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J R's Imaages & Ideas

Latest Movies

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Movies staring with: B

B

Babe *** is a good pig and a good film that does what it sets out to do, with simple story about determination and other schmaltsy, Hollywoodian stuff. 1996

Babe in the City*** was much more surreal than Babe, circus colors and actors. Fun story, goofy. Kinda a City of Lost Children for animals...

Babel***/ was episodic like Crash, tying together gradually, more about obstinate stupidity than simple miscommunication. The kind of stupidity that just happens and the kind that is culturally reinforced. Cops assume everyone, even the innocent victims of crime, are criminals and treat them that way. Pop gives kids a gun and doesn't teach them safety, so they go off and kill somebody without quite meaning to. Stupidity, ever its own reward, accumulates through this sometimes grisly movie. Interesting enough to watch, always something happening, and it seems important and like it's going somewhere, although finding meaning in it is absurd.

Badasssss*** is a fun romp through the making of Sweet Badasssss Badasssss Song, the first of what was later so-called BlackSploitation films. Before Shaft, etc. High adventure in film-making and financing.

A lot over the top in fictionalizing the factual story of a man retelling the story of his father's initial triumph in getting a truly revolutionary (which is why the Black Panthers promoted the film across the country) film made, despite (or maybe because of) that original film's extensive unsubtleties, which are reflected in this one.

Bad Company** is a stupid movie about intelligence — the spy kind. It's more a TV show gone wild than a movie anyway, despite star Anthony Hopkins, who didn't put much into this sad, flaccid mess with too much visual excitement that really doesn't make any sense. Chris Rock delivers lines as if they were jokes, but except to laugh at it, this glib glam action flick isn't funny. Ho the hum. 2003

I hated Bamboozled**** for at least the first full half. It was only the second Spike Lee flick I've missed on the big screen since I knew what a Spike Lee film was. It skewers racial prejudice in a much more bleeding edge fashion than Quils stuck the church and petty morals. Bamboozled does things I thought no movie could ever do. Shocking and yet funny along the way. Much laughter knitted into the hammest fisted message possible. But it's subtle and beautiful, too, in bursts. 2000

Some movies make me wish I had a scale of one to five asterisks instead of just one to four. I have graded some few movies with five, but it's not a regular thing. It doesn't make sense to suddenly start with 1-5 when I've been doing 1-4 all these years already. Not that this movie deserves five stars. No, it's forever stuck between three and, oh, four, I guess. It's a stupid movie with an especially unoriginal ending, but its stupidity all the way through is an endearing stupidity. I could not watch this thing end to end, and not because it's two hours long. I wanted the two leading bank robbers to just go ahead and murder their getaway driver / watcher, he's so stupid and causes so much trouble that could never have happened otherwise. But they're not that smart. Didn't find out till the Special Features that the really stupid guy was played by Jane Fonda's son — movie royalty, they called him. Which is also pretty stupid. But when it was finally over at least six separate sittings later, I liked it. Even the Special Features are really funny. The movie, crackpot as it is, is funny, also. Cracks me up. I got it because it had Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton and because Netflix rates it highly. They were right. Bandits***.

Most movies have too many words. Baraka**** (blessing) doesn't have any. By the guy who did Koyaanisqatsi, it's like that, only better. Lots of slowed down and sped up time-lapses of people, the earth and sky. The World Beat music is as innovative as the visuals, and together make the film technically amazing as well as beautiful. Meditational and joyous and whimsical — there's a long percussion sequence about half way that I could watch for hours (have been) — nice beat, I'm chair dancing to it. And the burning oil fields sequence is fabulous with its trange mix of intramentals music, flames, smoke and dark landscape. Toward the end it gets a tad tedious, but then I did the human, animal and vehicular traffic percussion scene again and again.

Baran***/ was lovely. A beautiful view of another country that, like this one, has many illegal immigrant workers who are treated badly by the government and almost humanely by business, which needs their inexpensive labor. Something of a love story, certainly a poignant story of character development. Grim during, muted joyous ending. Nice.

When I saw Baron Von Munchausen**/ eleven years ago on the big screen, I was utterly enchanted with what some have called the most expensive loser in film history. The DVD version missed several scenes and the sexier parts of others. It's vapid, empty and goofy in all the wrong ways. I still like the characters, with their peculiar "super" powers. And at times, BVM is visually wonderful. But mostly it's repetitive and tedious. _

Bastard Out of Carolina**/ was more adequate but unmemorable less than three days later. 2001

Batman Begins*** and Revenge of the Sith*** are the same movie with slightly different special effects and colors, but they have the same actors, plot, directors and, oh, whatever's left. In each, I couldn't stop myself from repeating the old Shakespeare line about “full of sound and fury but signifying nothing,” except I pronounced it 'furry' — as in fuzzy logic.

I expected an epic war movie in The Battle of Algiers****. What I got was a classic that explains better than anything I've read, seen or heard the nature of an indiginous independence movement in a country too long left under the thumb of an occupying colonial government. Applicable to Iraq and almost every other country the U.S. or any other imperial power ever occupied. Great story, not so great acting, longish. Can't help but pull for the underdogs.

