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J R's Images & Ideas

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Movies staring with:  C and D

C

Lyrical movies that only slowly make sense can be beautiful. The Caller***/ is like that. Takes some time to put the pieces together. Not that it's a great revelation. It's a different sort of murder mystery. We know who's doing it, and mostly why. The mysteries are more real than that, and it's a gentle movie for it. It's about friends and family and watching birds. Beautiful cinematography, lovely music, much of it Old Country accordion. Exquisite little movie with Elliot Gould and Frank Largella.

Capote***/ is a compelling short story that follows the weird little Great American Novelist through the final phase of his wiritng — Cold Blood. No late night talk show hijinks or Breakfast at Tiffany's, nearly nothing of growing up gay in The South, or of his later writings (though never a novel after this), but enough to get more than the gist of the man and the writer. Contempo Noir. 2005

Capturing The Friedmans***/ is an amazingly even-handed story, much of which is told in the Friendmans' own home videos, of a family torn apart by the father's pedophilia and the hysterical reaction of a upper middle class white neighborhood, its police, judicial system and the family itself. Two disks is too much.

About the pedophile who liked looking at pictures but who did not molest hundreds of young boys, who were subsequently grilled by overzealous police and prosecutors till they manufactured memories that defied all but mob sensibilities.

The father Friedman felt guilty enough to plead guilty to a greater crime in the mistaken belief it would help his son who was probably innocent. Both spent hard time, and the family's home movies, together with pro documentation, combine to a memorable montage of reality and unreality, where the truth is stranger and more indecipherable than fiction.

Carrington ***** is the sensual, moving story of a passionate yet assexual relationship between an artist and a writer. Outstanding acting, story, cinematography. Lots of sex and romance. One of the last year's best. My favorite quote in the movie is after some friends remind Carrington that her love object is a bugger. She replies, "You always have to put up with something." 1996

Turns out much of the sweet country gospel music I cherish was written and first performed by A.P. Carter and the Carter Family. I knew who he was and some of what he did. Now I know most of the story and have had opportunity to hear even more of the songs, sung by the originals. The Carter Family - Will the Circle be Unbroken*** was an episode of PBS's American Experience, and looks like it. Old stills and motion of pitiful poor white children in battered black & white interspersed throughout and all that panning and zooming of innocuous still shots. But their music suffuses the one-hour program, and that makes it all right.

Time-stopping movies and TV shows are almost as wonderful as time-traveling ones. Cashback***/ began as a sweet, short movie time-stopper, won some awards, added a life, some loves and a few characters, then grew into a full-length movie of the same name. Gentle, sexy (lots of full frontal female nudity; only hints of male parts) and sweet little movie about a guy who thought he could, and in movies that becomes the same as being able to, stop time.

Both Stage Beauty**/ and Cassanova** are unstuck in time. Not in the good way that Billy Pilgrim or the guy with the spotless mind were, but in the anachronistic manner of too many movies that cram contemporary ways of speaking and thinking into what appears to be set in the long-ago past. Appears. Both thickly apply period costumery and characterizations to mindless mixes of classic and postmodern motives. They are copies of copies of copies. If you've ever made a copy of a copy of a copy, you know the genuine tonalities get lost into a crusty morass. Neither of these comedies are funny, and both comprise pseudointellectual tripe.

I kept thinking about Sean Connery and Ursula Undress when I saw Casino Royale***, but this Bond is better. Not as frenetic, exciting or skilled and intelligent as Bourne and not as cinnematic, but not bad for the aging franchise.

Parts of Cast Away*** were difficult to watch. Not because of the subject matter, which was difficult enough in a strained, obsessive and naturally distressing way — plane crashing, people drowning, stuff exploding, him cutting, slashing, bleeding, dental pain, anguish, lonliness, etc. Many of the special effects — the airplane crash that put Tom Hanks in the ocean to wash ashore of the jungle island and the raft ride that took him off — were dark, blurry, out of focus and, well, painful to watch. The end is a cop out, it's way too long, and the hype is extraordinary.

Castle*** is Aussie Goofy, as we follow the tribulations and trials of a simple (!) family who doesn't want to sell their precious home to a huge, rich conglomerate. Characters are finely drawn. Story is almost believable. Strong plot. Fun fun flick. NS 1999

There's a great many things awfully familiar about Castle in the Sky, but they are the things that made me love the best of Japanese anime, so I liked Castle in the Sky***, too.

It'd been years since I last saw Catch-22****. I'd read Joseph Heller's novel in college. Three times. I thought of it often in Viet Nam. I think of it often now. It is as true a war novel/movie as there ever was. It is also hysterical in that word's many meanings. And surreal. And dripping with irony. Like real war. (I'm a Vietnam Vet, I know ironic war.)

Catch Me If You Can***/ is a hoot. High adventure without explosions, special effects or car chases, just solid acting and a great story. I remember reading about this guy running around fooling everybody in Life magazine aeons ago, and I still have to wonder why it took so long to get to the big screen. This Tom Hanks, Leo Whatsit and Steven Spielberg adventure is top notch enough, but there's no pushing of the envelope here, nothing lyrical or particularly superlative about it, just solid good.

The Cat's Meow*** is a period piece as interesting for its take on history, which we know all along is completely fictionalized, as its Charleston-era, 20s period. Christen Dunst makes it fly, but it's about William Randolph Hearst and Charlie Chaplin and the beginnings of the movies, of which several tedious examples are tacked into the Special Features. 2003

I watched most of The Cats of Mirikitani*** before I was sure I'd seen it before. Heart-warming story about an old curmudgeon angry with the United States (at least I could identify) who was in a Japanese Internment Camp during World War II, even though he was an American Citizen. He was always also an artist. It's interesting to see him progress in that during the movie, which has very little to do with the cats he paints. Very little.
 

Celebrity** wasn't exactly tedious, but close. In black & white, the Woody Allen character was Kenneth Brannah, who did okay, but Woody (who also wrote it) would have been better. Lotsa jabs, good one-liners, but over all, why bother? 1998

The Cell***/ ? is somewhere between The Silence of the Lambs and What Dreams May Come. Mind Games meets Brainstorm meets Lawnmower Man meets Bambi. It's easy to get carried away trying to compare this movie with the other mad scientists enter the minds / dreams / unconcsious flicks, because it is so derrivative, yet so original. Beautiful, fantastic, often scary, always surrealistic dream sequences. Lots of psycho babble detective work, parallel sequencing and bizarre effects. Eye candy and mind extrapolation. Great fun, violent, almost not sexy at all, makes sense in a twisted, sci-fi way. Mostly style, not that much content, but I want to see it again. Maybe I'll rent the DVD. 2000

I saw The Cell*** again on DVD, falling prey to the ads hyping all that interactivity and playable games — some of which is pure bunk — and all kinds of commentary, etc., which is at least half vast and fascinating. The interactivity on DVD players is barely inter and not at all active; the game's a hyped intro, not a playable demo, but I'll watch the movie several more times, no doubt, for the remarkable visuals. The game's only good on Windoze DVD-ROMs, sadly for this Mac guy.

The mind fantasy scenes are gorgeous and truly strange, yet meaningful. The story is quite good. But the acting — especially compared to Lolita and Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf, which my Cell viewing was unfortunately sandwiched between — truly sucks, is mediocre at best, vapid, unmemorable and tedious. The director obviously spent all his creativity indulging us with his notions of the inner mind. And none whatsoever on pulling decent performances from his window dressing actors. Too bad. But it is his first feature, and it's a memorable one, so I'll give him a couple more chances to learn about acting.

