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Timeline
(2003)

$80M on this Crype
In "Master and Commander" (also released 2003) the French were the bad guys and the English the good guys. Rating: 7.4/10. In "Timeline" the English are the bad guys and the French are the good guys. Rating: 5.7/10. Correlation? I don't know, I didn't like either movie, but at least "Master and Commander" was a better production.

I only watched "Timeline" because I like time travel movies; even the bad ones. This would qualify as a bad one. This time travel movie was different in that a company called International Technology Company (ITC) --I know, really creative-- discovered a wormhole that sent three-dimensional objects to 1357 Castlegard, France. That was never their intent. And it was doubly bad because this was a hotspot during the "100 Year War" (I missed that lesson in world history).

An archaeologist named E.A. Johnston (Billy Connolly) went back to 1357 and got stuck. ITC then sent seven, count them, seven people back to get him. Was he that important? No, the movie just required extra bodies for more drama: deaths, love interests, splitting up, etc. The seven people that went back for him were his son Chris (Paul Walker), female archaeologist (hence love interest) Kate (Frances O'Connor), male archaeologist Andre Marek (Gerard Butler), French translator Francois (Rossif Sutherland), ITC employee Gordon (Neal McDonough), and two nameless ex-Marines.

This blundering movie failed as a sci-fi, failed as a time travel movie, and failed as a romance. This made-for-TV-movie had SyFy Channel original written all over it, that's why I can't believe it had an $80,000,000 budget. They had very few rules for their temporal journey and one of the rules was not to bring any modern weapons. Well, nameless temporal traveller number one brought a grenade. He screwed up and blew up the "time machine." That was all that was needed to artificially create more drama.

Like any bad time travel movie, the time travelers created all kinds of waves in the timeline. This really should've been a comedy these "scientists" had such little regard for history. In the middle of this terrible adventure Kate and Chris predictably fall in love and the time travelers play a critical role in the Castelgard battle. I got a little over half way through the movie before bailing. There was nothing of interest for me to continue watching. This was another Hollywood big budget turd that they make just because they can.

Magic
(1978)

A Dummy Named Fats
Before "Dead Silence" there was another scary movie about a ventriloquist and his dummy: "Magic."

"Magic" is about a struggling magician who put together a killer act. After failing at card tricks Corky (Anthony Hopkins) incorporated a ventriloquial figure into his act and it became a hit. He was on the precipice of an NBC show until he refused to submit to a medical evaluation. He was so adamant about not having a medical exam that he flew the coop and went to a cabin in the woods (I know, I know, the ol' "cabin in the woods"). There he kindled the fires of romance with an old crush of his whom he never had the nerves to approach. It would seem that he found all he needed in Peg (Ann Margret), but it was clear that something wasn't right about him and/or the doll.

"Magic" is a solid movie that was probably a lot better in 1978. It keeps you guessing as to whether or not the dummy has a mind of its own. It's obvious that the dummy says things that Corky would not ordinarily say, but why is that is the question. I like the plot and the suspense. This type of psychological thriller has been done better after "Magic" and maybe that's why I didn't like it as much as if I'd seen it when it was released.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
(1976)

Jodie Foster Was Something Else
Jodie Foster was busy in 1976. She did "Freaky Friday," "Taxi Driver," and the topic of this review, "The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane." Having now watched all three of these, it's hard to believe she was only thirteen to fourteen-years-old when these movies were filmed-she was that talented and, in this case, that nude.

From the beginning of "The Little Girl" we know something was up with "the little girl's" father. She was evasive about her father's whereabouts to the town perv, Frank Hallet (Charlie Sheen), and to the property manager, Cora Hallet (Alexis Smith), but why is what we must know. It quickly becomes clear that Rynn Jacobs (Jodie Foster) was alone in her house and her father, who is oft-mentioned, was nowhere on the scene. Still, there wasn't the natural concern that one would have for an unaccompanied minor. It was like we all felt about Kevin when he was left "home alone," we wanted to see what would happen. Rynn is so resourceful, intelligent, and brave that parents or no parents we want to see her left to thrive unmolested, and it seems like that will never happen in the little town she lives in. Between the property manager, the perv, and the police, Rynn has plenty of busy bodies snooping around. But it's going to take more than a few local yokels to break her stride and upset her plans.