I've been trying to locate Mesquite's Starplex Cinema 10 for weeks. Got totally lost last time, even though I had precise turning instructions from MapQuest on the Internet. So yesterday, I just called the theater and listened to their simple instructions, learned that it was a dollar theater and just had to go. What did I see there in the babysitting capital of the universe? One of the lamest excuses for a sci-fi movie in existence. Snotty old John Travolta in his biggest and most expensive mistake yet, Battlefield Earth*. Talk about predictable. Woof! And lame from the moment this thing first shined on the screen. Bad editing, atrocious story, stupid acting and idiot effects, but interesting in a laughing-at, not laughing-with sort of way. And yes, I'm glad I finally saw the bloody thing, so now I never have to again. 2000

Beautiful Girls *** is a human, humane, real-people drama about thirty-something guys who can't see the beautiful women in their lives for all the beautiful women in their minds. 1996

Beautiful Losers***/ is an art-umentary about a community of San Francisco artists who did what they wanted and needed, coalesced into a community, got famous, got even better, did amazing things, went places, made livings and, as far as we can tell, lived happily ever after. Amazing when that happens. Nice to see that it is possible.

The Beautiful Country***/ tells the long, arduous odyssey of a young Vietnamese man born of an American father finding his father in America. It's a beautiful film in many ways. Superb acting, script, cinematography. But it's also human beautiful albeit with elements of brutality and evil. It's a big movie about a tiny minority, but a fascinating and in the end, heart-warming.

Beavis & Butthead/ sucks 1996

Before The Rain**/ is an anti-war film, so of course it has to include hate and killing, hardly matters who, them and us, and they always lose. Pretty, absorbing, but ultimately, stupid. Like war.

Before Night Falls*** follows Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas quickly through his poverty ridden childhood, then slowly through his twenties. We see the writer's gay social life in great detail, even his typewriter, but no words, no phrases or lines, except a couple poems to show us this is a writer, without a hint of his genius. We just have to believe. Tawdry life made miserable by Castro's Cuba. He's gay. They hate gays. like our government hated gays back then. Eventually he emigrates to New York and dies. Then we get words. But still not nearly enough for the story of a writer. The whole of it is interesting and involving, but not really fascinating. There are, however, two (one rather bizarre) cameo appearances by Johnny Depp. Good acting throughout, good enough story. Sad.

I just kept getting angrier at Behind Enemy Lines**/ for its ineptness, over the top emotionality, stupid elements of the story (lots of them), obvious continuity errors. The story, except that it cops out with postscripts just before the credits to explain stuff, is adequate. The acting decent, the action exciting, some action sequences compelling, even visually interesting. But it's too often hamfisted and lame. 2002

Being John Malkovitch**** is as philosophically and morally complex as a sci-fi time traveling thriller. It's about love, identity, self and others, and the rest of the human condition. It's utterly hillarious in a dark, upbeat way. Like too few movies, it creates its own world and its players obviously belong there. Great acting, often against type from an all-star cast. 1999

Being Human *** follows Robin Williams through the ages, winning and losing ladies and at the end finding, at least for one golden moment, happiness and love. 1996

I was expecting a dogumentary, which I'd previsualized as in black & white. The color version actually flickering on the screen didn't entirely work, because it wasn't real. It was, however, funny. Sometimes hilarious, although much of what was supposed to be comical was just plain stupid.

Be Kind/ Rewind** was too stupid, boring and insipid to finish.

I read it in college, and like much I read there, I had not near enough comprehension what was happening. I remember the bravery and bravado, the songs and the monsters. Grendel and his arm, his terrible mother and maybe even the dragon. The makers of this story stayed unsubtle through most of it. Plenty battles and violence. At the end, they threw it back in, and of course, I missed it, even though I played it through twice at 1/8 speed. Just didn't recognize the guy without a costume. This many characters, hard to tell them apart. The main character, the animation, is not quite Pixar. Hair's still stiff, faces, too. Not subtle enough to be judged human. The receptors to reanimate the actors needed higher res. Hardly the best shortcut to vivification. All in all, though, a great story, and a good-enough movie. Beowulf***.

Beer for My Horses** was too stupid, boring and insipid to finish.

Annette Bening is pretty wonderful Being Julia***, but I'll have to pass on this insipid movie that's mostly a grand illusion built around one semi-spectacular put-down scene, wherein the object of Julia's derision is hardly worth the effort, and instead of showing her as a great lady able to give as well as get, just proves her insipidity. Stupid movie with lots of flash and glitz. Big disappointment to me, a major Bening fan.

Bend It Like Beckam***/ gets that last half asterisk, because it's a fun movie. It's got rhythm, you could actually dance to it. The characters are a little over the top, but fun, and often subtly funny, and the action is solid. Oh, the plot is a little goofy, though perhaps not all that out of the ballpark: children affraid to express their true desires 'cause Mom and Dad won't let them. Then the parents prove their hearts are gold after all and let the kids do what they really really want.