Meanwhile, I keep going back to see more 'about the movie' stuff on this replete DVD. I'm glad I bought it, and I expect to watch it many more times. +
  

Cellular*** is a less-than title for a tight little ball of energy in the guise of a fast-paced, tension taut movie about a kidnapping with William H Macy and some other people you'll probably recognize. Mr Macy's enough reason to see it. For its genre, it's a grand little flick, though it really doesn't push any boundaries in film-making. Fun. 2006

One of the most joyous things I ever do is watch people dancing, and last year, when it was in local theaters, I kept was gonna go see Center Stage**, but a good friend warned me off it. Wish I'd remembered that when I saw it at the video store and only remembered that I'd wanted to see it at one time. I didn't finish this eminently predictable dance pic. It was lame, stupid and insipid, but had so many extra features, deleted dance scenes, etc, it wasn't even funny. The movie, however, was so bad, I didn't bother with the plethora of extras. —

Central Station***/ is a heart-warming travelogue of a lady who set up shop in the Central Station writing letters for people (but not mailing them) and a homeless little boy, as she takes him across rural Brazil to his family. Great intro to rural Brazil. Nice character development. NS 1998

Visited Dallas' new Angelika theater — initial trouble with the sound during the preview, superb projection quality, sharp, in-focus images, but it was freezing in there — although a friend wearing long pants and a long shirt said it was perfect. But Chain Movie****, in which ten high school students were each given a video camera to record their lives for ten days, then those cameras were passed on to 10 more, etc..., was fine. Very grainy images, raw look and content, but amazingly on-target. Superb, very personal, often shocking, even more often hilarious, sometimes heartwarming and gentle flick. Amazing video shooting, angles, content.

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Most of the films I see every year are eminently forgettable, but The Chambermaid on the Titanic***/ stays in my mind. It's a is a sweet not-so-little, wistful French movie about blending truth into fiction. It's sensual, has some sex in it, and a lot of memorable fantasy. It's a love story on as many levels as its realities, a self-referential story about truth and fiction and how the two are confused in the name of entertainment and art. S 1998

Changeling** is the overwrought tragedy of losing a young son and the terribly corrupt Los Angeles Police Department smoothing it over with a big lie that finally comes to bite them in the butt. I wasn't thrilled with it, but it had its moments, and sometimes I almost believed what the film was trying to hand me. Almost.

Charlie's Angels*** was pretty much what I expected — and more memorable.

Charlie Chaplin Mutuals #1*** is the first of a series of collections of movies made by the famous comedian in the earliest days of film. I found them interesting, if hard to watch. Movies have progressed significantly since then, and humor has changed even more. Maybe an hour into the collection, I started to see the humor in it all, but it was much more an historical research project than a fun day at the movies for me.

In rapid succession lately, I saw Chaplin***, which I thought very entertaining, but it mostly made me want to see more actual Chaplin, which they included only the shortest snippets of. I found it engaging and nearly realistic.1992

Charlie Bartlett*** is a sweet little weeper with solid story, colorful characters, humanly funny dialog and actual plot progression without going overboard on the smarm. Funny and smart and not just for teens. Oh, Charlie is a natural born shrink who gets to practice his craft on a whole high school from the dumb guy all the way up to the principal.

I enjoyed Charlotte's Web*** when I saw it, but the more I think about it now, the less I appreciate it. I was raised on Poo, not spiders from farmland, so I didn't know the story, but it reminds me too much of those talking pig movies from a few years ago, and why are the birds (who weren't in E.B. White's book) portrayed as stupid when everybody knows crows are smart. Heart-smarming but less than the utterly wonderful I was expecting. Perhaps I should finally read the book.

Chasing Amy***/ — Despite not-quite-good-enough lighting and weak sound, which made it difficult to hear some of the dialogue, and a little overacting that goes over the edge, this B flick is right on about sex and relationships. Brutally funny. On target. Hetro guy falls for lesbian. Gets at the heart of why we do and don't link, hetero or not. 1997

Though not perfect, Charlie Wilson's War**** is smart and humanly and every other way funny, bittersweet and quintessentially American in all the best ways without sidestepping our stupidities — our own and our idiot government's. I can't help but think it did not achieve widespread popularity from some sort of plot. The characters are fascinating and, like the story, real. As in history. How one terribly imperfect guy ran the Russians out of Afghanistan. Setting the fire that burned them out of world domination. For awhile. How long, we'll see. Exciting, entertaining, beautiful and fun. Fabulous dialog.

Chicago***/ was pretty damned good, innovative, updating an American genre, the Musical, innovative filming and editing and, well, wow. I didn't think I'd still like listening to another musical.

It was difficult to believe the premise of Children of Man***, because I never understood why all those people were attacking our heroes and heroines. It still doesn't make any sense after I've seen the movie and all the Special Features. Turns out I would have had to read the newspapers on the wall in the kidnapping scene to learn it, and everything that happens is based on that missing knowledge, so it doesn't make any sense. The whole movie is a chase, but I rented it to see Julianne Moore, and she's only onscreen for fourteen minutes then gets killed off bloodily. Rolling Stone said it was the Bladerunner for the 21st Century. But it's not. The concept is intriguing; the execution uncredible; the low-budget future design has been done before and better; and the plot is missing major chunks.

I hated watching Chloe in the Afternoon**, didn't like either lead, didn't identify with them, didn't like looking at them. It seemed interesting at the setup, but it quickly slunk downhill. I discovered it's possible to doulbetime play a subtitled DVD and still read (fast) all the dialog, since nothing ever happened, it was easy to keep up.

Nice to know that it's still even possible, but seeing Close Encounters of the Third Kind**** thrilled me all over again. Maybe not as much as the first time I saw it in a theatre when it was brand new and it wasn't possible to Netflix it, but wow. Still gots its magic, and I'm still willing to let it.

Chinese Box**** is a beautiful, moody collage of images from Hong Kong's recent, historic transition from Brit democracy to Chinese communism. Jeremy Irons, as a writer/video-maker whose video-in-a-film scenes mesmerized Phil and me, is dying, variously in love and intently watching, hearing and seeing everything around him. The very viable plot is about transitions, friendship, love, character development, death — you know, the usual, deep movie themes. And it blew us both away. Of course, Irons is superb. Ruben Blades and everybody else in this movie are great, also. The director is amazing. I liked it so much, I want to see it again. Then I'll buy the letterbox version in six months. Wow. 1998

Oh, no wonder. Atom Egoyan. I hadn't known till the credits at the end. No wonder. Exquisite film. Very accessible. Luscious. Deeply sexy. Switchback curves of plot. Sumptuous cinematography and story. An erotic thriller. About Chloe****, of course, but more about the woman who did not trust her husband then became the unfaithful one. Not steamy but sexy and scary and intelligent and beautiful. About need and its fulfillment.

Chocolat**** is the quirkish tale of a subtle, truly Christian, secular humanist sorceress who uses the magic of chocolate and love to defeat a small town's exclusionary administrative and spiritual leaders and followers, uniting the disparate elements of village life caught up in a traditional standoffishness.

I would never have waited this long to see it, if I'd known it had Johnny Depp. This gentle charmer has wonderful characters, seedy bad guys, fine acting, lovely cinnematography, excellent dialog, a marvelous little story and superb scenes of community and chocolate-making magic. It's a lovely and loving, moral tale for adults and children.

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The Chronicles of Narnia*** follows three thoroughly despicable, incredulous and un-credible older children's and one cute little girl's rise to king-, queen- and prince-ships of a fantasy land accessible through an upstairs wardrobe in the house of the rich uncle they are sent away to live with during the London Blitz. The story is as dopey as the children and utterly predictable throughout, but has some nice moments, memorable critters — love the bickering beaver couple and brave and cowardly fauns. The kids in the theatre didn't talk during the film. Only the adults did. We enjoyed it thprougly and didn't utter a word.

We thought we wanted to watch two chronicles in one night — The Spiderwick Chronicles*** and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian*/. But that was a mistake. Spiderwick was not outstanding but it was decent enough and the fantasy almost real and the special effects plenty good enough, but Narnia II was dreadful with inane and insipid characters and filled with idiot battle scenes. Kids might like Spiderwick. It was pleasant enough after Narnia part two, but never quite all there.

