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Heisei tanuki gassen ponpoko

an underrated masterpiece
I just had the opportunity to finally see "Pom Poko," thanks to Disney's stateside DVD release. Fortunately, the dub is fantastic -- any qualms about "confusing" Japanese folktales and such seem to have been taken care of with the quality translation. The voice actors (only one "name" actor, a very fine/unrecognizable Jonathan Taylor Thomas) acquit themselves quite nicely, and it might be one of the best dubs I've ever heard.

The infamous enlarged scrotums, I'm happy to report, are such a small part of the entire experience that the fact that it was so dwelled on by dozens upon dozens of people for years prior to domestic DVD release is saddening. At first, yes, when a "pouch" is magically (and humorously) transformed into a red rug, it's amusing and a bit shocking. But that feeling wears off almost instantly.

Even though they changed the references of "scrotum" to "pouch," I'm still surprised Disney had the balls (pun intended) to release it, given their standards for "family"-esque (safe and arguably predictable) entertainment. There are a couple glimpses of actual nudity (breasts) and some humans die in rather morbid ways. I'm not inferring that I wish they hadn't released it, for if they had not I would have never seen it. I'm just happy with their decision. For once, at least in recent times, I feel the need to thank Disney whole heartedly.

The film itself is such a pleasure. It moves briskly, contains *beautiful* images and is endlessly entertaining. A large part of it's success is due to the constant narration; as others have noted, it almost seems like an exquisite documentary at times.

The story is simple yet effective: humans are destroying a community of tanukis, and the tanukis do everything they can to help preserve their home in way of transformation. It's often funny and adorable, but what's somewhat unexpected is the amount you'll be moved by their struggle. The ending, criticized by some, almost moved me to tears. I won't explain what happens, but some wise things are said.

As you probably know, the tanukis are somewhat distractingly called "raccoons" in the dub. I'm willing to forgive Disney for this obvious error, though, as they resemble the latter to a pretty high degree. And I'm sure it made it easier on the translators for lip synchronization (two syllables).

Not so surprising: "Pom Poko" was the top box office smash in Japan the year it came out (and Japan's own submission for best foreign film Oscar). Regardless of the minor violence/nudity/inflated scrotums (ahem), this film will appeal to anyone with a heart and a brain. It's not some minor little piece about tanukis humorously fending off humans, even if it sometimes appears to be. It's a major statement about man vs. nature, and it's often beautiful and witty and intelligent, the sort of thing most non-animated films aspire to be.

I know this might sound rash and pretentious, but I watched two films tonight: "Laputa" (Japanese with subtitles) and "Pom Poko" (English dub). Oddly, I liked this film more. Here's hoping that master director Takahata's underrated treasure will win over more viewers, thanks to Disney's recent bare-bones DVD release and the eventual airing on Turner Classic Movies this January.


Good Altman
Having only seen two of his pictures previously, I've come to terms with Altman. Before, though, I always labeled his style of film-making "boring." You just have to be in the right mind to appreciate his crazy genius.

"HealtH" is fairly underrated, and very questionably out of print. In fact, I don't think it's ever even been issued to VHS. Why is that? When all of these crappy films get DVD releases daily, this one is left behind for no good reason? Honestly, I had no real problems with this film. It was, for the most part, consistently amusing and funny. Almost all of the scenes are mysteriously interesting for some reason, be it the wonderful dialogue or the subtle performances. There is real skill here.

And Paul Dooley's stint on the bottom of the pool halfway through is fascinating.

If you can, try to find a copy of this forgotten little gem. It's not perfect, but it's much better than most of the sludge out there getting DVD releases. Hell, I'd be happy with a nice VHS copy of this thing.

It's often on the Fox Movie Channel, though, so look out for it.

Honey, I Blew Up the Kid

give this dumb movie a break!
I expected some negative comments, but nearly every single one? C'mon, it's not that bad! It's really simple, stupid and (of course) illogical, but denying that there's no absurd comedic moments (the baby is kind of funny!) and no funny scenarios (the teenagers being stuck in the "toy car") seems bizarre to me.

I loved this film as a kid. There were specials on the Disney Channel when it finally (after what seemed like forever) premiered on there, and it was a rather neat experience for an eight year old.