The only other gripe I have is that whatever bozo they got to do the subtitles is so racist in this movie about mixing cultures that they never translate anything said in Punjabi. As if anything said in that language is automatically not worth our time to understand. Very strange indeed.

Said bozo goes to the trouble to tell us somebody onscreen is whistling in rhythm (like we couldn't hear them doing that already), but never once translates anything in German or Punjabi. Otherwise, it's a fun flick, full to overbursting with color, and even the Special Features are kinda special, with a cooking episode and gobs of deleted scenes. 2002

 

Best In Show*** is about people who show dogs and their show dogs, and it's a hit and miss kind of movie, ultimately disappointing but often savagely funny. Lots of stupid inanites mixed in with deft, on-target human observation. Ho-hum cinematography, intriguing casting and too-long story. 2000

The Best Years of Our Lives***/, about guys coming back from the war, their expectations and the realities once they're back. Its luxurious black & white looked a little strange but never got in the way of telling a hopeful and human story. It's nearly three hours long, filled with actors acting, deep characterizations and amazing little moments, gestures and looks that shine true from 1946 and always. Drippy strings too often remind us when to smile or tear up, but all that is easily over-looked. Lotta famous actors, Fredrich March, Myrna Loy, a young Dana Andrews, but when I saw Hoagy Carmichael playing piano in a bar, I knew I was in just the right place.

Betrayed**/ was light weight thriller, more like made for TV than ready for prime time. Boring. '

The Bicycle Thief***/ is truly a classic, but that kind of ongoing hardship was difficult to watch. I kept puting it off, was glad when I finally finished it and didn't have to go back.

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Seeing The Big Chill**** again was like Old Home Week. Amazing film with memorable music that seemed to perfectly dictate the timing of scenes. Also memorable were excellent performances by an incredible ensemble of actors, all of whom went on to become stars. The theme is friendship and growing up. +

Big Fish***/ was novel-like in scope, fabulous fantasy, wonderful colorful characters, fun, funny, eloquent, elegant and what's that other word I already use way too much, oh, yeah, intriguing. A real hoot.

Biggles: Adventures in Time* was too stupid to continue watching, and I thought I could stand any time-travel flick. But I couldn't.

The Big Lewbowski** was stupid but enjoyable. 1998

Big Night ** is Art vs. Craft, slow, Italian style. Critics agree. Even I think it might be a good movie. But I was bored stiff. 1996

I knew Billy Elliot***/ was supposed to be an especially good movie. It's difficult to want to see less than stellar flicks, even this close to my all-time record (although I do want to see Charlie's Angels for some strange reasons having more to do with James Bond movies than intelligent cinnema).

BE is dense in colors as well as emotions. For an English flick, it's remarkably emotion filled — a real tear-jerker, sad but with the sterling ring of truth all through. Mom's dead, Dad's dead set against little Billy learning ballet, and his brother's out for blood. So Billy learns on the sly, taught secretly by the town's only dance teacher and the other end of the boxing gym. Wonderful performances by all concerned, as they all come to terms with what's right.

This is one of those perfect little films that come along rarely. It's beautifully filmed, superbly acted, and marvelously written. It advances the state of the art without special effects — although there's a blurred out sailboat in the background of one scene that's truly heartbreakingly beautiful and tense — and without any new techniques. It's just a wonderful, solid, movie story, told very well. 2000

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Production Value can all but be forgot in most DVDs. Even sappy heart smarmers like Eragon have remarkable high standards for the audio and visual portions of our programs. I (a bird photographer of some experience) had to notice that the people who put together Birds, Birds, Birds!: An Indoor Birdwatching Field Trip*** cared not a whit about focus in any of the video segments in this primarily audio program. Most of the still photographs were in focus, but barely. A pity with such colorful characters. It's always intriguing how different nationalities pronounce "universal" onomatopoetics, like "meow," which is strictly Estados Unitosian. In this presentation — it is not a movie — a woman gives American English verbalizations to bird songs, which luckily also occupy the soundtrack, though usually at less volume. Her voicings are traditional and how many of these birds came to be named, but they sound nothing like the bird noises presented, and I can't imagine remembering them. Of course, my audial memory sucks.

Oh, blast! I saw this one before. Had a couple inklings as we traveled down memory lane with the Nick Cage character remembering and talking out all the adventures he and Birdy***/ had growing up in Philly and visiting him every day in the Army loony bin, trying to bring him back from catatonic bird-dom, winding through life, eventually through both their deep psychologica Viet Nam traumas. Talk therapy.

I assumed Birth***/ with Nicole Kidman and some kid would be one of those personality swapping flicks where somebody comes back from the dead to relive their live only better this time or some such silly cliché with maybe nuances of time travel and first love, etc. And in some ways it was, but it was also spooky. The resolution flat out sucked, but the serious stupidity didn't come on till nearly the end. The rest was intelligent and had me questioning along with the star and everybody else. Morose, dark, noir.

