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Zero Dark Thirty

Genuinely not impressed
Here's what I expected going in to Zero Dark Thirty: a really fantastic piece of cinema that I would grudgingly be forced to appreciate even while disagreeing with its depiction and value judgement on torture (I was aware of the controversy prior to viewing).

What I got instead was a surprisingly boring movie, that had almost non- existent character development, very conventional (mundane) writing, and not much substance. I don't know why critics are in love with the movie; it's not a good documentary, and it isn't a very compelling piece of fiction either.

I would give ZDT an average rating overall (technically, it's by no means a TERRIBLE movie), but for the "small" fact that it ends up being unabashedly apologist for "enhanced interrogation" (torture). We're told time and time again throughout the movie how important the "detainee program" was to finding Bin Laden, we're shown how torture broke the captives, and then how prisoners eventually start spilling vital secrets because of "biology" (the inevitable conclusion to torture, the movie tells us, is the truth). This all is, by most clear thinking and civilized people, morally reprehensible and patently false. Just ask John McCain, himself a victim of torture.

Even a well crafted movie would get a low score from me if it presented torture as a necessary but evil truth serum, and Zero Dark Thirty is not that.

The Walking Dead

Pleasantly surprised
It's a rarity to see a film adaptation of a book done really well and with deference to the original material, but The Walking Dead pilot indicates a series with promise. Granted, one episode isn't a very big sample group, but so far so good. It may even improve upon the graphic novel, which I already thought was one of the best I'd read. The dialogue really benefits from having the time to better tell the characters' stories, and so far the acting has risen to the occasion and added a depth to the personalities that illustrations just can't do. The show is beautifully shot, and doesn't shy away from grittiness. Shots of Atlanta overrun with adequately grisly zombies really delivers the news that life is now officially different for our characters. I really hope Darabont can continue delivering this kind of quality throughout the series. If he can, The Walking Dead will be a bona fide hit, and will certainly belong in the ranks of the best zombie fare ever made.


Great mix of old and new.
I'm surprised at the polarized opinions of Predators here on IMDb. From fans of the original movie (like me), I would have expected a degree of respect for this latest iteration; it seems to honor its predecessors while still offering new twists and depth. Without presenting spoilers, I would simply say that there were developments in Predators that present some exciting opportunities for future films. I also always appreciated Predator for its "gravitas", and Predators continues that somber and grim tradition with arguably better acting.

For new viewers, I don't see what more could have been expected. It's an old concept (The Most Dangerous Game, with hunted humans), but Predators does a good job with it. The acting is great, the lines are not successive groan-worthy quips, the cinematography is delicious, and the soundtrack is fantastic (segments of the original with new score!). Again, the overall plot isn't new, but at least it's not stupid. The characters behave in a realistic manner, and I wasn't plagued by the "why-didn't-they-just-do_____?" question for the entire movie.

Frankly, if you read a review from someone with a rating lower than five, they're just not being fair. Predators AT LEAST deserved to be watched and appreciated for what it offers.

The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli was getting some poor critical reviews, so I went to see it with pretty low expectations. They probably weren't quite low enough, because I still came away disappointed/disgusted with what I thought was a poorly constructed post-apocalyptic world, and a storyline that was fairly ridiculous. To avoid attaching spoilers, I will simply say that some plot developments are very difficult to accept, and for me, ruined whatever attempt at realism the movie was attempting to portray.

I think the cinematography is appropriate (lots of washed out, grainy scenes of bleakness), and sufficiently compelling to earn some points. The acting is solid, and for the most part, the dialogue isn't offensively bad.

Where the movie just completely runs off the rails for me is in the unlikely behaviour of virtually every character we are introduced to, including Eli himself. Nobody seems to respond realistically to any situation they find themselves in, and as such, I found it hard to buy into the notion that they would have actually survived more than a month in this post-apocalyptic world, let alone years. The intentionally ridiculous comedy "Zombieland" had more believable characters than this solemn tale.

