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Bandits

The second half is so dull I started reading and only watching with one eye. The ending is predictable, though well realized and not out of left field.


Behind Enemy Lines

There's a lot cool stuff in this one. It was interesting that Burnett was the navigator not the pilot and he never fired a weapon until the last 15 minutes of the movie (that includes the credits and there were a lot of credits). There's a cool scene where the guys on the ship are watching Burnett's heat image being pursued by Serbian Heat images and they can't understand why the Serbs aren't seeing him. Also, the director or cinematographer did something with the depth of field when Burnett is being pursued on the ground that gives the picture more of a 3-D effect and draws the viewer in more.

Owen Wilson's Chris Burnett seemed very similar to Wilson's Roy O'Bannon, though more ept, but that's OK. He was very likable.

Despite all this goodness the picture never really came together. Maybe there was too much from Riegert's point of view. It might have been more effective if the film had been entirely from Burnett's viewpoint and the viewer didn't know why he kept getting screwed over.


Blade II

First of all, I'm not a big fan of horror and I don't enjoy movies where the boogie man suddenly appears out of nowhere behind the intended victim. I like action. That being said, I enjoyed the first third of the movie where the characters and plot are introduced. The middle third, where Blade and the Blood Pack are randomly trolling for reapers in the night club and the sewer left me cold. There were a couple of moments in this section when I could not suppress an "eewwww" sound. The last third was sweet, turning the tables on the guys with all the cards.

I wanted more Donnie Yen (Snowman) but Ron Perlman (Rienhardt) was evily enjoyable. The Reapers were pretty gross to look at before they ever opened their yaps and made a most intimidating monster.

At the end, what happened to all of the vampires in the citadel that had been bitten by Nomak (Luke Goss)? Wouldn't they become Reapers?



Blank Check

This guest review (by my then 9 year old daughter) previously appeared in a slightly different form on the Cinemama's Cinemania web site.

Blank Check is a movie about a kid who receives a blank check from his grandmother. By some quick thinking he gets 1 million dollars. But soon the mafia, a guy who is owed 1 million, and a banker are after money that is somebody elses. The ending is badly sappy, in long, this movie is bad. The plot is badly written, the movie is boring, and I want my mother's money back. After the movie was over, good god was I thankful! Think of a person who likes everything, if that person saw this movie, that person would hate it. So, in short this movie is NOT worth seeing

The Bourne Identity

This worked for me. I liked it well enought that I immediately went and bought the book only to find the book is an entirely different story.

Bourne grabs a fire escape plan off the wall to help him find his way when he is chased in a strange building. I loved that he thought quickly and didn't just blunder around. They don't show, but do discuss, how anal he has to be to leave no trail, wiping out fingerprints behind himself, and how paranoid he has been trained to be, memorizing license plates in a diner parking lot just by reflex. Being invisible requires a lot of concentration.

I also enjoyed that they didn't spell out the entire backstory. It's there in bits and pieces for the viewer to assemble.

The action is good, too.


Bulletproof Monk

No movie can't be improved by having more Chow Yun-Fat. That goes for Bulletproof Monk, as well. That being said, this is the first English language movie to allow Chow to show his lighter side. Chow and Seann William Scott, looking very cut, have a good comic rapport. The makers did, however, throw in an extremely gratuitous and entirely enjoyable gunfight harkening back to the Chow/Woo oeuvre.

Not a great movie, but a fun one with exciting action and wise cracks that are actually amusing.


A Close Shave

We all loved this. Gromit is arrested for sheep rustling and the true malefactors must be brought to justice.

The motorcycle stunts far surpassed MI: 2.

The Count of Monte Cristo

This was a reasonably decent interpretation of the book. Of course, a lot of details such as the baby that was buried alive and the count's non-European "ward" were omitted. However, they did get across that the people on which Edmond was taking vengeance had ongoing patterns of being not very nice.

I enjoyed the movie but I probably don't need to see it again.


Cradle 2 the Grave

I've got nothing against DMX; he was good in Exit Wounds. However, there was too much of him and not enough of Li. Also, his big action piece, a grand chase on an ATV, just made me cringe as he rode through plate glass windows imperiling his own sight and the sight of innocent bystanders.

The fight sequences were, in general, filmed from too close with too many cuts as if to hide the actor's deficiencies. The cage sequence was very exciting, though. I don't care what anyone says, that dwarf attacked Li first.