Black and White***/ shined on age and class warfare in New York City. Tough hip hop flick with just enough luridly graphic miscegenational sex scenes.

Just before, we'd seen The Black Dahlia**. The first time for that one, but I'd seen many Black Dahlias before, and any of them were better than this. All style, lousy acting, stupid screenplay. A waste of time, but stylish.

Black Hawk Down*** was exciting but formulaic. Lots of killing. And lots of military stupidity.

'Sides being a really great title for a movie — or anything else, Black Snake Moan***/ is maybe just a little too full of itself. It's a strange little movie and a lot that's interesting and oddly out of place is going on in the telling. I saw it for the buzz and because Samuel Jackson and Christina Ricci are in it. That's before I knew about Justin Timberlake — like I say weird, off kilter, out of place, seeming wrong. All the way through what the cast and crew keeps calling "a parable," which it plainly is not — but it's close enough to tell its story oddly without being quirkish. Parts of it I still don't believe or accept as any order of reality, but it's big on visual concepts. A old Black man chaining a way-too-attractive young white and often nearly naked nymphomaniac to the radiator, then later singing The Blues to her, as the story catches up with the images. Imperfect, but it's got soul. The music's short and brief, but that and the plot will linger.

The logic of a photograph, or a collection of them, about a photograph collector, maybe the photograph collector and Robert Maplethorpe, an odd telling, documentary of a life in the arts and deaths in gay cancer. Such an odd movie, we understand photography through it, and collecting. Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Maplethorpe***/

I entirely missed Blade***/'s theatric run. The DVD of this comix thriller was replete with lore and special features and a particularly easy nav feel and look. Lots of violence, of course, periods of fast action, updating of ancient vampire lore, action, lore, action, lore, gobs of vicious violence, vampiric apocalypse, The Chosen One, more blood than anything, lots of crowning dark comic moments, and super superhero Wesley Snipes on being human. Buffer than Buffy. Despite all the logic, there's still much that makes no sense whatsoever.

Seeing Blade Runner**** again after so long is like going back someplace I left 25 years ago. Familiar but the details are different. This is the director's final cut. I put it on top of my list soon as I knew it was out. Piecing what I remember of the three versions, some differences are obvious. Most aren't. It's cleaner. The wet grit lives through it all. Stellar visual moments like shooting the female replicant through the glass windows, reflecting and refracting in and through is amazing. Many scenes are. Where once I would only have followed the action, this time my eyes dance around the frame, taking it all in again. I was never enamored of Rosebud, this is my best movie of all time, now only 11 years from now. Beautiful and plotfully perfect. At last.

After Blade Runner****, perhaps the greatest noir film of all time, the future turned bleak and rainy, and its reflections echo in movies still. Shadows and silhouettes, guady bright neon chiarescuro in the misty darkness, steam rising, goofy grotesqueries, looming last century architectural forms and subtle, moody, haunting music — all mix into the dense super real future past atmostphere. The story is world class; the characters achingly believable; the situation far-fetched but credible in this dank, translucing world. The love story is touching and human, even if the lovers aren't quite. Scintilating gothic horror sci-fi movie-lovers' movie. I've missed it.

Blair Witch Project***/ gets a little spooky from time to time — especially at the end. It looks amateurish almost all the way through, which is in keeping with the premise of documentarians doing a movie on the cheap, with 16mm and video shot by the cast and dialogue mostly made up as they went along. Other times, it's all the way to scary. I especially liked the little piles of rocks and the tree twistings, but overall, visually, the film was very different, fast-moving and has been a great topic of conversation — although nobody seems to agree what it was we saw there at the end. 1999

I hadn't read any of the hype for Blair Witch 2***. But it was pretty good and scary, while having plenty of fun being a sequel. I thought it was a lot more intelligent, funnier and scarier than the original. Still has lots of POV (point of view) video, plenty of techie interaction, lots of spookiness and great visuals. A fun romp.

Blast from the Past***/ was outstanding. With such a simple premise the makers did superbly. It's funny, cute, sweet, smart, genuine, pleasant, kind, gentle and genial. 1999

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Bless The Child***/ is truly creepy. Unlike The Cell, a few of the visuals in this dark drama are almost goofy, but the story is full of the deep-down willies. Sinister and mean, like Rosemary's Baby, only the kid here is only in jeopardy of being turned to the dark side, this noir thriller has mysterious angels, nuns praying and minor miracles aplenty, yet it's not sappy. Remember The Fallen? This is chilly scary like that was. This might be better. Maybe I should see it again, but... I like being creeped out by a movie, but I'm not eager to do this one again. 2000

Blind Light***/ is a visually poetic, lyrically interwoven plot parallel of 1) a documentary about a doctor who built a villa in Capri to capture the light — who was blinded by a degenerative eye disease caused by light, then wrote a popular autobiographical book; 2) a fictional story of a photographer played by Edie Falco who comes to see the light; 3) a personal travelogue remembering the filmmaker and her mother's trip to the villa; and 4) the reflexive story within a story within the movie of the making of this film — all combining high quality 35mm and Super 8 into a haunting and bright, moody and colorful film that nearly succeeds on all tracks of its ambitious goals. 2003

The Blind Side*** is a cute little weeper with heart, a decent story, nice good characters and a lot of smarm. Not sure how it came up with an Academy Award, but those politics are thicker than any in Memphis. The feel-good movie of the week.

