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Because I honor Ursula K. LeGuin I watched all two hours and 52 minutes of Earthsea**/, but it was a stupid, sappy, cliché-ridden movie about wizards and maidens acted by actors, most of who couldn't act, and those who could should have known better; impelled by plots that made only the barest sense — there were plot reversals but more awkward were acting reversals. Way too much got lost in the book-to-film transition.
East-West***/ is a dark, gloomy movie about the rise of Communism in Russia after World War II and long, painfully slow efforts of its citizens to escape. But there are many glowing spots of light and color along the way. Superbly acted, deep, intelligent and wonderfully populated with fascinating characters, this movie alternately gives us the creeps and reminds us of our universal joys. 2000
The Eclipse***/ is a lovely dark (so dark many details disappear into pure black) film with even darker bits of horror that're over the top and sudden, and how humans cope with it and live around it. A lilting love story, a character-changing sequence of events around a literary festival in Ireland, but with only one literary reading, at that was major interrupted by the cad who is the nemisis.
The Edge***/— Sir Anthony Hopkins shines in this high adventure flick co-starring a beligerant bear and Alec Baldwin. Beautiful, riveting, tense and violent. Guys against the elements — no sex. 1997
Eddie **/ is almost funny. Goofy plot. 1996
EDtv*** was good enough but hopelessly lost in the umbra of The Truman Show.
Calling any movie by Pedro Almodovar brilliant may be missing the point, and redundant, besides. But Bad Education**** is a triumph of mixing almost everything up — time line, characters, identity, who done it, who shoulda, who loves whom, who was acting all along, who was real — all in brilliant, rich, vivid, high-contrast Almodovar color. Wonderful. I only still wish they'd translate the song lyrics, too. But they never do in his movies.
Oh, my gosh. I'm so glad that's over with. I've spent the last three days watching and refusing to watch more. Watching almost anything to keep going back to watch Edward Munch: Special Edition. Disks One and Two***. All the way up my Netflix Queue, I thought it was just one disk. But then I was expecting the usual biopic. Two was too much. Three hours of constantly circling back to his family. Children bleeding from their mouths. Swaddled in white stained by the blood. Dying of tuberculosis. His father a doctor. Everybody dying or committing suicide. Not a lasting relationship among them. Gloom, doom and no wonder he was troubles. Then there's his romantic life, if you can call that life. Instersticed among all that depression. His art. We see hands painting, etching, gouging woodblocks. Get a feel for his art, see his art, like all the other elements of his life, recurring again and again. I liked the special features on disk one. They tell about the museum. Recurring through the movie perhaps every critique of his art through his life. Nobody liked it, yet he kept being invited to have solo shows, be in shows around Europe. Then back to reciting how much everyone loathed his work. Now I have to go back and explore his art again. I've always liked it, always thought those who wrote about it attributed too much depression to him and his art.
Election**/ is about stupid people doing stupid things. There's lots of misdirection and theatric assides. I was not impressed, although it came highly recommended. Obstensibly about an election for student government, it is essentially a study of morals and ethics.
Elephant***/ is deceptively slow paced through most of the lead up to a very un-ordinary day at a high school, as seen through different eyes, following different students, making their way through another day in the life. Beautifully filmed in rich, dense colors. The title, I assume, comes from the old gag about a bunch of blind people perceiving an elephant, each reporting vastly differing "views" of it.
11 Minutes Ago***/ has the feeling of a student film. Only a few of the actors — and nearly none of the ones who star — look like actors, but the story has been crafted carefully, and time-travel though it crosses with first-meeting of the romantic kind, catches it in 11-minute segments, which is as long as he can stay each discontinuous time through the evening of somebody else's wedding, during when we get to meet the characters. A delight of genuine human actions and reactions, even if you don't believe the time-travel bit.