The big climactic do between Li and Dacascos didn't fulfill me. Also, the way the WMD plot token was destroyed was just dumb. I'm willing to suspend disbelief from here to Thursday, but come on.

It is sad when the most likable characters in the film are played by Tom Arnold and Anthony Anderson. They were a hoot. I particularly enjoyed Anderson's first scene where he is flirting with a security guard.


Enigma

Enigma isn't a total waste of time but it is a middling film from a middling director. The story moves along at a good clip and keeps you involved up until the end when it goes off track. Don't expect to learn much about cracking the Enigma machine (Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II is an interesting book on WW II cryptography). In fact, in the whole movie, the protagonist spends at most ten minutes code breaking. I guess staring at paper isn't very visual.

Dougray Scott's Tom Jericho was strangely reminiscent of Sultan Schariar in the Arabian Nights. His vanished love wasn't especially compelling. The only explanation for his fixation is she deflowered him. Jericho is also given credit for the Turing Bombes. At least they showed the Bombes.

I wanted to know more about the naval liaison with the horrible scars. Unfortunately, I don't know the character's name or the actor's.


From Hell

Not nearly as gruesome as I expected it to be. I thought it was well done but I won't be seeing it again voluntarily. I prefer my entertainment a little less bleak.

I have not read the comic so I can't speak to the realization of the original vision.

Ian Holm was excellent.

Ghost World

This is a great movie, funny and sad, but what the heck happened at the end? I'll leave the great dialog and great acting to those other critics, who actually know what they're talking about.

One thing I particularly noticed was the poeple looked like regular people. Even the pretty ones are pretty in the way of poeple you might actually meet, rather than Hollywood pretty. Though, Enid's skin should have a blemish or two.


A Grand Day Out

We all loved this. Wallace and Gromit run out of cheese so they go to the  moon.

I particularly liked the robot skiing on the moon.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone

Once more, money triumphs over creativity to produce a Wonder Bread like movie. The film does not excel in any way but is adequate entertainment.

Kate and Leopold

I thought I could suspend disbelief and lose myself in the film. No. Either I'm too geeky or there were too many logical holes or the romance just wasn't that involving. I have been known to read a romance novel or several so it's not like I don't like a good boy meets girl across time story. Other critics have discussed that whole elevator fiasco but it didn't stop there. Why was Leopold wearing riding boots to the ball in 1876 and if he wasn't, when did he change his shoes to pursue Stuart? Where did Leopold get the cash to pay for a roof top violinist?

I could see what Kate saw in Leopold, sort of (aside from the obvious), but not the reverse unless he just found her novel. Stuart (Liev Schreiber) was more interesting.


A Knight's Tale

Small picture of front of A Knight's Tale DVD Cover. In the theater, I thought this was fairly cool but a little long. I liked it a lot better watching it at home where I could sing along and without my daughter crackling her candy wrapper in boredom. It's just good fun.

Lilo and Stitch

The 11 year old gives this 3.5 stars out of 4 and I give it 4 stars out of 5. It has a nice message about families being bonded by love, and being inclusive regardless of the species of some members. But, except when sappily defining "ohana" (family), it's not preachy. The film moves along briskly with lots of humor leavened by the possibility that Mr. Bubbles will remove Lilo from her sister's care.

You gotta love a movie with a social worker named Cobra Bubbles.


Minority Report

Engrossing. Not a weepfest like AI. I like a happy ending as much as the next gal, but I have to concur with those other critics that the ending was a bit too sunny. Spielberg is always showing us something new but the grainy look made me feel like I was watching on TV.

Monsters Inc.

This movie is so rich that only an utterly focused child can hope to capture all the details. I attended with my 11 year old, my spouse and my sister-in-law. Only the kid, for instance, noticed that the monsterlings were jumping tongue, not rope. A must own.

The Musketeer

This is not your father's Three Musketeers. This is D'Artagnan as super ninja. The action sequences kick ass, though there are a couple that are a little too gravity defying for the genre. It is with good reason that stunt choreographer Xiong Xin-Xin is the only individual verbally credited in the trailer.

The other musketeers are never developed, so the repartee, which should have been amusing, falls flat because we don't know enough about the them to think, for instance, "Oh, that's so Porthos". In fact, the movie seems to have only one character, Febre, the villain portrayed by Tim Roth.

My Dog Skip

This is another guest review by my, then, 9 year old daughter.

