Rachel-20

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Reviews

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
(2004)

just couldn't make myself care
It's not that I didn't "get" this movie. It's not that I found it hard to follow. It's not that I only like romantic comedies or action flicks or whatever other kind of film that fans of this kind of movie think of as lowbrow. It's that I just couldn't make myself care about the characters. I didn't care if they got back together, I didn't care if they erased each other, I didn't like them, and I couldn't identify with them (never having, say, consumed illicit substances or been promiscuous, which sometimes seemed to be the two major activities depicted here).

The premise is interesting, and goes back to Shakespeare and before with the whole 'better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all' bit. The pace and 'feel' was a bit too frenetic for my tastes, although I can see how it would appeal to a lot of people (it felt like watching the beginning of _Moulin Rouge_, a film I enjoy immensely except for the first fifteen minutes, for an hour and a half). Kate Winslet was brilliant, and Jim Carrey was, well, Jim Carrey, which is not bad, I suppose. It all comes back, though, to the fact that I just wanted these foul, vulgar, bizarre people to get out of my living room and never come back.

Mansfield Park
(1999)

surprisingly OK
I am the snobbiest of adaptation purists. I really am. I was sure I'd dislike this film because I knew how widely it varied from the novel, but I wanted to see it so as to be able to give an opinion of it. And I must say that I like it. Not much as an adaptation -- let's face it, there would be no modern audience for a direct retelling of *Mansfield Park*, with its Brontë-ish moral underpinnings and antiquated ideals, much as I personally might agree with them. It is a very different creature from the novel on which it is loosely based, in more ways than one. Ack, the undertones of lesbian eroticism were a bit too much, really, and the slavery subtext with all it entailed was, I thought, an unnecessary addition. However, it does touch on some of the main themes quite well. What makes this movie enjoyable for me, though, when I manage to mentally separate it from the novel I love, is the pretty and somewhat unconventional directing. And unlike many reviewers here I think Frances O'Connell did a wonderful job as Fanny; in fact I thought the whole cast was well-selected and did a fine job.

Dr. T & the Women
(2000)

Don't expect "Pretty Woman"
If you sit down to this movie expecting your average romantic comedy you're going to come away, as many of the reviewers here did, befuddled and probably seriously disappointed. I'm no high-art film critic, but I had the advance warning, of sorts, of having watched the previews on the VHS edition of this movie (of all things), which let me know not to expect anything ordinary from it. Plus it's Robert Altman, right? So I went into it expecting not to take things at face value -- and that's what you have to do to enjoy this movie. The idea is that you have this man who treats women with love, respect, and chivalry. He is surrounded by demanding women all day long, and yet the focus on the individual patients whose encounters with him we witness shows the truth of something he says to his friends: every woman is unique. And then we see the different ways in which the women respond: His office manager falls in love with him. His patients demand more and more (and are very well-directed). His wife goes insane because she's loved too much (a diagnosis as obviously unrealistic as hers HAS to have been written into the story for a reason). His daughters rely on him, shock him, disappoint him. His sister-in-law takes advantage of his hospitality while drinking herself into a stupor. His girlfriend (who is kind of a man's woman) rejects his chivalrous overtures ("I'll do it! I'll get it!"), is the only self-sufficient woman in the film, and ultimately rejects his offer for an interdependent relationship. All these combine to create a world whose stresses pile up until a surreal conclusion whisks Dr. T away to a completely different world... where straight away he's put back to work, and he delivers a boy. And who can blame him for being relieved.

Overall this is a movie I'm glad I saw once; it was an interesting experience. Kudos to Richard Gere for probably the best acting I've ever seen him do.