Elizabeth***/ is dark and full of intrigue. It is beautiful to watch, makes mostly sense throughout the film, then leaves me wondering what the hell was all that about. A powerful woman comes into her power. S 1998
Another quirksome movie, this time about two mentally challenged Norwegian men, just out from the asylum, trying to make it on their own, despite many challenges. Elling***/ was difficult to watch, mostly because of Elling — the smarter of the two — 's maddening mama's boy attitudes and deep self-unconfidence. Over and over I'd get mad at his sniveling manners and pause the movie. But I kept coming back. Different from most make-it-on-their-own movies, but in some charming ways, the same as all of us making it on our own, despite and because of, our friends. Mostly gentle, largely credible, deeply human, hilarious when it's not maddening.
The Emperor's New Clothes***/ has major Quirk factor built in, without getting goofy about it — more quirk-esque than downright quirky. This dark, lush film is a sweet and bittersweet re-historizing of Napoleon after his escape from Helena, his dank trek to Paris, there the inevitable romance, of course, but a gentle coming to terms with his complex, as well. An involving delight of characters, characterizations and history rewrit.
Enchanted*** was goofy simpleton-ish, often swarmy yet delightful, despite its akward transitioning from annimation to full-life drama. A treat.
I feel like I've seen it before, long ago. But then I've rated more than a thousand films on Netflix, and remember — vaguely — many more as time goes on, but Enchanted April***/ was a delight. British ladies on a holiday in Italy, away from London into a natural paradise with a castle. Lovely altogether.
The End of the Affair***/ is both an excellent movie and a superb story. Not unlike Emily Watson's character in the superb Breaking The Waves, the heroine of this story sparks an amazing deal with God, then has to keep her bargain. It's a hauntingly beautiful period lost romance flick with every piece in place. 2000
I was distracted the first time I saw The End of The Affair****. This time, on DVD, I sorted through, backed up and replayed the parts I kept missing, let English subtitles tell me the right words and repeated the luscious sex scenes.
But even that first time I saw enough to know this Grahm Greene story was one wildly romantic, yet fabulous movie, intricately interweaving alternate time lines, faith and fidelity, friendship, erotic and emotional love, hate, jealousy, intimacy, husbands, lovers, friends, religion, trust and miracles. Squarely in the Dangerous Verbal Contracts with God category, this exquisite story is told in a comprehensible complexity of flashbacks and Roshomon restarts, leading to an inevitable and indelible conclusion.
I am blown away by the intelligence, the God in the details, the screenplay, superb acting, cinematography, characters, intricately interleaved plot, editing... Oh, just everything about this wonderful sad, sweet, powerful, deep, adult movie. +
The End of Violence*** is subtle sci-fi, about observing and the observed, paranoia and rational fear, great Hollywood plot, sharply drawn characters, smart visuals, accessible, European slow. 1997
Enemy of the State***/ was great fun. Kinda like Sneakers + The Conversation + oh, I don't know. Very high tech, spooky government paranoia vs. one, crafty, kinda goofy star. Fun, smart, nonstop action and intrigue. High adventure and misdemeanors. NS 1998
The English Patient**** — The book was way more lyrical and poetic. This flashback festival is a long (almost three hours), drawn out romanitc novel of a movie. I loved the book. The movie was very good, not excellent. 1996
Of course, I've seen it at least seven times since, and it was one of the great flicks of its decade, maybe any decade. Long, flowing, perhaps more novelistic than the novel that gave birth to it. It's wildly romantic, clever and wonderful in many ways.
I did so want to like Eragon**. I love movies about dragons and wisdom and magic. Unfortunately, this was short on all the major ingredients, while still employing some superb actors, including Jeremy Irons. Just not superb in this rip off of every dragon, allied armies against evil magic, massive crusade movie ever made. Almost nothing original in this movie, about a stupid boy who becomes a hero, because... because... Well, there's no reason, really. He's an idiot and he stays an idiot and the movie lives happily ever after. Where the scriptwriters might have shown humanity, intelligence or wit, they didn't. Every chance they got.
Equilibrium** is as strong on design as it is weak in plot. Very on both. Stupid anti-totalitarian, emotion, art plot doesn't even hold itself together. Unlike in Sixth Sense, they don't follow their own rules. Other than the putrid story, it reminded me in a synesthesia way of Centerville, only acres stupider.
