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Miss Congeniality

She's funny, film forgettable.
I like Sandra Bullock. She has an earthy, honest humor which comes through in her characters. But she has yet to pick a script which suits her. This movie has its moments, but it fails in the end. It tries to hard to be "fair" to beauty pageants, and the script becomes clumsy and obvious when it tries to be political. Better to leave that alone and tell a story It is not believable that she would end up with Benjamin Bratt, someone who would not pay any attention to her until she was tarted up for the pageant. Shallowness to the nth degree, and her character seemed too solid and grounded to fall for that. I wouldn't see it again nor would I own it.

Vertical Limit

Beyond my pre-set limits
Vertigo, heights, cold, snow, ice, exhaustion, danger, tests of endurance and strength. Well OK, I had my expectations set to low to moderate and was prepared to be merely entertained. I'd heard so much about the special effects I was just going to enjoy them on th4 big screen. Well, don't wait for video. See this in a theatre if you can. I agree with a previous reviewer. This is a serious sleeper. The story is familiar, but the writing is very good, and the cast pulls it off. Scott Glenn does his best David Carradine. The ending is a great, circular resolution and it does work and it's right, even when you finally sense it coming. Give this film a chance.

Pay It Forward

Why was this ending chosen?
I know that major films are made with more than one ending and tested on audiences. Why was the ending used for this movie chosen? It turns an excellent movie into a very good one, and tainted my viewing. This story caught me up, emotionally involved me, them dumped sentimental, manipulative slop all over me in the last 15-20 minutes. Oscar worthy performances by the three leads, so I would say rent it and see for yourself. I can understand why it nosedived at the box office.


Watching Trixie process information half the fun.
This was a fun movie to rent. Emily Watson did a great job portraying Trixie, and it was fun watching as she processed information. Some confusion and gaps in the plot, especially the stunt she pulled on Nick Nolte at the club. The characters were meant to be types and not fully dimensional. After all, it was billed as a "noir" film, so my expectations were adjusted. I guess "cinema afficiandos" would find fault, but I really enjoyed watching Emily Watson play Trixie. See it and pay attention to her portrayal.


Positive characters, no guns or drugs.
I don't like boxing, don't understand the attraction. I did like this movie. Positive portrayals of Latinos, with no drugs, sex or street violence. The plot actually showed stable, loving families. The fight sequences are violent, as is boxing, but not as over the top as Rocky films. Nothing wrong with attempting familiar themes with a different angle and ethnicity. It's a good rent.

Blood Simple

Worth renting again.
Modern film noir, the minimalist approach of this film was a good antidote to the fast switching, music video approach to so many movies after video killed the radio star. It's David Lynch before he became so...David Lynch. All the elements that make Coen films great are here in their proto-form. There's even a foreshadowing of the woodchipper in Fargo. Deserted highways, long scenes and silences rather that yabbering filler. If you see this, give in and rent it. You'll be nodding your head and saying how you forgot how great Blood Simple is. I even forgot some of the twists, so they snuck up on me, the movie is so well done.

Union Pacific

Read the book
Please do not take this film as a history of the transcontinental railroad. Like all movies based on real events, this one takes liberties with facts, time and events. Huge ones, as a matter of fact. Leave aside the portrayal of Native Americans, who actually did cause much bloody mayhem to the RR, it's a gung ho, Manifest Destiny kind of thing. Kind of what one would expect from DeMille. Barbara Stanwyck is not very good, and the brogue should have been abandoned. It's the setting and the secondary characters that reflect the true ambiance and historical era of the building of the railroad. That was accurate, especially the decadence of "Hell on Wheels", the rowdy gambling and booze operation which followed the railroad west. Read the book by Stephen E. Ambrose "Nothing Like it In the World, and enjoy this movie as the entertaining spectacle, albeit a bit long, it is. If you can borrow it from the library like I did, so much the better.

Straw Dogs

Listen to your wife and give her what she wants.
This film encourages conversations around "what would YOU do if...". The rape scene is even more difficult to view, in light of all we ought to have learned about sexual assault. Hard to stomach Peckinpah's inference that she somehow asked for it, but it does illustrate how ambiguous these things can be. I had forgotten how powerful the scene where she saw her rapists at the church social is. It does show what it's like for a victim to have to walk among her attackers, and how long it can take for an attack to sink in. Many double entendres and good lines addressing the concept of masculinity and the role of violence. And the film is violent, though less graphic by today's standards. Strong sexual tension. I kept wanting to slap Hoffman's character, tell him to listen to his wife and to what she wants from him, then give it to her.