Possession
(2002)

I tried hard to like it
I had just read the novel upon which this movie was based and so it was quite fresh in my mind when I sat down to watch the DVD. I really did try hard to like the movie on its own merits, even though the first five minutes gave me a solid clue as to exactly how far it was going to stray from the book, but I just couldn't. I couldn't even finish watching it. Aaron Eckhart, look, I'm sorry, I'm sure he's a great guy, but he was just awful in this (it doesn't help that his character wasn't supposed to be an American). Gweneth Paltrow was doing OK as far as I watched her, although I am a little tired of hearing her put on an English accent -- I say this even though I loved "Sliding Doors" and especially "Shakespeare in Love." (Seeing two Americans in the leads of what is a VERY British novel didn't please me much to begin with). I know that people get very tired of movie reviews which constantly compare the movie to the book, but this movie was such a pitiful, hollow shell compared to the rich and fascinating novel on which it was based that I just can't help it. Every iota of atmosphere and romance were sucked out completely and all that was left was a big empty space -- which was short a few key characters and a LOT of scholarly interest. I was even quite disappointed in Jennifer Ehle, whom I loved in "Pride and Prejudice." The only performances I liked at all -- but not quite enough to actually make me want to finish watching the movie -- were Jeremy Northam's and Lena Headey's.

I know most readers will hate me for this, but if you've ever read the book, don't bother with this movie. I'm not even sure I'd recommend it if you *haven't* read the book -- I couldn't stop throwing things at the screen long enough to figure that out.

Cold Mountain
(2003)

Could have been better, but I'm not sure how
I saw this today and I was disappointed. I simply did not feel drawn into the story for the first third of it or so, at all. The bloody war footage left me cold, and I never did (even as the movie went on) see any sense in the connection between Nicole Kidman's character and Jude Law's -- there was no real chemistry and no cinematic rhyme or reason to their attachment, in my opinion. That should have been fleshed out more, and perhaps exchanged for all the time spent on that loser of a "preacher" who's thrown in, largely for laughs, on Inman's journey home.

The most solid acting in this movie was from the supporting cast. Renee Zellweger was convincing as Ruby, and her arrival on the scene revitalized the movie for me and probably kept me from walking out. (I think this is, believe it or not, the first movie I've seen her in). Also, the actors portraying the Swanger family turned in good performances, as did Natalie Portman. Nicole Kidman did a good job, as always, although even she occasionally had a hard time hiding her Australian accent behind a Southern one. There were high points, and some good funny moments. Overall, however, I just felt disconnected and disappointed.

****SPOILER WARNING BEYOND THIS POINT******

Perhaps the biggest reason I couldn't get emotionally involved with this film was that, even without having read the book or a single review or summary of the movie beyond the bare-bones "civil war" label, I KNEW that the majority of the characters would be doomed to die by the end. I knew that there was no way the couple could really wind up together; the new Hollywood wouldn't allow that. And I'd seen Jude Law "die" so many times that I suppose I mentally hardened myself against it and just didn't care by the end.

One Hour Photo
(2002)

Can I have that hour and a half back please?
Ugh, this was so disappointing. We spent the first twenty minutes waiting for it to get good, the next thirty thinking it had progressed a bit and might be worth sticking with, and the last thirty realizing we'd made the wrong decision. I can't think of one single moment I actually enjoyed, and there were plenty of moments I actively disliked. Don't waste your time on this one.

The Majestic
(2001)

Gag
I forced myself to finish this movie so that I could give an accurate review of it. It was not an easy task. Of course the most bothersome aspect was the truckload of propaganda that was labeled "entertainment" here (warning: If you didn't see the propaganda in "An American President", you won't see it here either). Liberal bias in the movie industry? what? Let's see them quote the Constitution like that when they're making a movie about a kid who wants to pray in school. *ahem*.

Cinematically, this was also an utter failure. It was more clichéd than any Capra film you ever saw, and those at least had good acting and pleasant stories to make them still quite worth watching. I was never caught up in the story at all, and the only times I laughed were supposed to be serious moments.

All in all this is a waste of celluloid, effort, and time.