Erin Brokowich***/ is a good story, told competently. Feel good, funny, tear-jerking at the end, good characters, Davida vs. Goliath. A real crowd pleaser. Adequate. 2000
The Escape Artist*** had its moments, then got mired in goofy surrealism and stupid, almost slapstick politics with none other than Dezi Arnez as the mayor/bad guy, though not as bad as his crazy, malevolent kid. Probably more realism in the corrupt mayor routine than anyone still would expect, but poignant as this movie almost is sometimes, it never rose to what it could have been. It almost had heart, almost had spirit, but ended up with neither and was a little too evil.
Escape from LA * is a truly putrid post-hallocaust sci-fi baddie. Not funny or sharp enough to be satire. Dumb plot. Nothing works. 1996
It's so much like a time-travel and/or alternate story-line movie, I might have liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind**** just for its time-shifting and alternate timeline scenes, but it's deeply about relationships, also. And memory and forgetting, and inevitability and probabilities. And, of course, love.
It's also about making a movie that follows its own rules, like the I See Dead People commentary hammered into us, so I had to see it three times to figure out the real time table, and I want to see it a couple more times later. I might even buy this one and make future lovers watch it with me
Evelyn**/ is schmaltzy and slow, a foregone conclusion of a plot, well enough acted, with a decent, if not elegant, story and hokily charming characters.
I just had to see Event Horizon* (awful sci-fi mauled by the clichéd, it discovers what you're afraid of and slams hallucinations of that into the good guys — plot). 1998
Luckily, Ever After**/ is A, not The Cinderella Story, so it's full of divergent paths from the old pumpkin carriage and fairy godmother crapola. This is a sweet little period piece full of anachronistic ideas and phrases, but who cares. It's fun, even though there's NS, and Cinderella is not the prettiest of the sistly uglers... Angelica Houston is outstanding as the mean, calculating stepmother. 1998
Did not plan it, but here's another Danish movie, another winner. This one quiet, not so gentle, a woman who's married the wrong guy — he beats her, is unfaithful and a bully — finds a kindred spirit when she tries to hock a camera she'd won before she was married to Sigfried. He paid the ticket, she won the camera. If he wanted the camera, he'd have to marry her. They did, and years later she found it and tried to hock it. But the kindly photographer insisted, instead, she takes pictures with it, and it changes her life, eventually becoming a portrait photographer of some note. It ends happily enough, but there's enough strife and not nearly enough picture-taking. Everlasting Moments***.
Everybody Says I Love You***/ — Woody Allen takes off on musicals with this hilarious spoof. 1997
Everybody's black in Eve's Bayou***/, but you quickly forget that in this human drama of family and magic. Great characters, compelling plot. 1997
Evita**— Like Koyanaskatzi (sp?), I slept through this repititious and unrelentingly unrelenting opera. Beautiful, tho. And Madonna is great. Hated it. 1997
Evolution*** is essentially lame and stupid, and I woulda never seen it, except it's got Julianne Moore, and that's usually a good enough reason to see a movie. Usually.
You know it's lame, when the major complaint I voice is that the interface is screwy. Play All, for example, is at the bottom of the 2nd page of the Deleted Scenes menu, where you have to click all the individual scenes first to get to. Suffice to say it's a goof of a movie, that I thoroughly enjoyed. Oh, it's about space aliens evolving super fast. After that, everything is pretty predictable. But fun. 2002
Executive Decision *** is aig budget Hollywood thriller. Kinda like "Airport" — and "Airplane," both of which are borrowed from here. Not a comedy, tho. Kurt Russel's fun. Nice tension. Fun. 1996
The Matrix, unlike ExistenZ,* which wallowed in incomprehensible plot switchbacks, supposedly pitching the realists against the unrealists. Well, it is another comic book; whatd'ya expect? Not much. V NS 1999
As a documentary of early 21st Century graffiti artists, the early portions of Exit Through the Gift Shop*** are exciting and informative and very art and art history. As the documentation of the fall and rise of Mr. Brain Dead (no, no, that's Mr. Brainwash, but I think I was right the first time.), it grows tedious. I didn't want this idiot winning and he kept winning at the art game, even though he clearly had never had an original idea in his head. All totaled, it's a big minus. Not exactly a waste of time, but mostly. Clearly Banksy is a better filmmaker, a much better and more intelligent artist, and Mr. Brain Dead is just that.