Open Water
(2003)

Nightmare Scenario, Not the Best Movie
Being stranded in the middle of the ocean with bloodthirsty sharks swimming about is the stuff of nightmares. It's hard to imagine a more desperate and scary scenario. If someone told me that it happened to him, I'd be hanging on every word. If someone put it onto film, like "Open Water," all of a sudden my interest plummets.

When Dan (Daniel Travis) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan) went scuba diving on vacation, they never imagined they'd be left by their tour boat to free float at sea, but that's what happened. Such an occurrence is frightful, but it didn't make for a good movie. Watching two people bob in the water for 50 minutes isn't fun, even with the jellyfish and the occasional shark. It's one of those things that makes a great story (if you survive to tell it), but as a feature film it's not so great.

Audrey Rose
(1977)

Had Potential to be Good
The premise of "Audrey Rose" was fascinating. The execution of the premise was less than desirable.

A man's daughter named Audrey Rose died in a fiery car accident in 1965 at the age of five. Eleven years later her father shows up in the lives of Bill and Janice Templeton (Marsha Mason and John Beck) claiming that his daughter was reincarnated as their eleven-year-old daughter Ivy (Susan Swift). It would have been easy to dismiss this man, Elliot Hoover (Anthony Hopkins) as a crackpot, except that he was insistent and Ivy would have these hellacious nightmares in which she was burning. His beliefs were further confirmed one evening when he was at their house and Ivy had an episode. She was only calmed down after Elliot called her Audrey Rose and assured her that her daddy was there with her.

I was positively fascinated except for two things, and they both were concerning Ivy. The first, is that she cried too much. I'd say half of her audible lines were screaming and crying. And it wasn't that she cried and was quickly consoled, no. She would scream and cry incessantly and it took what seemed like hours to console her. Sure, it was only seconds in real time, but in screen time it was too long. The second issue was the scene where Ivy was crawling towards the bonfire.

While Ivy was at school and all of the girls were dancing in a large circle around a bonfire, Ivy started slowly walking towards the fire with a glazed over look in her eyes. The only person to even see her do this was a nun in the building looking out of the window from the second floor. She was beating on the window like a mad woman trying to alert anyone to the fact that Ivy was about to barbecue herself. How is it that the girls right there with her couldn't see this bizarre and suicidal action, I don't know. It was like all of the girls with her and the nuns on yard duty couldn't see Ivy at all. She was finally rescued, but not before she burned herself pretty good.

The action itself only led to another question: if it was Audrey Rose inside of Ivy causing her to walk towards the flames, why would Audrey do that? Wouldn't she be deathly afraid of fire considering she died by fire? It didn't make sense.

"Audrey Rose" had the potential to be really good. It started well and as I said, the premise was excellent. Even the episodes with Ivy were beneficial if they weren't so annoying. Maybe if this movie gets reincarnated with another director it can be something worthwhile.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
(2003)

Pride Cometh Before the Victory
Who said pride cometh before the fall? In an incorrigible act of pride and cocksureness, an English captain defeated a French ship that was bigger, faster, and better armed. When a wiser man would've recognized his insufficiency in the face of the odds, Lucky Jack (Russell Crowe) saw an opportunity to etch his name in the annals of history.

I thought for sure this movie was going to be about the Captain Ahabs of the world who chase their Moby Dick until their own demise. When Lucky Jack and his English naval vessel was soundly beaten by a French frigate it seemed like the smartest thing to do was to go home to repair, reload, and regroup. They suffered heavy damage, a few casualties, and many injuries, and what more, they were up against a superior foe. But Lucky Jack said there would be no going home. Upon his orders they pursued the better ship though it could have meant certain death.