Chronos * is another time-lapse flick from more guys "who did" Koyaanisqatsi, that claims to be "the only movie ever done in all time-lapse," but it's my second this week — as if technique alone could save this essentially souless, uninspired, vapid movie without humor or other emotion. Sleep-inducing New Age audio and tedious travel video with some of the exact same shots as Baraka but neither the charm nor intelligence. The very few intriguing sequences are rarely explored with any taste and almost never lead anywhere. Oh, and it's 40-minutes long, not an hour and 8 minutes, as claimed. 2004

Chumscrubber***/ hones in over the mountains from far left field, lands in the suburbs, and nobody much notices. It's about kids and parents who take and sell pills and are obviously and painfully unaware of all the realities building up around them, but can't let go of the details. You know — the real life of teens and their parents, only here, everybody's interesting, but the kids run this show. The parents are there for texture, and there's lots of it. There's a good kid, his mischievous little brother, a mean bully kid, the bully's stupid hanger on, the bully's girfriend and the little kid the bully accidentally kidnaps and to kill. All with amazingly famous adult and kid actors who mix it up for an hour and three-quarters, and we're left wondering what it was all about. That wondering is probably worth the trip. 2006

Chunking Express ****was a very pleasant surprise. Offbeat story, superb cinematography. Lots of slow & stop motion effects. Surreal story. A smallish winner. 1996

Cider House Rules***/ is a full, rich Americana story with great characters, fine actors, outstanding cinnematography, excellent acting and no attempt whatsoever to innovate in the medium. It's a novel with a full range of emotions and a good cry at the end. 2000

The Citizen Kane bonus disk* got carried away with didactical parallelism, but now I've just got to see that feature again. Rosebud my ass... 1941

City by the Sea*** would have been too good a good Movie of the Week, but not quite a great movie — good acting, a good Father and Son story with solid, albeit undistinguished cinematography. But none of those surprise us in any way, ever. Sorta involving, sorta exciting, sorta... 2003

City Island**/ is a seriously flawed move. It starts out with a colorful Prince of Tides home-town narrative about the island and its inhabitants, then that goes nowhere. It's quirky, but the quirk doesn't add to the story, it only detracts. It's about a disfunctional family that lies to each other every chance they get. Hardly new territory. And the Dad who's taking acting classes on the sly, but his wife assumes he's having an affair. Nothing new there, either. Nothing new, nothing fits, nothing goes together. It's still a smarmy little heart-tugger but most of what pulls us in are tricks, and it's not smart.

City of Angels*** was Holywood-spiritual, sweet, sorta-surreal and not quite superb but very visual, although now I have to go back and watch Wings of Desire again, which it's a copy of. 1998

City of God**** is viciously violent — filled with it. What it's all about. The blurb spoke of a young news photographer's eye, but I wasn't ready for all the murder and mayhem delivered at break-neck pace in powerful POV camera work and staccato, let's-back-up-and-tell each new character's story till we've told the whole movie. If you can stomach the brutish savagery and don't mind its stopping and backing up repeatedly, it's an amazing movie that tells the story of a crime-ridden Brazilian slum called City of God. If you can't take the barbarity, don't watch it, but its amazing cinnematography is as non-stop as the violence, drugs and inherent evil.

How'd I go ten years 'thout seeing Clerks**/? Some things are important to a guy's development. If I'd a seen it then, I wouldn't have had to now. I'd be beyond there. Rented two days, so no time for the other two disks. At least I finally know who Silent Bob is.

I've just watched The Clinton Years*** (a joint project of TV's NightLine and Firing Line) to learn more than I wanted about the failings of whom might Otherwise have been A Great President, and now I'm in the thick of The Trials of Henry Kissinger***, who was never really tried, but either he (or the raft of Presidents who employed him) should have been impeached for High Treason.

Closer*** is a dark look at supposed "falling" in and out of love, with Droolie Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen in an almost Who's Affraid of Virginia Wolfe kinda backstabbing, back retreating flip-flop of romantic and sexual interest that backfires constantly, but the characters never change course and of course, never learn from their mistakes and end up separating and starting again and again and again.

Coach Carter*** was another in a too-long line of “inspiring” sports teams go from under- to over-dogs under their wonderful coach, kinda movies.

The first three times I tried to watch Clockers***, I didn't get far into the movie. The Black, inner-city dialect threw me. The fourth and final time I started it up, the language made easy sense, although not much else did. I mean, most of the guys portrayed here were incredibly stupid. It's a morality play for Black people with some famous Black and White stars all playing over the top characters. Almost anything that stop Black people from killing themselves off is a good thing, but I don't think this Spike Lee movie's gonna do it.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs*** is better than it sounds. Odd, visually and verbally quirky while retaining an utterly standard and largely stupid "plot," this animation is often funny, even somewhere in the constant melange of visuals .

Code 46*** is a strange little movie. Low on sense and plot and story — and popularlity — I saw it on a Saturday night — with about a dozen people in the Inwood's big theater downstairs, but this stylish flick is thick with newish ways to film the future. Twice, extended scenes steal the show with hard to watch but exquisite trip scenes. The rest is pretty much a wash.

Coffee and Cigarettes**** was pretty wonderful. A long series of vignettes of some pretty famous people meeting for whatever reason over coffee and cigarettes. My favorite pairing was Tom Waitts and Iggy Pop, but there's not a dullard in the bunch, although some of the conversations, largely improvised, I assume, do drag seriously. But I don't care. This is a fun and funny flick.

Cold Comfort Farm **** had truly unique characters. Odd story. I actively didn't like it till halfway through, then I loved it. Brit humor. 1996

Cold Mountain***/ was a long book with many fascinating characters made into a movie with a lot fewer characters and not really much new.

I finally got to see The Color of Paradise***/, and I'm beginning to understand the buzz on that lusciously colorful film about a blind boy and a father who couldn't love him until it was too late.

Cold souls*** is among the tiny but growing fraction of movies belonging to the category of self-reflexive. Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are probably the most famous, although there are others — Adaptation, The Science of Sleep and the oddly brilliant claymation Mary and Max. This one is about a business that extracts, then stores your soul for you when it become unbearable. Like most enterprise, there's a dark side, this one in Russia, and therein lies the conflict. Basically this is Paul Giamatti as himself and what his soul is and does for who has it. Introspective, intelligent, darkly funny and thought-provoking.

Jamie Fox really can act, even beyond Ray. I naturally identified with Tom Cruise in Collateral***/ at first, then, gradually, the ident shifted as our bad boy got badder and Mr Fox got gooder. The cinematog is outstanding — this thing is beautiful to watch. Not that much new about it. The plot's not altogether different, but a little, enough to excite. A good movie, certainly. Fun to watch. Lotsa violence but not much blood.

Coma**/ starred Ms. Bujold again, but she wasn't nearly as luscious as in Ringers. I fast-forwarded through many over-long tension-building scenes in this creepy romp through a hospital reaping organs from floating comatose donor corpses.

The Cool School*** is another adequate documentary about the artists who made Los Angeles artists a force to be reckoned with, but I kept thinking I'd seen it before. I hadn't, but the story is familiar, about an art community growing up.

Company**** like any Robert Altman is fair dinkum, full of sweeping motion and personality of a modern dance company. This one's more visual, maybe more personal in his old age. Gorgeous film, great dance scenes, good enough a reason to see it, and again.

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Con Air*— Macho sweat. Stupid stupid stupid. 1997

Befitting the book it came from (which I never read but only heard about like everybody else), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind***/ is amazing for the utter surreality of itself. Obviously fun to make, serious as a double-murder-suicide, funny in the pathetic way life can be, strange and peppered with big-name actors and a rational, if bizarre, plot flow.