Although cinnematography plays little part in Blind Spot***/, the action is spellbinding. Before us sits a robust elderly woman telling her story in German as we madly read her words in the yellow of subtitles.

The woman was a 13 year-old girl who won a typing contest in Germany. She liked her employer and she saw in him a very different person than the rest of Germany saw then and later the whole world.

Like many Germans of that time, she made no effort to discover what was really going on in the government led by her employer. This was her blind spot. Her employer was Adolph Hitler. And though the filming is almost tedious, the story is anything but.

 

I saw why this movie is so well remembered. Blood Simple***/ is complex, visually smart, unpredictable, with lots of telling visual details subtly flowed into the plot, fascinating as it unfolds. Gory and violent, very bloody, truly vicious and very well made. Noir as hell. 2000

The Blood Oranges*** is beautiful to look at and think about. Its fanatical use of flashbacks is easy to follow, the story — though abstract and somewhat surreal — is populated with finely honed characters. It's sensual but not always sensible, often erotic and remarkably well done. About a couple in a dreamlandian fantasy island living the open marriage concept to the hilt, but not everybody wishes to participate... 1999

Blood Work*** is a particularly good TV dtective show, predictable and familiar, but with good acting and strong characters. Fairly traditional Clint Eastwood fare. 2003

Blow**/ wasn't near quirky enough to have Johnny Depp, whose character only proved he was a terrible judge of character — his own and his friends. A cautionary moral tale without any real morals. 2001

Not sure how The Blue Planet: Tidal Seas/Coasts*** can be counted as a movie. It's just one-hour long, coincidentally the length of a BBC show, but it tells a story, there are a variety of characters interacting within it, and there's a definite plot. Eat and be eaten. I especially liked the three bits when birds enter the scene, but it's pleasant and educational.

Blue Chips ** is an ethical conundrum about the purity of college basketball 1996

Blue Murder** is yet another Brit detective series about a woman detective who's a single mother struggling with life, etc. BS. Except she's slow and doltish as a human being and as a detective, and I didn't care for her for either. A charm free zone.

I have trouble with turgid, psychological and emotional movies like Frozen River that I'm somewhere in the middle of, since it's all too easy to put those down, take them out of the player and replace them with something like Body of Lies***/ that I can sink my eyes and mind into and stay clenched, Gila monster style, till it's over, two hours later. I'll keep going back to Frozen River till I finish the damned thing, but give me a good spy movie with an involved plat, good acting, never quite sure who the good guy is and smatters of soul, or what passes for it in Hollyweird, and I feel like I've been movied. Nice. Tense. Smarter than the average bear.

Bogus *** Whoopie Goldberg and Gerard Depardieu raise a traumatized boy child. Kinda a guardian angel, only this time it's an invisible playmate with a cameo video nonappearance by Harvey, the ten-foot rabbit. Pleasant silliness. 1996

The Bone Collector*** has a few goofy moments of unsuspended disbelief - epecially when the femme fatal is onscreen, but it's a rousing good serial killer flick almost all the way through. 1999

Boogie Nights*** — Hard-edged story of the rise and fall of a porn family, up and down through sex, drugs and rock and roll. Depressing and unpleasant. Stupid ending. 1997

Post-Apocalyptic in the style of Mad Max — even a bunch of the same bad guys with about the same scripts, only everything's in Brown-A-Vision. Lot of violence, a plot that hovers near Christianity but never gets that close, with dozens of murders, rapes, a lot of bullets and some explosions that don't do anything, some characters, a Holy vision and there it is, The Book of Eli***.

The Boondock Saints*** are two Irish Americans who really get into retribution, like Charles Bronson did, killing bad guys vigilatante style, left, right and sideways. Rollicking fun if a bit overbearing and very violent.

Using apples, tulips, marijuana and potatoes as examples, The Botany of Desire*** uses the sometimes strained metaphor of understanding how plants adapt to our world and what that can do for and to us. It's pretty. Very well organized. Fascinating and has several important points.