I guess I should've known that the English were the heroes in this movie and no way were some weak Frenchmen, even in a superior ship, going to defeat the English. So, then, what was the point of this naval movie except to show grimy men braving the sea and cannons blasting holes in wooden ships?

David will always slay Goliath.

Thank you, now give me my $150M budget and my inflated reviews.

The Fighting Temptations
(2003)

Underwhelming
Is there a returning-home movie out there that's good? If so, I've never seen it. I haven't seen many of that sort because they all have the same general message, but the couple that come to mind stink.

In "The Fighting Temptations," big shot and big liar Darrin Hill (Cuba Gooding Jr.) comes home for his Aunt Sally's funeral. He doesn't want to go back to Monte Carlo, Georgia, but what else better does he have to do after getting fired from his advertising job for falsifying his entire resume? It turns out that Darrin lies about everything. When he returns home, he finds that his aunt has requested in her will that he lead the church's gospel choir in the regional choir competition. If he does that, he'll get her shares of Georgia Telecom stock valued at $150,000. Naturally, he took the job.

The premise is lame and lacked any semblance of imagination or creativity. The unqualified-poser-making-it-work has been done thousands of times already. You know it was only a matter of time before they found out that he was a colossal liar and a fraud then he'd have to somehow redeem himself.

Wrapped up in this weak plot was an even weaker love story. Darrin had eyes on Lilly (Beyonce Knowles). He made his romantic move, he was rebuffed. He asked her to be in the choir, he was rebuffed again. It was clear she didn't like him, nor did she trust him, so, it was only right that they fall in love. The "romance" was sloppy, forced, and unromantic. And it didn't help that Beyonce can't act to save her life. Couple Cuba's overacting with her non-acting and it made for some awkward scenes.

The movie wrapped up with the predictable victory. The ragtag choir Darrin put together went on to win the choir competition. How? I don't know. I'm not a choir connoisseur, but their choir seemed average to me. Maybe it didn't help that I just watched "School of Rock" where Jack Black and the kids at the end killed it. They were original, talented, and fun to watch. Darrin's choir, The Fighting Temptations, sounded like any other choir. I was thoroughly underwhelmed.

"The Fighting Temptations" only had brief moments when it was funny thanks to Mike Epps. Besides those moments the movie fell flat.

The School of Rock
(2003)

Crushed It!
If you like rock and you like to rock, then this movie is for you. Guess what? I'm not a huge fan of rock and I loved this movie. I can probably name a dozen rock groups and a dozen songs, but I wouldn't be able to match the song to the group. So, I'll rephrase it: If you like rock or you DON'T like rock, then this movie is for you.

A so-so rocker named Dewey Finn (Jack Black) had just been kicked out of his band before the Battle of the Bands. In addition to that, his friend he's been mooching off of for years, Ned Schneebly (Mike White)--with the help of his ball-busting girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman)--has demanded that he pay rent or be evicted. Dewey wasn't about to get a job, but one fell in his lap . When the local private school, Horace Green Prep, called for his roommate Ned to substitute, Dewey sort of assumed Ned's identity and took the job.

Dewey's initial goal was to earn money, but he saw an opportunity to put a band together in place of the band he was unceremoniously kicked out of. Like a maestro, he assembled instrumentalists, vocalists, roadies, a costume designer, security, groupies, and a band manager. It was a stroke of brilliance how he found an adequate job for every student in his class. He went on to teach rock as well as rock out with his moldable little pupils for his duration as substitute in preparation for the Battle of the Bands.

"School of Rock" was all ups and no downs. It was adorable, inspiring, and awesome. Jack Black's energy was mesmerizing. He fell right into the role seamlessly. He was always positive, he related to the kids, and he was full of genuine complements. "School of Rock" just kept getting better and better as the movie progressed until it's epic ending. This movie is great for all ages. I can't praise it enough. Rock on.

House of 1000 Corpses
(2003)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2A
I wouldn't even say this movie is an acquired taste, because who'd want to acquire a taste for such depraved bloody violence? This movie is for a select few. Not that I'm averse to horrors, or gore, I just like for there to be a point, however small of a point.