The Hurricane

Strong. controlled performance by Denzel Washington.
This could have been a longer film. It's great to see a role for an actor of Denzel Washington's stature. Should make folks wonder why he doesn't do more, but there are only so many leads for black actors, just so many Malcolms and Hurricanes. The film suffered at the box office because the public's historical memory is so short, and beyond Bob Dylan, the story just fell below the popular horizon. It is inspiring, and the performance by the young Vicellous Reon Shannon as Lesra is touching and true. The scene with his high school diploma is wonderful. Worth seeing again. Denzel brings a controlled dignity to the role of Rueben Carter and that permeates this movie.

Richard III

Violence, betrayal, weapons, death. Ahh, the Bard!
I love these modern settings with Shakespeare's language. His plays are full of war, death, treachery and absolutely wonderful language. I recommend these films for those who claim the works are "hard to follow". The plots fit anywhere, and it does not take long to tune the ear to the words. It's OUR language folks! I hope these movies keep on coming. Tanks, bombs, invasions of England, rebellion, over-the-top crowned heads. I do wish there was room for the sidelights like comic relief and little plays-within-the play, but I understand the need for trimming.

See this and relish the excesses of the title role.

Angela's Ashes

Humorless and humanless. "Tis not worth seeing.
I like so much of Alan Parker's work. The Commitments, Angel Heart, Road to Wellville. This film is a huge disappointment. What it needs are more, much more of Frank McCourt's words. That is what makes the book so wonderful, and all that storytelling magic is completely missing from the film. It is simply a series of unconnected misfortunes, with no explanation of why all of it it was happening to this family. And the father was nowhere near as present and visible in the book as he was in the film. I almost felt sorry for him, he was portrayed so sympathetically. Sorry, he was a derelict parent who was drunk almost all the time. This movie is a humorless, humanless experience. If you read the the book, leave it at that. 'Tis not worth it.


First "best picture",great battle scenes,Clara Bow & Gary Cooper
Beginning a project only film junkies would understand, I am going to watch every "best film" from 1927 on. So I begin. The plot and acting in Wings are both average, the story being very sentimental and predictable. I do admit it was difficult to get used to the "mugging" that was necessary in silent films, but it was done so well that I really did not need very many captions to know what was said or what was going on. Clara Bow would be a heartbreaker today, and I can readily see why she was such a presence on the screen. The air battle scenes are great. The two leads did their own flying and the effects are remarkable, even if some seem dated. The scenes of battles on the ground illustrate the beginning of a formula for presenting war stories that has lasted through the decades. The very touching scene of Richard Arlen's character's death shows tenderness between two men that we do not see very often even today. It stayed with me. Very engaging and fine work. Oh yeah, Gary Cooper pops up for a brief but intense performance as a doomed cadet flyer.

Road Trip

Good 'oh my god"scenes on an Animal House Road Trip.
OK. Let's make a movie about college kids... oh make it boys, who have trouble with their girlfriends. Now, they do a lot of drinking and there's more sex than anyone really experiences in this life. Then, they talk their nerdy friend into letting them use the car he has on loan from a relative to take a wild trip to help straighten out their heads. Somewhere let's have all these white boys get into an all black establishment, and get some mileage out of their paranoia. We can call it...Animal House! Alright, so there are many plot similarities, but what is original any more? As a friend of mine said to me about Animal House..."Oh, well, you like that, don't you." Road Trip has the requisite male sex jokes to bring groans, enough but not too much sex, and a road trip that's pretty fun. I saw it with my brother-in-law and it helps to see it with another guy who can appreciate stupid and gross. Seann William Scott is engaging as the wise guy friend and instigator, and the plot elements vary enough from the Animal House similarities to make them interesting. I laughed enough to make it worth the $2.00. And yeah, I did like American Pie. It's a better film than this as far as young male sexuality goes. Now, I have never seen Tom Green on MTV. I understand he's pretty wild and sometimes entertaining. He's just kind of weird in this movie. He didn't show me anything special. I did know guys like him in college, and they bugged the living hell out of me. But, that's me. Some good "Oh my God" scenes here that make the movie fun enough.

Mission: Impossible II

Flat and faceless despite all the faces
Well, reviewers and friends were saying do not look for any character development or depth in this film. I understand. I can approach each film with reasonable expectations, I just expect to be entertained on the level the director presents. This sequel is nowhere near as entertaining as the first. All Tom too much of the time. Can you tell he produced it? It's all "been there, seen that". Dangling Tom, grinning Tom. I loved Face/Off and liked Broken Arrow. I know John Woo can do it, but he didn't do it here. The "face-lifting" throughout this one is OK at first, but Woo allows it to get old fast. His slo-mo fight sequences are tiresome after a while. I know he does it well, but he does it so much here. One fight scene near the end is intolerably long and, yes gratuitous, even for a John Woo work. Believe what you hear, there is no characterization. I would like to see other things Thandie Newton has done, they must be better. Tom Cruise just, well, cruises (sorry). There is no connection between anyone on the MI "team". Lots of action, guns and fights? Oh yeah. And the music is good and loud. But the music is good. This is one of those movies I saw with someone and I was entertained. Didn't pay full price at first run, so I'm not too irritated at that. If you haven't seen it, save it for video.