Bottle Rocket*** is an oddly endearing flick about a clueless crew of nearly 20-something clowns clumsily playing robbers and grown-ups. Beautifully filmed in and around right here in Dallas, Texas and premiering the Wilson Brothers. 2003

Bounce*** sounded like a romantic comedy, but it was dark, oddly dank and hollywoodishly contrived. I've been watching a lot of DVDs lately, and there were many long minutes here I wished I could have fast-forwarded through. Mosly believable characters, decent acting, I guess, but — except for the Big Secret, which just so happens to carry the plot, it was totally predictable. A real human being would have told the secret. And then the movie could have made sense, plowed new ground, innovated, or something — anything. But it didn't. Instead of turning the story, it was the story, and it didn't have to be. And it shouldn't have been. 2000

Bound**** is erotic, violent, with a plot that twists and turns. Engrossing, intelligent, fast paced. 1996

What was, in the first reel, a taut, intelligent, deeply complex and involving thriller, suddenly turns sodden and stupid in the second. The plot thins, the soup turns great cinema into insipid TV spy game melodrama. It's as if the director and producers had this fabulous flow going all through the first cassette. But they knew they could never finish it up in the same style and grace. So they resorted to idiotic, backstage conversation that carefully explained what was happening, so they didn't have to tuck any more plot lines so neatly into the action, like they did snagging us into this, what could have been a, fabulous move. They just had to blow it. Or maybe they fired the writers half way through. Pity. The Bourne Identity***/ almost was great2002

I love spy movies, especially smart ones, and except for one short conversation during which one bad guy tells another bad guy a bunch of rapid-fire stuff they both already knew, explaining way too much for the movie, so audience members who haven't been paying attention can all catch up, The Bourne Supremacy***/ is amazing. Visually exciting from the first moment, plenty of fierce, up close and personal action, a great car chase, intelligent story, a real plot and nearly a dozen special features.

I watched The Bourne Ultimatum**** three, maybe four times before I finally sent it back. Kinda retreading the franchise's former greatness. Excellent chase scenes, adequate character development, I'm waiting for #4.

Bowfinger* had exactly eight laughs, which made it funnier than yester's flick, but only marginally. Interesting subtexts, but stupid, stupid, stupid. Steve Martin should be able to do better. I guess it's all relative. Compared to these bumps, Deep Blue Sea was genius-level and subtle. 1999

Bowling for Columbine***/ is clunky old Michael Moore being himself, intruding upon the good people of Colorado and Michigan and making us make the connections about why America is so damned violent. In case you're too dense to understand Mr. Moore's tale, it's fear we really should fear most, not the proliferation of guns, nor even racists like Charleton Heston and the NRA

Normally I hate Nazi films. When I was much younger, I loved Steve McQueen motorcycling over the barbed wire fence in some stalag, but not it gets to me. The Boy in the Striped Pajamamas*** snuck though my radar, and I watched it in one sitting. It's affecting and scary and strongly family without giving up its fierce moral. Good performances, ideal cinnema for the story.

Box of Moonlihgt***/ is a quirky little film with medium-sized ideas and a small cast. 1997

It'd been a long time since I last saw A Boy And His Dog****, but it's still pretty wonderful. In his commentary, the director actually acknowledges his mistakes, though there weren't many.

We saw Clive Owen and some precocious kid actors and of course a couple of love interests, one dying, then dead, but still very present in The Boys Are Back***/ between short lines of less-than-famous (I fit right in) movie reviewers at the Angelika last night. Interesting experience — as in the ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." Behind us, in seats marked with names we'd never heard of, were Mr. Wrinkles and the Bloated Sailor, whose innards gurgled and sporked loudly through the movie.

You'd think movie reviewers would know not to get crinkle-wrapped candy at a flick they're reviewing. The guy whose stomach was afire loudly flipped pages — I know he wrote at least five that I heard turned — during the film. Anna could hear him scribbling. Must be one of those reviewers who have to tell you every turn of the story. Like you need to know much more than I usually tell in my much shorter than this thesis of a movie experience review.

I assume the big-name reviewers got their own screening some time ago.

I remember those when I published Dallas NOTES from the Underground and Hooka in the early 70s, when we got ace treatment in the downtown movie row. Usually a dozen or dozen-and-a-half bigger-than-life, very recognizable reviewers squashed in comfy seats in a small viewing room — a fabulous way to see a movie. All present intelligent enough not to wrinkle candy wrappers or splorch out loud during the playing.

I assumed they were less-than reviewers in our theatre with us last night, because all their seats were on the outside aisle, but maybe that's so they could leave early before the movie was over, as they all did, to escape the crowd or offer pithy one-liners to the guys with clipboards just outside the theatre. We enjoyed that sport, also.

The movie's about loss and gain as the wild and nearly rule-less single-father family with one cute kid joins briefly, then, well you gotta see the movie, the other — whose acting smolders brilliantly — from the former wife. And the father and the kids and everybody else involved's journey for a couple important weeks in their transition. Well written, solid story, often humanly hilarious with exquisite trip scenes — transitional moments of great filmic beauty, only obviously we-knew-exactly-what-was-gonna-happen just once near the end, that proves the title and tells the story.

Nice flick. I'd like to rent it later on, hear all the dialog, back up for stuff I missed or was mumbled, without the added soundtracks from Mr. Wrinkle and The Splorch.

