life influenced by being in the series. This despite the fact that in one case (Simon) I had the feeling that the show's interviewer was actually pushing him in the 21 episode to find a better job but this was not successful as he was in the same job at 28.

I could make more particular comments on the individuals but for the most part feal a bit squeamish about doing that - these are real people after all. Unfortunately, at least in England, the starting proverb of "Give me a boy until he is 7 and I will show you the man" seems to hold true. Almost all of the children have kept within their class of birth. The only semi-exceptions are Neil who had dropped out of society and Nicholas, who (without surprise) by virtue of his intelligence has become a college professor in the US at 28. Nicholas, however, as I mentioned in my earlier post, is something of an exception anyway as he is 'rural' more than he is 'lower class' and I think this is much less of a binding situation for someone with his intelligence and he obviously also got lucky in getting the scholarships he did.

Nicholas remains my favorite overall I think but Tony was the one who most impressed me in these two episodes. He successfully realized his dream of being a Jockey even if he wasn't good enough to stay one and then moved on from it to go all out again to be a cab driver and realized that, as well as getting married and having kids like he wanted. He definitely has the strongest work ethic of all of the kids and really impresses me.

Well, I should have the next episode by the weekend when they will all be the same age as I am now which should be interesting. Of course, even by 28 almost all of them are already married and most with children.

Posted by aarondf at 12:30 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

November 17, 2004

Movies of Late

Well, first and best (or at least funnest by far), I finally went to see The Incredibles late last night after games and it really was incredible, despite my high expectations from all the great reviews I've been avoiding reading but got the gist of. There is really not a wrong step taken in this, not surprising from the consistently superb Pixar team combined with the amazing talent of Brad Bird, who previously did the wonderful The Iron Giant. I didn't find this story quite as emotionally powerful as tIG but the characters (incredibly faithful to superhero culture), animation and great lines make this still a great film. Edna Mode (voiced as it turns out by director Brad Bird) steals the scenes she's in with ease and every character from Dash to Elastigirl to Violet to Buddy/Syndrome is superbly realized ****1/2.

Over the weekend I saw Blind Zaitochi (subtitled Japanese Samurai movie) which was pretty good but incredibly bloody (probably over 100 deaths graphically shown) and almost all the battles (even the one invincible swordsman against 10 incompetent thugs fights) were incredibly unbalanced ***. Van Helsing, on the other hand, was absolutely horrible despite starring the very talented Hugh Jackman. I had to fast forward through significant sections it was so horrible and just in so many ways didn't make any sense *.

Finally, I saw Seven Up and 7 Plus Seven, the first two episodes in an amazing British documentary series by Michael Apted, tracing the lives of 15 or so British children starting at the age of 7 - they are now up to age 42. The insight into the children, the British class system, how people change and stay the same, are all incredible. This is just an amazing piece of work and I am going to be getting the other episodes over the next few weeks. From the first two episodes, the rural, introverted Nicholas is definitely my favorite of the children, starting with his direct but polite refusal (the only one in the age 7 episode I believe) to answer a question as too personal. He seems both the smartest of the children and the least affected by the powerful English class system, perhaps because he is a child of the country while basically all the others are more easily identified as poor vs rich. Nicholas's family almost certainly is poor but he somehow escapes this as a primary idenitification, which I think is not so uncommon among rural children. His answer to the question about racism in the age 14 episode also seemed the most positive of all the children, some of whose comments were pretty awful. I assume as the later episodes progress we will also see more of what we glimpse in the second episode of the meta-effect being filmed for this series has had on their lives. In the age 14 episode, a couple of kids refer back to their comments in the age 7 one and another mentions that the only time he has been to London is for the group meeting at the end of the first episode. I expect these effects will only get stronger and more interesting as things progress. I'll comment again once I've seen more of these but get out and rent these! To quote the Amazon user review of "Seven Up!",

The effect of the series upon the viewer is enormous, perhaps best reflecting what film can do at its most patient, at its most insightful, at its quietest.


Posted by aarondf at 01:06 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

November 08, 2004

Movies over the weekend

Due to the Netflix reduction in pricing of the basic plan (but not altering my deprecated plan), I decided to upgrade to it so had 3 movies for the weekend, but all ended up being pretty average. The first was Taking Lives with Angelina Jolie. Pretty good, although I am not quite sure the twist really works and Jolie is really gorgeous looking in this, particularly something with her hair I think ***. Second was Shrek 2 which was fun but nothing really special ***. Finally, I saw A Home at the End of the World which was interesting for the first half but then kind of lost its way **1/2.

Posted by aarondf at 05:11 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

October 21, 2004

Movies: Saved!

This is a somewhat Heathers-like dark comedy about kids in a Christian high school, particularly one, Mary, who gets pregnant as she tries (and still fails of course) to save her boyfriend from being gay, thinking she was told to do so by God. The movie is very good, and although it pokes a ton of fun at the fanaticism, intolerance and bad policies of Catholicism, it is not in the end an anti-religious movie. Patrick, for example, is a main character and very religious but doesn't wear it on his sleeve and is perhaps the best (in terms of 'goodness') character in the movie.

There is one absolutely hillarious scene between friends Cassandra (Jewish girl) and Roland (crippled boy who's sister is the movie's antagonist) who is played by Macaulay Culkin and perfectly delivers this line as they see Mary emerge from the Planned Parenthood clinic in dark sunglasses.

Cassandra : What's the only reason a Christian girl comes downtown to the Planned Parenthood clinic?
Roland : To plant a pipe bomb?
Cassandra : Okay, two reasons.

Really good and funny movie ****.

Posted by aarondf at 01:52 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

October 14, 2004

Movies: Review notes

I was before briefly reviewing most of the movies I saw via Netflix but have now decided to back off and not bother for the most part with the average *** or so movies like The Rundown which I watched over the weekend. Also saw Fahrenheit 9/11 and was, pretty much as expected, not impressed and even somewhat bored. I am all for whatever political effect Moore has had but I don't like his means and find myself constantly fighting with and picking holes in his material, as I simply don't trust him to try to provide an accurate rendition of events **.

Posted by aarondf at 03:31 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

September 30, 2004

Movie: Rivers and Tides

This movie, recommended to me in Cool Tools and elsewhere, turns out to be really beautiful, showcasing the work of Scottish artist (using only natural materials like stone, leaves, sticks, ice, etc...) Andy Goldsworthy. Goldswothy creates a combination of mostly incredibly ephemeral 'sculptures' which last between seconds and days to a smaller number of permanent pieces like the incredible stone wall at Storm King (in NY which I'd love to visit). The movie shows off around 15 pieces in 90 minutes and Goldsworthy's commentary as he tries to articulate what his art is about is wonderful. The influence of place on his work, particularly his home in the Scottish highlands, is also fascinating. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 01:08 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

September 27, 2004

Movies: Dirty Pretty Things

Powerful and wonderful acting by Tautou (of the wonderful Amelie), Benedict Wong in a minor role and particular the lead Chiwetel Ejiofor, as an illegal immigrant Nigerian doctor doing the very best he can and basically being nearly a saint. The relationships among the three are all powerful and effective. This movie is scary as it presents how little power or choice illegal immigrants (particularly women) have to control their lives at all. The blackmarket kidney transplants which the antagonist demands from Tautou's character in return for a passport at first seems too horrible to imagine but after a time I came to think it a reasonable choice, given her situation, which is all the more scary. Illegal immigrants are in an unbelievably horrible position: unable to go to the police or other authorities for help, limited to so few and so awful jobs that they must go to unbelievable lengths to keep them, and with no family or other support system to protect them at all. Highly recommended but not for the faint of heart. ****

Posted by aarondf at 02:22 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

September 14, 2004

Movies: The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallence

This is quite an interesting movie with excellent work by both Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. Wayne's character saves Stewart's character at the beginning of the movie, pays for his room&board while he recovers, gives him excellent advice and later saves his life (by killing Vallence from hiding while Stewart is in a duel with him). In return, Stewart (mostly unintentionally and certainly without malice) steals from him the girl he loves and goes on to great wealth and power. Effectively, Wayne is punished for his good deeds. Stewart, on the other hand, although a smart, kind, modern eastern lawyer, is totally unprepared for the West but is incredibly lucky to have Wayne as his guardian angel. Everything in the movie goes outrageously well for him as he gets a reputation as a gunslinger without having to kill anyone, gets elected to represent the Territory in Congress and gets the girl. He in fact ends up getting elected based on something he didn't do and, in fact, something which if he had done would cause him to refuse the election. Very interesting. Thanks Mark H for the recommendation - two for two. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:24 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

September 13, 2004

Movies; Hero

This movie has a 95% rating at Rotten Tomatoes (a site I really like) and I just can't understand why as I thought it was basically stupid and boring. Some of the visuals are very pretty but, for me at least, not on the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon level and the plot is absolutely ridiculous. There are 3 main (and 3 additional) martial arts characters and the movie seems to want to have almost every combination of two characters fight against each other. Since these are almost all supposed to be fights to the death, this of course is a problem which they solve with a 'dream sequence' equivalent copout where we see one set of fights only to then realize these weren't real and then see another set and then this happens AGAIN! Ridiculous! In addition, the fights for the most part aren't that interesting since either they involve two very unevenly matched opponents (the fights with Moon) where the outcome is obvious and/or in 80% or so of the fights one person is trying to lose for one reason or another. In the end, all three main characters die to absolutely no purpose. The scene of Flying Snow and Broken Sword attacking the palace and killing 3000 guards is utterly insane as well, particularly as Broken Sword then chooses to not kill the King. In fact, none of the scenes involving the Qin army make any sense at all. The visuals here are good but not nearly enough to overcome the ridiculous plot. Also, the main theme of the movie could have been made IMHO much more easily and effectively in a 100 different ways. I was bored almost throughout and actually considered walking out. **

Posted by aarondf at 12:45 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

Movies: My Neighbor Totoro

This is the last of the anime director Hayao Miyazak's movies that Netflix has and I watched it Friday evening. The two sisters were of course incredibly cute and likable but not as fun as Kiki and the scenes with just them are just light and enjoyable. Only when Totoro and even more the unbelievably wonderful Catbus enter the scenes does this movie become extraordinary. Every scene with either is absolutely beautiful and funny. However, Miyazaki may be right to use them sparingly so that they remain new and fresh and we anticipate their next appearance. ****

I now must wait for more of his movies to be available including Nausicaa, Cagliostro and the upcoming Howl's Moving Castle.