In fact, I've watched this movie so many times as a kid that I've seen it a hell of a lot more than the unquestionably superior first movie. It was just one of those things.

Watching it now, I'll admit that the special effects can be rather cumbersome and the lines are almost always pure cheeseball (Rick Moranis' especially). Also, Keri Russell's work here is absolutely terrible; after watching a lot of "Felicity," I for some reason expected her to be at least near that quality. Not to mention the stupid "villian" who hits the baby with some projectile; very, very mock able.

But it's a nice little dumb movie! Who cares! It's certainly not "sequel hell," etc etc. It's entertaining at the very least.

Season of the Hunted

Truly hilarious "horror" film.

Here's a short synopsis: a bunch of hunting hick friends go on a hunting trip, but end up being hunted one by one themselves by cannibalistic hunters.

It's all really lame. The flashbacks to Vietnam are especially tasteless; they look like they were filmed in the director's backyard. The acting is often laughable (watch for when one of the hunting friends gets hit by an arrow; his facial expressions and the weird gurgle-sounds he conjures are absolutely hilarious). Half the time, it looks like it was shot through a paper towel tube. It's just awful in nearly every single way.

If you want a laugh, "Season of the Hunted" will provide you the opportunity. I found it in my local rental store, and I encourage you to look out for it.

The Year That Trembled

The Year That Never Ended
This movie was filmed in my hometown. Well, some of it was. During the filming, the town was in very high spirits -- a movie, on our streets! Hell, even I was happy, cynical as I may be. Jonathan Brandis? Yes, please.

About two months ago, I finally found a VHS copy at the local library. And I watched it. And it went on. And on. And on. And on.

The film has a semi-decent beginning, but the constant usage of "flashbacks" (which in this case are long, dreary segments of stock footage circa 1970) made me want to take a long nap. The acting isn't spectacular, but it's okay. Brandis in particular did pretty well.

The dialogue is very cheesy at times. The plot is somewhat hard to follow, with characters you simply don't care about and begin to hate halfway through for getting a movie to their boring selves.

It's sad when the only thing I got from it was "oh, look! That.. that street I played on when I was ten!" It's just an incredibly tedious experience. The settings are drab, the cinematography is boring, the story is sleep-inducing, the characters are .. uh, I don't know. I need another adjective.

Watch something else. Unless below mediocre boring stuff is your cup of tea.

Still Not Quite Human

the golden mediocre years of the Disney Channel
"Still Not Quite Human" is a film I haven't seen since I was... what? Eight? Seven? I forget. Anyway, it's been more than a decade since I've seen it, but I still have quite fond memories of it.

For the young, this film will be energetic, suspenseful, and funny. Not to mention charming. I have a very, VERY strong feeling that now, as a young adult, this film would just be incredibly awful. If I remember correctly, a lot of half baked plot clichés are thrown about, and the interaction between Alan and Underwood (whom I had a huge crush on as a young child) is probably cheesier than almost anything.

But I haven't seen it in awhile. I remember that it involves doubles/clones of the two characters and perhaps the government pursuing them. Alan Thicke's clone was slightly dim witted, and it was kind of funny. Heh, thinking about it now even makes me smile.

Anyway, there's a reason less than a hundred people voted for this film. It's probably not very good. But, alas, it was a great film for me as a kid. If you have a child with an open mind to movies, try to find a VHS copy of this film.

The Mike O'Malley Show

this was pretty bad...
NBC turned on the hype machine for this incredibly awful show early on. About six months beforehand, actually. The somewhat witty commercials would air all the time, and you'd get to see Mike O'Malley talking to various (real) oddballs and do mildly amusing things. A bit Tom Green-ish. So, yeah, I was pumped.

But then the show aired. I could not even comprehend what went wrong -- it was basically a sub par Drew Carey knockoff. A very, very bad sitcom with horrible production values, characters, clichéd-out-the-wazoo story lines, etc, etc. Pretty much unappealing in every respect.

I can't believe it's already been six years since it's incredibly brief-yet-deserved run. I guess it shows how profoundly disappointed I was at the time, as I remember the experience quite well (even if I don't want to).