 

Boys Don't Cry**** is the high-tension yet visually beautiful story of a hate crime, based on a true story about a woman trying to pass as a guy and learning all the rules. Superbly acted, filmed and written, this outstanding film left all our muscles hurting when we left the theater. 1999

I like a good spy thriller and Breach***/, despite the title, is tense, fascinating and intriguingly complex. Worse, it's true. I remember when they caught Hanssen. I wondered how Hollywood would screw with the story. They didn't, much. It reads like the best fiction, strong in characters and story. Scary.

Bread and Tulips**** is quirky, romantic, gentle, delicious, lovely, heartening, kind hearted, smart, independent and European. A feel-good flick for adults. Very very nice. 2002

I stayed angry with the 'hero' of Breaking and Entering***/ nearly the whole movie, relenting only at the end, when I finally saw the points of this cinematic exercize and began to appreciate not so much what happened here, but how it was put together and what its lasting effect was. Looking back, it's quite a trip. Remarkable actors, superb story, involving characters.

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Breaking the Waves***** is the searing, erotic, heart- shredding story of love between a man and a naive but not entirely crazy young woman. Vicious story, rough, almost primitive cinematography. Not an easy-to-watch feel-good romantic flick, this is hard-hitting, dream-like and subtle all at the same time. It's about coincidence, love, pain, death — and belief. Emily Watson is the best actress I've ever watched — she shows more human reality in a twitch of the eye, a look or a grin than anyone, ever. This is not just a great story, it's a great movie. 1997

I caught Emily Watson's incredible performance is Breaking the Waves***** again. I was again astounded. Wonderfully unique story, superb characterizations and great acting. Emily Watson in this film is the best actress ever. 1998

  
All my adult movie-going life I've heard about Jean-Luc Godard's fabulous new-wave movie called Breathless*** and how amazing and new it was, and now I finally catch up with it just into the next century, and it's just this goof of a movie full of conflicted but very attractive people whom I don't really care about all that much about, but then again maybe I do, but really so what, all in a paper thin story starring a very young Jean Paul Belmondo and the luscious Ameican Jean Seberg. After a few early scenes, I didn't mind some flick crit talking as I watched the film flicker by, mixing its English and French and American subtitles, soundtrack, ambient noises and critical commentary all mellanging into one, big, full tilt boogie comedy, thanks to the miracles of DVD. 1960

Brian Wilson ***/ offers an intriguing update on this Beach Boy musical genius, but nearly ignores his vegetable phase 1996

At its center, it's a hard boiled detective story, very Dashiell Hammett. Smart, fast, the hero gets beat up a lot. But very intelligent. Remarkably so. The dialog is clipped. So much said in few words I had to watch the subtitles, done better than any movie I've seen. One of the special few flicks that follow their own rules well. Stays in the reality it sets up and strings out. I saw this movie twice. Will again. Every clue and extension works, makes sense. The continuity right on. By a first-time director with impressive new style. Brick***/ doesn't look like a detective novel, set in and around a high school in a small town. Everybody of any importance is a teen or just older. Like a Hammett, this is deeply clever. Funny in odd little moments. Astutely visual. Not for a moment dumbed down.

Bright Star*** is the romance — perhaps entirely ficticious — between poet John Keats and Fannie Brawne. Fans of Brit period pieces will enjoy the ambiance. I just never quite believed it, kept checking internet sites for the facts through it. Lilting, pleasant, keep wondering if I've learned anything aobut the real people portrayed.

The Brothers Grimm** is grim. Known for going over the top in flop after flop — with some wonderments thrown in over the years — I am a big fan — I even loved The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen, which I've read was the biggest flop ever produced. If so, I hope the film world can forgive Terry Gilliam this mesterpiece of stupid absurdities and collosal excesses.

Because I love his movies. Twelve Monkeys, The Fisher King, Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the wonderful Time Bandits are classics and I suppose I have to throw in all those imbecilic Monty Python movies, too. I mean, wow! This one has its moments, and I enjoyed it as one would the disaster it is, laughing at as well as with. My favorite moments are when the director himself speaks of this or that scene so affectionately, so committedly missing all the low points, so utterly sincere, speaking as if the movie were a great success. That's ironic.

Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm**/ is a truly awful, stupid and inept movie that is nonetheless entertaining. Taking every wrong direction, this film still manages to confuse and befuddle anyone who's ever heard a story from the real Brothers Grimm, whom should not be mistaken for these lunks. I've been on a jag of terrible movie choices lately, and this could be the worst.

Another flick I'd forgot I'd seen already is a heart-breaking story of learning on too many levels, set in an English boy's school. A much-despised teacher is retiring and moving on. Only one student appreciates him. The teacher's wife is cheating on him. He is a coward. Then things change. Albert Finney is fabulous, low-key, right on. The Browning Version***/.

Bubble** goes on and mercifully stops. The only real story happens near the end, though it builds up all through lot of character development. Then something happens and it ends. Apparently with some basic guidelines, the actors (if they are actors) put a lot of themselves and their own stories into the story. It's questionable if anybody directed it, but if somebody did, it was Steven Soderbergh. Obviously low-budget, low-quality, low interest.