"House of 1000 Corpses" is an unholy blend of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2," "Motel Hell," "Halloween" (it occurs on October 31st), and who knows what else. This movie went for raw shock value and nothing else. The gruesome get ups and gory killings were certainly more shocking than the "shock" ending (which was wholly expected).

Dreamcatcher
(2003)

I Forgot I'd Seen This
You ever watch a movie just by chance-- maybe you catch the beginning, maybe you don't--and the movie holds your attention, but later you forget all about it? Then some years pass and you see it again and you think, "This movie seems very familiar." That was "Dreamcatcher" for me. I didn't remember it being 5.5/10 bad, and it's not. Some might be saying right now, "Well how did you forget about it if it wasn't 5.5/10 bad?"

It happens.

This movie had Stephen King written all over it: flashbacks to a happier purer time, a group of boys who grew up friends in the New England area, and Stephen Kingesque dialog.

Henry (Thomas Jane), Beaver (Jason Lee), Jonesy (Damian Lewis), and Pete (Timothy Olyphant) all grew up friends and they all have a special ability. They all have a psychic link to one another, at least two can read minds, and a third, Pete, can find things. You know that these abilities have to be for a special purpose, but what?

The movie took a sharp turn in a different direction when the four friends went to a cabin in the woods and noticed people and animals behaving strangely. It turns out that there were aliens in them thar woods and they weren't nice like E.T. A black ops military team was abreast of the situation, but their commander, Col. Abraham Curtis (Morgan Freeman), was a little too gung ho.

"Dreamcatcher" was entertaining. I didn't know where the movie was going, but not in a negative way. As things were unfolding, I continued to be interested so I was more than willing to be patient as it played out. There were quite a few moving parts in this production and they fit neatly together at the end. For an alien film, this was pretty good.

The Little Things
(2021)

My First Movie of 2021
"The Little Things" is a rather subdued drama about an older man haunted by his demons of the past and a young man trying to solve a big case. The two of them cross paths at the L.A. County Sheriffs Department where they just may be able to help each other.

Denzel Washington plays Joe Deacon, a Bakersfield P.D. deputy who used to be an L.A. County homicide detective. He was sent to L.A. to pick up some evidence and found himself right in the middle of a murder investigation. The anonymous murderer preys upon young women. The case is being handled by a hotshot young detective named Jimmy Baxter (Rami Malek) who doesn't mind the help of an old veteran like Deacon.

The movie is more about obsession and letting something consume you. Deacon had been obsessed with a case and it drove him to a divorce and a heart attack. He would obsess over everything, the big and the little things. Baxter, now having a widely publicized case, was also beginning to get dragged in too deep with some help from Deacon.

This movie had some fine performances from all involved. The pacing was good for a murder mystery. I'm not quite sure what I was looking for from this movie, but I don't think I found it. This was decent for my first movie of 2021, though not quite my bag as Austin Powers would say.

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment
(1963)

Priceless Historical Footage
On a hot day in June there was a standoff between the governor of Alabama, arch-segregationist, rabid racist, George Wallace, and the POTUS, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. What about? The right for Vivian Malone and James Hood to enter the University of Alabama. They were already accepted by the university, but George Wallace saw it as his religious and public duty to physically bar them from entering. JFK had a decision to make: federalize the Alabama National Guard and risk crucial southern votes for his civil rights legislation, or back off and stall the inevitable just to keep southern support.

This one-hour documentary is real-time footage of the strategizing by JFK, his brother and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and others from the Kennedy administration. This footage is historical and priceless, especially with the knowledge of who was on the right side of history and who was on the wrong side. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing history being made and hearing JFK make a monumental speech about freedom and equality.

Deacons for Defense
(2003)

Real Application of Stand Your Ground
In the battle for civil rights in the south, it wasn't all about turning the other cheek and not defending yourself. SCLC, CORE, and SNCC garnered the most headlines due to such tactics, but there were a number of African Americans not willing to be human pinatas. The Deacons for Defense were one such group.