Posted by aarondf at 12:34 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

September 08, 2004

My Favorite Movie

It is now the 10 year anniversary of The Shawshank Redemption and, due to this, Charlie Rose had director/writer Frank Darabont and stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman on to discuss it. Although hard to pick a single favorite movie, if forced to choose this would be my choice. It is an almost perfect movie, with basically not a word, scene or moment wrong in it and an incredible number of powerful and touching scenes. The scene on the roof drinking beer is probably my favorite one but Red discovering the box towards the end and the final meeting on the beach are also incredibly wonderful. This is also almost certainly the 'smallest' movie in my top group and I don't think I ever even saw it in the theatre but it is a movie that is so intimate in a fashion that it actually may work better at home. Apparently with the anniversary it is going to be reissued in a very limited number of theatres and I will probably go if I get a chance to see it on the big screen for the first time. *****

This movie is also currently #2 (and has been #1 at times) on the IMDB Top 250 movies of all-time which amazed me when I first saw it there as I adore it but thought it a small movie that only a few would think so good but it is great that it is as well known and loved as it obviously is.

Posted by aarondf at 01:18 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

August 30, 2004

Movies: Bruce Almighty and Impromptu

Latest two movies from Netflix.

Bruce Almighty was really pretty lame. The actors were fine but the movie's plot and script were just not at all interesting. *1/2

Impromptu, OTOH, was excellent, particulary the hillarious first half's visit to the residence of the Duke and Duchess D'Antan. Emma Thompson as the Duchess was absolutely perfect and incredibly funny. Just a note since it is a 1991 movie and title doesn't give much away, the movie is a romantic comedy about the relationship between poet and feminist George Sand and composer Frederic Chopin in 1830s France. ****

Posted by aarondf at 01:07 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 29, 2004

Movies: Japanese Story

I can't think of a single other movie I've seen which takes as sharp a left turn as this one does, and not just at the end. There is admittedly in retrospect some real foreshadowing but I am terrible at picking up on that kind of foreshadowing and missed it completely (and had also forgotten that E&R in their review mentioned a twist). Anyway, the whole movie is quite interesting with the primary theme of culture clash between an Australian woman and Japanese man ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:51 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 26, 2004

Movies: Miracle and Dentists

Watched Miracle, the story of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team, and the odd The Secret Lives of Dentists over the weekend.

Miracle was excellent, particularly Kurt Russell's portrayal of Herb Brooks. Assuming the movie is accurate, Brooks' effectiveness in dodging the committees and bureacracy and doing everything his way (which of course turned out great) is pretty incredible. The cinematography of the on ice scenes was also beautifully (and accurately to the real events) done ****.

Dentists I really didn't get and did nothing for me. Admittedly, this may just be me but I didn't like it at all and could barely get through it **.

In fact, during Dentists I kept stopping the movie to go back and watch the Red Sox game (once TiVo had accumulated enough video to watch an innings worth at TiVo speed). I am not sure if these interruptions hurt the movie or helped in that without them I might simply have given up on it, something I almost never do.

Posted by aarondf at 04:06 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 23, 2004

Movies: Starsky and Hutch

I am not sure I ever saw a full episode of the TV series but the movie was quite amusing. Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear in particular was hillarious and in many ways stole the show. The iguana scene in his office was definitely the funniest point of the movie for me. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:20 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 19, 2004

Movies: The Barbarian Invasions

This was extremely effective at pulling at the emotions and had me really crying at one point. Some of the issues the movie addresses are pretty interesting too ****.

Also saw the fair Mona Lisa Smile *** and good The Dreamers ***1/2. The latter would have been better if I knew more about clasic movies and French politics I'm sure.

Posted by aarondf at 02:56 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 06, 2004

Movies of Late (Before Sunset and Spidey2)

Saw the absolutely wonderful Before Sunset over the long weekend which was a sequel (nine years later in both real time and in the movie) to the also wonderful Before Sunrise. It again stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and the entire movie is a wonderful, wide-ranging but particularly about relationships, conversation between the two of them. The writing and performances are of the absolutely highest quality and the movie is also emotionally extremely powerful *****. I also really must buy and watch again Before Sunrise but watching it in advance (or ever before the new one) I don't think is necessary.

Earlier saw Spider-Man 2 which is a really excellent super-hero movie which really makes no wrong moves. However, it pales in comparison to Before Sunset due to having no emotional resonance. The stupid issue (but completely faithful to the comic book) of Spidey having absolutely no money I also find a bit annoying. Take up a collection or something. A few more bucks and he could probably do a lot more to help. Anyway, this is just a quibble and absolutely faithful ****.

Also saw the ok comedy Stuck on You (**1/2) and fair My Family (**1/2) from Netflix.

Posted by aarondf at 05:12 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 29, 2004

Movies: The Terminal

Saw this over the weekend in a surprisingly almost empty theatre but thought it was very good. Hanks again gives an amazing performance, a performance particularly difficult because he is so well known so trying a play a character who can't speak English is a difficult thing for the audience to believe. I didn't find the relationship with Catherine Zeta-Jones's character to work very well but the rest of the movie was extremely good. The way Hanks's motivation for being in New York is slowly revealed is interestingly done. The airport terminal sets (and they are sets) are exquisitely detailed and massive and completely believable. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 02:10 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 24, 2004

Movies: The Station Agent

Watched this last night and really enjoyed it. The movie seems primarily to be an exploration of introversion (and silence) vs extroversion (and talking) and of friendship across the gap. All three of the main characters are excellent and their unusual 3-way friendship is very believable, despite their differences. ****

Also saw earlier this week Spartan (***), which has very good writing by Mamet but a few too many twists too it, and the Brazilian City of God (****) which was excellent.

Posted by aarondf at 02:08 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 11, 2004

Movies: Chronicles of Riddick

I went to this last night with Bill and Dave on free tickets which Bill connected us up with and am very glad I didn't pay to see it. The visual effects, fights and Diesel were all at least pretty good but the movie made no sense at so many points that it was incredible. Some people in the theatre were laughing outright at some of the most Riddickulous scenes. The one and only thing I really liked was a quote about a really hellish planet they are visiting. However, with the horrible writing of this movie I suddenly realized this morning they couldn't have come up with it on their own and I was right. I googled it and it turns out to be a stolen quote of General Philip Sheridan from the Civil War: "If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell." **

Posted by aarondf at 11:09 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 10, 2004

Movies: The Triplettes of Belleville

This actually oddly enough ended up taking me several days to watch even though it was only 81 minutes and I quite enjoyed it. For some reason, I found most of it preferrable in small doses (and was also back and forth to the NBA finals games Sunday and Tuesday), except the end which is faster and more connected and certainly wants to be watched as a whole. The animation and story were very cool and all the characters extremely likable but I, who am very much a cat (and not a dog) person, particularly fell in love with Bruno "I must bark at all trains" the dog. From the cute little critter running around the tricycle to the huge adult dog with tiny legs, I loved him. It was espeically nice that he was not anthromorphized that much, as often happens in animations, and maintains his dog identity throughout. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 02:03 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 04, 2004

Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban

I went to see this at the midnight opening last night at the Jordan's Imax (not shot in Imax though so really just a huge screen, nice seats and small audience but still great) in Natick with a big bunch of friends (about 17 of us). I really enjoyed it, even more I think than the first two which I also really liked and I think liked it more than any of my friends who I talked to about it afterwards. Most of them hadn't read the books and I think that was really helpful, particularly for this one.

These movies are much more faithful to the books than the LotR movies (perhaps influenced by the author being alive and able to have some influence to avoid them ruining her work - I imagine Tolkien rolling over in his grave over some of the stuff in the LotR movies) and I REALLY appreciate that. This one was cut somewhat definitely and I may need to look up the differences as I haven't read the book since it first came out. I was particularly surprised that the movie did not make it clear who the authors/creators of the Marauder's map were as I thought this was a really fun connecting element between Harry and his friends and his father and his friends a generation ago at Hogwarts.