Moulin Rouge!
(2001)

Wow.
I had so many preconceived notions about this movie, as is understandable, even for someone who doesn't watch television, when you're talking about a film that was hyped as much as this one and which has such a following. I didn't watch it until tonight because I was afraid I wouldn't like it. For the first twenty minutes or so I thought I was right, because *other* preconceived notions I had were being laid waste left and right, and that took some mental adjustment. Once I settled in, however, and got used to the stylized presentation I found myself more and more enjoying *Moulin Rouge* for what it was -- an amazing, well-put-together combination of lightheartedness (even silliness) and deep emotion. The music is wonderful (even, perhaps especially, the odd but fitting usage of modern songs). The singing is breathtaking. There are moments that made me laugh out loud and yet the end had me nearly in tears -- what a staggering range of emotion this movie encompasses. Every character was acted to perfection; I could go on for pages and not do justice, not only to Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, but also to the entire supporting cast. As I mentioned previously, the stylized production took some getting used to, but by mid-film I found it adding rather than detracting from my enjoyment, for the most part. Perhaps there were some devices (the jerky movements) which were irritating even until the end. The writing and direction overall are superb -- the whole-cast scenes as well as the more personal moments. This is a movie well worth watching; I'm glad I stuck it out past the first twenty minutes or so and let myself really get into it.

Shrek
(2001)

MUCH better than I expected
*********** Possible Spoilers ***************

I put off watching this for a long time after it was released because my impression of it from trailers was that it would be one long rude noise, so to speak. Then we went to a friend's house and they put this on, and I watched it and was very pleasantly surprised. There is a potty humor element, unfortunately, but it's not as predominant as I had expected, and the story is REALLY well-done other than that. The jokes are funny, the characters are enjoyable, and the animation is great. Most of all, I liked the ending -- a pleasant surprise in this world where looks are paramount. I'd love to see more like it.

Road to Perdition
(2002)

Disappointing, but still high-caliber
This is a very well-made movie which simply didn't appeal to my taste as much as I thought it would. The acting is flawless, the music is wonderful, the direction is original and yet seamless. The story is well-written and well-filmed. My expectation was for a more uplifting movie, and it was also disconcerting to see Everyman Tom Hanks involved in so much violence -- although he played the part very well. Don't let my opinion keep you from watching it.

Black Beauty
(1994)

Very pretty
I bought this from a discount DVD bin, thinking if it was wretched I could just give it away. But it's definitely a keeper! I have a 3-year-old daughter who adores horses, and I have always loved them myself; I hoped when I bought this film that it would have a lot of pretty horses and scenery for our enjoyment. I was definitely not disappointed. The horses are filmed artistically, and the setting is stunning. The acting's good also, and the script is, while not perfectly faithful, a decent adaptation of the novel, but the true stars of this movie are the horses. Beautiful animals, well-filmed.

My only irritation with this movie is that occasionally they relied a bit too much on unnatural expressions on the part of the horses -- tossing heads, rolling eyes, much nipping, etc. -- in order to show the horses' emotions. It doesn't bother the kids but it does make me cringe a bit. Not enough to make me fail to enjoy the movie whenever my daughter requests it. :)

VeggieTales: The Ultimate Silly Song Countdown
(2001)

Great!
We are avid Veggie Tales fans in our household -- and I don't mean just the kids. Big Idea has truly hit upon the BIG IDEA -- humor that reaches kids and adults both, with solid morals as well. This is a collection of their Silly Songs (although it's called the Top 10, they had only made 11 actual Silly Song sequences at the time, so the only one you miss is "Oh Santa", which, by the way, with its reference to the IRS, is a riot, and one of my favorites), which are a humor segment used as a bit of an "intermission" during many of their half-hour shows. We watch it over and over (as we do the rest of these videos). We were a little miffed that our very favorite silly songs were lower in the countdown than many we think are rather ho-hum, but tastes vary. :)

VeggieTales: Esther, the Girl Who Became Queen
(2000)