"Deacons for Defense" takes place in Bogalusa, LA in 1965. The biggest employer there was the Patterson Paper Plant. They employed Whites and Blacks, they were segregated, and Blacks couldn't rise above the lowest paying jobs. On the national scene Lyndon Baines Johnson was the president and he'd just signed the Civil Rights Act, yet its effect hadn't taken hold in many parts of the south. When a couple of northern white men, Michael Deane (Jonathan Silverman) and Charles Hillibrand (Adam Weiner), came to Bogalusa to reopen the national civil rights office they were met with mixed emotions. There were those who relished their presence and their mission, while there were those who dreaded it. Marcus (Forest Whitaker) was one who disdained their presence. But that all changed when his daughter was beaten for marching. He would go on to form the Deacons for Defense.

This movie does two things:

1. It shines a light on some lesser known, but instrumental people in the struggle for civil rights and

2. It presented the non-violent v. armed defense argument.

As a TV movie, "Deacons for Defense" lacks the budget and cinematic quality of a theater-released movie, but it still gets the point across. Mississippi and Alabama weren't the only southern states coming down hard on African Americans-- Louisiana had its dirt too--but in one small community they stood their ground.

I Am Somebody
(1970)

The Marginalized Strike Back
I love stumbling upon documentaries like this about little known resistances and fights that have happened where the marginalized strike back. In "I Am Somebody" it was literally a strike. The hospital workers in local 1199 of Charleston, South Carolina went on strike for fair wages. What was the fair wage they were requesting you ask? Well, they were getting paid $1.30 an hour. I know that the date of their strike was 1969 so we can't compare that to today's wages, but here's the more important thing: the Black hospital workers were getting paid less than their white counterparts.

The hospital workers got the attention of Ralph Abernathy and Coretta Scott King who came to lend a hand. It was peaceful and it was effective. This little documentary is a simple, yet noble, attempt to bring their strike to the attention of many more.

Old School
(2003)

Silly Fun
"Old School" is a nutty comedy about three friends starting a fraternity. It's a comedy in the same vein as "Animal House," "Porky's Revenge," or "Road Trip," which are about hormonal young males drinking, partying, and having sex, except the hormonal males in "Old School" aren't exactly young---which makes it all the more hilarious. By all rights, they shouldn't have a fraternity nor should they be in one. Beanie (Vince Vaughn) was married with two kids, Frank (Will Ferrell) was a newlywed, and Mitch (Luke Wilson) just got out of a committed relationship. They were all 30+ and their partying days should've been behind them. Yet they started a fraternity in Mitch's new home as a means of making sure that the house, that was near the college campus, remained committed to campus related activities.

Necessity is the mother of all inventions.

Their fraternity was unique in that it was a blend of students at the nearby college and adult non-students of varying ages. Blue (Patrick Cranshaw) was close to 90!!

The whole thing was a gas. This was just silly fun you couldn't help but laugh at.

Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property
(2003)

Short Truth
"Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property" is a brief, one-hour documentary about the historically significant Nat Turner. It is known that he led a brief and bloody slave revolt in 1831 in South Hampton County, Virginia. What we find out from this documentary, narrated by Alfre Woodard, is that there is extremely little historic fact about Nat Turner outside of his revolt. All the books, movies, and otherwise about him that exist are all interpretive pieces. The only existing source material is the "confession" from Nat Turner given to the lawyer who interviewed him after his capture in October of 1831. Those apocryphal words have since been twisted and turned, for better or worse, into various stories about Nat Turner to suit the storyteller.

"A Troublesome Property" consists of interviews from writers, historians, actors, and activists all giving their opinions about Nat Turner and the works that exist about Nat Turner. I think this documentary is fair in that it brings together disparate opinions about the man and his final actions. I wish there was more to tell, but I'd prefer a short truth than a long lie.