It could have been so much more. 5/10


Enough to make old eyes feel young again
I'm not really that old, but I've seen quite a few movies in my day. After Lord of the Rings was completed, I wondered if I'd ever be truly excited by a motion picture again. Well, James Cameron has done it with Avatar. There are the obvious cinematic innovations to acknowledge: carefully used 3D, the new motion capture technology, etc. The film just simply LOOKS great. I found myself giggling with joy at the pure beauty of so many of the scenes of Pandora (the alien planet) and its fauna. Cameron's time deep sea diving has obviously fired his imagination for strange and wonderful creatures. There is solid acting (particularly Stephen Lang, as the Colonel, who somehow pulls off a gritty depiction of a now very clichéd role), and there wasn't a single line in the script that had me checking my brain at the door. (There are some recycled lines, to be sure, but I didn't find them distracting.) Score by Horner was subtle, yet still moving. Frankly, though, what worked more than anything for me was the overall storytelling. A number of my friends were disappointed with the "gone native" tale, that has been "done to death" through previous works like "Dances With Wolves" or "Last Samurai", but I didn't find it old at all. Rather, this is a fantastic re-imagining of the age old human tendency to colonize and obliterate other cultures and environments. Cameron is definitely spinning us a morality yarn, but it is one that cannot be spun enough times, and he does make every effort to make this iteration the most beautiful you will ever see. 10/10 p.s. Without any intentional hyperbole, I consider this to be the finest movie I've ever seen.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I thought the first Transformers movie was stupid, and it was only on a dare that I found myself watching the second. Every element that bothered me in the original movie (inane dialogue, ridiculous plot, infantile humour, and a pile of unlikeable characters) were amplified exponentially in Revenge of the Fallen. The Witlesswikies are back and more irritating than ever. Their behaviour is not that of a normal family dealing with a serious issue of national security, but rather escaped mental patients whose every utterance seems to be an attempt at humour. Megan Fox is an attractive girl. Too bad her character is written as a bi-polar sex doll. But maybe that's the kind of girl that would be attracted to a blithering idiot like Shia? I still don't get the robots, and why they do 75% of the things they do. I don't get how people can be in the Smithsonian one minute, and then crash out into a country airfield in the next. I don't get how humans can fall hundreds of feet and live. And I really don't get how Michael Bay keeps making money. It's sad.

Edison & Leo

Cute and bizarre
I just saw this little gem in our local independent theatre in Saskatoon, and I can now understand why the film wasn't rated. I'm not sure how one could actually categorize a claymation film that includes the odd beheading and other somewhat lurid or sexual moments. Edison and Leo is about a somewhat mad inventor who creates a great deal of trouble for his family when he allows his lust for scientific knowledge to overtake common decency or morality. It mixes dark humor with themes of love and loss, mysticism vs. science, good and evil, all portrayed by stop-motion clay characters that reminded me of the old Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Christmas special--rough around the edges, but disarmingly fun to watch. I don't know who I'd recommend this movie to. It's a bit bloody for kids (even though I found the violence comical, since it's clay), and the animation would be too 'primitive' for most Pixar-dazzled audiences, but if you enjoy off-beat, original fare, it won't be the worst thing you've ever seen.


Watchmen delivers
I can understand why Alan Moore wouldn't want his name attached to Zack Snyder's Watchmen. His original material is more nuanced, complex, and, well, just original, and probably can't ever be replicated in another medium as well. But man, if ever an effort was to be made, this version of Watchmen is as good as it's going to get. It doesn't pull punches, doesn't sugarcoat or shrink away from what Moore imagines, and while some details are left out, far more was left in than I expected. Kudos for everyone involved in this movie. I can't describe what a joy it is to see a movie that doesn't talk down to its audience, and isn't, unlike adaptations of fellow graphic artist Frank Miller's work, just about men behaving badly. Watchmen is a beautiful, thought-provoking piece of work, deserving of the name.

Snakes on a Plane

Every now and again, a movie comes along that helps destroy the credibility of the IMDb. "Snakes on a Plane" is the best example I've seen in quite some time of such a film. The fact that this stink bomb of a movie has a rating over 7 is a travesty of ranking movies.

I can appreciate "B" movies. I think "They Live" is a classic. I laughed my ass off at "Kung Pow". "Blood of Heroes" was/is a hoot. "Snakes on a Plane" is not a "B" movie. It is a "D" movie, which places it in a category that is not only bad, but bad enough that you can't even have fun making fun of it.