My Dog Skip is a movie about a kid named Wille. It's around WW2 and it's Wille's birthday. What he wants is a dog but his dad says he's to young to own one. His mother gives him one anyway and he's alowed to keep it. The bullys who have been teasing him tell him to spend a night in the graveyard. Some bandits come there the same night Wille stays there and tell him not to tell or they'll kill Skip. The ending will touch your heart in this wonderful film.

Ocean's 11

This is not an "important film" like Erin Brockovitch or Traffic but it's fun and, frankly, that's enough for me.

I didn't buy the way the Clooney/Roberts/Garcia triangle was resolved but that's OK, it's a movie.

The One

Jet Li is the man! Unfortunately, The One is not the movie. I wanted to love this movie, and it certainly has its moments, but I can't give it my whole hearted thumb up. I do beg to differ, however, with those critics who say Li can't act.

Some of the things that bothered me would only bother geeks. For example, at the beginning, it is explained that Yu-Law has murdered 123 versions of himself out of the 125 that exist, leaving himself and Gabe. Later, it is mentioned that the first one was self-defence. Doesn't that make it 122 murders? I guess they did that to keep things simple for people who aren't paying attention. It annoyed me. Also, the whole mechanism where the lifeforce (quickening?) was distributed among the remaining guys was never clearly laid out.

How was the action? I think they used too much slo-mo. I think the slow motion emphasized the wirework. If the scenes had been shown at fighting speed the action would have had more impact. But that's just me.

2/16/2003: Watched most of the film again and was struck by what a great job Li did as Yu-Law. He was evil!


The Order

Jean-Claude Van Damme in action. (~35K)

The Order is the latest outing from Jean-Claude Van Damme. It also purports to star Charlton Heston but don't be fooled, he enters the picture at 20 minutes and 4 seconds and exits at 26 minutes 54 seconds, never to be seen again.

As for Jean-Claude's performance, he plays a smirky, smart alec well enough to convince me he is actually a smirky smart alec. However, the fight sequences seem to play to his strengths. They are not too gimmicky, just good solid kicking and tossing over balustrades.

Sofia Milos plays the tough as nails police lieutenant, Dalia, in the first half and does a great job, other than her uniform not being buttoned to regulation. In the second half, Dalia, all of sudden, becomes more girly and less interesting.

Jean-Claude has made worse and he has made better. The story here is preposterous but who watches a Van Damme film for the story? The production values are good (the credits list an army of sculptors) and where else are you going to see Van Damme kick butt disguised as a Hassidim?


Rain

I'm sorry, I don't see the entertainment value in a sad story of a girl seducing her mother's lover and then finding her baby brother dead on the beach. Not much of an ending is it? At least in The Sons Room the boy's death takes place early enough on that the film is really about the family coming to terms with it and continuing to live. Rain doesn't deal with that.

I don't feel I'm giving away anything here because as soon as you see the two kids, the narrator and her brother, playing in the water, it is obvious the boy won't survive the movie.


Replicant

Small picture of front of Replicant DVD Cover. Van Damme plays a serial killer and his clone who is cooked up to help catch his parent. You can see Jean-Claude acting his little heart out and, actually, he doesn't do a bad job.

This is more of a thriller than an action movie (maybe Jean-Claude is feeling his age) and it doesn't have anything new or clever to thrill us with. It is strictly by the numbers.

For a Van Damme fix, stick with Time Cop or Hard Target. If you want to try Ringo Lam, go with Full Contact or Full Alert.

The Royal Tenenbaums

The funniest movie I ever saw that had a nearly successful suicide.


The Scorpion King

Campy costumed forgettable action fun, reminiscent of a middling episode of Hercules, the Legendary Journeys or Xena, Warrior Princess, but with better production values. However, any picture that keeps Ralf Moeller and Al Leong working is all right by me. Moeller's getting enough acting chops that he had nearly as many syllables to speak as The Rock, despite not making it to anywhere near the end of the picture.

The score, however, was just plain bad. It would rise up, very obtrusively, saying "This is a sappy moment!" or "This is an exciting moment!". I think the film makers might have done better to follow the lead of A Knight's Tale and Moulin Rouge and use substantial amounts of modern popular music.


Shanghai Knights

Enjoyment of this film depends on an appreciation of classic gags and either ignorance or tolerance for anachronisms, not to mention just plain factual errors. Fortunately, they are classic gags; who hasn't seen the revolving fireplace on Scooby Doo, often? It was old when Abbott and Costello used it. Movies aren't the place to learn history and Chan and Wilson are clearly having such a good time that I had a good time too, even though the movie is preposterous.