Exotica***/ like director Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter before it, is about deep, dark guilt. It is presented in sharp, clear cinnematography, but the story is blurrily obfuscated by recollection and achronous telling. Erotic, hard-focused, gentle and really strange.
The Exorcist***/ is still a well crafted movie, for the most part. Not sure the goofy little bits about the cops going to see movies with improbable cast was in the original release, but those scenes seem out of place. And it never bothered me before why the devil chose this particular little girl to haunt. But it does now. Other additional scenes are okay, creepy, but not fantastic. The "subliminal" message frames seem much clunkier now, twenty-five years later. And it's still long. 2000
Eye of the Beholder***/ is pretty amazing, detailed, complex, never predictable, odd-ball and intriguing. A hit guy private eye with a caretaking mentality obsesses on a target, saves and destroys her life and follows her to the end of the earth. A guardian angel movie, of a mean sort. 2000
The Eye of the Beholder***/ is a great movie with one, simple, fatal flaw that utterly destroys it. Hard to resist though, with Ashley Judd, KD Lang and Genevieve Bujold. I loved the high tech, the interplays between The Eye himself and his high-tech contact, KD. The interplay between the Eye and the apple of his, Miss Judd, is amazing to watch and understand. Fine transitions, superb music — a haunting, intermix.
Marvelous juxtapositions and visual interplays of the two leads, her obsessive needs playing out before all our eyes, his in watching and falling for her (the mass murderer who needs his protection). So many levels going on at once, playing out before our amazed eyes, wonderful visual transitions, his imaginary playmate daughter who is and isn't really there, telling close ups, fabulous detail...
It's a guardian angel movie about an obsesive eye watching an obsessed her, dovetailing in so many improbable but almost always believable ways. Voyeuristic, fabulous filmic interplays, never boring, wildly romantic, magnificent use of high tech.
But. Somewhere past the middle of this otherwise wonderful movie, the Eye kills Ashley's husband to be, outright, in cold blood. The director's commentary assures us that, with a snippet of dialog added later, it works, it works, it works. But he's dead wrong. It doesn't work. It doesn't work. It doesn't work. I've seen this flick four times now, and it does not work.
In the Eyes of Laura Mars***, a young Faye Dunaway precognizes lurid, fashion photo murders in a strictly 70s mystery flick that I couldn't wait to get through and get it back in the mail, so I could see something else, as it turns out, just as bad. Steve McQueen looks bewildered.
Picasso, Magritte, Calder and all those other big-time famous fine artists of the last century are intriguing to learn about and watch their influence on so many artists since, but one of the most influential artists of all time has to be Chuck Jones. In Extremes and in Betweens, a Life in Animation***/ we don't learn all that much about his personal life and family, but we get to see many of the cartoons that have subtly or overtly influenced us all. He didn't invent Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, but he had a hand in their development. However, he did invent Peppy LePeau, Wylie Coyote and the greatest underdog who ever lived (in celluloid, at least) and always won, The Roadrunner. Here, we get to watch the development of all those and many more remarkably human, mostly animal characters.
Orson Welles' F for Fake: Disk 1: The Film***/ is a film-watcher's hoot. The Master toys with his and our medium in a variety of stylish and sometimes silly and dated manners, but the whole of it, like that old Kris Kristofferson song is "... He's a walkin' contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction. Takin' every wrong direction on his lonely way back home." That might have been about Ramblin' Jack Elliot, or Orson Welles. This mockumentary takes certain liberties with the truth, but at its heart it's about charlatans, and having Orson slide through it like a Don Quixote is marvelous theatre. I can only imagine Disk 2 will be a disappointment, but I'll let it sift up to the top of my NetFlix Queue, and see. Eventually.