This movie needed a couple of characters that would've, say, enjoyed wrestling a snake or two. Maybe a nerdy snake geek on board the plane, who could've dispensed questionable information to humorous ends. And it would have been way more fun if one or two of the snakes had been given a bit of a personality, so we could at least have had a big showdown between Samuel L. and the "Snake King". This is the kind of goofy junk you need in a movie with a title like "Snakes on a Plane". Without it, you just have a boring waste of time.


Lady in the Water

Good Entertainment
Shyamalan continues to make interesting movies that are enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately, he is the victim of his own success, and it's hard not to compare "Lady" against his other, probably better, films. I personally don't think this picture has the suspense of "Sixth Sense", or the character depth of "Unbreakable" for example. (On the other hand, I found it more imaginative than "Signs" and more complex than "Village".)

Ultimately, "Lady in the Water" it is different, it is interesting, and I think well worth meandering through. I give it something between a 7 and an 8.

V for Vendetta

Why I still go to movies
In the post Lord of the Rings theatrescape, I honestly felt there wasn't much more the movies could do for me. Everything had been done, and done well. Where can you go after the Battle for Gondor?

Thankfully, V for Vendetta has reminded me that I can still be dazzled. And how.

First, the political message of this movie is so gritty, subversive, and radical, it makes me weep with joy to even be able to see it in a theatre. The vast majority of people will of course recoil in horror at the protagonist's methods, but those who put aside the usual knee-jerk aversion to property damage will appreciate the uncompromising commitment to freedom.

It can't be a coincidence that the co-production company of the movie is "Anarchos" (Greek for anarchy). One doesn't usually imagine a world without rulers, but after seeing William Hurt playing a dictator named "Sutler", you have to think that direct action against a government isn't so much a terrorist act as a civic responsibility. It's an important message, and I love that this movie went there.

Second, the cinematography is superb. Excellent mood, great camera work.

Third, Hugo Weaving does an amazing job acting through a mask. I hated the Guy Fawkes visage at the beginning, but with only a few lines of dialogue, Weaving makes him a likable character, and I still don't know how he does it. Natalie Portman simply blows me away. It is yet another indictment of George Lucas that this actress shines so brightly when she isn't forced to regurgitate wooden lines to a wooden man.

I can't say enough good about this movie. Even if you don't agree with the political message, it's entertaining and important to see.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Lucas not redeemed.
I recognize that it's hard for me to be objective with the prequel episodes of Star Wars--I grew up with Episodes 4, 5, and 6, and they are the bar at which the new movies are compared. I realize that this bias is not entirely fair, but it's the way it is. Sequels are held to a different standard, because they are built upon earlier work, and they have an obligation to that material.

With this in mind, I will quickly agree with most of the current reviews that Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels. It's darker, it has a more relevant story, and it actually evokes some real emotion, beyond the rush of hearing the opening score.

Unfortunately, I don't see the present IMDb rating of 8.2, nor the heaps of praise for George Lucas, supposedly redeemed of his earlier transgressions with the franchise. Revenge of the Sith is still hobbled by weak-ass dialogue, sub-par CGI, and questionable plot structure. It does have some great moments, but it is far from a great movie.

The way I see it, if you're going to spend three movies chronicling the downfall of a pivotal character, make the final transformation CONVINCING beyond a shadow of a doubt. I think this movie fails in that regard, with Lucas once again spending more time on chase scenes and secondary lightsabre duels than on actual drama and character development.

Revenge of the Sith is okay. It's better than Phantom Menace, it's better than Attack of the Clones, but it doesn't have the weight or depth of the first trilogy, and I don't think anyone should suggest it's in the same ball park. Just because the story is "bringing balance" to the trilogies it doesn't make it good--it just brings it closer to the original material.

Sin City

Great visuals, disturbing world.
Sin City is (like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) a visual achievement, and deserves credit for bringing realism to the graphic novel of the same name. It's hard to criticize a movie that does in spades what it sets out to do.