Tupac: Resurrection
(2003)

A Fuller Picture
Documentaries, more than scripted movies, have to be about a topic you're interested in and/or people you're interested in. As much as I love documentaries, if there was a documentary about cabinet making or Kim Kardashian, I'm not wasting my time (though I'd choose cabinet making over KK anyday). So, you'd have to have at least a passing interest in Tupac to watch "Tupac: Resurrection." As for me, I was in high school and fully immersed in hip-hop when Tupac was at his zenith, so I have more than a passing interest in Tupac.

"Resurrection" pulls the curtain back. More than simply going into place of origin, important people, and important events, it goes deeper into who Tupac was in his own words. And as much as he was a controversial figure with some unflattering tendencies, he was fairly conscious. Some of that consciousness showed in songs such as "Brenda's Got a Baby," "Dear Mama," and "Keep Your Head Up." And at the same time his baser side is displayed in too many of his other songs which only means he was a flawed human being like we all are.

Unless you're a super Pac fan or a Tupac historian, "Resurrection" will give you some new information about Tupac you never knew, it will clarify things you were misinformed about, and the rest will be a refresher and a means to hear Tupac once more.

Profoundly Normal
(2003)

Profoundly Touching
Of all the movies I've watched with leading characters with mentally diminished capacity, I've never seen one with a woman playing the leading role. "Nell" doesn't count because Nell (Jodie Foster) wasn't mentally slow though they made it seem like it. The fact is, she was raised completely isolated and had a mother who couldn't speak correctly, hence Nell was socially maladjusted and couldn't speak correctly. "Profoundly Normal" stars Kirstie Alley who played Donna Thornton, a woman who was legitimately mentally disabled.

This movie is a memoir of sorts that highlights her adult relationship with her husband Ricardo Thornton (Delroy Lindo). Ricardo may not have been mentally disabled at all, but he was labeled such and so it was. The two of them met at an institution called Forest Haven in Maryland. Forest Haven is just like what you'd imagine a big institution for the mentally handicapped would be in the 60's: big and soulless with a cruel and abusive staff. They sought to marry and live a normal life together even if those with the smarts and the degrees said otherwise.

This is a darling movie along the lines of "I Am Sam," but based upon real people. And I think that knowing "Profoundly Normal" is about two real people makes it more endearing, sentimental, and sympathetic. I've never seen Kirstie Alley in anything serious and I thought she had a marvelous performance in this movie. I expected nothing less from Delroy Lindo. He was as professional as always.

Chicago
(2002)

What a Show
I am not a fan of musicals, but I was all in on this one. This was funny, creative, and different. My image of musicals is a person spontaneously breaking out into song and just simply standing there singing with the spotlight on him/her. "Chicago" was not that. There would be no standing still and no illogically breaking out into song.

A woman named Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) wanted to get into the entertainment industry so bad she slept with her furniture salesman, Fred Casely (Dominic West), because he said he could introduce her to someone at the club. When he burst her bubble and told her the truth---he was only saying what he needed to say to get into her pants---she shot him dead. It was a glorious moment of "You're not getting away with this!" (even though she was cheating on her husband). Her aloof, oblivious, sucker of a husband, Amos (John C. Riley) was going to take the wrap for killing Fred when he didn't know that the dead man under the sheet was Fred, their furniture salesman. Once Amos put two and two together, or more accurately, once he was spoon fed the facts, he let Roxie go down for her crime.

Turns out that wasn't a bad move by Amos because women's prison in Chicago ain't so bad. Roxie only became the headliner she wanted to be anyway with the help of the matron, Mama Morton (Queen Latifah), and a savvy lawyer named Billy Flynn (Richard Gere).

I'm surprised that Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere made me laugh. I've never laughed at one of them before (not when I was supposed to anyway), but this movie was so well done it had me totally tuned in and guffawing all the way.

The Painted Bird
(2019)

If You Didn't Read the Book, Don't Watch
"The Painted Bird" was a disappointment. A long, largely silent, black & white, disappointment. If you have not read the book, don't watch the movie because you will be lost. The only reason I knew what was going on is because I read the book.