The Office

I like this office.
The current state of the sitcom is awful. Canned laugh tracks, clichéd story line after clichéd story line. "The Office" isn't exactly 100% original (it's based not-so-loosely on a British show of the same name), and has thus been harshly criticized, but taken for what it is, it's so much better than what's out there. At least on American network television.

This show is actually funny. I like the atmosphere of the work place and Steve does a great job portraying a complete idiot who is also simultaneously lovable.

It reminds me a bit of the animated show "Home Movies," in which similar "awkward" situations and underplayed (to great effect) humor took place.

And since all of the episodes (the few there are) after the first are more or less original, why not just give it a chance and take it for what it is? In my opinion, we need more shows out there like this. I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't come back after the initial six episodes. After this and "Arrested Development," what's left?

The Graham Norton Effect

not that bad, actually.
What's with the intensely homophobic review from the person in Providence? I've seen this like four times, and each time it's been pretty damn funny (except for the last episode... that was so-so). Even though Graham Norton is gay, it doesn't make the show into some weird "gay" fest like the person says. It's just a really funny talk show that should be on every night. Obviously, if the person is gay, the entire show sucks? That's like accusing Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien of making their shows too straight (oh GOD! NOT THAT!) because they're straight. That review is reason to believe our society is regressing, not moving forward. Devo was right.

Ah. Yeah. Back to the show. Graham Norton is a pretty funny guy, and most of the skits are incredibly entertaining. The cell phone skits in which he leaves both a cell phone and a hidden camera in some odd place are always great. He'll call the cell phone when someone is near, and just... talk to them.

Sometimes, though, I get the sinking suspicion that at least a few of these skits are fake. Especially when he calls up someone and has one of the guests talk to them.

But a minor quip in a usually funny series. If it was on every weeknight around 11:00-ish, and on Fox or ABC or something like that, Jay Leno and David Letterman would have some serious competition.


Lacks a good screenplay. Looks nice, though.
Let's get straight to the point: "Toys" is one of the most visually amazing movies I've ever, ever seen. The movie itself, though, isn't really good.

There are some moments where you're overwhelmed by the cinematography and set design. The room that closes in on itself, for example -- just think about all the time that was put into that two minute scene! It's practically genius! And nearly every other shot is breathtaking. It's one fine piece of eye candy.

But that's all it really has going for it. Sure, it's kind of funny here, and kind of clever there. But then you have the completely over-extended "war" scene near the end that shouldn't even be in this film. It's boring, cheesy, and dumb. No point, at all.

If this movie had a much, much better screenplay, it could of been one the best movies released in 1992. There's some great ideas in here, and some wonderful cinematography, but that's about it.

Anger Management

In a word, embarrassing.
Sure, his other films were quite dumb, and even badly made -- but they made me laugh. That's the big difference here. This movie takes the standard Sandler formula, removes the possibility of any laughs, and even lessens the quality of direction/acting/screenwriting from previous efforts (admittedly, not that much) to an even smaller scale.

Anyone with an IQ above 30 should be convinced that this is a complete piece of crap by the time the wimpy, cliched finale (involving a proposal during a baseball game, nonetheless) appears on the screen. Does Sandler even read these scripts? How is it possible that this is the guy who did "Punch-Drunk Love"?

Want to hear me rant some more? Okay! Well, for one thing, the main character played by Adam Sandler is a one note, boring person. I could of cared a less about him. Sandler, aside from "Punch-Drunk Love," really needs to move on. It's the same character from his other films, but more quiet. And more boring.

Second -- the direction doesn't fit very well. When incredibly low expectations are not met, there's got to be some reason. Especially since this is the guy who did a fairly successful "Naked Gun" sequel and "Tommy Boy," which seems to be somewhat of a cult classic. Both of those films may have not been masterpieces in any way, but they sure were funny. Even if only occasionally.

Third -- the very, very ending. I'm not talking about the "surprise twist" (which is pretty lame as well), but just the scene where all of the characters are assembled and act stupid. You know, I love John Turturro, really ("Barton Fink" is one of my favorite movies of all time), but his character, and especially in this scene, running around screaming "Grenada!" and all that, just made me want to throw the TV across the room.

Forget embarrassing -- this movie is simply an insult to anyone with a brain.