I will say, however, that if you're not a fan of graphic novels, and their predispositions for violence, sexual stereotyping, and grim looks at humanity, then you'd be better off skipping Sin City. With only a few exceptions, every character in the movie is a psychopath, complete with a killing and/or torture fetish and the expected lack of remorse. We are given "good" guys and "bad" guys, but they're hard to tell apart sometimes. And I don't think I've ever seen a movie in which 90% of the female characters are strippers or prostitutes. But of course, this is a depiction of a fictional city, in which there is a lot of sin. Hence the title.

This is an obvious generalization, but this movie will go over really well with guys who like violence and naked women. It will offend just about everyone else. There will be a few who will accept it as a well realized comic book fantasy, but they won't like the aftertaste. 6.5/10

Finding Neverland

Little gem
I didn't want to give this movie any kudos--it's one of those goody two-shoes, heart-rending family movies that come off as so saccharine you can hardly believe it's been made in the same era as Team America and Kill Bill. Yet here it is, and it is good, despite its being so unbelievably GOOD and NICE.

Depp is great, as usual, Winslet is great, as usual, and the rest of the cast (the Llewelyn Davies boys, in particular) are very good.

As with all the tellings of the Peter Pan mythology, this movie reminds us how important imagination and youthful enthusiasm is, not just for dealing with the pain of life, but for enjoying every day to its fullest. For doing that, it deserves kudos.


The Matrix Revolutions

It's next to impossible to improve upon the first Matrix film, so I won't pretend that Reloaded or Revolutions does so. Both movies do a great job expanding and resolving the Matrix universe, though, and I'm glad for the whole package.

Revolutions concludes a trilogy of great action movies made for intelligent people. It asks you to think, to question, to try and understand the world and our place in it. It also dazzles with furious action and emotion. I love the franchise for this superb blend of adrenaline and reflection.

As far as I'm concerned, the Matrix trilogy will stand with The Lord of the Rings as the best film series' ever made. With all due respect to hardcore Star Wars and Star Trek fans, I don't see how anything else can compare to the solid stories, emotion, gravity, and action that these films have brought us. I feel privileged to have seen them. 10/10

Kill Bill: Vol. 1

Stylish, mindless violence
To give Tarantino credit, Kill Bill Vol. 1, like his other movies, is a well crafted, stylish, and entertaining picture. Technically speaking, it is solid on virtually every level. Unfortunately, it is also a literal blood bath of fetishized violence on par with the goriest of horror movies.

Normally, I can handle seeing limbs chopped off, or geysers of blood streaming out of a decapitated torso, or a close up of a handgun blast to a head, but that's because usually there is some kind of meaningful reason attached to it. In other words, I accept some degree of violence to tell a story.

Sadly, Tarantino just seems to really like violence for its own sake, and Kill Bill appears to be just another vehicle for his desire to bring carnage to the screen. It's basically another iteration of "From Dusk til Dawn", which had a flimsy story constructed to justify a slaughter of humans and vampires. The notable difference is that instead of self-defense, the Kill Bill "protagonist" is motivated by pure revenge.

Perhaps if we knew what was going on, we could really get behind our "hero", and rationalize all the killing as good. But the film tells us nothing. We don't know why she is involved with her enemies, what she has done to earn their hatred, or what kind of person she is. Is she honorable? Is she a modern day samurai? Or is she just a psychopathic killer with a penchant for swords?

If you want blood, you'll love this movie. If you want some kind of context for violence, a good story about honor in battle, or something with any kind of meaning, don't waste your time. Check out "Ghost Dog" or "Gladiator" instead.

KB Vol. 1 gets a 5.5 from me.


Lower your expectations... considerably
Underworld is visually impressive: the dark brooding mood of Burton's "Batman", the detailed sets, and the very fetching Beckinsale make the movie appetizing to watch. Unfortunately, beyond the eye candy buffet, there is very little else to consider good about the flick.

Some specific disappointments: 1. Beckinsale's character Serene is a "death-dealer" vampire whose task is to hunt down and kill the Lycans (werewolves). After watching a few shooting scenes, I sincerely felt Serene would have lasted only a couple of days on the job. She can't hit a thing, despite spraying hundreds of rounds at large targets only a few metres away. It's hard to buy into a hero who can hit marble busts in the shooting range, but misses three large bodies in a small hallway.