This is what you need to know: the book is devoid of any dialog and I think the movie tried to mimic that. But here's the problem: as the reader we knew exactly what was going on and why because the nameless boy is narrating the events. Even though there isn't dialog in which Person A speaks and Person B replies, the nameless boy tells the reader the gist of the conversations that occur---like the fact the villagers don't want him to count their teeth because they believe it will take years off of their life, or the fact they believe he will attract lightning and other omens. It's written like any memoir or biography; the writer simply narrates the events of his life. What that means is that a filmmaker will have to create dialog to convey what's going on, unless the movie is going to have a narrator.

"The Painted Bird" the movie, however, went the silent artistic route in effort to depict the nameless boy's life. So, a newcomer doesn't know what's going on. Who is this boy? How old is he? Why is he bouncing from place to place? Why do the people hate him so? Why did Lekh paint the bird? And so many unexplained events. You don't even find out that it's during WWII until over an hour into the movie and that's because you see an SS Nazi soldier.

"The Painted Bird" was going to be a difficult book to convert to movie in any case. It's extremely graphic and a lot of the graphic violence and sex involved the nameless boy as well as other children. There's no way to show some of the depraved situations he was in, but certainly the movie could've been clearer with dialog. Some events could've been capture in conversation without showing them if "The Painted Bird" the movie opted for conversation.

I stopped watching at the hour and a half point. I felt like I was watching a student film from a guy who was failing. The movie was totally impassive and devoid of any emotion. There was nothing to truly set the mood other than a mood of emptiness. The movie was hollow. It was a string of disconnected events that happen to involve the nameless boy. It jumped from scene to scene too quickly and it was too long, which only proves that the filmmaker isn't any good at adapting books to film. It was a long interpretive dance with no reference for interpretation and that's no good for a movie.

25th Hour
(2002)

Sell Drugs, Go to Jail
At times Spike Lee is so adept at making the mundane even more mundane. "25th Hour" is just such a movie.

The plot centers around a man going to prison. Big whoop! A young drug dealer named Monty (Edward Norton) was busted by the DEA and his options were to roll over on his supplier (which meant certain death) or go down for his crime. He chose the latter. But before he went off to his new home of metal, concrete, and twenty-four-hour supervision, he had to have a going-away party. We got to see his friends Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Frank (Barry Pepper), his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), his dad James (Brian Cox), his business partner Kostya (Tony Siragusa), and his boss Uncle Nikolai (Levani), yet we never got to see any drama. We didn't need fireworks with chase scenes, shootouts, and fighting, but at times I thought I wasn't watching "Seinfeld" if it were a drama. There was nothing going on, nothing of value being said, and no real conflict. The guy was going to prison for selling drugs. It happens. Deal with it.

Star Trek: Nemesis
(2002)

Rote
A part of me appreciates Hollywood making movies of popular shows for their fans. I never watched one episode of Star Trek: Next Generation, so I don't qualify as a fan, but I'll watch a movie. What I do know from watching several Star Trek movies are:

The knowns going into this movie were:

A.) The Enterprise would sustain heavy damage such that all aboard would get jostled around like clothes in a dryer and the Enterprise would have to limp through space to a repair station.

B.) Captain Picard would find an ingenious way to save everybody.

The unknowns were:

A.) The enemy (though the odds were the enemy would be Klingon)

B.) What the enemy wanted, and

C.) How the enemy would try to get it.

The Romulan Imperial Senate was wiped out in a single session, much like the royal family was in "King Ralph." That paved the way for a new "Prator" (sp), which is the Romulan version of a president. That position would be filled by a man named Shinzon (Tom Hardy) who we found out was a clone of Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart). His cabinet consisted of Reemans (sp), an unsightly race of bipedal creatures from Colarus III. Shinzon, like many Star Trek bad guys, had big big plans that included destroying Earth. To that end he had a super-radioactive substance known as Theloran (sp). Picard and crew would have to negotiate, diplomatically or hostilely, to protect Earth.