Glad this wasn't my first experience with Veggie Tales
I was rather disappointed with this one. By the time this came out we had watched almost all 13 of the Veggie videos which had already been released by Big IDea, and it was a good thing, since we knew that they were capable of far better things. We thought hard about what made Esther less appealing than the rest of the series, and finally hit on it: the veggies were taking themselves too seriously. The silliness was gone (no Silly Song, even), the wackiness was gone, the Monty-Pythonesque humor was gone, and all we were left with was a beautiful young scallion with hair (but no limbs) and a serious dramatic difficulty before her. Which sounds stupid, and, well, it did kind of come across that way without the zaniness to buoy it. We own it, and we let the kids watch it because there's nothing really *wrong* with it, but we don't enjoy it while it's on.

Anatomy of a Murder
(1959)

Good, with few drawbacks
CONTAINS SPOILERS

This movie did not fulfill a single one of my expectations, although I don't mean that in a necessarily negative way. It was just different from what I anticipated when I began watching. I figured on a straightforward courtroom drama where everything is much more clean-cut than it is in real life. Well, that's not what you get with this movie. The people are human; the situations are ambiguous, and you don't end up necessarily rooting for anyone, let alone for the person you thought you would root for (that would be Jimmy Stewart and his client). Here we have a lawyer, played masterfully by Stewart, who actually doubts his client's case, and yet defends him, which is a surprising bit of realism; a husband who's terribly jealous either of the rape or the affair (or both?) of his wife; a wife who goes around "free and easy" (or "free and sleazy" as the case may be) -- but does she deserve to be raped? DOES she get raped? Who beat her? And then the end is a shock, in that it's NOT the end. It's not typical Hollywood, and at first I didn't like that, but I think I'm changing my mind. This may just ruin me for typical courtroom dramas. :)

Another "undecided": the music. At times I loved it, and at others it was definitely a negative distraction from the movie.

The Wedding Planner
(2001)

A very good film of its type
OK, look, nobody rents this movie expecting Schindler's List or even The Music Man. This is a light romantic comedy, no serious issues, several good "aw" moments, a few laughs, and some good romantic tension. I was specifically looking for "a chick movie" (in the immortal words of Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle) for an evening alone in front of the TV, and this fit the bill just fine. The actors did a good job with a decent script, although it did seem a little bit slow a couple of times. I'd never seen Jennifer Lopez in anything before, and I was impressed with her. Matthew McConaughey was also very good.

One thing I did not like was the whole Massimo sideline. I think the film could have gotten by fine without that, and the whole arranged-marriage bit added a jarring note to this otherwise quite worthwhile movie.

It Was My Best Birthday Ever, Charlie Brown!
(1997)

Certainly not up to the standard of earlier specials
I really did not like this video. The music was corny and the characters did not act like themselves. The sole redeeming feature was that they got a child who could actually sing, to do the bit with the singing. By the way, in case you're wondering (I was), I went and looked it up and the name of that song is "O Mio Babbino Caro" -- it's by Puccini.

Return to Me
(2000)

Surprising and touching
As soon as I figured out what the gist of this movie was going to be (that is to say, as soon as I saw the blissfully happy couple and the woman needing a heart transplant), I thought I was going to dislike it. I was so wrong! It's funny, it's touching, it has a very interesting premise, and it's multi-faceted. With so many romantic comedies, the two leads and their romance are the entire film and everything else is just filler, but the little side stories in this film are high-quality, aided by a collection of excellent veteran actors. I enjoyed the grandfathers' poker nights, the bowling games, and especially the family life of Megan and Joe. It's always refreshing to see a married-with-children life portrayed not just as a source of laughs (although that's obligatory, of course) but in a positive way, with the couple still enjoying each other and enjoying their life together.

Overall this was a great way to spend an evening. I'll have to watch it again, with my husband next time, before I return it.

Serendipity
(2001)

Cute but somewhat weak
Possible spoilers! *****************

This movie had lots going for it really: clever ideas, nice scenery, some interesting twists, and good acting of a decent script. The problem I have with it is this: It takes a bit too long to get to its conclusion, and then just when it seems to be getting really good, it gets over too fast. I was quite disappointed with the actual "finding each other" scene -- I thought it would be more clever and less, well, sappy.