Highly recommended, and seeing it on the Imax screen was well worth the small extra expense. The scene I most enjoyed was Harry's ride on Buckbeak which I was really able to get into and find believable and bestowing an incredible sense-of-wonder. The Quidditch Broom rides OTOH do nothing at all for me. ****

Posted by aarondf at 11:29 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 20, 2004

Movies: Bubble Boy

This is one of two 'bad' but funny movies which my brother recommended to me a while ago (the first one I saw and commented on a few months ago). It stars Jake Gyllenhaal who does a pretty amazing job as the naive teenager who has lived in a bubble room at home all his life, but now in love with the girl next door. The movie is sweet, endearing and very funny. Many things are incredibly predicable but I didn't find that to lessen their charm that much. It almost seemed like all the 'surprise' things were very much intended to be guessed in advance so I felt more in on a joke than ahead of the movie. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 03:53 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 17, 2004

Movies: The Fog of War

I was very impressed with this film. It really is incredible how many bad decisions were made (or came a hairs breadth from being made [invasion of Cuba]) based on wrong information at the highest level of the most powerful government on the planet. Apparently the people in charge were shocked years later to learn what was really going on on the other side of the issue (mindset of North Vietnamese; presence of warheads and willingness to use them of Castro even if his country became a parking lot if the US invaded). Scary and powerful ****.

I found the historical WWII and Ford motor company McNamara history to also be quite interesting in terms of the statistical approaches brought to bear on things and on the amount that personalities (LeMay in particular) influenced major decisions.

Posted by aarondf at 12:33 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 14, 2004

Movies: Super Size Me

Went to see this with people from work last night (we refrained from the suggestion of eating at the McDonalds directly across the street before the movie) and really enjoyed it. The school lunch segments in particular seemed very powerful and I really hope this might encourage some districts to change their meal offerings for the better. ****

Posted by aarondf at 03:44 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 13, 2004

Movies: In America

I really enjoyed this although I can't go nearly so far as Roeper who gave it 1st place on this Top Ten list last year. Kill Bill V1 at least I certainly enjoyed more. The little girls here are unbelievably cute and likable ****.

Posted by aarondf at 03:52 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 10, 2004

Movies: Maya Lin: A Strong, Clear Vision

I got this from Netflix and it turned out I had seen it before but that was ok as I still really enjoyed it. Her pieces really appeal to me, particularly her uses of water and stone and minimalist geometric forms. Her experience with the Vietnam Memorial was also quite interesting to watch, particularly as she was so young in so many ways. ****

Posted by aarondf at 04:42 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 30, 2004

Movies: The Cooler

Macy and Baldwin both give excellent performances but I just didn't get into this movie. I found myself just not caring enough about the characters to really engage with the movie, particularly as I was sure it would work out in the end for Bernie and Natalie. **1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:25 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

Movies: Under the Tuscan Sun

The Tuscany scenery is gorgeous and Diane Lane is very sexy but this movie did very little for me and is certainly an extreme 'chick-flick'. We are obviously meant to feel sorry for Lane's character and I just couldn't do so with her having a bunch of money, men (even married ones) wrapped around her finger, relaxing most of the time, and a crew of men working for her. Enjoy the scenery and forget the rest. **1/2

For an excellent Diane Lane movie, rent A Walk on the Moon.

Posted by aarondf at 11:22 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 20, 2004

Movies: Kill Bill

I saw Kill Bill, Vol. 1 from Netflix last Wednesday and loved it but held off posting till I could see the second one in the theatre, which I did last night thanks to the Patriot's Day Holiday. I actually liked Vol. 1 better as, atlhough, it was effectively the middle of a movie, it wasn't distracted by all of the exposition that happens in Vol. 2. Both are really good and I highly recommend them to anyone who won't be turned off by the massive violence and blood. Of course, I have loved Uma Thurman for a long time, particularly her Venus in Baron Munchausen and her role in Beautiful Girls and she is absolutely perfect in this film, gorgeous and strong. I'll give Vol. 1 ***** and Vol. 2 ****.

Posted by aarondf at 02:58 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 16, 2004

Movies: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

My father and Jo were in town yesterday so I took the day off to play host. BeerWorks for lunch and then the MFA and later went to see the movie and finished off with a nice dinner at Bombay Club.

The movie was really excellent, using a similar scheme to Memento but working much better in terms of sense, plot and believability. Accepting the McGuffin of the memory-erasure treatment, the plot really made pretty good sense. I felt the Kirsten Dunst et. al stuff didn't work so well and was mostly thrown in as a way to send out the files but that was certainly worth doing and some of the external dialogue intruding into Carrey's memory world worked pretty well too. Carrey and Winslet also do an excellent job of acting - likable and believable in their roles. The movie also nicely leaves one contemplating, as one walks out, the interesting question of "What will happen this time?" given what they know from the files and tapes. Knowing in advance what their problems together are likely to be, can they work through them and learn to accept each others weaknesses to a degree and change enough to allow this. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 03:19 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 02, 2004

Movies: The Ladykillers

Saw the new Coen brothers movie last night during the monsoon as I had happened to take the day off. Unfortunately, it really wasn't very good. Certainly some funny writing but I didn't find any of the characters either believable or likable. Skip it. **

Posted by aarondf at 05:37 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

March 26, 2004

Movies: Shattered Glass

This was an excellent movie around the true events in the mid 90's at The New Republic with a writer fabricating stories and getting away with it. Excellent writing and acting. ****

Posted by aarondf at 10:27 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 23, 2004

Movies: Lost in Translation

This has been out on DVD for a few weeks and at the top of my Netflix cue but they haven't sent it to me and I wanted to see it before the Oscars on Sunday so when my mother suggested we go to it in the theatre, I said yes. We both really enjoyed it and it was incredibly evocative of modern Tokyo, making me not want to visit but for some it would probably have the opposite effect. The presentation of the 'fish out of water' feeling of alienation in a foreign culture was extremely well done, as was the acting by both of the leads. I definitely could see Bill Murray winning the Oscar for it. The film is too 'small' to have a chance in the Best Picture race but it is nice that it was nominated. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 02:29 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 17, 2004

Movies: Touching the Void

Wow! I went to see this 'docudrama' at the theatre on Friday and thought it was amazing. The movie tells the story of a climbing accident in 1985 and is primarily about how one of the two climbers manages to survive after horribly breaking his leg and then falling a massive distance into a crevice and needing to get back to camp on his own, with his partner sure that he is dead. One knows the people both survive the whole time as they are cut to continually in interview segments discussing what happened. Climbers who can act are used to dramatize the action but rarely ever speak except curses and other things which need to be in the moment, leaving all the real talk to the people who were really there. I thought this was stunningly well done and massively recommend it to anyone who can handle watching this level of painful ordeal *****. The cinematography is also incredible and amazing they were able to get it. The only thing I regret is that this wasn't filmed in OmniMAX.

Posted by aarondf at 03:27 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 03, 2004

Movies: Jet Lag

This French movie was very, very good with excellent performances by both of the leads (and really only characters). Juliette Binoche is certainly gorgeous and it was wonderful once she finally got rid of all the horrible makeup she was wearing for most of the movie. The only trouble I had with the movie is that the characters speak so quickly that it was at times difficult to keep up with reading the subtitles. It was nice that DVD is easier to rewind than VCRs but too bad that you can't see the subtitles when in any mode other than normal play speed. ****

Posted by aarondf at 03:38 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

January 29, 2004

Movies: Thirteen

Wow, this was amazingly depressing but at the same time extremely good. I am sure I would find it even more depressing if I had children. This can be a hard world to raise kids in. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:38 AM | Movies | Comments (2)

January 26, 2004

Movies: Spellbound

This documentary on the finals of the nationwide Spelling Bee from some years ago really is quite amazing. Eight children from incredibly different backgrounds are shown as they prepare for the nationals and it is amazing how different they and their families are. Some are from very poor backgrounds with limited resources (such as learning from the dictionary) while others are from rich families which have invested massive effort, money and time on rigorous training programs and spelling tutors. For some of these children, this event seems to be, for them and their families, perhaps the most important event ever in any of their lives. The kids however seem to handle the pressure quite well from what we see. Highly recommended ****.

Posted by aarondf at 02:21 PM | Movies | Comments (1)

January 20, 2004

Movies: Full Frontal

This is apparently regarded as a semi-sequel to the brilliant Sex, Lies and Videotape, also by Steven Soderbergh, but I am not sure why really. I didn't find it nearly as psychologically interesting but few movies are. Still, a very good movie with a strong cast ***1/2.

Posted by aarondf at 04:56 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

January 15, 2004

Movies: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Well, this one wasn't nearly as bad as I expected and I definitely enjoyed it. All the critics hated it (Rotten Tomatoes score of 15%) but I am not sure why. It is definitely not faithful to the excellent Alan Moore comic (which I read a long time ago so don't remember the details well at all anyway) but it doesn't try to be. I thought the effects, particularly for Harker, were very cool and found most of the characters quite likable. A fine superhero action movie ***.

Posted by aarondf at 12:47 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

January 13, 2004

Movies: The Matrix Reloaded

Well, some of the action and visuals were pretty cool and the philosophy which I really didn't get into was downplayed from the first one. However, some of the fights like the one with the MANY Agent Smiths (played by Hugo Weaving who I now can't stand due to how much Elrond was ruined in the LotR movies due to bad writing AND acting) went on way too long. The style is similar to that in the brilliant Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but those fights manage to remain fascinating to me throughout while these became boring. The freeway chase scene was much better. Overall just a pretty good movie ***.