I can see this movie being a thrill for STNG fans while I was lukewarm on this movie at best. I guess it's just becoming old hat for me after seeing six installments of the original Star Trek and now four episodes of the Next Generation. Plus, the ending was telegraphed. Once they showed a duplicate Data (called B4) and the real Data went to the Romulan ship to save Picard, I knew he would be sacrificed. I don't even think die-hard Star Trek fans appreciated that ending. There have been sacrifices before: Mr. Spock in "Wrath of Khan" and Captain Kirk in "Generations", so it's not unprecedented... and that's the problem. It has lost its dramatic effect. Mr. Spock's sacrifice was epic, Captain Kirk's was necessary as a close of a chapter, Data's was rote. This movie wasn't enough for me to get off the Star Trek movie train, that would've happened after "The Voyage Home" if it were to happen at all.

Gangs of New York
(2002)

Violence and Hysteria is the Order of the Day
"Gangs of New York" tells a story about a dirty, depraved, violent history of New York around the time of the Civil War. In a most ironic display, "Native Americans" were fighting against foreigners and I don't recall seeing anything other than white people. I never knew Native Americans looked so pale. William "the Butcher" Cutting represented "native" born Americans---a racist, xenophobic, bigoted batch of low lives that hated all things foreign with a particular animus towards Irish. "Priest" Vallon (Liam Neeson) represented the Irish and their various gangs from The Five Points. When Priest fell at the knives of the Butcher right in front of his son, that effectively ended the native v. foreigner war. The Butcher let Priest's little boy go and assumed full control of The Five Points.

Sixteen years later, the boy, Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), was an adult and he hadn't forgot the vile man who killed his father. Amsterdam would go about a haphazard plan for revenge that slowly took shape based upon what his situation dictated.

"Gangs of New York" is a less than flattering historic portrayal of America in general and New York in particular. It was a hot stinking mess of the government, the people, the haves, the have-nots, and the various races, ethnicities, and nationalities that all made their home in the New World. It was hard to comprehend just what was to be understood except that people thrust together won't get along until many people are killed in a violent mob-fueled rage.

GONY succeeded in giving us someone to root for and someone to root against. Amsterdam was the obvious protagonist while The Butcher was the obvious antagonist (his name was The Butcher after all). Outside of seeing that score settled there wasn't much to like.

Solaris
(2002)

Claptrap
This plodding, boring, vacuous movie was so hollow. Visually, it was stunning. It's clear they spared no expense on the set, design, and effects, but all the beauty in the world can't replace a soul.

A psychiatrist named Chirs Kelvin (George Clooney) gets an emergency summons to a space station orbiting a planet called Solaris. He doesn't get any information other than he's perfectly suited to handle the situation on the space station. When he arrives he sees a blood trail leading to a laboratory. He also sees two dead bodies in a freezer being used as a temporary morgue. The only two people alive on this vessel are Gordon (Viola Davis), Snow (Jeremy Davies), and a boy. Snow is a spaz and Gordon won't offer up much information.

And that's as interesting as this movie would ever be.

Kelvin slept and had a dream of meeting his wife and them being intimate, then he woke up beside her. His wife Rheya (Natascha McElhone) was a manifestation of his dreams, kind of like the 1998 movie "Sphere," but less interesting and less suspenseful. What they did with this premise was just criminal. They dragged it into some philosophical mumbo jumbo about what's real or not, and what's dead or alive. "Solaris" just inched along relying on pretty people, a pretty set, and pretty music. Except that doesn't make a movie anymore than slapping random sounds together makes music.

Spellbound
(2002)

Encouraging
I've always had a peripheral interest in the National Spelling Bee. It wasn't on my calendar like the Super Bowl, but if it happened to be on I'd watch some of it, or I'd watch the highlights. "Spellbound" brings you closer than ever to the kids who make up the Scripp's Spelling Bee. They chose eight kids to document from eight different states and, you could say, eight different circumstances. What you find is that they were all very different and they didn't use a prescribed method for studying for the Spelling Bee. I think this is a wonderful documentary for children and adolescents to see. It's great to see kids from different backgrounds do well. It's very encouraging.

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