The Conformist***/ was sometimes beautiful. Hauntingly almost surrealist in look. The story, however, was depressing, almost sad, more for my dislike of the title character, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant superbly, than the story. I stayed angry with the story but relented for those marvelous visual scenes that only almost made up for the rest. Depressing. Amazing editing and story-telling, especially for 1970, but Bernardo Bertolucci was like that.

Conspiracy Theory***/— Scary violence, decent acting, complex story, excellent characters. Aces flick. 1997

I see darned few movies in theaters anymore. It is nice to see them that big when they're sharp (rarely), but audiences, even in swank theaters like the Magnolia are so stupid and loudly selfish, that I'd rather just time-shift a few months and watch in the privacy. Still, I wish I'd seen The Constant Gardener**** on the big screen early in its run — before the films got scratched. I saw it last night on DVD, and I'm keeping it to watch more.

Deep conspiracy among big pharmaceuticals and the government (the other terrorists), which shouldn't be but is the same thing too often. And dispensable Third-World peoples. Solid plot, superb acting, marvelous story, gorgeously and innovatively filmed. Kept reminding me, not in story or execution but in poetic progression, like The English Patient. It has that scope and power and great beauty.
 

Contact****— Intelligent hardware sci-fi with moments of gentle spirituality. Human and humane. Long, strong story with solid acting and excellently drawn characters. Three trip scenes, beautiful overall. 1997

Most of The Contender**** is turgid with difficult ideas, vicious, hate-worthy bad guys and wrong-minded good guys. It actually hurt to watch this little play-out of the sort of political infighting and partisan back-biting that probably often happens inside the real-world Beltway. Good as it is, the flick is not above a little obvious audience manipulation, so the surprise ending stands out even more. It really is a contender, with deep ideas, sterling acting, relentless intellectual action. It's smart, fast-paced, fierce and ultimately loyal. 2000

When they put "contract" in the title, you know it's not about buying widgets. The Contract*** is about an assassination gone bad before it happens then the melee of good and bad bad guys and stupid good guys and inept good and bad guys, except it's not really about any of that. It's supposedly about a father and errant son bonding, but the dialog there is usually inept. The big chase is through the woods but never goes far or exciting enough. The confusion of good and evil is par for the course, but the course is at leas a hole short. Kinda goofy, it has its exciting moments. I got it because it had both Morgan Freeman and John Cusack, but for too big a change, neither was good enough reason in this tepid thriller.

I hadn't seen Cool Hand Luke**** in so long I'd forgot how it ends, most of the middle and the fact that it was that flick that widely popularized the song that goes, "I don't care if it rains or freezes, long as I have my plastic Jesus, sitting on the dashboard of my car." I have always had an appreciation for the profane, and this movie is wonderfully so. It also mixes meanings about the indomitability of some human spirits and the need for all of us to have someone like that around. I loved remembering about the parking meters, him eating fifty eggs in prison and the classic line, "What we have here is a failure to communicate," which has wound its way throughout my life.

Sometime during my Freshman year of college, I realized that I'd missed Dr. Seuss. Oh, I'd got plenty of Pooh and Piglet and Eeyore, and even some of Christopher Robin, but I'd missed a lot of everybody else's childhoods, so instead of The Iliad and the Odyssey, I caught up with Alice and Wonderland and the Looking Glass and every other childhood wonder I'd heard of but never quite discovered myself. I felt like that when I discovered Tim Burton's Coraline***/, imperfect though it was. Seems like the rest of my life since Freshman English, I've been catching up. Maybe that's why all these movies ...

The Counterfitters***/ is a heist movie set in a German Concentration Camp. It is a superb movie, because of its story, which apparently is true, and because of the characters, mostly jewish with a few camp officials, all bad. It's all very dark, most of the color washed out of it, moody and deeply, chillingly ironic. The camera moves often adding to the discomfort. What is evil?

I've been dipping through past seasons of the BBC hit Coupling** - ****, which I love when I can find it on a Satty night on KERA-TV. Season One (6 episodes) was the best. I shared a Season Three disk (only 4 episodes), and they weren't all that entertaining, although the time code twin screen of the first episode was worthwhile. We're gonna rerent Season One and I'll continue to dabble in later seasons, but I'm losing hope.

Courage Under Fire ***/ — Meg Ryan isn't her usual goofy romantic / comedic syrup. She actually acts in this Gulf War Roshomon murder mystery. 1996

Then there's Cousin Bette**, who also schemed, although against significantly more reprehensive targets. And few of her manipulations seemed to work out as she had planned, but their effect was directly on axis. Good acting, great just desserts, pretty pictures, fun movie. Besides, there's a great sex scene involving a lot of chocolate rubbed all over two naked bodies. 1998

The Cove**** documents the butchering of thousands of dolphins every year in a little cove at the city of Taijii, Japan, where they assure everyone that they do not, but this is a heist flick, a real Oceans 11, where dedicated humans surreptitiously installed hi-resolution cameras to capture the murders, then show the video whenever and wherever governments lie about what happens there, saying that the killing happens quickly and humanely. But it does not, and we are witness. Much of the documentary and its Special Features has to do with the camera and other tech involved in videoing that which the Japanese Government prohibits our team from videoing — and the mercury in the dolphins and tuna that we love to eat, even if it is killing us. Fascinating stuff.

Cracking the Maya Code*** is interesting, almost fascinating, about how we (humans) finally figured out what the Mayans have been telling us in their books, art and architecture for millennia.

The Cradle Will Rock***/ is Tim Robbin's grand indulgence, a wild, over the top extravagance of interlocking stories in a government and social plot to stop the free expression of art, whether it's a play or Diego Rivera's grand Rockerfeller Center mural about ideas. Very well done, but it just doesn't crack greatness. Emily Watson's in it, though, and that's why I went. 2000

Cranes Are Flying***/ is an odd little Russian romp from the era of their entry into World War II, about a man and a woman separated by war. She struggles at home and gets special lighting and dispensation to seriously overact, while those around her remain starkly visual but otherwise normal, human but grim. The film's greatness is its cinematography, which is often astounding, impressionistic, and expressionist in glorious black & white. 1957

Crank***/ is cranked up, high speed, almost never stop. Action, violence, a little pseudo sex, a lotta crashing cars, bodies, wall-to-wall action. Fun, funny in a sick and twisted way and did I mention hellaciously violent. Another first-time movie by adrenalin freak camera guys. Vicious high energy. Flat-out fun.

Crash***/ has no special features, extraordinarily clumsy nav. The feature was very strange indeed. It's a new take on Auto Eroticism. Lots of sex from the beginning, little fakeries, luscious, langorous, sexy cinnematography. Like Blade, everything's always in focus. I can easily understand how I missed this one. Oooh, baby, kiss my scars... We watch as people obsessed with crashes — reliving infamous old ones, inventing new ones — gradually cripple through the rest of the movie. More bizarre than entertaining.

I knew from the first few seconds of Crash**** that I was in for a lesson in morality. About race. We are all of us, Black, White and all the in betweens, racist. But only when we let go our inner restraints do we become Racist. Here, people glide in and out of that dangerous ism. A wickedly well told story of people in and out of the path of each other's fear. Dangerously funny, but a lesson nonetheless.

 
Crazy Beautiful*
**/ - cross culture teen romance that damnably continues Hollywood's tradition of teaching us never to tell those we love our fears, our dreams, our truths, so that screen intimacy remains utterly absurd, and nothing important is communicated, and organic, real plots are impossible, but artificial ones, based on the very non communication Hollywood inflicts, drives the story, reminding us always that love is vapid, unless someone says "I love you," then everything is alright.

The parts the director calls "heightened reality" is the most hackneyed, cliched part of the plot — the cross culture scenses. Still, however, it was sexy, beautifuly filmed, gritty and had all those marvelous characters. If I think about it much longer, I'll give it that one extra asterisk.