I used to read his column in the L.A. Free Press in the 70s, then lost track. Bukowski: Born into This***/ is superb documentary without breaking new ground. I now have a much better idea who was Charles Bukowski, and I'm glad to know it.

Bullet**** was a pleasant surprise. Surprising that I'd missed a Steve McQueen movie at all, but even more surprising that it was so excellent.

I just checked. Of course. I missed it, because I was in Viet Nam when it came out. Something even more exciting than a shoot-em-up detective movie with great, realistic car chases. But I digress.

Bullet is clearly a late 60s Hollywood movie — up tempo jazz soundtrack, clear, sharp, technicolor color, those sixties kinds of detectives and politicians. But the music is still great, the colors still vivid, and the acting, too, all stand up well after 33 years — especially the advanced, intelligent plotting and finely crafted cinematography. But it's the car chases that made this movie famous.

Getting to watch race car driver Steve McQueen driving fast and humping the bumpies in hilly San Francisco is almost as much a treat as seeing his subtly put down arch villain / striving politician Robert Vaughan before that same role made a mockery of that now has-been's acting. From the high-tech titles to the film's over-hyped ( in the how it was shot documentary included on the DVD ), dedication to reality by using real doctors and nurses, everything in this film is first-rate. All-time great, and gritty. Fast-paced, intelligent throughout, and grand fun to watch. I wonder what other gems I missed that year.

 

This early morning, I've been taking my mind off of art by watching Penn & Teller's Bullsh*t!: Season 1: Disc 1***, which I'd have to rate high as entertainment, though somewhat lower as cinnema, which it's not, more like mediocre video. But with a point. The series has, so far, on this disk, poked big holes in the charlatans who claim to help the grieving by talking with their dead relatives and friends; with quacks and medical quackery (loved Teller herding ducks back and forth across the set); magnet therapy (something I thought I believed in, have several wanking magnets stuck to metal things around the house, and I remember trying to convince family members that they really work); and chiropractors (one of whom really did me some major serious right before lower back surgery many years ago (not sure who was the bigger quack — the doctor or the chiropractor).

Then, just after watching duped people raving about the benefits of having snails slime across their faces and having weights velcroed to a white chiro coat, it began to dawn on me that my own chosen profession has many aspects in serious harmony with all those other fakers, frauds and imposters.

Ta-daah! Art Critics. Do you believe in art critics? Until a few moments ago, I sure did. But knowing people who deeply and devoutly believe in reflexology and alien abductions, I feel honor bound to note the similarities in those of us who take art critics — any art critics — too much to heart.

I've recently become involved in

Oh, this started off as a movie review, then turned a left turn into art ideas...

 

Bullworth** was funny, but not as funny as I'd hoped, and the end is inept. Otherwise, the flick is deft, its truths ring solid, but its plot is a little confused. It wasn't bad; it just wasn't great. 1998

Bush's Brain*** is so vehemently hateful that I walked out, glad someone did the movie that shows the puppetmaster's hands. But this film is counterproductive in the real battle. With a title like this, I was expecting a comedy.

The Business of Strangers**/ is a surprising, strange little movie about two women who take back just a little in the war between the sexes. It's edgy and sharp without being terribly intelligent or deep. 2002
  

Butterfly***/ begins as a coming of age movie about two brothers and their family in Spain just before the Spanish Civil War, and it's a joy, with poignant moments and real friendship with the younger boy's teacher, then it's sad to watch the family turn against the Republicans to get along as the fascists take over. Good movie about decisions and moments that last and lying to protect themselves.

Just added two fairly dissimilar movies to the list, and I thought it might be fun to compare them. Butterflies***/ is a gentle, sweet movie about learning and friendship as well as a deeply ironic film about going along to get along, abruptly turning from one to the other near the end. X-Men*** is an extravagent comic book full of extravagent visual effects — some of which have no basis in either reality or story line — and bizarre mutants. Both are also about humanity, loyalty and deep friendship. Characters in each are effective and affecting. We don't want to see more of the deeply biased politics that inhabit Butterflies, but at the end of X-Men, we are hoping for a sequel. 2000

The Butterfly Effect** is a fatally flawed flick in the time-travel genre, wherein our mostly likeable hero repeatedly goes back in time trying to make things right but only succeeds is screwing them up worse, until the end when he goes back to the beginning.

Nice low-budget, low-tech time travel technique (reminiscent of 12 Monkeys but not as primitive); good enough acting; truly mediocre past-catching-up SFX, but solid Special Features on Chaos Theory and Other Time-Travel Flicks.

The major flaw of this glossy little film is the writer, director or whoever way too powerful's lust for extreme (though identically choreographed) violence and utterly clichéd psychobabble bad guys in an otherwise gentle, almost intelligent movie — and a much-too-talented drawing supposedly by a troubled 7-year-old near the beginning that made me want to throw in the towel before it even got going.

Us Time-Travel buffs, however, will like it. A little.

 

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