2. The love story is weak at best, or maybe I'm inattentive. With a minimum of dialogue between the two, the relationship between Serene and Michael (Speedman) seems based on looks and looks alone, but apparently a strong and almost unshakable love bond has developed by the end of the movie. I don't mind surprise endings, but the depth of emotion here seemed an afterthought.

3. Shane Brolly (who plays Kraven) is pretty brutal. I'm sure he's a nice guy, so I don't want to diss him personally, but every scene he's in is a major distraction from the film. His sneering, spitting delivery is utterly unchanged throughout the movie, to the point where you wonder if he is capable of any other emotion beyond rage or disgust.

4. Goofy stuff that just seemed weird: Serene's idiotic driving everywhere and nowhere at breakneck speed (solely for product placement?), the Lycan's apparent refusal to actually use the deadly ammunition they've developed for the vampires, the inherent lack of logic of the war (why didn't the Lycans just kill all the vampires during the day?), and the avoidance of acknowledging that daylight is gone, etc.

Maybe I'm being petty, but with a movie that's taking itself this seriously, and with the amount of effort that obviously went into making it look good, I expect some consistency and development to the overall story, too. With a little consideration, it could have been a much, much better movie.

Perhaps the sequel will redeem this one. 5.5/10

Alien Visitor

thought provoking gem
It's no surprise that this movie never had any theatre play in my neck of the woods. No CGI, no explosions, no "action", just plenty of hard-hitting dialogue and a story about overcoming denial and making good decisions.

"Alien Visitor" is a simple tale about how a good natured fellow has his worldview transformed by a woman from another star system. Like most of us, he is aware of Earth's environmental and social problems, but refuses to take any personal responsibility for them, and does his best to ignore the issues altogether. "She" is disgusted by this "Earth mentality", and ruthlessly and repeatedly forces him to face the truth and his own complicity in the planet's destruction.

The movie is primarily a morality tale, and one that should be mandatory viewing in my opinion--the issues are too important to be ignored. But it is also an impressive look at other little concepts, like the stubborn human psyche, or how relationships mean more than anything else. It shows us how difficult it is to shift long-held viewpoints, even with irrefutable evidence, and how it is often love that helps us finally accept ideas that are otherwise too agonizing. Finally, it shows us that we do at least have the power to change ourselves for the better if me just make the effort.

For all this, and that fact that it's all done without a major budget, I give "Alien Visitor" an 8/10.

The Matrix Reloaded

Tough act followed
Thanks to the Brothers Wachowski. Where so many other franchises have been sold out and turned to crap (Star Wars, Batman), these guys have maintained a level of integrity and quality that keeps The Matrix: Reloaded in the same ballpark as the original, despite their having set the bar so high to begin with.

I agree with another reviewer that Reloaded lacks the mystery of the first movie, which is unfortunate and inevitable, but makes up for it with top-notch elements of what makes moviegoing so much fun: action, interesting characters, a good plot, intriguing dialogue/philosophical expression, and simply stunning cinematography. Even the "slow" sequences of the movie were worthy, by virtue of being beautiful art.

What impresses me so much about these movies is the seamless blend of breathtaking action sequences with what turns into a smorgasboard of different philosophical takes on the meaning of existence and what makes us human. The Matrix franchise is as shallow or deep as you want it to be, but what's refreshing is the fact that you're invited to ponder more than just Trinity's leather or Neo's trenchcoat and sunglasses. You're given the red pill/blue pill option to question your very presence on earth.

For the takers of the blue pill, Reloaded rocks on pure energy and style. As nothing but a sensory feast, this movie is fan-fugu-tastic.

For the takers of the red pill, there is said adrenaline rush, plus the added bonus of thoughtful and intelligent narrative that makes The Matrix: Reloaded more than just stunning fluff.

I give it a 9.5

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist

Great! (if you like Mystery Science Theatre)
A friend lent me a copy of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, so I'll acknowledge right off the bat that I didn't have to spend money on the film. Maybe that would partly explain why I liked it. (One has to be careful rating a movie like this with anything higher than a 5--credibility is on the line.) What's important here though is the fact I didn't regret spending time on this movie, in fact, I've watched it a couple of times now.