Crazy Heart*** is pretty cornball country, but then that's always been my favorite kind. Like any "good Country & Western song, You can sing along Never having heard the words Before"... [Guess I'm old enough to start quoting myself now], although at least it doesn't end happily every after. Not a great movie, but kinda sweet and sour in unexpected moments.

Crazy in Alabama* is a mess. First-time director Anonio Banderas accepts mediocre work from his wife Melanie Griffin, tries to cross cut two mostly different story lines, one serious, one stupid. Instead of sardonic or ironic, this film is moronic. No flow. No sense of intelligence or real attempt to tie it all together. There are some superbly filmic scenes - especially in the segregated South half of the plot line, but they're really out of place in this rotten movie. 1999

The Crimson Wing***/ is more beautiful than most bird documentaries. Some of the music is distinctive and appropriate, but a lot of it's the same old stuff. The images, however, are not. We get to follow pairs of Flamingoes as they pair off, lay and take care of eggs, see some of them lost to predators and others get herded off somewhere. Fascinating really and a little mysterious seeing how where they're from and go back to.

Critical Care***/— Clear, sharp-edged, sardonic and subtly surrealisttic flick about the will of the living and dying. Funny without being comedic. Smart, scary. 1997

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Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon**** is not the best movie of last year or this. It is a good, solid movie, but highly overrated. Wonderful, non-digital special effects used cranes for the magical transportation scenes, which is visually enchanting, and the story has the scope, if not exactly the power of a novel — and wide vistas, to boot.

It is different, amazing in a few special effects ways and different. But the best? No.

Acting isn't awful, but it ain't great, neither. At its heart of hearts, it's still a Kung Fu flick on Hollywood steroids. Except in one long fight scene in a bar, where all the drunk guys are laid low and obviously hurting, no one ever notices pain until the last scene.

It's pretty, it's not particularly intelligent, the all-too traditional, magic sword aspect of the plot is lost in the translation, the acting is usually wooden. C'mon guys, this is not the best movie of any year...

 

I'm also enjoying again the lovely, exciting and superbly filmed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon****. This time, dubbed in English, I saw what was happening, instead of losing track of that while stumbling through the subtitles. Now, finally, I understand why it was such a rave. 2003
  

Yes, Croupier**** is about a croupier. But he's also a writer writing, rewriting and editing his story as we watch him live it. Told through an interior monologue narrative, the story he tells plays off the story we see in fascinating and often witty ways. It's not a comedy, exactly, but it is deeply funny. It's also dark as well as noir, complexly intelligent, superbly timed, sexy and surprising. 2000

Another artist and a slightly different take on the documentary form. Robert Crumb, his family and his several lovers in the scintillating Crumb**** are astounding, shocking, amazing, and very much themselves. One of the absolutely best and strangest artist films of all time.

Like too many DVDs, Cube*** was more interesting for its blow-by-blow commentary than for the actual movie. It was a little too contrived for my taste, and I grew to hate the characters. Which may have been part of the point. Paranoia runs deep in this interesting little ( 90 minutes ) cult flick that pits six extraordinary citizens against a mysterious and lethal military industrial machine. In trying to escape the mystery of the cube, they interact. There's a great, high-tech murder / mutilation — in which someone is truly cubed — at the very beginning, even before the titles. But mostly the characters drive themselves mad and kill off all but one of each other, usually viciously with profuse anger and nasty vengeance. Along the way, the six stars decipher the six-sided mystery and almost escape.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button**** is a time travel movie of the first order. A beautiful, poetic movie. Not a little movie, one with grandeur and scope. Individualist, independent and head-strong people making their way through life, one way or the other. Beautifully filmed, with many knowing visual and story touches.

Cutthroat Island ** is a really stupid pirate movie starring Gena Davis 1996 

Cypher***/ is very very strange. Stylized simple with a plot so strange and complex even our hero doesn't believe till the very end. Bizarre but compelling. Not entirely different from the real world or industrial espionage, but it's a start. Intelligent.
  

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Odd, when I see three movies at a clip, how they bleed together sometimes, in mood and mode. I watched Dahmer*** thinking I'd learn something about serial killers. That's what Ebert said, at least. But, though it was well shot, clear and sharp, it was not ideally acted, and the chronology is confusing. Chilling, yes. But gloomier than frightening. 2003

Dali*** was a good enough documentary of the famous artist's life and ambitions. Just what I wanted. I loved his paintings when I was a boy, but I'd lost track. Stumbled upon him again in my first Art History class at the U of Dallas (aced it), in libraries and bookstores and other people's libraries since. But I needed to know who this guy was. This movie told me what I needed to know and reminded me of The Savior's (Salvidor)' true greatness, despite an immense ego that only diminished when he finally did.

Damage**** is astonishing in the way the best Jeremy Irons movies tend to be. But he's not the only superb actor in this startlingly sexy film. And it's not just guys who'll appreciate the torrid sex scenes that dominate the first 3/4 of this amazing movie about character and obsession. Miranda Richardson, who fit neatly in the background till then, explodes in thoroughly credible intensity as the damage spreads. I hope it's not becoming my own cliché to say after this one, I knew I'd been movied. Wow.

Dancing at the Blue Iguana**** is very sexy, smart, superbly filmed and oddly affecting and effective. It's almost totally improvised — deleted scenes include completely different 'script.' Set in and around a sleazy strip club. With lots of upper frontal female nudity, it's very sexy (Oh, did I say that already?) Well, it bears repeating how much skin is bared in this flick about love, of course, and friendship, dreams, and all that, but especially about community. An odd one, but a real one, peopled by fascinating personas who are treated honestly. Amazingly realistic characters and characterizations, fine acting, gritty. Sensual.  2002
 

Even though, as Selma, the dark dancer herself — wonderfully, craftfully, gently, subtly and determinedly played by Björk — in Dancer In The Dark**** assures us, "Nothing dreadful ever happens in a musical," this one has plenty. It's painful to watch, except when Selma, the most ironic character in a movie since Emily Watson Broke The Waves, is dancing and singing.

In those transcendent moments, the dreadful realities break, joy happens, and we all join the chorus. Like in Waves, the heroine has made a pact with God, and she never backs away from her part of the bargain. Björk is a wonderful singer, a fair dancer, and a character magnet for deep irony. She's un-Hollywoodly plain throughout, yet her beauty grows all along the way.

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Talk about irony! This superbly scripted and quirkily choreographed movie is profoundly intelligent and astonishingly ironic. And yes, it really is a musical, often toying with the gentlest of ambient noises. Wow. 2000

It hurt me to even think about watching Björk's fabulous portrayal of Selma in Dancer In The Dark**** again. But I wanted to see the dance numbers and hear her soaring voice. I'd downloaded some of her rock music from Napster in its last days. But I didn't care for it much. In the movie, she's fabulous. As an actor and as a singer. Her dancing's not awful, either. Very affecting acting throughout. In fact, heart-rending. +

Happily, the DVD offers the option of only seeing — and hearing — the music numbers in this sad musical. Selma says, "Nothing dreadful ever happens in a musical." But in this one, a lot of dreadful things do happen. The movie, however, is first rate. Directed by the same genius who did Breaking The Waves, Dancer is amazing in the visual chances taken — and succeeded. Like Waves, it is essentially about a waifish young woman who makes a promise and keeps it, no matter what. Both heroines suffer greatly for their honor and integrity. And, watching them, we feel their pain.

When I first saw the term "100 cameras," I assumed it was hyperbole, although I'd noted a lot of angle and view changes in the movie, especially the music parts. Only after viewing SelmaMusic, the musical portions — and the how they did it, did I realize that the crew actually set up and employed 100 cameras. The results are astounding, if the implementation was nightmarish. They may not have got what they set out to get, but what they got is visually astonishing.