Posted by aarondf at 03:41 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

Movies: Rat Race

Watched Rat Race last week which my brother had recommended. It is a pretty stupid comedy but with a very strong cast and definitely enjoyable. I think the ending didn't fit well with the rest of the movie but still fun ***.

Posted by aarondf at 03:37 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

December 17, 2003

Movies: The Return of the King

Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King
directed by Peter Jackson

Commentary by Aaron D. Fuegi (

Well, I'm unhappy to say that I liked this one significantly worse than either of the others and that is unfortunately saying a lot! Not just the wrong characters now but massive plot changes to no purpose I can see and actions by a ton of people that just make no sense. This commentary is going to end up being very long and covering a lot of ground, probably to little purpose for most people but I must get this off my chest.

Lets start with the fundamental issue of making "Lord of the Rings" as a movie. You can do this in one of two ways. The first is of course to be as faithful as you can within the bounds of the medium to the text, making changes only as forced to by bounds of time and format. The second is to make your own movie based on the existing work. This later is fine if dealing with a small work that simply isn't long enough so that you must extend it. Where this isn't the case, this second scheme for me is an abomination where you take advantage of the massive built in audience (at least in this case) for a beloved work to come see YOUR movie. Unfortunately, to me it seems thati n the end Peter Jackson has made a very wrong choice and it takes a lot of gall to think you can make a better story than a story that has in many polls been voted to be the best work of literature of the Twentieth Century.

Ok, well on to the movie. My troubles with "The Fellowship of the Ring" are almost exclusively over the issue of character as Jackson significantly modifies (in a negative way) most of the main characters. The good thing about Fellowship was that the visuals were absolutely amazing, good beyond anything I could have hoped for, and, except for issues of time (Bombadil primarily) the plot was probably like 90% faithful to the books. "The Two Towers" basically has the same issue and is maybe 70% faithful to the books. "The Return of the King" maintains the character problems but is now probably only like 40% faithful to the books in terms of plot and also now introduces a ton of things that simply don't make any sense! There is so much to object to that I am not sure where to begin but I guess I'll basically try to follow the major characters and their lines of action. I will comment on some good things during the main commentary but am going to also focus on them later. As with the other movies, the best things almost all are related to the visuals and physical objects. The design team on these movies has overall done a simply fabulous job, perhaps greater than any other motion picture in history. The writing unfortunately doesn't come close to measuring up.

Why do the Dunedain not come to Aragorn with the banner of the king (which for some crazy reason isn't even raised on the ships - one of the three most memorable points of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields - and doesn't appear till the end) and now Anduril? Their presence is so much more sensible as they will then accompany him on the Paths of the Dead. The special trip by Elrond just to deliver a message and the sword doesn't make sense. Why does Aragorn not use the Palantir himself? Why does he seem to barely know of the Paths of the Dead? Why don't they bring the horses along, a point which is explicitly stated in the text to be vital in order to reach Minas Tirith in time? Why is Gimli again used for humor value and not shown as a courageous man deeply afraid of a primal fear overcoming it by force of will and love/loyalty of Aragorn. Where is the Stone of Erech? Why do the dead accompany him on the ships rather than the men of Gondor he releases from defending the coast? All of these things are not only changes but simply work MUCH better as they are written in the text, a point which is true throughout this movie. Yes, I'm biased but I can also be pretty damn objective and there is basically not a single plot change in this movie (of which there are MANY) which improves the story, or at least not without great cost to actions making sense.

Gandalf and Pippin. Pippin is shown seeing the White Tree burning in the Palantir, an event which not only isn't happening but never happens. This is explicitly against the text. The Palantirs are a means of clairvoyance and clairaudience/telepathy. They do not foretell the future and they explicitly can not show false images. Sauron can manipulate the view so that Pippin only sees what he wishes for him to see (of real events) and can psychologically manipulate him via it but this is flatly wrong. Now, they ride to Gondor where the worst of the plot problems are, and it happens mostly before they even arrive. In the books, Gondor absolutely understands they are about to be attacked in force. They have scouts and the movements of hundreds of thousands of troops does not go unnoticed. They are well prepared to the extent they can be when Gandalf arrives, with the women and children sent away and what troops can be spared from outer cities brought in to defend Minas Tirith. There is never any question of Rohan riding to their aid if they can but they must first defeat Saruman and then marshal their forces which they do immediately thereafter. Theoden sitting around in Rohan not even marshaling the Riders of the Mark until he sees the beacons MAKES NO SENSE. Sure you don't ride until you are summoned (or it could be construed as an invasion) but of course you should make ready. On arrival, Gandalf seems to want to conceal the death of Boromir and have Pippin not talk at all. Both of these are explicitly against the text where Gandalf aims to bring news of Boromir immediately to Denethor his father. It turns out the news has preceded him but he tries to do the right thing. He also knows Pippin will be long questioned by Denethor and wishes him to be careful in his answers but the line about not talking at all is not sensible and added purely for humor value. This has a cost immediately after as Pippin's strongest scene in the entire trilogy is ruined by him being played entirely the fool to this point. The audience in the theatre laughed as he, in an act of great heart and courage, pledges his loyalty to Gondor. Sure, he and all others know he is not a strong fighter and his service may not be worth that much but it is one of the most powerful symbolic acts of the trilogy and is understood as such by all involved, even Gandalf who regrets it as a political matter. That he then is immediately sent by Gandalf in the movie to betray Gondor (yes, for its own good but outright treachery as a legal issue) is sickening, particularly when Gandalf could trivially light the fire using magic from the ground without Pippin's betraying his oath. The beacon fires must be admitted to look extremely cool but the cost in believability of the character's actions is far too great and the fires could have been done without a viewpoint character to light them. As with everything, the actor and look chosen for Denethor is basically 100% perfect but his actions are totally wrong. Yes, in the text, he is in despair but he is still the last Steward of Gondor and loves his city and does everything he can to defend it until overcome by the loss (which he exaggerates in his mind due to his hopelessness and grief) of Faramir and even then when he goes to die he leaves Gandalf in charge. This ordering people away from the defenses is simply ridiculous and then the guards just standing by as Gandalf attacks their lord is outrageous to an extent hard to speak of. Finally, a man soaked in oil and burning like a torch does not do a hundred yard dash down a runway (a runway which should not exist I might add and if it does exist why aren't there siege engines on it as it is the best place in the entire city for them as shown in the movie). He should burn on the pyre as in the books and where is the Palantir of Minas Tirith? This change made no sense at all and made for a much weaker scene as did Gandalf not taking Faramir from the pyre instead of Pippin. Also, one of my very few objections over the design work is over Minas Tirith. The city looks too beaten down, the outer wall is not nearly strong enough and the Denethor runway while it exists to a degree in some Tolkien art is massively too exaggerated here and goes out way too far.

Ok, now on to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. In the books, numbers are not given for the two sides other than that the Rohirrim have 6000 and 3000 men come to Gondor to join the existing city garrison (which I estimate at 9-12000). The enemy's numbers are not given but I estimate it at around 200000 given that a statement is made that a trade of 1 man of Gondor for 10 of the enemy is not good enough for the defenders. Here in the movie, the battle does not look nearly so lopsided and the Rohirrim look to actually have a reasonable size force compared to Sauron's forces. In the books, they win the battle for four reasons - 1) The total surprise attack of the Rohirrim due to the help of Ghan-buri-ghan to bypass the forces Sauron sent to block them such that they are able to be ready and mount a full charge on totally unprepared forces as 2) The dawn breaks the magical darkness Sauron had cast (never fully explained but probably a result of Aragorn's actions in the South). 3) The Witch King's death which is quite well handled in the movie, definitely one of four or so highlights and finally 4) The arrival of Aragorn and the southern troops. #1 is completely fucked here as the defenders ready an arrow barrage and pike wall (while Theoden squanders any surprise by speech making in full view of the enemy - the speech is good but it comes before they come into view) against the very first charge. Just wrong and not as cool as a major surprise attack would have been temporarily routing a much larger force. #2 is ignored completely and #3 is handled well. #4 is completely fucked up! Why does Aragorn not have the banner of the King (trivial for Elrond to give it to him along with Anduril even in this version)? I see that the dead are here for reasons of speed but why couldn't this be handled more as in the book where these events aren't shown either but are summarized. Also, the dead being at Pelennor really reduces the emotional impact of the battle as it seems like they are invincible and could have wiped out all of the enemy rendering the actions of the other characters and the death of Theoden effectively pointless. The second strongest moment of this climactic scene (after the Witch King battle and just before the Rohirrim charge and Gandalf-Witch King confrontation at the gate) is turned into a scene which weakens everything else. Other problems with the battle - How are the Oliphaunts so full of arrows when the Rohirrim seem to have only few archers and this part of the battle seems too far from the walls of Minas Tirith for their archers to help, particularly when the men of Minas Tirith never seem to sortie out to support the Riders as they should. Why is the Gandalf-Witch King confrontation at the gate not shown when so much routine battle stuff is.