Kung Pow is Mystery Science Theatre taken to the next level. Instead of making fun of a bad movie from the outside, Steve Oedekerk digitally splices himself INTO a bad movie, and then makes fun of it, himself, and the entire Kung Fu genre by dubbing over every single line with his own voices and narrative. The dialogue is horrible, nonsensical, meandering and brutally dubbed, which, in this context, makes it maddeningly funny. You should be disgusted, but you can't help but laugh.

The comedy improv show "Who's Line is it Anyway?" has a skit where the comics improvise dialogue over a sketch of an old movie. The ridiculous stuff they come up with always makes me laugh (maybe I'm simple...). Kung Pow is an hour and a half of this kind of humor.

I'd rate this movie with something higher, because I think there's some kind of strange genius at work here, but there are some completely stupid scenes which are too much of a stretch even for me. 7/10

Eight Legged Freaks

not completely horrible
I normally wouldn't go out of my way to watch a movie that vilifies spiders by turning them into gigantic people killers. I like spiders. They're cool, and they eat a lot of other annoying insects.

But it was hot out, and I figured a matinee-priced flick would be worth the air conditioning. Since ELF was the only one playing in my time slot, I went in. Despite Ebert's glowing review, my expectations were low.

Lucky. Eight Legged Freaks is not a great movie, and it's barely good. However, there is enough campish self-awareness to make it fun (in the "Tremors" tradition) and the characters are pleasant enough. The story is exactly what you'd expect, and nothing is particularly surprising, although there are a couple of genuinely funny moments that you'll recognize when you see them.

If you want something light, and you can get it cheap, then ELF is okay. But don't expect anything but big spiders. 6/10

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

Return of the Lucas?
I was one of the many Star Wars purists who was disappointed by The Phantom Menace. For me, it was impossible to picture anyone deriving the same joy from it as I did from Star Wars: A New Hope, and that seemed like a sad thing. With such a great legend to work with, I really felt Lucas could have delivered something worthy of his fairy tale, and he simply missed the boat.

Attack of the Clones still has major flaws in my opinion, but has infinitely more "magic" in it than Phantom Menace. Lucas appears to be regaining some sort of handle on the franchise, and is getting a feel for what a good science fiction/fantasy movie needs. He has reduced the number of what I call "humanisms": "hip" phrases like "are you brain dead?", "that's gotta hurt", or "roger, roger", or elements like radio-voice announcers at a sports stadium, or a predominantly English-speaking alien world that has very Earthly accents, all of which you would only hear or see on Earth, instead of in a galaxy far, far away.

The story is also more adult oriented, so instead of child-like alliances between the humans and gungans on Naboo, and their playful little war with the droid army, we get a serious look at the political divisions and the social gravity of real, dirty, and ugly warfare. AOTC far more effectively hints at the pain, sacrifice and death that is to envelop the Republic in the years to come. So maybe Lucas is remembering that kids will still appreciate (and love) movies that don't necessarily talk down to them.

AOTC is not perfect though, by any stretch of the imagination.

The romance scenes between Anakin and Padme are BRUTAL, and I'm not saying that because I'd rather be seeing lightsabers. The "chemistry" is just not there, and it isn't helped by the dialogue that sounds like horrible horrible poetry. Anakin may be smitten, but I find it hard to believe a young Jedi would talk like a stereotypical Parisian artist.

There are still some "humanisms" scattered around. Obi Wan's underground connection is one of the most unimaginative stereotypes Lucas has come up with yet, and the liberal use of puns in C-3PO's "hilarious" comic relief scenes are scarcely better than James Bond or Schwarzenegger.

And I'm still irritated with Lucas' need to tie every single character together, and that continues in Episode II. When is C-3PO's hard drive going to be erased? Or is he just going to forget that he was created on Tatooine by Anakin Skywalker, and lived with Luke's family? I'm frankly surprised we haven't met Sam and Helen Solo and their brash son Han AND his pet wookie Chewie yet.