Better than that, the various hand-held and multi-camera techniques involve us more in the story and personalities splayed out on the screen. I may have to buy this flick, as I bought Breaking The Waves before it, it's so amazing and good. Everything is good. The visual. The acting. The singing. The dance numbers. The music is fluid and real and comes from reality, instead of being applied to a visual realization. It is ambient noise extrapolated, and I can't speak too highly of it. The characterizations are heart-breakingly real. Even the bad guy is wonderful.

I should stop gushing. By now you've got the point. Next time I rent it, I'll have to watch the movie again, but if I buy it, it'll be for the music and the astounding train, dance production. I'll want to watch that over and over.

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The Dancer Upstairs**** is beautiful, intricate, compelling. Its characters are human and honest. The situation is wrought with contradictory feelings. The government is corrupt, and both they and the terrorists our hero seeks are killing innocent people. He's an honest detective looking for the terrorist revolutionary, which, in the end, he does. Along the way, there is romance, adventure, beautiful and haunting imagery, fine acting and a intriguing story, directed by John Malkovich with important bits sung by Nina Simone. Wow. [It also had the fastest interface I've ever seen on a DVD. Nice!]

Just before the end of Dark City****, I was moved to write "Not a metaphor but a realtiy that dreams itself," then in the glorious end, it happened. Never quite perfection but in its own way allows an outside reality that approximates.

When it started, I thought, "Oh, god. I've got to stop NetFlix from sending me any more flicks till I can figure out which ones are good, again. Then I just let it play. Gradually, I warmed to the stupidity. When it's not the name of a stupid smart movie, The Darwin Awards*** go to people who do monumentally stupid things, in this case, to get themselves killed. Here, Joseph Fiennes and Winona Ryder team up to solve idiot killings for an insurance company. Each Darwinian excess is reenacted as the two remap what happened, and we get to watch. Lotta famous actors, but this movie stands out as the only to have a major cameo by my Senior Poet (in college), Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Like, wow, man.

Dark Days***. documents the lives of homeless who live in an abandoned subway cavern under the streets of New York, where they build a nasty but livable community of sorts. This flick is strange. The next one is dark.

Das Boot**** may well be the best submarine movie ever made, and the new, director's cut version is a great movie. Actually filmed inside historically accurate full-scale models of the German U-boats this story is all about, Boot is more a mini-series than just a movie. Like the novel it sprang from, there's power and scope and character density here.

For one thing, it's a true story ( Historical Accuracy in the 9s ). The earlier, theatrical release that won all those awards was, of course, pretty damned good. But the addition of a full hour of film from the original German TV serialization, really helps deepen the story line and, especially, the extensive cast of characters. And I've only begun to explore the special DVD features. +

Watching Das Boot dubbed in English . . . . . ( superbly rendered.) with the English subtitles turned on ( the two are often diametrically opposed. Based on the same screenplay, the two tracks manage to mangle the film's language in amazing ways. The dubbing may be more accurate, since much of it was rendered recently by the original actors. Running both is confusing, but it makes clear the idiocy of relying on subtitles while watching the movie in its original German. 

We've gone through the first volume of David Attenborough's The Life of Birds***, which we loved but Netflix sent a very obviously damaged next disk (again) and we have to send it back to see the rest. For budding birders like ourselves, it's a marvel of documentary facts and filming. Sheer delight and gobs of information.

The DaVinci Code*** is chase from start to finish, everybody either running or explaining what's going on all the time, usually via CSI-style visual exposition; one backward car chase, one upward truck chase; darned little art although some architecture at the end; and a lot of mumbo jumbo conspiracy theory about Jesus' and Mary Magdaline's kids and where her body lies; and the guys (mostly) on both extreme wings of — what so many for so many centuries have called "Holy Mother The Church" while maintaining the most male chauv pigish institution on the face of the earth — the Catholic church are too busy protecting the Holy Grail or murdering the protectors.

Everybody talks about the incredible special effects in The Day After Tomorrow** but I didn't see anything incredible, except the plot. Stupid movie that sounds like it might be smart. Nuclear winter happens suddenly after taking its time for decades. Stupid because the Father whose son stays in New York City tells that son what to do and he does it. Part of what he tells the son is to stay indoors. Then dad walks through the snow for 200 miles, narrowly escaping — oh, everything.

It's been too long to remember anything resembling a plot or whatever drove Nightwatch. I remember being blown away by it. I'm sure I gave it at least four asterisks, and I remember not being able to wait for Daywatch***/, which I watched a couple days ago. I've been watching a lot of movies lately. Really good ones mostly, and writing about art and taking pictures of birds and being involved in stuff on several levels. But always fitting in some movies.

Some movies just sit in my mind and melt away. I can't remember anything about them half a week later. I remember a dozen instances in Day Watch. Fantasmagorical special effects. A lady driving a fancy sports car wild and then up across the front of an ultramodern building. Exploding spheres throughout Moscow, slicing the world apart, killing thousands. The basic plot is good verses evil, although figuring out who exactly were the good guys or the bad guys wasn't all that easy. Those demarcations are always a little iffy. But this is a movie I'd want to see again. Maybe in tandem with Night Watch. Thrills and chills, incredibly fine special effects, an accumulating plot line. This film is hard to believe, difficult to fathom, strange and bizarre and amazing.

 

Dead Man***? is dark, black & white, strange, delicious and Johnny Depp.

I'd been watching Humpy Bogart in Dead Reckoning***/ for a little more than an hour when I suddenly realized it was in black and white. Bogey's aging a little aging here, and its style sucks back into his star days voice-over narrative detective flicks, but it's a nice, involving flick, and I need to see some more of his.
  

Dead Ringers**** was fabulous the second time around. I'd entirely forgot Genivieve Bujold's superb performance, remembering only Jeremy Iron's double roles as twisted twin gynecologists in this savage dark drama.

The Deal** starts out kinda stupid, slips into a long, pretty much intelligent sequence, gets suddenly very stupid, then ends abruptly. Thank the movie gods. Terrible acting and very good acting. Too-busy cinematography with some nice moments. A plot ripped from fifteen years ago's ... uh ... business pages. Over-dramatic movie music and a story that relies too heavily on one of those moments left over from 20, 30, and 40 years ago, when it was normal to go all stupid and not tell anybody important what's really going on, because if they did, the movie would be a whole lot smarter.

My brother is deaf, and he learned to read lips at Spencer Tracy school in Los Angeles in the 1940s and worked hard many years to hone that craft. So I know it's not a simple skill you can just pick up without careful training, the differences in sounds are subtle and indistinct. The little boy in Dear Frankie***/ is smart, but not that smart. The movie is a lovely, bittersweet story about a kid without a real dad, whose Mom makes one up for him and sends letters. I understand the oversimplification of reading lips. This movie depends on Frankie understanding what's going on, but it's never that easy in real life.

At first I thought Death Note***'s acting was awful, but I quicky learned that just the dubbing was substandard, goofy in the way bad dubbing can be. As I ignored that, the acting improved significantly. What this is is a comic book brought to life, so some characters are completely unbelievable, yet charming and, well, I can't say exactly lovable, I'll stick with charming. The main character, the young law student whose father is the head cop on the investigation that rules the plot, is not charming, he's evil. But not in any truly believable fashion. That's comic book, too. It's an intriguing story with an intricate plot that all unravels at the end, but it's fun until then.