When Ebert was still on TV and he said a movie was good, I'd go and always have a good time. Now he's not anymore, I'm traveling on luck and hapinstance. I read the reviews on NetFlix, very rarely other places. I haven't found a new, single reviewer I trust. I had no idea what this film was about. Like most people who saw it, we figured it out as we went along. Nice to never know what's happening next. Pacing was perfect. Characters deep and real. The plot amazing. The story intelligent and emotional. Several times through it's a weeper. Something can't be summed in a few words. We have to get involved into the story, the characters, the plan. The Fall****
Fallen is creepy, scary and extremely visual as Denzel Washington tracks down an evil spirit that transfers from person to person by touch. We can see and hear the transfers via outstanding POV (point of view) camera work and a remarkably apt, Stones-heavy soundtrack. Eerie and beautiful. Smart and sharp, it's a well-crafted story of ultimate good and evil. Guess who wins? V 1998
Fallen**** is reminiscent of The Hidden — in which an intergalactic agent runs down an evil entity that transfers to another body whenever its host gets killed off. In The Hidden the transfer is unsubtle.
In Fallen, it's lusciously evil, subtle and slight of touch. And the filmmakers follow it deftly. This is one scary movie, starring, oh yeah, Denzel Washington. But also a POV (point of view) camera that goes slightly psychedelic whenever it becomes the transferring fallen angel. The creepy scenes are deeply, seriously creepy and highly visual. Slow motion and distorted cinematography give evil a disturbing grittiness in this superb film. I didn't know what to expect. I got chilled, both from the action and from the movie-making. Can't ask for better than that. 1998
I didn't want to see Fahrenheit 9/11***/ when it first came out, because, although I'm a true believer, I was tired of mean-spirited politics. Even when I rented it, I didn't' want to watch it, but I did. Glad.
Yes, there's a little mean-spiritedness here but much less than I'd been led to expect from all those idiots who'd never seen it. And there were eloquent moments of great beauty, which surprised the poo out of me. I've seen his other flicks and this is certainly another one of those, but he's getting better at it, not so clunk fisted, almost subtle sometimes.
What I liked best was the What You See If You Don't Start The Movie, showing Shrubadubbya stupidly fumbling with a children's book while the Trade Center burned down (fiddling while Rome burned). I watched that idiot expression at least two dozen times. It's the best animated introductory scene I've ever seen.
The Fan ****/ is Cape Fear meets Taxi Driver. But better than that. Superb acting. Good story. Tense. 1996
The Fantastic Mr. Fox*** is not really fantastic, but it was mildly entertaining, fairly smart, if not all the way to intelligent and it was often funny and usually fun.
Fast, Loose and Out of Control*** is an intellectual construct that almost works, from the director who brought us The Thin Blue Line. Combining interviews with and footage of: a circus wild-animal trainer, a topiary sculptor, a robot-builder, a rat mole scientist and one other guy I still can't remember. 1997
Fathers Day*** is good, solid Hollywood comedy. Very funny. Non credible plot, but two great comedians create two great characters, fun surprise cameos, lots to laugh about. I teared up on cue, too. 1997
Like a David Mammet play only it's the action and cinematography that's crazed and repeated, overacted and under-understood. Usually crooked. Fay Grim***/ is peculiar and off-putting and, well, I just gotta see what happens next. Its predecessor, Henry Fool*** is similarly structured with the same maddening characters but every scene is not seen crooked. The 'cant' I believe they called it in the special features. Nothing is up and down normal in FG, but that's true in non cinnematographic terms in both films. Not sure I needed to see the first and still like the second, of what may be a long-term series. If you have to choose, go with Fay.
Speaking of which, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas** is far more surreal yet less successful. Plotless, episodic, inane and lurid, it's Naked Lunch + Train Spotting + The Trip. Sleazy but delicious, mean-spirited and vile. 1998
Felicity's Journey*** is truly dark with dense colors and gloomy story. Bob Hoskins is wonderful as maniac. That Irish girl is superb and so vulnerable. Impressive but moody, kinda depressing. 1999
Fellini's Roma**** was one of the master's masterful send ups — this time of his treasured city, and it was an utter delight to watch it unfold in his unique and amazingly surrealistic style. Wow!