But I digress. I'm still giving AOTC an 7.5/10. It has bad points, but I've been unnecessarily focused on them. There is a lot of greatness to the movie, and those moments will be better left unmentioned. Onward to Episode III!


Army of One
Spiderman: The Movie was well worth the wait, and I'm glad Sam Raimi ended up getting the job instead of James Cameron.

This is one of those comic book adaptations that lives up to the original vision by respecting the fundamental elements and treating the material with integrity. At the same time, it isn't afraid to add a couple of new touches, which in this case, doesn't detract from the classic, and in fact, might improve it. (If only the Batman franchise had received this kind of care...)

The nuts and bolts:

Acting/casting: very good. Special effects: very good. Storytelling: very good. Cinematography: very good. Direction: very good

Specifically, Maguire is a super Peter Parker/Spiderman, and Cliff Robertson was a really effective Uncle Ben. (Honorable Mention to "Bonesaw") Everything looks good and moves well, which I think is a credit to Sam Raimi of "Army of Darkness" fame. To anyone considering him a "B grade" director, I say "Ha"! With "A Simple Plan" and "The Gift", "Spiderman" nicely rounds out his recent roster of quality moviemaking--"mainstream" but with flashes of creativity and originality.

Recommended. If you're a fan of the comics, then highly recommended. 8/10

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Absolutely wondrous!
I've been having problems describing this movie to people, either ending up at a complete loss for the proper words for such a beautiful piece of work, or babbling like a ten year old in 1977 who has just seen Star Wars for the first time. This movie is simply the most exquisite thing I've ever experienced (in a theatre). Period.

Everything about it is QUALITY. Story, acting, direction, cinematography, pacing, special effects, musical score, you name it, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship has brought it all together into one brilliant package. It is completely uncompromised, with even the few alterations to the original story done in such a way as to preserve the spirit of the legendary tale.

I had my concerns. I was worried that the movie was going to be Bruckheimered into being idiotic--with hobbits cracking wise as they battle orcs, or gratuitous ass shots of Arwen getting on her horse, or all the different races of elves, dwarves, wizards, etc. turned into ridiculous parodies. None of this came to fruition, thank Tom. Everything seems HONEST, and true to Tolkien's vision.

As for vision, this movie delivers--when it wasn't meeting my visual expectations, it was vastly exceeding them. Unlike so many adaptations that pale next the the book (and the reader's imagination), The Fellowship actually enriches the writing of Tolkien, and brings Middle Earth to life more vividly than my own mind could. That's an amazing thing for a movie to do.

Without the slightest hesitation, I rated this movie a 10. I waited until after a second viewing before committing to that (for a 10 is not a lightly given mark), and it remains more than worthy.

I won't say more. This movie must be seen to be believed, and especially to be appreciated.

Pootie Tang

Wah da tay!
If the idea of a character that combines the talents of Buckwheat, Austin Powers, and Shaft appeals to you, then you will find something to like about "Pootie Tang". Forget the fact that the movie is silly and extremely basic in plot, the story of this modern-day inner-city African-American untouchable super hero is funny, and on a elementary level, it even gets some socio-political digs in too. The movie is only 70 minutes long, but it manages to take shots at corporate America, some black stereotypes, and society's habit of unrestrained hero worship. I was tempted to label the movie "dumb", but given these little angles, it's obvious that there was some cleverness at work behind the scenes. And I laughed. Maybe I love absurdity more than the next person (hence my dissonant 7/10 rating), but I found most of this little gem to be hilarious. Pootie's dialect, his walk/strut, his bullet-dodging, his belt whipping fighting technique, all of it was so tongue-in-cheek funny that it's hard not to get a kick out of it. Here's a test if you're not sure about the flick: Picture a man promoting his new movie called "Sine Your Pitty on the Runny Kine". (What does that mean? Who knows? Who cares?) It stars Froggy, Dirty Dee, Biggy Shorty, Trucky, JB, Lacey, and... Robert Vaughn. If you don't find this at least mildly amusing, you probably won't like the movie, it's a simple as that. I hope you don't have to say the nay-no for this flick, because you'd be missing out on the tappy-tai in the sepatown?

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