I went back and watched most of it, but I just couldn't take all of Death To Smoochie*. Too stupid. Too way over all the tops... 2003

Deconstructing Harry***/ — Besides revealing way too much of Woody's twisted life, this flick is a superb film. The out-of-focus scenes are probably worth the price. Hell is superb, so's the cast. Fun and bitingly funny. 1997

I loved Deceiver**/ while I was watching it. Tim Roth is intensely maniacal, the dialog is sharp and cutting, the characters intense. The action and the truth of the actions cutting switchback curves as we watch it in flashback. Odd angles, a little abstract, it fit together like a thousand-piece puzzle. But soon as I left the theater, it started falling apart. Basically a Usual Suspects rip. Too many unanswered questions, too much that didn't make any sense at all. 1998

Mediocre title for a movie this good, this is deeply darkly funny yet goofily romantic. I know its meaning, but its use here is nearly inconsequential. Okay, stupid title, but the movie is superb and swimming in serious quirk. The story, the soundtrack and the cinematography all gang up to create this massive and delightful force of humanly comedic quirk. Maybe I like it because I identify with the main character or because so many fine actors are involved. Or the wild story or its probably predictable end. Superb cinematography when it is as well as when it is not engaging in the quirk. Oddly vaguely hauntingly similar to Spotless Mind but not, really, at all. Dedication***/

Defending Your Life**/ has an adequate enoug premise — that we humans are essentially fear based and not all that smart. But, despite some nice chuckles, it never goes anywhere, and by the end I was just glad it was over, despite Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks.

Deep Blue Sea** is not, as I read somewhere, "Jaws with intelligence." It is a stupid big-fish disaster movie with way too many big and little inconsistancies. It's a movie that really didn't have an excuse. It's just entertainment. This flick looks pretty good. There's lots of tense action, NS, and it should win a special award for the insipid, inspiring music that's out of place in almost every scene. It was fun and exciting, with plenty of bloodless violence V+ and cliches galore. Except for the stand-out cook, you could always tell what would happen next. 1999

Deep Blue World*** reminds us that heroes are people with issues. In this case, Czechoslovakian pilots fly for Britain in WWII, fall in love with the same woman and zap Nazis out of the sky. 2002

 

Movies teach us to lie. Because it's more convenient to make movie plots, if the characters don't tell each other the truth, they don't. Over and over, we see them do this. So, over the years, we watch movie after movie, repeating their lessons. In the flickers it always ends happily, if we don't tell each other the truth, ever. So we don't. It doesn't seem to work out all that well in real life, however.

Other than that traditional plot device, not much else in The Deep End***/ is familiar. Wrenching drama. Good acting. Strong characters. Real. Tense. Wrong choices on top of wrong choices. Hard choices. Love in the oddest place. Good movie. Visually stunning, eloquent, fierce. SF+ 2003

 

Deep Impact**/ had novelistic scope and grandeur, but with dopey details. The heroes, shot up to take out the comet heading for Earth, fail on their first attempt and decide to coast back to a doomed planet (yeah, right). An hour later in the movie they realize they got enough nukes to try again, and in the nick of time, partially succeed. The various dove-tailing plot lines almost go somewhere. NS 1998

In 1967 it was said that no one could sail alone around the world and keep his mind, and they were very nearly right. One man did, winning the prize. But this is not his story. Deep Water*** is about a lesser man who failed the rules, his family, his nation and the world. Good documentaries are puzzles put together from what is available, and here many people's stories of this race are told simultaneously and in remarkable detail. There is the sensation of, not being there, of course, but of understanding why what was done, was done.

I'm a major fan of time travel stories and movies. I dig all the conundrums of then and now and how different movies treat them differently. Deja Vu**** is excellent, exciting, exacting. Intelligent, follows the rules and makes sense in both movie and human logic. I only noted one, small, nearly inconsequential continuity issue when one of the techs showed remarkable knowledge of New Orleans (shot there, and of course NO is an important player in it) streets, even though he just got there. Remarkably well written. Visually stimulating and its imaging style fits into the science of its fiction. All that and Denzel and Val Kilmer, too. Amusing that Jim Caviezel, who plays a major role in one of my all-time fave time-travel flicks, Frequency, is the bad guy here. I liked it so much I watched it twice, got more out of it the second through, and want to see it again. All aces.

I don't walk out on many movies. But Desperate Measures* is worthless. Weak characters, lousy acting, stupid action and insipid screenwriting. I sat through half the movie wondering why I was still there. I cared not a whit for anybody on the screen. Normally I like Michael Keaton and Andy Garcia, but if only this movie had been directed, or written or something — anything. Nothing made any sense. People refraining from shooting the bad guy from four feet away, afraid they'd shoot the good guys — hell, even I coulda hit 'em from that distance (actually, I 'm a good shot. I know I coulda hit Keaton. As overacting as he was, he deserved to be shot and dismembered.) But nobody seemed to mind killing all the other good guys — talk about gratuitous violence. One stupidity after another all through. 1998

De-Lovely***/ is the best musical I've seen in awhile. Great music, oddly justaposed scenes and life. Lovely and odd, quirkoid. 2004

I saw The Departed*** but got so confused when I couldn't distinguish Leonardo DiCaprio from that other not so young anymore actor who's in all the movies that I was lost through the first half of the movie. About two moles. One paid by the bad guys who's in the police, and the other, a good guy, posing as a gang member. Both tipping each other's bunches off at crucial moments. And lots of people getting killed. I hope it's better than I make it sound, but I'm not convinced. It's a gimmick.

Departures**** was beautiful, magical and telling in so many visual ways. Simple story, people the fates gathered, family and transitions. Eloquently told.

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I can't help it. I put off watching The Devil and Daniel Johnston***/ for nearly three weeks. When I finally sat down with it on a sleepless night, I got into it. Still, and growing all the way through it, I became convinced it was fraud. A fiction. Not documentary, mockumentary. A strange, literally unbelievable, story of the life of a certifiable crazy person. On Beyond Crumb without the knuckle of a grasp on reality. Over the edges in too many dimensions. An amazing perverse fiction about the reality of madness and bad taste. Too weird.

Devil in a Blue Dress **** is an outstanding black film noire with lotsa violence, superb acting, aces plot, Denzel Washington is great 1996

I don't have cable, so I didn't see Dexter***/ till I caught it on Broadcast TV lately, where I always seem to miss major chunks. Since it's been around awhile, DVDs of the first season that Broadcast has only begun are available for the whole first season. I'd call it quirky macabre, even figuring if Dexter ever gets a sidekick, that ought to be his name — Quirky Macabre. Like any good character-driven story, we identify lots with Dex, even if he's a crusading serial killer.

I finished off Dexter: Season 2**** and boy is it different than the series that will be on broadcast TV this fall. I almost didn't recognize the story last season, the B-cast boys chopped it up so. It's just not for anybody, has to be on a Cable channel, so it can be fully raw, intelligent and sexy. Too good for TV.

Color me shocked. I've just watched Season Four of Dexter****, and the season finale blew me away. I never liked Rita, Dex' girlfriend/wife, but what a shocker for a bloody thriller of a TV Show.

The Dinner Game**/ was is a decent enough depiction of a mean-spirited and nasty story that I can barely remember six months later.

Dinosaur***/ is even less historicallly accurate than The Patriot, but it's got much better annimation, the violence makes sense, and the actors may not be God-fearing, but they certainly are Christian. The best annimation I've ever seen. Story is atypically Disney. Much more interesting without materially surpassing smarm. Visually stunning. 2000

Dirty Pretty Things**** is an oddly gentle film about stealing kidneys from poor people in promise of a better life. We see plenty of the poor people, but only the barest glimpse of the better life. It is enough. Amellie is wonderful, again. Our young doctor, cab driver, hotel clerk, chess player is even better.

I bought a ticket for X-Men, then settled into Disney's The Kid***/ just to see if it would be worth coming back. I didn't leave, instead being absorbed into this nostalgic, gentle, touching, sweet movie. Disneywood at its old-time finest, it's a human comedy in the form of character-switched time travel with infecting characters and a fine little story that's not cloying, stupid or predictable. Nice. 2000

Brilliant. Deeply, darkly hilarious. Superbly well thought-through science fiction of the first order. Bizarre. Amazing. Intelligent. Exciting. Mind-bending. District 9**** is first contact with an alien species, in which humans are our usual insipid, insanely greedy, stupid, war-mongering selves, and the aliens — some of them at least — are human and better. Fun rooting for the good guys again.