The language is English, it's Shakespeare's and it works.
Multinational corporations as kingdoms. Seems too obvious, but it is about time someone saw the quintessential rotten kingdom in today's world. The popularity of Shakespeare's work as movie material is encouraging. With remakes ad nauseum and rehashes of old plots, why not go way back to where so many of these universally human conflicts and situations were first so successfully put into a popular medium. William wrote to succeed, so he wrote for real people. He also knew how to entertain and use popular culture.

This film entertains, the language is English, it's Shakespeare's and it works. Ethan Hawke with his "Spin Doctors" wool cap still makes one wonder if Hamlet is really mad, or just angry and vengeful. He may be right about the conspiracy, but he still could be crazy. Bill Murray is almost touchingly ordinary as he gives Laertes the "to thine own self be true" speech. Kyle MacLachlan, and it's good to see him, is as cold and heartless as any Gordon Gecko from Wall Street.

Even though much had to be cut, so much is inserted through use of multi-media within the film and within the story. Very well done, and the language did not falter in the modern setting. The editing in this film is marvelous. Sam Shepard as the ghost is brilliant casting. All your favorite Hamlet characters are there, as well as all that killing at the end along with the commentary. Well worth seeing and not a dull moment. It moves.

High Fidelity

Love music? Like John Cusack? Had relationships? See this.
Do you like music? Better, do you LOVE music? If music is more than just background for your day to day, then this movie is for you. Anyone who connects songs to significant events in their life, who has discussed bands and songs with passion or has compiled any kind of musical list will delight in this film.

Do you like John Cusack? He has that Paul McCartney face and a genuinely likeable screen presence. This is his show and he carries it with style. The place where he works is classic as are his coworkers. Oh yeah, if you are still into vinyl and have a lot of it you will love his apartment and what he does with his record collection.

I did not know what to expect from this movie and I was treated to something that just kept reaching into parts of my heart and soul. I would own this and see it again. So should you, readers.

Bringing Out the Dead

Scorsese influenced by Repo, Pulp, Leaving L.V & himself
Well, this looked good in the trailers. I like Gage and am always interested in Scorsese. A paramedic who cannot sleep, haunted by the ghosts of those he could not save. It's a great concept. However, the movie did not live up to my anticipation. It appears that while absorbing the influences of Pulp Fiction and Repo Man, Scorsese failed to put his own magic into the work. From the rapping with Gage to the banter with the female dispatcher, the Ving Rhames character is straight from Sy Richardson's Lite from Repo Man. I think the movie tries too hard to have an "independent" feel. Gage just seems to be rehashing the burned out Leaving Las Vegas character, and Scorsese plants his token, obligatory Catholic references here and there. The brutality of the Tom Sizemore character does not ring true. Rescue work in N.Y. may well be that brutal, but it is not convincingly played in this film. Finally, all the things I like about Patricia Arquette are not present. Her voice is a constant annoyance. Martin Scorsese already did this movie in his masterpiece Taxi Driver. Bringing out the Dead is not bad by any means, but it is not up to the high standards expected of Scorsese.

The Haunting

Spiritual throwback to the old haunted house films.
Without overwhelming the film, the special effects in The Haunting nake it a very satisfactory remake. Perhaps this is a sign that producers and directors are beginning to learn that the FX need not be the star of the film, but an integral part. Most of the effects here lead up to a final burst at the end. Throughout they add to the ...well...spiritual ambiance. I felt it was a throwback to the old haunted house films, where mood and atmosphere really build suspense. Perhaps it's a good thing if a director has to work within a PG-13 rating. My love for Stephen King aside, it's sometimes way too easy to go for the gross-out. The plaintive sounds of the spirits haunting the house were truely evocative of their pain. I liked the way they connected with Lili Taylor's character, and her reactions to the manifestations were unexpected. It's an entertaining movie which keeps things going without going over the top.


Dark side of Brad
Loved this movie, still do. Brad not really recognizable as THE Brad Pitt. His edgiest role, even better than Fight Club. He outdid Juliette Lewis, the queen of the alternative film in this one. Hard to think of a character so convincingly played as so evil. I recommend it to whomever I can, still. Yes, I know this is late, but I just decided to submit comments.

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