I Love the '80s

Incredibly addicting
The combonation of the hilarious commentary by various familiar faces and the nostalgia the show brings back to you is near intoxicating. Yesterday, for example, I watched the entire 10 hour marathon. Addicting? It defines the word.

Everyone Says I Love You

beautiful, just beautiful
I absolutely love this movie. I actually, somewhat stupidly, got off the couch and hugged the television set after it was over. Every single thing in this movie feels absolutely right; right from the beginning. You know with the fountains? God. Beautiful. The fine actors and actresses sing, some having better voices than others. But that's the whole entire point -- we all want to sing, you know? Sometimes, just sometimes, we'd like to break out into song, probably because of an intensely happy moment we just experienced. And damn it, who cares about the quality of the voice when it's just about passion?

The family is so amazing, I wanted to live with them. I liked Woody's little subplot in Paris, very, very much. Shallow? Please. Look at some of your more romantic mainstream pap, like, um, "Runaway Bride," and then compare the two. Sure, it is lightweight, but it's still a little grounded, and it's all really refreshing.

Kind of funny that I'd mention "Runaway Bride," seeing how miss Julia is in both that and this. I hated that movie. It, for the lack of a better word, sucked. She seemed to lack something in that movie (or maybe the whole thing was lacking a good script?), I don't know. But here, she absolutely shines. She probably has the worst voice of them all, but, goddamn it, she means what she's singing.

The last scene (well, sort of last) is a amazing dance sequence between Woody Allen and Goldie Hawn. Now, you see, the movie has already provided so much damn charm, wit, and loveliness by this point, that it's almost unbearable. But then, my dear friends, this scene comes along. One of the most beautiful things I've seen in recent memory; Goldie just... floats. She glides. She does everything you've (or more like I've) always wanted to do at times -- just leap into the air and move, like there's no gravity. Really graceful. It's sort of brilliant.

**** / ****

Intolerable Cruelty

pretty good!
I didn't know what to expect from this movie as I purchased my ticket last night; critical reaction was all over the map. I often read reviews before seeing a movie, mainly Roger Ebert's and James Berardinelli's. For a good example, Roger gave this **1/2 out of **** and James gave it ***1/2 out of ****. Hmm.

I have an intense interest in all of the Coen films. Every movie they made has been generally amazing. Although "Intolerable Cruelty" isn't amazing, it certainly isn't a step down by any means.

They made a mainstream film, if you want to call it that. This, in my opinion, is the best way to make one. You can always tell it's the Coens behind the cameras, but the material and romantic overtones help reach out to a wider audience.

But even so, I have a strong feeling that most audiences still won't get the film completely. It's not a normal "How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days" kind of movie, that's for sure. Basically, the rabid Coen fans will probably be laughing their butts off while the ones not previously exposed to the greatness of their past work will mostly be silent.

George Clooney is just perfect. His facial expressions and timing are really good. Catherine Zeta-Jones is pretty hilarious, along with her female friends. Even Geoffrey Rush's teeny tiny little performance is superb.

I'll admit this isn't, by any stretch, a masterpiece. It doesn't even belong in the same category as such previous masterpieces like "Barton Fink" or "The Big Lebowski." But it sure is entertaining. And, generally, funny.

*** out of ****


it's not as bad as you may think
Having liked the director's foray into the music video world (his "Smack My B***h Up" clip by Prodigy is a complete classic), I was more than interested to pick this up from the video store and check it out.

First thing's first -- it was entertaining. Or, I guess I should say, I wasn't ever bored really. And call me crazy, but I never once thought about "Requiem" while watching it. The subject matter, the way it was made and how it looked has been the director's style for some time now; he pegged this frenetic pace-thing down a long time before this movie existed. So you have to realize that this is completely in tune with the director's sensibilities.

There's nothing terribly wrong with this film. Everything is pretty nice -- the okay cinematography, the stellar performances, etc. It just seems to lack a point. It doesn't really go anywhere.

And I don't see it as a good thing when I can't tell whether the film is glorifying drug use or condemning it. It looked like a crazy ride to me, but not necessarily one that was portrayed negatively.

**1/2 out of ****

Heavenly Creatures

one of the best films ever made
Every single aspect of this movie works -- it's completely and utterly flawless and worth it all the way. No words of mine will do justice, I'm sure of that.