In Diva***/ a carefully complex but impromptu seeming plot, an intriguing cast of characters, combine with classic cinnema, wonderful opera music, a few too many goofy bad guys and two intertwining tapes. Not a great classic, but a nearly great one.

A friend insisted I wouldn't like The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood***/, because it's a chick flick. Sure enough, it was an All Girl Production, which I'm sure helped immeasurabley. It more than matched my expectations and all the hype. Very sisterhood. Excellent, twisting story, solid characters and characterizations and a plot that was only pat in small instances. Nice. 2003

I avoided The Diving Bell and the Butterfly**** because I knew it was about a man who stroked out and couldn't move anything but his eyelid. He could blink, and by blinking, he told his story. Wrote a book about it, one letter at a time. Yet the movie is anything but tedious. We see through our hero's eyes, watch him change who he is, watch him learn and dream and relate and, slowly, remember. Visually stunning, this is exquisite filmmaking, directed by Julian Schnabel. The soundtrack's amazing. Bittersweet, gentle, strongly visual — a positive vision.

Doctor T And The Women*** is an odd bit of flickery. Starts off like Time Code with lots going on and us not knowing which to pay attention to, except it was all in the same frame. And at its best, it continues in that inspired confusion. Lotsa women things going on constantly in the good doctor's life. It was fun catching Dallas in the scenery, but it was more the Highland Park stereotype than the truth. But then the stereotype is true, too. Funny, kinda smart, fast paced. Goofy without quite hitting the target. Ends surreally with what had to have been a prosthetic female part disgorging a baby, although there was no real need for such a shocker just there in what might be mistaken for a plot. 2000

Dogfights: Season 1: Disk 1** was amusing, interesting and ultimately tedious. I'd hate to have to sit through more than's on that first disk.

Dr. Doolittle** sounded a little goofy but coulda been fun. It was sorta funny. I laughed. And I was Hollywood manipulated. And I sorta liked the story. But he believed in his power to talk with the animals one moment and was dead-set against it the next several times through the flick, and there was never an iota of transition. Click! He does. Click! He doesn't. So I could never suspend my disbelief. The animal voices were sorta cute, but mostly stupid. Paulie was much better, had genuine character growth, made more sense. NS 1998

Dogma**/ almost works as parody, quest flick, buddies movie and/or comedy. But deep down, it's the cheap special effects that bring it down. It is funny enough, and utterly bizarre in intent and content, but it falls flat way too often. 1999

Dogtown in a strange Lars von Trier movie ... (A friend told me she couldn't find my listing of that movie, and I know I saw it, and that it was peculiarly accessible for a von Trier and starred a Hollywood star, and I can see the cutaway home in my mind's eye and I remember I liked it, and I have no idea why I didn't write something intelligent about it when I could still remember it.

Dogtown and Z-Boys**** is about the gang of boys who took skateboarding vertical and brought the little boards with wheels back to popularity. Not only that, but its unique, Post MTV visual presentation is fast, innovative and stylish — just one of those great leaps forward in independent American filmmaking that Visions of Light is all about. What fun!

Donnie Darko*** is a lurid little cult film with a surrealistic story involving an innovative, and only vaguly sci fi kind of New Chance at Life, a seeming evil rabbit that only the audience sees (He's not Harvey.), a little bit of time travel, an amazing cast with more ambition than brains, although IF the director could have assembled the best of the deleted scenes into a movie longer than 2 hours (as he whined about all the way through the deleted scenes), I suspect it would have been better.

Again: [I always think that if I see the Director's Cut or the unexpurgated version I'll finally understand what's going on in some silly flick or another. Donnie Darko*** was the latest miscue in this regard. Dark humor, bizarre, mixed up plot, quirky characters and noir vision mixing time travel, alternate ending and spooky imaginary friend genres into a cult classic, yes, but not an entirely great movie.]

Still and all, it's a memorable movie that sticks in my craw, and that one song from it, is fabulous.

The Door in the Floor**** is a wonderful short story adaptation of the best part of a John Irving novel, full of poignant characters caught in difficult situations, only some of their own causing. Acting is superb, the characters exquisite, the plot nearly perfect, the cin slightly stylized and shimmering. It's mostly serious with fine figments of humor and reality sifting in. The music gets carried away everytime we go to the beach, but otherwise a lovely little story of the loss of children and the devastation that can cause.

Double Indemnity*** musta been pretty exciting when it came out at the end of World War II, but it's pretty old hat now. I mean, he tells us at the outset that he did it, then he details the whole sordid tale in gritty, film noir style that's much more interesting than the story, then at the end, we're supposed to be surprised that he did it? And, of course, in the super moralistic mumbo jumbo of the time, we're supposed to learn from his indiscretions. Oh yeah, right.

Double Jeopardy**/ is pretty hackneyed Hollywood fare, but not entirely predictable. 1999

The Double Life of Veronique***** tells the lush visual story of two identical women but largely unaware of the other selves. It is a subtle love story. The logic of it is internal, self-reflexive and mostly visual, though there are words, and they are important also. There are erotic scenes and nudity as well. Veronique is beautiful, nearly angelic. The music is stunning. The story tells itself. The special effects are real. It is easily and uniquely one of the best movies I have ever experienced. Delicious.

Down from the Mountain*** is a good, but hardly stellar, concert flick of the music from Oh Brother Where Art Thou and some other traditional stuff thrown in. 2002

Dragonfly*** is a wildly romantic love story that I keep wanting to call Ghosts (You know, the one with Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg) Meets Jungle Anthropology 101 or I See Dead People meets ER. But it's much more than either, although those flavors do linger. Intriguing, fantastical plot. Good emphemeral — as opposed to solid — story, with lots of conflict and nobody ever believes but our hero, in a movie that's mostly about believing, and of course it ends happily ever after, although we never get to confront any of the unbelievers at the shining rainbow ending. 2002

Dragonheart ***/ has one great dragon, outstanding animation and "person"ality w/Sean Connery. Dredging back to Camelot dirties up an otherwise solid fantasy plot. 1996

Dragonslayer** is lame and if I'd watched it in real time I could say enjoyable, but only that at 4X, and better 8X.

Drawing the Line: A Portrait of Keith Haring***/ is only 30 minutes long but includes many pieces in the historic progression of his work; homage to his art heroes; a minimum of art critic gibberish; plenty of him making and talking about his work; and like his work, a maximum of fun. 2004

The Dreamers**/is thick with sex and flesh — both male and female frontal nudity (hers more frontal than his) and Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love thin with politics, and the story doesn't go anywhere.

I simply was not prepared for The Dreamlife of Angels****. It wasn't anything like what I expected, and it just got better and better. Beautiful, elegantly etched characters and development. Slow, gently paced, kindness is important, odd characters. Strange mix of pathos and tenderness.

Drum Line**/ leaves no hackneyed "making the team movie" cliché untried, often twice. It's Top Gun meets marching bands, with ADD editing, almost nobody ever marching in unison. Brash, talented youth tries it his own way, then, eventually melds with the team to become a leader. Not exactly original...

Frank Zappa's The Dub Room Special**, made for TV several dozen years ago, was on my Netflix Queue for years before it finally rose to the top, and I let it. It was them goofin' and playin' music, and it was as boring as any TV show about music in those long ago days. Just couldn't get into. Best thing about it was some guy's comment about 200 Motels, another Zappa movie.

Duma*** is about a cheetah raised on a farm in the outback then taken back to the wild. Many adventures ensue along the way and one colorful character, of course. It's for kids but it lapses into stupidity on several occasions. Not great, some pretty country, memorable characters, overall pleasant, even for adults. But it's just plain dumb the kid hero doesn't already know his pet cheetah eats a lot of raw meat every day, for just one instance of many.

Dune 2000, Part I*** was bloody awful. Insipid, pointless sci-fi. 

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