Frodo, Sam and Gollum. Why in a movie which is so long and needs to cut stuff do you add a long prologue scene that I doubt even made that much sense to viewers who hadn't read the books and was unnecessary for anyone. Was Gollum just so liked in "The Two Towers" that Jackson wanted to take advantage of that momentum and so added a scene that doesn't make much sense to show. The idea that Frodo could believe Sam was outright lying to him on multiple occasions and would believe Gollum over Sam is so contrary to every element of the character of all three as to absolutely sicken me that Jackson could so fuck this up. The scene with them watching the army and then climbing the stair in full view so that if any of thousands of soldiers look up, they are dead is insanely stupid. If they get caught there, they must stay in hiding until the entire army goes by. This seems as obvious as the nose on one's face. Shelob is wonderfully animated and scary as hell but the battles with her don't make that much sense. Sam kicking Shelob is pretty ridiculous. Still this scene is probably hard to dramatize and is pretty well done including the cool wrapping up of Frodo in webbing. Why the watchers were moved from Minas Morgul to the Tower of Cirith Ungol I don't know as it is a powerful scene in the books of Sam using the Phial of Galadriel to gain entrance to the Tower to rescue Frodo. When we finally see Mordor, it is amazing, better than anything I could have expected - Mountains, Mount Doom, Barad-dur and the Eye, all looked absolutely incredible. The times and distances in this section don't make any sense but this must be difficult to do and is worth giving dramatic license in regard to. The battle over the ring went a bit too long for me. I would have rather, as in the book, Gollum falls after the first fight and not have the second one but thats a minor quibble and the fall of Gollum and destruction of the ring were beautifully shown.

Aftermath. That the fissures caused by the destruction of the ring created an arc just beyond the Captains line was ridiculous but whatever I guess. Merry and Pippin cavorting over the scene of Frodo waking up ruined what could have been a beautiful scene and was horrible anyway to not show the growth of these characters as they grew in the books. These events seem to have had no effect on the movie's Merry and Pippin while the book's Merry and Pippin have each experienced great loss and pain and hardship and have become the stronger, physically and emotionally, for it. The coronation scene which is except for the Grey Havens scene for me the most emotional of the book (followed by the Frodo and Sam discussion after the ring's destruction) had none of that here. Why was Gimli involved and not Faramir? Frodo wasn't because they wanted the hobbits on the platform together obviously but that scene had nowhere close to the impact on me as did Aragorn's comments at the coronation asking that Frodo bring him his crown from Faramir and that Gandalf place it upon his head. I don't have the book in front of me or I would quote this as it is absolutely beautiful and powerful. The movie's version has the visual only and only the Gandalf part. The hobbits on the platform doesn't work as for one thing Merry and Pippin don't really deserve this level of acclaim - yes they did great deeds but no more than some others, particularly Eowyn. As usual, Elrond's reaction to the Aragorn-Arwen meeting was completely wrong. Jackson doesn't get the Elven mentality one iota!!! Since Jackson wanted to do the Grey Havens and not the Scouring of the Shire (an understandable choice), Jackson now had a problem as it is hard to do a later scene without an earlier one which sets it up. I am not sure what the right way to handle this was but making it so the Scouring of the Shire not only isn't shown but could not have happened (offscreen) was definitely not it. The Grey Havens is again not that well done. The discussion in the book between Frodo and Sam on the way there (with Sam fully aware that Frodo is leaving for the Undying Lands) is the most poignant of the entire trilogy for me and always brings me to tears and here there is only a fraction of this. Again, with the elves, Galadriel's smile as she boards the ship is not at all the right reaction. Finally, saying explicitly that this is the last ship to leave is absolutely against the text of the books and leaves the issue of Legolas, Sam and Gimli and the many other elves who remain in Mirkwood and other areas wrongly handled. Tolkien wisely leaves the issue in doubt (largely resolved in the Appendices) while Jackson closes the door on the possibility (or we have to just consider this statement a lie/wrong).

Military issues. Some of this I've mentioned earlier but it bears
having its own section because it is obvious that Peter Jackson doesn't know shit about fighting while Tolkien does. There are like 4 major battle scenes and in every one of them, Jackson has the West making nonsensical moves while Tolkien has them fight rationally. First is the battle of Osgilliath where Faramir's forces have one major advantage, they can defend the river crossing. In the movie, they literally sit and wait while the Orcs have a chance to land. This battle is hopeless without the natural barrier of the river. To be surprised by the attack and then intentionally give up the crossing when you are warned is STUPID!!! Second is the second battle of Farmair. Tolkien has a debate but Denethor deciding (probably unwisely) to defend the outer wall of the Pelennor (not even shown in the movie as far as I could tell) feeling he can't give it up without a fight. Jackson has him ordering Faramir to make a suicidal charge against a defended position. This is an action of military incompetence to rival the worst in history. Should we defend a fortress with the high ground or suicidally charge a held position? Third is the charge of the Rohirrim which I have already mentioned. Tolkien has them prepare out of sight and fully take advantage of the element of surprise. Jackson has them prepare in sight and dilly dally while the opposition has a chance to prepare archers and pikemen against them. This is an insanely stupid move for horsemen. Finally there is the final battle of the Captains of the West at the Black Gate. Yes, the very move is basically crazy but at least Tolkien has it executed with military competence as the Captains array to defend two small hills with a pike wall in front and archers in the middle to shoot over them. Here, Aragorn crazily charges out from their solid position to spread themselves out against a vastly larger force. Again, this is military insanity!!!

Ok, on to the good points to close. The visuals as always were gorgeous with the view of Mordor being among my very favorites of the entire trilogy, along with Rivendell, the Pillars of the Kings at Argonath, Edoras (inside and out) and the Shire. Shelob was also amazing as was the destruction of the ring and the detail in Mordor of Barad-dur and Mount Doom. Denethor's hall and the courtyard of the fountain (excepting the runway) were also almost perfect. The battle with the Witch King was wonderfully done as were some elements of the encounter with Shelob. Anduril did surprisingly little for me and I was surprised they used no special effects on it, like the blue glow of Sting - it is the "Flame of the West". The Grey Havens and Dunharrow were also nearly perfect while Minas Tirith was only pretty good and poor compared to the other amazing design work.

Anyway, its over except for the DVD extras which I doubt will do much. They kind of can't. Almost all the major things they missed or screwed up are not fixable with just additions; they would require major change and removal and they won't do that I expect. They will certainly add the Houses of Healing scenes and Saruman at Orthanc but not much else can be fixed. In terms of time issues, I actually also must agree that these two scenes are not as necessary as many others to the main characters and plot line and were probably right to leave for the DVD.

I continue to mourn for what this trilogy could have been with a different writer but the same wonderful team of actors and design people.

Posted by aarondf at 03:44 PM | Movies | Comments (10)

December 11, 2003

Movies: The Good Thief

Excellent film starring Nick Nolte and based in France. I liked all of the characters and the cinematography was also excellent. The happy ending doesn't seem to make much sense but still a really good film. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:23 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

December 08, 2003

Movies: Finding Nemo

Finally got this from Netflix. It was certainly enjoyable but nothing really special. Toy Story 2 and Toy Story (in that order) remain my favorite Pixar movies. ***

Posted by aarondf at 01:48 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

November 25, 2003

Movies: Love, Actually

Richard Curtis, the writer and director, really does have his finger on the pulse of touching simple movie love stories. I didn't like it quite as much as Notting Hill or the wonderful Four Weddings and a Funeral but it was still super-sweet and enjoyable. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 03:25 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

Movies: The Pianist

Wow, this was even more powerful than I expected and much less focused on music than I expected - there are really only a few scenes where Brody, who does an amazing job, is actually playing a real piano. No heroics, just survival through the darkest of times. ****

Posted by aarondf at 03:22 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

November 20, 2003

Lord of the Rings Movie Comments

I was sure I had posted this before but now I guess not. I am thinking about it again today as I watched the first half of the extended edition of the The Two Towers DVD last night in some pain.

Here is my commentary written immediately after the first movie came out and then I am going to take the liberty of posting someone else's comments elsewhere on tTT as a comment to this post. This was written in a fair bit of anger and pain over what this movie could have been. I highly recommend the followup post on tTT which is much better written than my angry argument and better addresses the reason why all these changes of character are so ruinous to Tolkien's story.

Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring directed by Peter Jackson
Commentary by Aaron Fuegi

In general, the reviews for this first film of the trilogy have been excellent. Unfortunately, while I think many things were beautifully done, can not endorse this movie as a whole. The visuals were absolutely gorgeous for the most part and the plot changes were for the most part adeptly handled but the characters simply do not hold at all true to Tolkien's words. These objections will not be shared by those not very familiar with the books. For them, I think this is an excellent movie (mostly for the visuals) but NOT faithful to Tolkien's characters.

I am a serious Tolkien fan and have read the trilogy three times or so and did reread Fellowship just prior to the movie. Despite, this I went into the movie with high hopes, understanding and accepting that the plot would have to change and be shortened due to the change of medium. Although I like Tom Bombadil, the choice to remove him and the three chapters he appears in was an excellent one - in terms of overall plot development there is little bang for the buck. The replacement of Glorfindel with Arwen also seemed a reasonable choice and I actually thought Liv Tyler did an excellent job. The problem for me with the movie is that I don't feel that almost any of the major characters were at all faithful to their portrayal in the books. In almost all cases, I felt that the characters in the movie were "smaller" than they appear in the books, where admittedly many do have a "larger than life" feel. I will address each of the characters separately in this regard as it was my fundamental difficulty with the movie. Also, while the plot changes were obviously required to shorten the length, the characters are very deliberately changed for no needed reason. Note also that my objections are in no cases to the actors; it is to the writing which very deliberately changes the characters. For the most part, the acting was excellent for all the major characters, even Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn who I had expected to think was wrong for the part.

