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China Blue

A brilliant undercover documentary
The crew for this film basically worked undercover in China for years to get this film. The Chinese government thought they were tourists. The factory manager thought it was a puff piece about his entrepreneurial brilliance, when instead the film was documenting the lives of the workers, one girl in particular. We saw this at the Full Frame Festival and had a chance to hear the director explain the hurdles they had to overcome including getting some equipment confiscated on one occasion. But they have managed to produce one of the most eye opening and educational films we have seen in years. Anyone who wears blue jeans should see this film. Anyone who has doubts about globalization should see the film. A masterwork.


A pretentious and stultifying waste of time
Gabrielle has fine actors, beautiful camera work and features a detailed look at upper crust French parlor society in the early 1900s. It is also one of the more boring and stifling pictures we've seen in a long time. Huppert is a great actress but she is wasted here. If the director was going to do a Conrad adaptation, the original story needed to be better converted for cinema because it just didn't work. There was incessant, drone-on talking which went nowhere. There was little or no character development. Overall the 90 minute movie felt like three and a half hours, for no payoff. The ending was just truncated and very unsatisfying.

The Proposition

a well orchestrated bloodbath
The casting was fine, the acting and directing were good. The plot was engorged with blood which splattered from one end of the film to the other. We really thought it was a bit over the top. Is it really necessary to display that kind of gore to produce a worthwhile film? Guy Pearce was excellent in his understated role. And the poet spouting brother was as good a homicidal maniac as we've seen in awhile. But the killing, maiming and bleeding got to be a bit much after awhile. Almost to the point of being camp. The Outback was well portrayed and the aborigines were handled with appropriate crudeness and the settlers were as grim a bunch as you'll find anywhere. Considering Australia began as a penal colony, I suppose there is some historical accuracy here. Not recommended for those who are offended by gratuitous bloodletting.

Lord of War

An intelligent action picture with a punch..
Nicholas Cage has made a mint playing action figure roles and this movie is no exception. Except it has a layer of intelligence beneath the surface that comes back to grab you toward the end. The casting, direction and acting are superb. The shots of a gun-running airliner crash landing on a remote highway somewhere in West Africa are spectacular. The visuals of this movie have an impact and it is not a hollow one. The plot takes some interesting twists and turns. Some sniff at the political aspects of the movie but it really is not about politics. It is about the realities of those who profit from war. As such, "Blessed are the Peacemakers" for they will not make money.

Hustle & Flow

It has a real script and plot- two thumbs up
The fact that this movie held the attention and empathy of a middle class white person throughout tells you it was very artistically done. The movie actually has character development even of street hookers and a pimp. You don't necessarily sympathize them them but you sure can empathize with people going through midlife re-considerations. The cast is great. Very realistic and heartfelt acting. The direction has a light touch but is very mature and sure. The music is great, especially the hook they record for one of the pimp's demo songs in the studio. The little white hooker is a bit of an enigma, which is as it should be. Overall this unlikely film is one of the year's best. It puts dumb big budget Hollywood flicks to shame with the quality of the script and the casting and acting. Plus it is just plain entertaining.

War of the Worlds

Just another monster movie from Spielberg
Spielberg mostly just does big old monster movies. That's what this one was. Cardboard characters from central casting. Lots of screaming and screeching by a little girl. Lots of hiding as the monsters sniff around trying to find the humans. Take Jurrasic Park and Jaws and put the monsters in big tripod machines and you've got Spielberg's vision of War of the Worlds. Tom Cruise was mediocre to bad. His character was unlikeable, even stupid. In the scene where he did not even know his daughter was allergic to peanut butter the movie fell off the credibility cliff. Who PROOFS these scripts? The cinematography was OK and the special effects were typical. We are way past the point where special effects can carry the movie. Now they are practically standard. Movies need to now return to dialogue, plot and character development. Oh.. and they need to be entertaining too. This one was not particularly strong in that department, either. Score it Five. Average. Very average.

Independent Lens: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Episode 22, Season 8

This movie is a must-see
The documentary "The Smartest Guys in the Room" is based on the excellent book by Bethany McClean and Peter Elkind. If you work for an American corporation, have ever owned stock in a corporation, or have mutual funds, you must see this movie. It gives a clear eyed view of what can happen in our society when greed really is considered good. The movie accomplishes what few in this genre have done: It is informative and also entertaining. Some of this is due to the behavior of Enron executives. For example, one frequented strip clubs every night and made his staff come along. Naturally that requires video of strippers. Some of the most damning video is from Enron execs themselves. They never dreamt they would be caught. Hubris gone wild. Go see this movie. Take friends with you. You will be glad you did. First rate film all around.