Female Perversions**/ is an intriguing, slick but amateur production with grossly over-simplified stereotypes interacting in surrealistic plot patterns. Everything by women, except the editing, which didn't save it. 1997
Fetching Cody*** just barely makes it as a time-travel movie. Our hero, such as he is, does travel in time and space on an old chair festooned with Christmas lights that aren't plugged in, and he repeatedly goes back in time and space to try to right the wrong he perceived about his beloved, but — unlike any other time-travel flick I've ever seen, he mostly just screws it up. Over and over. Probably because he's just too stupid, possibly because the medium (time-travel) is essentially elastic. But he keeps trying. Until the end when he doesn't anymore. Not quite quirky. Not exactly happily ever after. More just an effort.
I met Ram Dass in 1972. He was to speak to a crowd in a building with a balcony, and I was to photograph the event from there. About 20 minutes before, he asked about my telephoto zoom lens. I answered. During the show I shot a zooming photo of him trailing his essence into the crowd and out into the universe. Or that's how I see it now. I'd been wondering what he was up to these days and the many years since our encounter. This movie answers. It's about his stroke, which he calls Fierce Grace*** and how it's affected him and his message. He still moves me. I laughed; I cried; I am still thinking about his graceful ferocity.
Ram Dass' Fierce Grace**/ book was better, more inspiring, but for long-time fans wondering where he's at, what he's up to lately, this brings us up on the old man, which is what this movie is about. I read the book. It was fascinating. This wasn't the book, and it wasn't fascinating.
The Fifth Element**** — Quirkily surreal, very funny, Super Sci-Fi Action Flick European-style. Superb characterizations and cinematography, solid acting, fabulous costumes. Turning, tumbling plot, goofy aliens, lots of violence. Now, I want the letterbox video to watch over and over. Yum! 1997
Films of Kenneth Anger: Vol. 1** is enough I know I do not have to see any more. The one of the midget walking around an Italian waterpark is okay in small doses for a couple of minutes. The rest are awful.
The Final Countdown** was billed as science fiction, and it is, with a modern aircraft carrier being transported back into time in time to head off the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 (My father was there, having just flown in from San Francisco, so I care.) Burt Lancaster and a bunch of 80s stars with lots of jets taking off and landing tech and excitement. But the Captain and the script seriously chickens out, and instead of engaging the bad old Japs, they just come on back to the present at the end, a major disappointment. Stupid, stupid flick.
Final Destination*** is a remarkably well done, scary teen exploitation film with grotesquely violent - though brief, blood-splattering death scenes and mediocre characters mingled in with some amazingly good ones. The overt logic is remarkable, but the undercurrent logic is often lacking. Despite its flaws, FD comes off as pretty good film — good ideas - Cheating Death's Plan and fantastical Rube Goldbergian death scenes, solid cinematography and good acting most of the time. The DVD commentaries reveal lots more subtle manipulations. This flick has all the markings of a Cult Classic. 2000
I saw Final Fantasy, The Spirits Within***/ to spite the Dallas Morning News, which gave it a C-. But Ebert & thumbed it up, and so do I. The bozos at The News have only skin-deep understanding of the genre of science fiction. I remember too well their take on Stargate (not, of course, a great movie, but one of my faves) — "improbable plot," they opined, as if all sci fi weren't.
Here, the story is long and densely complex, almost deep and certainly visually stunning. Unfortunately, Gaia, the operative religion here, is nowhere near as direct or simple as Lucas' The Force. The effect of fully dimensional animated actors — long predicted in science fiction — is well crafted and almost credible, except our heroes couldn't smile or cry. Like Al Gore, they are supple but wooden. I'm eager to see the DVD with lots of info on How They Did It.
Then later: I'd seen Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within**/ before, and I sure hope I don't accidentally rent it again. Poofy (I'm thinking Pillsbury Dough Boy) 3-d annimation with an almost real plot. Fun, but something missing...