Gandalf. In the books, Gandalf is basically the architect of all that happens. Things go awry and must be changed at times but it is his will and plans that govern the company's actions. Gandalf has prepared for this time all of his life and will do whatever it takes for the Ring to be destroyed. Here, Gandalf is not nearly so clear about what needs to be done. He is undecided about Frodo bearing the Ring from Rivendell. He fears Moria as opposed to wishing to go through it despite the potential of great cost to himself. Still, his portrayal is closer to the books than many.

Frodo. Frodo is actually probably the truest to character of all. However, he along with the other hobbits is portrayed as something of a coward.

Sam. Sam's motivation here is not nearly so clear as in the books, where his platonic love and deep loyalty to Frodo intensely bind him to the company. This is not shown nearly so strongly in the movie where he seems as much bound by his promise to Gandalf.

Merry and Pippin. These two are treated horribly by the film, treating them as children and using them as comic relief. In the books, they are young but totally mature. They are great friends to Frodo and conspire to help him make a planned escape from the Shire. Merry in fact leads the hobbits during the early stage of their journey. The scene with Farmer Maggot is probably the most instructive of the change. It was FRODO who used to steal mushrooms from Farmer Maggot as a CHILD and is afraid of him. Merry is good friends and on excellent terms with Farmer Maggot who clearly greatly respects him. To have Merry and Pippin stealing vegetables is a HUGE reduction of them to children. Throughout the movie, they are continually portrayed as children in terms of both actions and motivation. Given their importance in the latter books, this is particularly disturbing.

Aragorn. Aragorn is Gandalf's main collaborator in the events of LotR. Also to be noted is that as of LotR, Aragorn is EIGHTY years old, and has spent the past fifty years traveling more than any living man, has commanded armies in multiple kingdoms, and has an amazing strength, wisdom, charisma and experience. He is an excellent warrior and tracker, but even more a leader and healer. He also has been waiting and planning for this day for all of his life, the moment where the Kingship can be restored. In the movie, he is diminished in significant ways. First off, not enough of his backstory is presented - even the simple "All that is gold does not glitter" riddle would have been a great help. Here he plays no role in the decision to go through Moria. The worst scene of all is the scene with just Gandalf and Elrond discussing things before the council in Rivendell. Both treat him as a person who can hopefully rise to do great things. This is totally inappropriate. Gandalf respects Aragorn far more than any living man and is well aware of his incredible strengths and the role he has to play. Elrond had Aragorn as his ward for some 30 years and is also well aware of his strengths, although somewhat ambivalent about him due to his wish for Arwen not to choose the mortal way and leave him forever. Another ridiculous scene is the manufactured one with him and Frodo at the end of the movie. The books never suggest at all that Aragorn is seriously tempted by the Ring; he is at peace with himself and knows his role. Making him think that he can't stand to be near the Ring and sending Frodo off alone is just totally out of character. Frodo's departure works in the books because it was FRODO's decision, keeping in character with his wishing to protect those around him at all times, even when sending himself into great danger. Throughout, he only lets others accompany him at their insistence. Aragorn and the others only accept it because it is a fait accompli and they see themselves as being Merry and Pippin's only chance for survival.

Saruman. Saruman is not as fully developed in the books as the others but he is portrayed as a brilliant man who falls because he sees the strength of the Enemy and can find no way out. Here he is portrayed as easily succumbing to Sauron and actually serving him, which he does not do in the books. It is also not made as clear that he wants the ring for himself to challenge Sauron as opposed to supporting him. In addition, the wizard battle between Gandalf and Sauron seems petty; in the books it is clear that this is just a clash of wills and at this time, in Saruman's fortress, Gandalf does not have the strength to contest with him, although he does have the strength to resist him.

Legolas and Gimli. These two are not that well developed in the books either, with one major exception - their friendship with one another. However, this friendship stems initially almost entirely from Gimli's reaction (almost worshipful) to Galadriel making him realize that if one Elf can be that good, that other elves may be interesting too. Following this realization, his opinion of elves changes irrevocably and he quickly becomes great friends with Legolas. By completely eliminating this scene, the most significant character development of these two is eliminated. In addition, Gimli is portrayed as much more emotional/out of control here and used for cheap laughs such as in the "Nobody tosses a dwarf" scene. Legolas is a great archer but the machine-gun rate at which he fires at times is ridiculous.

Boromir. Boromir is actually probably the best handled of the fellowship. The extra scene where he picks up the ring is fairly well handled and just presents some extra foreshadowing. The only scene which didn't work for me is his death scene. Oddly enough, it is not that this was so badly done except for the fact that Tolkien did it so much better. Adding thissuper-Uruk-Hai in Lurtz just causes all sorts of problems. The concept in the book is that Boromir is mortally wounded heroically offstage defending M&P (who also fight unlike here where they just sit there like lumps letting Boromir die for them). He kills many orcs and none can face him hand to hand but eventually he is turned into a virtual pincussion with arrows. There is no one main enemy. This also fails because after Boromir is beaten, Aragorn arrives and can barely beat Lurtz one-on-one after earlier single-handedly defeating 5 Nazgul. Simply nonsensical, especially when here he is wielding Anduril (or should be) and there he had nothing but a torch and standard sword. Clearly the reason it was done is to have the movie climax on this one-on-one battle but it just doesn't work.

Scenes. First off, for the most part I think these were wonderfully handled. The Shire and the party are absolutely amazingly handled visually, although with a few minor inconsistencies. For example, Bilbo simply disappears at the party while in the books Gandalf creates a smoke effect to make it less obvious just what happened in case this action gets to any servants of the Enemy. In addition, in the books Frodo is more in on the after-party plans and changing this weakens his character as it suggests that he is not fully in Bilbo's trust. Anyway, there are a few scenes that need special consideration.

Gandalf escaping Orthanc - reasonably well handled as the changes (no Radhagast or Shadowfax) do speed things up.

Journey from Weatherop - unclear to me why this was changed as much as it was. Just have them jump (with some mention of time) to the point where they meet Glorfindel and have Arwen more directly replace him. Having her ride with him is ok. The scene with Aragorn being caught so off-guard is very bad and weakens a major character to strengthen a minor one - why? The idea that they ride together for 6 days seems unreasonable. The ride battling off the Black Riders is also given significantly more time than is needed. The flood at the ford is beautifully done but having it done by Arwen rather than Elrond and Gandalf again seems to be just to strengthen a minor character at the expense of logic and more important characters. The Arwen and Frodo scene just across the ford is also quite weird.

Rivendell. Looks gorgeous (and I should know - see here ). Scenes with Bilbo well handled. However, there are lots of problems. Two of the worst scenes in the movie happen here. The first is the ridiculous discussion between Gandalf and Elrond, every word of which felt 100% wrong to me. The second is of course the Council. This scene is IMO the most important one in Fellowship, where wel earn much about history, characters, motivation, etc... Obviously it needed to be shortened greatly for the movie and lots of the information removed or told in live scenes like the Gwaihir rescue was done. Here a mockery is made of it. Elrond seems a pompous fool, dictating behavior, rather than a thousands of years old man of great wisdom and power, also largely deferring to Gandalf in this. The virtual fight is ridiculous. Having M&P dupe Sam's actions also makes no sense as the scene where they offer to join the Fellowship is probably their most important scene in the book to understanding their motivations. Here they seem as children just wanting to go on a trip. The Narsil scene was handled ok but why not mention the reforging to Anduril? I just have no idea. The other important thing missing here is the broadening of Aragorn's (previously Strider) character as a poet and lore-master of great experience and knowledge of Rivendell and Elves.

Caradhas. Perhaps should have simply been skipped. Anyway, a bunch of changes which are bad but don't save screen-time. Saruman creates the storm as opposed to Caradhas/nature, the powers of which are a strong secondary theme of LotR. Also, the discussion of Moria here has three important problems. 1) Gimli is sure the Fellowship will meet Balin who is fine; in the books he hopes for this but does not really expect it. 2) Aragorn does not participate in the decision at all, weakening his character, where the books strengthen him by making it clear he has been to Moria and does not wish to return only because he has a foreboding that it will be deadly for Gandalf. 3) Gandalf is weakened because he does not wish to take the dangerous way, despite the possibility of great cost to himself.

Moria. Early parts aren't great but are acceptable. Pippin knocking the whole skeleton in as opposed to testing the depth of the well by dropping a small stone (which does not immediately draw enemies) weakens his already weak character more. The Cave Troll fight was extremely bad I thought. Outrageously long and wasted screen time, too strong, Frodo's role not significant, etc... The weird stairs in the middle of nowhere scene was also too long and pointless except to add the stupid Gimli jokes. The Fellowship being surrounded and then orcs running away with no battle was both stupid, totally unbelievable and a waste of time. The kobolds running on the pillars also added nothing. The Balrog and scene with him I thought was done fine other than Gandalf hanging on for more than an instant. If he had held on that long, he would have pulled himself up.