Overall, I am not sorry I watched it, but I won't be buying it.

Rachel

Sliding Doors
(1998)

I really liked it!
Spoilers ***** Spoilers ***** Spoilers

This was just the kind of movie I wanted to see tonight. Romance, comedy, and some drama as well, and enough predictability to feel good, and enough surprises not to feel ripped off.

As much as I despised Lydia, I could see the cleverness in the way her role was written, and frankly I could understand her frustration with the utter loser Gerry. And as much as I liked Gwyneth Paltrow in this, her accent grated on me a bit. I liked the Scottish actor who played James, and I was mad as hell while I thought his character was two-timing Gwyneth (both at his character and at the screenwriters!).

I did not find the movie nearly as confusing as I expected I might; in fact I really enjoyed the switching back and forth as a device. I did *almost* feel really ripped off at the end, until I saw the "alternate ending", which was utterly satisfying to me. As soon as I saw her open her eyes I hoped that would happen, and I literally cheered when she told off the "wanker" Gerry.

Other good points were the day with the boats (but WHY do characters in movies always go directly from first kiss to bed together? OK, so in this case it was so there could be the whole pregnancy bit, but still...) and the excellent job done by the actress who played Helen's best friend Anna. I'll have to look and see what else she's done.

This is a great girls'-night-in or date movie. Plenty to talk about afterward. :)

Pride and Prejudice
(1995)

WHAT a fantastic movie!
possible spoilers......

I simply adore this movie. Just thinking about it makes me glad to own it.

I don't know if I've ever seen a movie better cast. This is one of my favorite novels, and everyone looks and behaves exactly as they should. The screenplay was written in a way that was fresh as well as being quite faithful to the novel (leave it to the BBC to make a 5-hour movie so that the whole book can fit in!). The music accentuates every scene; the scenery is breath-taking. The attention to period details is marvelous, especially regarding the costuming. And the acting! Every actor takes on his or her character so well and completely that it's impossible to picture them just walking around the streets of England in blue jeans and a sweater after a day of filming. The perfection of the leads goes without saying and has doubtless been discussed in many previous reviews, so I'll skip over that and go to my two favorite supporting roles: Mrs. Bennet, and Miss Bingley. Mrs. Bennet is exactly right in her role as the flighty mother to the five Bennet daughters, and Miss Bingley's expressions are priceless. Watch her face each time she sets herself up for a fall by putting down Elizabeth, only to hear her praised by the man she hopes will be hers.

This is a fantastic movie if you like period pieces, Jane Austen, romance, humor, England, subtlety, or social satire. Even men have been known to admit enjoying it when their wives were watching it. (My husband simply could not allow me to turn off the TV and go to bed after the first DVD ended with Elizabeth's refusal of Mr. Darcy's proposal; we HAD to watch at least the first part of the next DVD).

Amadeus
(1984)

Brilliant!!
POSSIBLE SPOILERS

This is one of my favorite movies of all time. It defies criticism from a film-making perspective -- the costumes are wonderfully done, the acting is very good, and the script is great. The shining element of this movie, though, is the music. Not just Mozart's music (although you can't go wrong with that) but the use of it in the film -- the intertwining of it around the story, the way it seems to tell the story for itself at times. The ending scenes with Salieri transcribing notes for Mozart is a perfect example of this.

The leads in Amadeus are extremely well-done. F. Murray Abraham, as Salieri, earned every ounce of his Oscar in this role where he played both a 30-something composer, and the same tormented man 30-odd years later. He *breathes* venom, dementia, and pain so naturally that one forgets that F. Murray Abraham was ever anyone *but* Salieri. Tom Hulce and the supporting cast are good as well, but they can't touch Abraham in my opinion.