It disappoints me that Jackson went on to make the muddled LOTR movies after his brief creative and hugely successful period -- began with "Bad Taste," ended with "The Frightners." This was undoubtedly the peak of that period, by far.

I'm not a big fan of the LOTR movies, but am hoping Jackson will someday soon return to territory such as this sometime soon. It's like this -- watching "Heavenly Creatures" or "Dead Alive" truly create a cinematic feel unlike no other -- completely original works they are, devoid of any cliches or commercialism. The LOTR movies might have some style, of course, but they are more exercises in money making products pumped out of the studio than pure artistic statements.

Here's to Peter Jackson. Because of his wonderful film career before the LOTR movies, he's one of the best directors out there. And this, "Heavenly Creatures," is one of the best films ever made thanks to him.

Kenan & Kel

Awful. Awful, awful, awful.
Well, of course, this is my opinion of the show having recently seen it on the worthless Teen Nick block. I used to love this show... I even loved the movie "Good Burger."

What in the bloody hell was I thinking?! This show has some of the worst acting I've ever seen. Kel's stupid/goofy/"aww, here it goes!" shtick gets old, reeeeeal fast. Kenan... well, Kenan is just a bad actor.

The staging of the scenes feels completely rushed, the direction is aimless and the humor is not surprisingly tepid. You've got to wonder... how did they ever rake in ratings for this garbage?

Salute Your Shorts

Holds up after all these years
"Salute Your Shorts" may not be the finest television program ever created, but it sure does rank pretty high when concerning Nickelodeon shows. Thanks to Nick GAS (a channel that also airs "Double Dare," "Finders Keepers," "Legends of the Hidden Temple," etc) I've been catching it once or twice every weekend this summer.

I wasn't expecting much, to tell you the truth. I was a young kid the last time I saw this show, and, of course, my tastes have since irreversibly changed.

I was quite surprised to find a very entertaining show. The cinematography and camera angles are actually compelling; the direction is sure-handed and solid. Although the acting can sometimes lean a bit toward the amateurish side at times, it kind of adds to the show's charm. Don't get me wrong -- there is some really good acting here, too.

One of the few old Nickelodeon shows to hold up so well, "Salute Your Shorts" is a lost classic that deserves far more credit than it gets.

Love Liza

A tad disappointing
If I want to be truthful about this film, I'd have to say it sort of disappointed me. Although I have this lingering feeling that watching it again will probably make me like it more.

It begins strongly. The cinematography and intended length of the beginning scenes really works up a tense atmosphere. And the center of the film, where the main character goes on a road trip to nowhere in particular, is pretty interesting. ...but nothing happens. Well, not really. I know of some films where nothing really happens and it works -- but not here. It gets a little too repetitious and boring. Near the end, it just gets annoying.

The acting is very strong (kudos to Phillip), the direction is pretty good and the cinematography isn't bad. Kind of weak story though.

**1/2 out of **** (5/10)

Sidewalks of New York

Woody Allen has never been better
I think I might be one of the few here who actually has nothing negative to say about this "Husbands & Wives" rip-off. (Actually, that's my only quip -- too much like Allen's "Husbands & Wives." Nonetheless, "Husbands & Wives" is a very good film, so whatever.)

The documentary approach worked on many levels; the acting was very good; the story wasn't bad, either -- so good that I held interest for the entire time.

A very fine film, I must say. Burns is the new Allen! Rejoice!


The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

not my kind of film, i guess?
Wow. This film is loved by nearly everyone on the face of this earth, and is, of course, high in the top 250 at imdb.com. I don't really get it, but I guess it's not my thing. Should be certainly true, especially when it's loved so feverishly much.

I don't know what to say; it didn't keep my interest really. There were some pretty well done moments, but there were moments (long, long moments) where I was either bored out of my mind or nitpicking the CGI.

Good thing is that there's nothing wrong with any of the CGI. It's nearly flawless. Sadly, it seemed like the whole damn movie was made out of CGI. I was noticing how much there was of it, and I realized nearly three quarters through that all I was really doing was seeing how the CGI worked into scenes. What a distraction. I know Jackson wanted the battle scenes to be filled with millions of people, but couldn't he used close up shots of real people (less, but still a lot)? It's definitely possible. Look at some battle scenes from movies made before 1997.