Fight Club***** is the strangest, most surreally sardonic, bleak, violent all-too-true nightmare ever filmed. Fabulous acting, superb screenwriting, scary cinnematography. Incredible movie, although it dumbs up a bit at the end.. SV+ 1999
Dennis Leary's performance in Final***/ is — as he nearly always is — edgy. The premise, a sci fi standby, catches us up in the swirl of truth verses fiction, fact against delusion. The film picks up the beat in a parallel, whorling, nearly impromptu melody, an alternating visual counterpoint and harmony. Unfortunately, there's a point in there when I knew what the deal was going to be. But Leary's so sharp and the writing smart enough that, by the let down ending, it hardly mattered.
The Final Cut***/ is subtle, rich, textural, rides the fascinating concept of editing people's memories after they're dead into movies to remember them by, and is probably too like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for its own good. Both are about memory and sci-fi machines that record — ane edit — it in in Cut and out in Sunshine.
But it works better in Sunshine; Cut loses momentum in the sub plots, some of which, like Mira Sorvino's romance interlude, seem pasted on, and the the "hippie" protests sequences don't make near enough sense to make movie sense. Overall, it's beautiful, intelligent and almost emotionally engaging, despite its confusions, and I loved seeing Robin Williams older, more conflicted and dark.
Finding Forester***/, is more than just another old- wise- guy- helps- a- young- talented- hero flick. Young outs agoraphobe Old into the real world, while Old ins Young to out his inner writer. Still, there's too much influence here of Col. Hoo-haw from The Scent of a Woman — what with the wizened Sean Connery saving the day showing up near the end to show up a prejudiced academic. But it's just smart enough, with a modicum of literary grace and wit. In all, it's intelligent and ethical, meaningful and enjoyable.
I don't have cable, so much of the best of TV passes me by. I'm catching up with Firefly***, a dynamic, fun science fiction adventure romp through the supposed future, though it often more approximates Hopalong Casady and Roy Rogers plots and even employs horses to cross alien territories. But it's the characters that make this series. A motley band of individuals with great heart. More fun than fine sometimes, but fine fun often. It was over four years ago of this writing, but I miss in now.
See also Serenity.
Fire in the Sky*** has been in my Netflix queue for several years. Last week it finally made it back up to the top again, and I didn't push it back down. First movie in awhile, I just watched all the way through. Didn't check the clock, didn't wander off for a couple days. About an alien encounter and the guys who were with the man who was abducted. First they were accused of murdur, then when the abductee came back, for making it all up to get attention. Not sure who'd want that kind of attention, except maybe the people who were accusing. Jim Garner plays a very credible cocky lawman asshole. Everybody else is at least credible. Solid story. Based on a true story. Every part of it fascinating. Who believed who. Who did not. Who went a little crazy.
First Strike ***/ is not laden with heavy plot, so this film moves fast, furious and often funny. The ladder scene is poetic ballet. Jackie Chan's hero is real, human, humor-full. There's no stupid love interest, just great action. Very funny. It's the best Jackie Chan flick ever. 1997
Fishing With John** may be the most soporific flick in decades. I'd got it to watch with my father (also named John) at Thanksgiving. And I got my chance, but I was embarassed for its stupidity and painfully slow pacing, even though about once per segment I actually laughed out loud.
It's John somebody taking famous actors, filmmakers and other famous guys fishing somewhere — sharks off Long Island, ice fishing in Maine, red snapper in... somewhere exotic. Unlike the Cable fishing shows, however, lots of the time nothing happens.
After my father trundled off to bed, my mother came in, complaining she couldn't sleep. I had the cure. Less than a half a segment sent her sleepily off to dreamland. I did not finish the DVD.
I am reminded of the movie My Best Friend Klaus Kinski by Werner Von Herzog, which is another movie about movies and about friendship and other things that do and do not get in the way of it. This movie, The Five Obstructions**** is five movies within one movie about friendship and obstructions that are and are not. The obstructions are rules Lars von Trier lays before his friend and fellow director Jörgen Leth for the five movies he makes with the obstructions from his friend. In many ways this movie is a conversation. In other ways it is the same director — Leth — making the same movie — The Perfect Human — five different ways, that despite more obstructive obstructions, get more interesting and more true to the selves of their directors. 2003
The Five Senses***/ is an exquisitely sensual movie. Each scene is beautifuly framed in rich, sensitive, dense color. Each character is rendered in lush and telling detail. Each sense is subtly, emotionally portrayed. 2000
Flags of Our Fathers**/ was a vast disappointment. Long, slow, grisly black and white, telling a story I'd seen too many times already, knew almost by heart, like an old movie I'd almost forgot, maybe should have.