This is a wonderful, wonderful movie. Don't go in picking apart historical inaccuracies, if they exist; see it for the music, see it for the story, see it for the way it's all put together, and prepare to be overwhelmed.

Double Jeopardy
(1999)

It got better
Possible Spoilers ***

For the first half hour or so of this movie, I was dubious. First of all, I have some serious doubts about the truth of that particular interpretation of the double jeopardy clause. I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not an expert, but then neither are the filmmakers. Secondly, I had a very hard time sympathizing with Libby as she did so many stupid things early on in her parole (breaking into the preschool and wrecking the car on the ferry come to mind). Being back in prison for violating parole wouldn't have helped a bit. I kept thinking, why didn't she just go to the police as soon as she had any evidence that her husband was alive, and nail him legally?

That said, I did enjoy the movie more as it went on, especially once she arrived in New Orleans. The auction scene was a brilliant idea, and the scenes with the husband were tense. Of course the audience is onto the ploy in the cemetery early on, but still it works decently because of its chilling development. I was pleased to see the way things worked out with the husband, and the ending is touching -- maybe a little sappy. Those who don't have children will probably find it sappier than those who do; I always find enough in that sort of scene to identify with, to forgive the over-the-top emotional tugging going on. I don't imagine that works for people who have no basis for comparison.

Overall, this is a movie worth seeing if it's the kind that interests you, and you can suspend your disbelief for a while.

Enemy at the Gates
(2001)

Not a waste of time
Well, this won't be my favorite movie. I wasn't stunned by it; it didn't make me think too hard (aside from asking my military historian husband for some background about the battle involved). But it's a pretty good film. The sniper scenes are tense without feeling dragged-out. There were some elements that kept me guessing throughout the movie, and I have to confess that some of my cocky assumptions (regarding who would die, mostly) were completely wrong. There were a few less-than-believable moments (how exactly DID those three or four pieces of glass all manage to line up exactly so that Konig could see Vassili's reflection in all of them?) but nothing to ruin the movie.

Overall, this is a good one to watch if you like war movies. It has no doubt irritated thousands of pacifists who dislike the glorification of the skills it depicts, so don't watch it if you're inclined to gripe about movies that have too much violence or make war look too heroic. Otherwise, give it a try; I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Note: I checked to confirm my suspicion that the music was done by James Horner. If you listen carefully you'll hear a few of his themes from previous movies re-done for this score.

Noah's Ark
(1999)

Completely worthless
This was on the children's shelf at our local video store. BIG mistake; there's enough violence in this to give an adult nightmares, let alone a child, and more sexual references than I'd care to explain to my innocent six year old. We did a lot of fast forwarding in the beginning.

That said, even as an adult movie, this is a completely unredeemable film. The script is stupid, and the story is so twisted and convoluted that it would hardly be recognizable as a Bible story at all if it weren't for the big boat and the pairs of animals. If they wanted to do a Sodom and Gomorrah movie (not that I think that would go over well in today's political climate, but I'd like to see it anyway), they could have done one, and not tried to throw that event (which was a good thousand years, at least, after Noah's Flood) in with the flood. The script is tasteless and stupid, the acting (especially by Mary Steenburgen) is wooden. Even the scene with the animals, which is prettily-enough done, isn't enough to make this a movie worth watching. Give this one a miss, and definitely DO NOT get it for your kids.

Heartbreak Ridge
(1986)

Probably one of the most quotable movies of the 80's
Among my husband and his buddies, this movie is like Shakespeare -- they quote from it often and well, so often and well, in fact, that the quotes are just part of their vocabulary and the source is forgotten. It does have more than its share of witty quips, even for me, a lowly female ;).

I really do like this movie. It makes me miss the 80's, when it was still considered acceptable to be a patriotic American, and movies that glorified America and the military could be made without the felt need to apologize left and right. And of course Clint Eastwood is clever and attractive as always, as the hardcore Marine lifer who's trying to discover his tender side in time to reunite with his ex when he retires.

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