And the cinematography got down right muddled and uninteresting at points. Except for the rare nice shots, the whole movie seemed to be filmed with the same sweeping camera movements (over the battle scenes) and used the brown looking color scheme a bit too much.

The characters themselves aren't very interesting. Frodo gets downright annoying sometimes. I'm sorry to say I've never read any of the books, and I can only imagine what it did for the characters in them. They're probably wonderful, imaginative, compelling stories. If so, this film is ultimately generic.

All I'm saying is that it's not my cup of tea. Obviously, it's millions of others. That's cool though.

What would be even cooler is if I could show some of these hardcore fans Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures." I wonder how much they'd like "The Two Towers" then.


I don't know why, but I have some sort of attachment to this movie.

I've had this Robert Altman love/hate thing going on for a long time; his movies are so hard to catagorize. But when you see an Altman movie you know it's an Altman movie; the atmosphere he supplies for his movies is creepily effective and amazing. The camera always seems to be detached from that environment, so it seems really natural and kind of voyeristic.

I recently watched "Gosford Park" and was very disappointed. I don't know why; it just was extremely slow for me and boring. I was bored to tears.

But then we have a film like "The Player," which entertained me in a weird way. Same with "Popeye." Unlike other users, I think the musical numbers in "Popeye" were actually quite good. Especially "He Needs Me," sung by Shelly Duvall, recently fully realized in the movie Punch-Drunk Love.

This movie looks amazing, IMO. The town is completely alive, and like others have said, the movie is like a complete replica of a Popeye cartoon. Shelly Duvall and Willams are amazing.

Some things didn't seem so necessary, like the boxing match; but I thought it kind of fitted with the whole scheme of things. The ending is especially memorable... before I watched it recently it still really stuck out in my head from times when I watched when I was young kid.

Not too bad of a movie. I'd give it 6 out of 10 stars or ***/****.

The Ring

mixed review
I've been waiting to see this movie for a long, long time. Of course I never saw the original one, because of no distribution whatsoever in the United States. But even so, the trailer (which I viewed nonstop on the Internet) was ... breathtaking. It reassured me that a good and well made scary movie was finally going to come around.

It's definitely well made. The movie looks absolutely amazing. The music is perfect, really makes you feel like impending doom is about to be unleashed.

But the film did a horrible job in explaining the plot.. I had a talk with some of my friends after the movie, and it took us about an hour to fully get it.

Other bad things: the dialogue is pretty weak, and we have another cliched boy wonder (David Dorfman) who has big, big eyes and is in tradition of Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. He knows lots and people confide in his words. Ugh.

Nonetheless, the film works on some levels, mainly the ones I stated before. The video itself is pretty damn creepy, in grand tradition of the Nine Inch Nails "Closer" video (with chairs spinning really fast upside down and all, etc). And the cinematography gives it loads of atmosphere.

So if you're expecting a scary good time, by all means come and watch this film. But don't expect to know what the hell it all means until you have a couple brain cramps afterwards.

**1/2 out of ****

Barnes & Barnes: Fish Heads

hmm... very, very odd
Fish Heads / Fish Heads / Roly Poly Fish Heads / Fish Heads / Fish Heads / Eat Them Up, Yum

This now rare music video from the early eighties was indeed a big hit when music television (read: MTV) came into our lives with a vengence. It also was on Nickelodeon as well. It's just basically an incredibly out there, scary (in such an off-beat way), and incredibly funny short film about how you can take fish heads to the movies.

I just saw it on VH1 Classic, the best music video channel out there (showing classic videos from the 80's and before), and was immedietly filled with nostalgia and happiness. It's such a creepy funny little film!


a beautiful piece of cinema
A wild, driven, intense musical. It's picture perfect -- the cinematography, with it's brown tones and beautiful framing and timing, is just what was needed for this production.

The acting is outstanding. The story is outstanding. The music is absolutely, completely, mesmerizingly, amazing. It's nothing short of brilliant.

It may be a tad emotionally distant at certain times, but nothing could be more emotional as when Evita sings for the first time, "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." Words cannot express the way I felt as they showed her on a train, sticking out her arm and feeling the air, intercutting with her absolutely moving balcony scene. Nearly brings a tear to my eye...

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