I thought the revolving door sequence was novel and exciting but I was saddened when "Jackie" did an aerial off a roof with his back to the camera. Yen was underused, appearing in only one fight sequence and too obviously wired (or he should be in the NBA). Fann Wong acquitted herself well.


Sidewalks of New York

An enjoyable bit of pretentious fluff. Dennis Farina steals the show.

Spider-Man

I think the one or two people who have not already gone to see it should definitely go. Raimi and the special effects guys did a great job with the web swinging. Also, I never thought I would say this, but they needed more J. Jonah Jameson. J. K. Simmons was a hoot and a half. When Toby Maguire's was cast as Peter Parker I thought that was dead on but he is the Amazing Spiderman, too.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

Amazing visuals, amazingly dull movie. Lucas seems to have visual diarrhea where he shows us stuff that looks cool but doesn't forward the story leading to an obese running time of about 2 hours and a quarter. Episode II could stand too lose 30 minutes.

Part of the problem is the direction. "A Jedi Shall Not Know Anger. Nor Hatred. Nor Love." Nor, evidently show these things. Even the usually excellent Samuel L. Jackson can't breathe life into Mace Windu. The best performance in the film has to be from Yoda. I attribute this to Frank Oz' familarity with the character. As a Xena fan, I also have to present kudos to Jay Laga'aia as Captain Typho. He should have had more to do.

According to the daughter, "The best thing about Episode II will be playing with the Lego sets after."


The Transporter

Some of my favorite Hong Kong movies (Fong Sai Yuk and My Father is a Hero) were directed by Corey Yuen Kwai and the trailer looked really kick ass, though, sadly, they seem to have pulled the tea tray missile deflection from the film. I went expecting an entertaining B-Movie with out pretensions and that is exactly what I got. Some of the professional critics have complained that Yuen didn't do anything new. There are definitely sequences I had seen in Hong Kong movies but most American viewers aren't going to be familiar with the source material.

I had seen Jason Statham (Frank Martin) in Snatch and The One and was sort of neutral towards him but he did a fine job. I have read that he was a competitive swimmer and they played to this strength with lots of under water sequences. Martin had a very traditional cool of the sort that never goes out of cinematic style. There was also a nice relationship with the local cop.

A great action film needs a great villain and you can't top Ric Young (Mr. Kwai) when you want a slimy, evil bastard.

Cool hero, cold hearted villain, no redeeming social value good fun!


The Truth About Charlie

Went to see this remake of Charade to check out Joong-Hoon Park (Nowhere to Hide) and he did fine. The one thing that struck me is that the three original villains (James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass) seemed much scarier than the new "guys", Park, Lisa Gay Hamilton, and Ted Levine. This must have been a conscious choice as their characters are bad but not evil. However, Coburn's menace is missed.

Thandie Newton was fine. Mark Wahlberg, of course, is not Cary Grant, no one is except maybe Chow Yun-Fat, but he seemed to be playing the same old unassuming nice guy from The Big Hit and Three Kings. Commandant Dominique (Christine Boisson) was good, tough and in charge.

All in all, a good time but not a great time.


Undercover Brother

Seeing this movie was a great relief to me. Not only am I not personally responsible for current social inequities (The Man and his secret organization are the true culprits) but I'm not even as painfully white as I always thought I was, since I don't like mayo either.

Undercover Brother will provide an enjoyable hour and a half to anyone.


Who is Cletis Tout?

Who is Cletis Tout is a mildly amusing caper film with a few inspired scenes. Trevor Finch (Christian Slater) is an escaped con who adopts the identity of a dead man, one Cletis Tout. Tout was murdered by the mob and they are not happy with his resurrection. The story is told in flashback from Finch to Critical Jim (Tim Allen), the hired killer who will correct the error. It involves diamonds, a jail break out, a jail break in and miracle pigeons.

Billy Connolly plays the FBI pathologist who provides Finch with the Tout identity as well as performing autopsies on various characters with great verve. Allen's Critical Jim is a guy with forceful opinions on film and daily life. Never cross a critic with a gun.


Windtalkers

Not a great movie but has more heart than MI2.


Zoolander

This is one of those films where all the best bits were in the trailer. It was pretty slow going at times.

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