Lothlorien. Much shorter than it should have been but for the most part understandable. Only a few complaints but they are important. Gimli's reaction to the Lady not being used was incredibly bad as it is vital character development and a beautiful scene. Sam not looking into the mirror and not getting the Garden Box was also strange to remove. Aragorn not being greeted as an old friend and respected elf-friend was also bad and again weakens him. I thought Galadriel was actually handled fairly well with one small but important exception. As she descends to the mirror, she noticeably hesitates at one point. Galadriel is a woman of supreme confidence and grace and this hesitation is totally out of character. The Ring's temptation scene wasn't perfect but didn't bother me nearly so much as it did some others. After how BADLY Elrond was handled, I was actually quite happy with the treatment of Galadriel.

Journey down Anduin. Absolutely gorgeous scenery which I wish would have gone on longer. Cuts to Isengard at this point were annoying. Who cares about this particular Uruk-Hai.

Breaking of the Fellowship. I mentioned above under Aragorn and Boromir my main objections to this section. Including the one chapter of The Two Towers was a good choice I thought and I had predicted it. The scene in the books with Sam running straight to the boat as it just left the shore guided by an invisible Frodo and diving in the water right away "Coming, Master Frodo" worked much better than the pause in the water and then long underwater scene of the movie.

Everything not mentioned I either approved of or did not strenuously object to. As mentioned before, the visuals I found absolutely incredible in almost all respects, not surprising with Alan Lee (by far my favorite Tolkien artist) and John Howe (probably my 2nd favorite) in charge of this. I might have enjoyed the movie more as a silent movie.

I mourn for what this movie could have been.

Posted by aarondf at 11:37 AM | Movies | Comments (9)

November 18, 2003

Movies: Legally Blonde 2

I loved the first one but I had the feeling from reviews and the bits I'd seen that this one wasn't going to be nearly as good so waited for video. Well, a pleasant surprise awaited me as this one manages to keep the same fun atmosphere of the first one and fully resurrect Elle. Ultra-light but quite enjoyable ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 05:18 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

Movies: Master and Commander

I went to this yesterday on our unusual day off here at BU and it was absolutely excellent. I have only read the first few books in the Patrick O'Brian series of books on the naval war in the Napoleonic area and honestly didn't love them but this movie seems like a pretty perfect job to me of transferring the books to film. Aubrey and Maturin both come off correctly and an excellent job is done of portraying life at sea, particularly for the officers. Crowe particularly does a great job as Aubrey with all the necessary charisma and confidence 'lucky Jack' has. Highly recommended ****1/2 and should definitely be seen on the big screen.

Posted by aarondf at 05:07 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

October 20, 2003

Movie: Intolerable Cruelty

This is the new Coen brothers film starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones. I love almost all of the Coen brothers movies and this one is no exception, being probably the most mainstream funny one yet. Clooney in particular is amazingly funny of speech and facial and other physical expressions. The movie also has a ton of very funny and interesting minor characters like the Baron, Wheezy Joe, Rexroth and the producer played by Geoffrey Rush. Absolutely hillarious all the way through. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 02:36 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

October 17, 2003

Movie: Owning Mahowny

This is a quite interesting and good movie starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman which it seems to me should be required watching for anyone with (or suspected of having) a serious gambling problem. Hoffman plays a bank manager with a massive gambling addiction who is behind on his debts and so starts robbing his bank to hopefully make enough to get him out of debt. Not surprisingly, he keeps spiraling even worse into debt and even when he wins big, he can't stop himself from continuing to play until he loses it all again. At the end of the movie, he is asked how he rates the thrill of gambling on a scale of 1-100 and answers 100. His greatest thrill outside of gambling (and this includes his nice and loving girlfriend) he only rates a 20. Recommended. ****

Posted by aarondf at 12:10 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

October 10, 2003

Movies: Flirting with Disaster

Had this in my Queue for some reason and it does have a ton of very funny people in it but overall it is only average. Ben Stiller is his usual pretty annoying character that he plays in everything - which was hillarious the first time and with the right script in There's Something About Mary but has definitely got tiresome to me. For example, I couldn't stand Meet the Parents. The rest of the cast is generally very funny but the plot and script are ridiculous. Some very funny moments in a not very good movie. **1/2

Posted by aarondf at 03:04 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

Movies: Chicago

Finally got this on NetFlix. I don't like musicals but reasonably like the actors in this and it had done so well I figured I should see it. Unfortunately, I really didn't enjoy it at all. Didn't like the characters, songs or atmosphere. *1/2

Posted by aarondf at 03:00 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

September 30, 2003

Movie: America's Sweethearts

Trip report soon but this quick review first.

This came out in 2001 and I don't know how it went almost completely under my radar with this amazingly good cast. Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Billy Crystal and Catherine Zeta-Jones are the leads and I like all of them, particularly Roberts and Cusack. In addition, it has in supporting rolls the great Christopher Walken, Seth Green and Hank Azaria all of whom I really like. The movie is super-light and pretty predicatable but incredibly fun. Highly recommended. ****

Posted by aarondf at 01:21 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

August 26, 2003

Movies: Castle in the Sky

This was the other older Hayao Miyazaki I had in my queue when I reviewed Kiki's Delivery Service a bit ago. This one was also wonderful with the visuals in particular being absolutely amazing. The voices weren't quite as good as in Kiki's although still excellent, particularly Cloris Leachman as 'Mom'. It is interesting that I liked these two somewhat 'smaller' movies more than his bigger and wider US release ones. ****

Posted by aarondf at 10:54 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

August 18, 2003

Movies: Kiki's Delivery Service

Watched Kiki's Delivery Service from Netflix last night. I actually enjoyed this one more than Hayao Miyazaki's other movies I have seen, which have had bigger releases (Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away). Phil Hartmann as Gigi the black cat is absolutely wonderful and the movie is just super-sweet (in a good way). Castle in the Sky is also near the top of my queue. *****

Posted by aarondf at 03:22 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

August 11, 2003

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Really is just an extended episode of the series from somewhere in the middle. One nice thing was that every character's skills get used in this one, whereas many of the episodes ignore Ed's skills It is amazing how much I like Ein, especially given that I am not at all a dog person. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 10:43 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

August 08, 2003

Movies: Lost in La Mancha

Saw this documentary about the making and breaking of Terry Gilliam's movie version of Don Quixote. Murphy's Law put an end to this production but it is amazing how on edge the whole production seemed to be even before the worst problems, and it sounds like this situation isn't that uncommon amazingly, despite the absolutely massive amounts of money involved. Gilliam is brilliant but I am not sure as a financial backer that I would want him in charge of things not on the creative side. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the behind the scenes of the film business. ****

Posted by aarondf at 11:03 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 22, 2003

Movies: The Maltese Falcon

I have seen, mostly on video or DVD, the vast majority of really major films since like 1980 but am quite unknowledgable about older movies and had never seen this one. Often, with the older stuff, I am also quite disappointed in even very well regarded movies but not with this one. The acting is excellent and the plot interesting and fun. ****

Posted by aarondf at 05:40 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 14, 2003

Movies: The Hurricane

Watched The Hurricane last night and thought it was excellent, significantly exceeding my expectations, although a bit long. Denzel Washington is amazing in the title performance although I have the feeling that the character he creates is much more a composite of himself and Rubin Carter rather than simply a portrayal of him, largely combining both of their best qualities. The Canadians and Lesra are also extremely likable. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 04:00 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

July 05, 2003

Movies: Heist

This was suggested to me in discussions regarding the earlier reviewed The Italian Job and, having now seen it, I am not surprised why. A similar movie in many ways including that the heists all go with no problem and the only real trouble is with the protagonist thieves' putative allies. This one is written by David Mamet and you can tell - as is common with Mamet, he seems to be constantly showing off his brains. Works pretty well but, atlhough I really liked all the four major characters of the heist team (particularly Hackman, Lindo, and Jay) the movie just wasn't quite as fun as The Italian Job. ***.

After writing this, I went and read Roger Ebert's review and wanted to quote the last little bit as it really does highlight the very best thing in this movie:

Consider the exchanges between Lindo and Hackman: They have a shorthand that convinces us they're worked together for a very long time and are in agreement on everything that matters. Most modern caper movies convince us the characters met this morning on the set.
Posted by aarondf at 12:00 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 30, 2003

Movies: Catch Me If You Can

Watched this on the plane back from Seattle. Turns out it was lucky Netflix has taken forever to send me this despite it being at the top of my queue for weeks. Enjoyed it pretty much as I expected, which was a lot. Excellent performances from DiCapprio, Walken and Hanks. Only problem was that it needed more Cow Bell (SNL reference). ****

Posted by aarondf at 04:18 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 12, 2003

Movies: Drumline

Finished watching Drumline a little while ago. Not that much to say about it but I really enjoyed it. The cinematography of a difficult subject was particularly excellent with lots of great angles. ****.

Posted by aarondf at 10:39 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 04, 2003

Movies: The Italian Job

Went to see The Italian Job this afternoon as I am only working
a half day. As expected from reviews, it was quite good and downright fun. All the actors were perfect for their roles and Theron is gorgeous - it is surprising there is no Wahlberg-Theron love scene. My favorite scene was definitely the Seth Green commentary as Handsome Rob is picking up Becky - priceless.