Why We Fight

A compelling overview of American militarism
The best film on the subject we've seen. Comprehensive, sweeping, factual; it covers many points of view but it is always the facts that rivet us and help us understand. "Why We Fight" clearly explains the reasons, starting with World War II right up to Iraq. The film features many luminaries, including the two US pilots who launched the first bomb strike on Baghdad, Senator John McCain, retired CIA experts, pentagon experts and ordinary citizens. The cinematography is first rate. The archival footage is rare and choice. The clips from Dwight D. Eisenhower are relevant and compelling. Highly recommended. Make sure you see this movie either in theaters or on DVD when it becomes available. It may still be playing on HBO. Worth going out of your way for this documentary.


Overall a disappointment..
For a movie about sex research this one is quite disappointing. It is clinical, stiff, and downright boring in places. If Kinsay lacked the personality and interest for a good plot, why make the movie? Just because you could make a movie about construction of a cement plant, why would you? Overall a movie to sit through not enjoy. No criticisms of the acting. Neeson and Linney are in good form, as is Skaarsgaard. But there is something lacking here. Basic dramatic elements for one thing. If Kinsey really was a robotic-like bug collector who switched over to sex research, there are perhaps not enough elements for a good flick.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

lots of tongue in a little cheek
A tongue in cheek send up of Jacques Cousteau, with perhaps too much tongue and not nearly cheeky enough. Entertaining though vapid. What saves this movie is the star power of Bill Murray and Anjelica Houston. If the movie had been done with virtual unknowns, it would have been a flop. The critics would have dissed it completely and box office would have been weak. And most movie houses would have closed it after a week. As it is, folks are still going to see this "odd Bill Murray movie". Bill's needs to kick it up a notch if he is going to keep em coming to the box office in this movie fan's book. Much of the movie is lame and just boring. It has its moments, but not nearly enough of them. There are quite a few chuckles but no laughs. Six stars.

Ying xiong

Rashomon like indeed..
A great movie. The director has once again distinguished himself with a work of cinematic art. Every scene is a tableau of composition and color. Exquisite. I personally could have done without so much of the fantasized swordplay, but overall, the picture is a masterpiece. Why are we not seeing movies of this calibre coming out of Hollywood. Most Hollywood pictures are trash compared to this level of work. I am trying to think of a Hollywood film that is at least comparable. Perhaps Gladiator. But there are very few that compare with the great cinema coming out of China and Japan now.

Highly recommended. Great emotion, nuance, battle scenes, audio, visuals and story line.


Philip K. Dick would like this movie
This movie has gotten a bad rap mostly from folks who just didn't get it. Of all the movies based on Philip K Dick stories, this one actually is most true to the plot line. And as a fan of Philip K Dick I give this movie a lot of credit for that. He visualizes a dark, grim future world at war with aliens and the fear and confusion that comes from the impostor accusations. The movie reflects that very well. They did add some material just to make it a full length feature flick, since the original literary work is a short story. Sinise is excellent, Stowe is pretty and sensual as usual and D'Onofrio is over the top , as usual. A good cast, good photography and an interesting set design. I give the movie high marks, and recommend it especially to any fans of Philip K Dick.

The Terminal

one of Hanks' more mediocre movies
Really a small movie that must have cost a bundle to make with all the sets and people and hauling equipment around to airports. But overall The Terminal is lacking. It is barely better than a made for tv movie only because of the presence of Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones. Some of the supporting actors do a good job, but overall the plot is predictible, trite and one feels the taste of saccharine creeping up about half way into the show. Spielberg wasted his time on this one. Not highly recommended. If you thought Sleepless in Seattle was charming and stimulating, you will find The Terminal to be a weak sort of maudlin example of the genre. There is one twist toward the end that makes the movie worthwhile, but overall the film is a major under achievement.

The Day After Tomorrow

a great popcorn movie
The special effects are worth it alone. The way it illustrates the possible effects of greenhouse gas pollution is quite adroit. Even the dimmest audience member can grasp the story. There are no boring sequences of formulas, or pedantic lectures. The story is action oriented but remains true to the basic science. There is a great deal we don't know about our own weather and climate history. Could there be a real "Day After Tomorrow"? The movie will make you think about it. Good acting, great special effects, and interesting cast. I thought the young brainy high school girl was a nice touch. Shows you can be brainy and attractive too. It was a little over the top on the political correctness meter. Especially ironic since the movie was produced by Fox, and features Fox television news often. Still, worthwhile as good entertainment or for those who like to think about global climate, a good discussion stimulator.