I had initially accidentally went into the Finding Nemo theatre next door and considered staying but was more in the mood for action today - hopefully I'll get to Nemo in the next week. I did get to see the Snowman Pixar again short shown just before Nemo was to start which was fun.

Posted by aarondf at 04:40 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 22, 2003

Movies: Star Trek: Nemesis

I didn't go see this in theaters and am now glad I didn't. This was one of the worst ST movies yet. The plot made no sense. The regular Romulans were far more interesting than Shinzon and the Remans. The Shinzon-Picard thing did nothing for me. And then there were the particular technical things. Why, if this personal transporter thing is so effective, doesn't everyone have one? Why does this ship with a massive advantage in the battle waltz up so close to be able to be rammed (if that is an effective move which it damn well shouldn't be)? Why does Picard beam over alone rather than sending over a bomb or at least your best fighter (Worf?). Why in the battle are they shooting randomly at the cloaked ship rather than tracking where the weapons fired at them are coming from and targeting the source (admittedly moving)? Nothing in this movie worked for me and almost nothing made any sense. Cool visuals and fight scenes were all it had going for it. **

Posted by aarondf at 12:12 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 15, 2003

Movies: Finding Forrester

Well, I enjoyed this movie and thought the characters of Jamal and Forrester were both exceedingly likable and well-done by Brown and Connery. However, I really just don't find Jamal believable - superstar basketball player, genius writer liked by everyone who reads his stuff, able to fit in well as if he was an average guy with his Bronx public school friends and with most of the elite at the prep school he transfers to, well-adjusted with a great brother and mother despite his father leaving the family over drug and alcohol abuse, etc.... No single thing is a problem but in combination I just don't buy it so could never really get into this movie, despite liking the characters. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:24 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 12, 2003

Movies: Amelie

I saw it in the theater last year and Amelie DVD a while ago but finally found a chance to watch it yesterday with Mom after dinner. What an absolutely wonderful movie. It is currently #18 on IMDB's list of the all-time best movies and rightly so. All of the characters are absolutely perfect for their parts, particularly Audrey Tautou with her amazing ability to convey information just using facial expressions. One of my all-time favorite movies and massively recommended to everyone who can handle subtitles (the movie is French). *****

Posted by aarondf at 04:44 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 08, 2003

Movies: X2: X-Men United

Significantly better than the first one and probably one of the best sequels ever. Also definitely the best group superhero movie ever (I think I still like the original Batman better). Focus was on the action and plot much more than character development and with this many characters I think this was an excellent choice, particularly when so many people have read the comics and already know far more about the characters than you could show anyway.

The Magneto escaping prison scene was spectacular and by far my favorite of the movie. The only scene which really struck me as wrong is why Magneto didn't kill Stryker when leaving in the helicopter rather than just chaining him up. Strongly recommended, particularly if you read the comic book. ****

Posted by aarondf at 11:54 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

May 06, 2003

Movies: I Am Sam

Sean Penn is wonderful in this as a retarded father of a 7 year old girl who must fight for custody of her after the state intervenes. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 02:09 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 22, 2003

Movies: Maid in Manhattan and D&D

Not that these two have anything in common beyond that I watched both this weekend. Dungeons and Dragons was as bad as I expected but for some reason I still wanted to have seen it. *1/2

Maid in Manhattan was also just what I expected, 100% predictable but light and fun and JLo's performance was quite good. There were a couple of lines in the movie which I didn't find believable from her character but in general, another romantic comedy done well. ***1/2

Posted by aarondf at 05:50 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 16, 2003

Movies: Rules of Engagement

I probably won't usually write about average movies but am making an exception for this one. This movie stars Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones and they and others do an excellent job. Unfortuantely, though, I just didn't buy the premise and so the movie didn't work for me. One has to believe that the National Security Advisor would massively risk his job and mastermind a cover-up just in order to make the US look better in a case where if we were more honest, we wouldn't have looked that bad anyway so this decision just doesn't make any sense. **1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:23 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 14, 2003

Movies: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Watched this over the weekend on DVD for the second time. Still a great movie with interesting characters, amazing fight scenes which should be totally unbelievable but aren't (even the flying stuff works) and gorgeous scenes and cinematography (I guaranteed correctly to a bunch of people this would win the Oscar for Best Cinematography). If you haven't seen it, rush out to rent it. By the way, my DVD had as its default setting dubbings in English which I dislike so I switched it to the original Mandarin with English subtitles. *****

Posted by aarondf at 12:59 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 07, 2003

Movies: Bend it Like Beckham

Best 'feel-good' movie I have seen in a long time. Went to see it on Saturday and, although extremely predictable, this was a huge amount of fun and the characters were all extremely appealing, particularly the very
pretty Jules.

I think 'Ebert & Roeper' compared this movie to 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' which is a pretty reasonable comparison, this one trying to do for Indian culture what 'Greek' did for Greek culture. However, all the characters and plot are much more believable in this one, not purely stereotypes but interesting characters in their own right.

As it hasn't had a huge release, here's a quick summary of the plot. Jesminder (Jess) is an Indian girl in London just about to graduate from high school with a love for soccer. Her parents want her to give up the game and find someone to marry but she loves soccer and is an extremely skilled player (she plays a forward but works particularly well in serving balls to her partner in front, Jules). She ends up joining a new womens team and is forced to lie to her parents, who demand she stop playing. ****1/2

Oh, cute spotting note. Noticed several of the characters drinking from glasses like some I ordered from France at a craft store in February (which still haven't arrived but are supposedly now on their way). I probably paid way too much for them but did really like them and didn't realize they were more widely available.

Posted by aarondf at 01:59 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 03, 2003

Movies: Life as a House

I rented this a few weeks ago but enjoyed it enough to write it up here
now, particularly as I don't remember seeing any trailers for it in 2001, when it was made.

'Life as a House' stars Kevin Kline as an architectural modeler (he builds models for architects to use to show off what a building would look like) who is already divorced, estranged from his son, and living in a house that he hates and now he has what should be the worst day of his life. He loses his job, goes on a rampage there as he leaves, and discovers he has terminal cancer with only a short while to live. However, what should be his worst day turns out to be his best as he determines to do what he can to use his last few months as well as he can.

He decides to build a house which he designed many years ago but has never managed to build and to try to fix his relationship with his son and try to help him (who is a psychologicial mess due to his estrangement from pretty much everyone) in the process. The movie is extremely well-done and three outstanding performances stand out in it: Kevin Kline as the main character, Kristen Scott Thomas as his ex-wife who has now married a wealthy man but whose new family is cold as ice and dysfunctional, and Jena Malone in a wonderful performance as a teenage girl (which she was) who is amazingly precocious and outspoken. Malone's character is the daughter of a single woman who was Kline's ex-lover and is interested (but in an interesting way) in Kline's son.

This movie is for the most part very predictable after the initial introductory scenes but the writing and acting are so good that one doesn't care. The house they build on a bluff overlooking the Pacific is also beautiful and serves as a wonderful setting. Again, the characters are real and believable. The transformation of Kline's son, played by Hayden Christiansen, is extreme but the crucible he is put through is quite poweful. Highly recommended. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 11:46 AM | Movies | Comments (0)

April 02, 2003

Movies: A Walk on the Moon vs Unfaithful

I just watched Unfaithful for which Diane Lane was nominated for the Oscar and found it interesting how similar it was to a movie I watched a few weeks ago, 'A Walk on the Moon'.

In both movies, Diane Lane plays (and does so wonderfully) a housewife who is unfaithful to her (good looking and loving) husband. However, the two movies handle this very differently and I found 'Walk' to be the much better movie.

Quick descriptions of the two movies, focusing on the connections and
differences between them.

Unfaithful: modern-day, absolutely gorgeous lover, the relationship appears to be entirely about the sex and escapism of the affair. Also, the movie jumps the tracks midway through. It should have focused on the effects on the relationship (as Walk does) and instead becomes something very different and not very interesting. The affair is presented well and Lane and her lover are both gorgeous but the movie just isn't that good. **

A Walk on the Moon: set in 1969 at the time of Woodstock and the Apollo 11 mission (both of which play a major and relevant role in the movie). Here the issue is about the times and the restrictions placed on women and how Lane is looking for something different from her life. Her husband is kind and loving but an extreme square and her mild efforts to expand her life and their relationship haven't worked. Meeting a gorgeous and interesting man (played by Viggo Mortensen who also plays Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films - in both he is excellent), she ends up in an affair where she can explore her sensual side and the changing times (as they go to Woodstock for a day). When her husband discovers the affair, the movie only gets better with real explorations of reasonable reactions from all three characters. Lane's character still loves her husband but doesn't want to return to the same old life and must make a hard choice. Her husband is of course extremely angry but comes to realize why she did what she did and eventually forgive her enough to try again. He also realizes his own weaknesses and determines to make what effort he can to try to make things better (very well shown in the last seen). Mortensen's character is well handled as well. He really loves Lane and does not disappear as a used and now thrown away character when the affair is discovered. Instead, he actually meets the husband in a very believable scene for both men. Lane's daughter has a side-story that is also very well done. The Summer of Love music (Grateful Dead, Simon & Garfunkel, Hendrix, etc...) also is wonderful and blends perfectly. Every character in this movie is believalbe, a rare thing. Highly recommended. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 12:46 PM | Movies | Comments (1)