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

a bit disappointing
An interesting effort, but rather one dimensional. Basically it is an hour and a half interview with Robert McNamara with various video and audio weaved into various places. It would have been much more interesting to hear more voices balancing McNamara. They were certainly available. At any rate, this documentary seemed overrated. Some useful insights, but far from a major achievement. Some reviews said liberals and conservatives alike would find things to be enraged about, but we didn't find it interesting enough to be even a little angry, much less enraged. McNamara comes across as an equivocating dissembler. We've known this for many years. Not really a lot new in this movie.


pornography disguised as a crime comedy
Anyone who has doubts about seeing the Passion of Christ should preview this movie first. That will give you insight into the kind of thinking that produces such gratuitous violence, torture and pain on the big screen.

A disgusting movie. It's redeeming social value is it does give you a clear eyed look at Mel Gibson's proclivity for hate, revenge and blood. Not convinced? Look at how he turned The Patriot into basically a revenge movie. We would not recommend this movie to anyone, except for the reasons mentioned above. Braveheart was a bit different. The setting, history and story came a bit closer to justifying the violence in that picture.

Big Fish

a great new tall tale movie
This is a teriffic movie. Entertaining, quirky, sad, but above all it is a movie for folks who love to tell and listen to stories. It is a movie about tall tales and how they often manifest some version of truth. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys romance and humor with an edge. Tim Burton's best movie yet. Hope he stays on this track and makes more.

Miss Firecracker

rip roaring funny
A hilarious sendup of beauty contests, with a nice wry twist and laugh out loud southern humor. Wacky characters, well casted and good solid acting. Mary Steenburgen is wonderful and Holly Hunter is the best! You may not get if if you are not from the South and if you are "serious" about beauty pageants.

The Secret Lives of Dentists

Way too much puke...
Vomiting in a movie can be done with a certain panache..but you won't find it here. Five family members, all puking day after day.. puke flying everywhere. Turned my stomach about halfway through the movie and never quite got over it. Oh, the movie itself? Wasn't worth sitting through all that puke. I wouldn't recommend it, except for those folks who have lived through a cheating spouse and need something to remind them of how bad they feel.

Yadon ilaheyya

an exceptional, quirky movie
This movie is straight out of left field. It is not really a comedy nor is it a drama. It is a quirky meditation on the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli rule, seen from ground level. There is so much pro-Israel material in our media, that it is refreshing to see that Palestinians are human after all, and even possess a sense of humor and irony. Go see this movie if you like to be jarred out of your daily stupor.

The Quiet American

A Masterpiece
Everything about this movie is well done. The acting by all the principals is extraordinary. The moods, lighting and photography is great. The plot is right up there with the likes of the English Patient. A great, great movie. Best one I have seen so far this year. Be sure you go see it on the big screen.

25th Hour

One of Spike Lee's best..
Spike Lee is branching out. This is a fine movie about characters, but not about race, race relations or black folk. This is a movie about people. Great cast, tight plot, great character development. I would put this in Spike's top two or three films.. maybe right after Do the Right thing and Mo Better Blues.. Also a must-see if you are a NYC fan or frequent visitor...

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Nightmare material for the younger set... warning.
A fine fantasy/magick flick. But be under the age of 12 should not see this movie. It has major nightmare material, including attacks by hordes of giant spiders and a giant snake with giant teeth. For those 12 and older, a fine frolick through Harry Potter land. Kenneth Branagh particularly turns in an over the top role as the egomaniac wizard.


Lofty but it really drags...
Some memorable photography, an etherial quality to some forest scenes, and a strangely furnished space station. The film has its moments, but not only was it obviously low budget with no special effects to speak of, it really dragged. There is one scene that must last 5 minutes where they are basically driving through city traffic with no dialogue at all. We watched the whole thing, but had to work at it. A great example of cinema produced under the communist regime.

Blood Work

A fine stylish mystery movie
At this rate Clint Eastwood will be playing a nursing home patient in a wheel chair solving various murders when he turns 90. He just keeps evolving nicely to reflect his age in his roles. However the younger women he keeps getting are bordering on Woody Allen syndrome. A clever and interesting plot keep the moving rolling along. The two women supporting actresses are very good. The two cops thrown in for comic relief are like cartoon characters...not much of an addition. If you are an Eastwood fan, highly recommended.

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