Flawless*** wasn't. Pretty good performance by Robert Dinero, superb acting from Hoffman. A buddy pic, of sorts. Beautifully filmed but flawfully thought through. 1999
Flawless***/ is a superb, new, different heist flick. With Michael Caine and Demi Moore. There were twinkling moments when I liked him, but only at the end did I like her, at all. Odd to have a film with a thoroughly unlikeable main character/heros.
Jodie Foster continues to play tough, smart, vulnerable women. Flightplan***/ is better than the previews showed. Much better. It's tense, frightening, with a twisting, turning plot and a strong woman at its center — even manages an emotional payoff. 2006
Flyboys** is an incredibly stupid movie with cheap special effects, stupid dialog, imbecilic love interest and barely adequate aerial battle scenes that usually suffer from inept editing and hokey story line.
Flubber*** is fairly true to the original. Great incidentals like the Robin William's flying saucer-like sidekick/girl Friday, dumb pretty much everything else. Fun, but stupid. 1997
Focus**** is scary. It portrays anti-semitism in the Fifties, but it's about all prejudice always. It's on target, deep, eloquently and realistically malicious. The acting is superb, the story is shocking, but totally credible. We all know people like the bad guys in this film. We let them be, so they don't mess with us. They get worse. We wish a lot of people would see this movie. But it's smart, sharp and cutting. People who need to understand probably won't attend or would talk through it, nervous of their complicity.
Following**** - from the guy who directed Memento — which was enough to entice me into renting the vid, was clever, beautifully filmed in sepia black & white, well acted and filmicly fascinating. Zero budget, superbly edited, fine soundtrack, really a winner all round. The end credits were fuzzy, but the menus sharp and easily navigated. I was excited at the possibility of rearranging the original movie in "chronological order," although it turned out not to be logical. Still, I was very pleased with the director's final, unchroned version. 2000?
Forgetting Sarah Marshall* was too stupid to watch all the way through, and I'd been looking forward to it for months.
Forgotten***/ has a fine cast and sometimes amazing, shocking, gut-wrenching sudden surprises — although inveterate science fiction readers will recognize some classic elements interwoven in the plot, it is intelligently played out, if a tad X-Files paranoid. Us sci-fi vets as well as the great unwashed will also find stuff they never expected. Marvelous blend of hardware-free sci and fi.
For Love of the Game*** is not bad, just not great. Baseball movie fans will like it. Now, a month later, I cannot remember anything about the movie except the relationship between the pitcher (Kevin Costner) and his faithful friend, the catcher. 1999
The Fountain*** is an ambitious journey in time and space from Mayan magic, valiant conquistadors, Queen Isabella, a pretty woman named Izzie, through the brain tumor medical science present and off into the mystical future. Not exactly time travel, not exactly science fiction, not exactly original. They borrowed Silent Running's spherical spaceship sent to seed the stars, any number of eternal life, magical map and interlocking gizmos that magically reveal the Holy whatever movies into an intriguing mess of parallelish plots and hopes and dreams and a wedding ring.
Four Minutes***/ is about passion. Our heroine, if we can call her that, has more than she or anybody else, can handle. Her teacher, has but a little, and she hides that so well. In the end, of course, it all comes tumbling out. Those are the four minutes in the title. All hang out piano playing, her passion, released. For a change without hurting anybody. Beautiful movie in strange ways, the timing for one instance, is impeccable throughout. Like a 30s farce or a choreographed footbal movie, ballet-like, with fisticuffs and screaming, crashing fits. Passion overabundant, if not triumphant.
The 400 Blows**** is magnificent in ways I am only just beginning to understand. I've watched it twice now, once with the idiotic commentary, once without. The next six viewings will be without. For such an early film, this honest, unvarnished story is liquid, flowing gently with credible characters and amazing — but not at all flashy — cinematic technique. 1959
4 Little Girls*** is a Spike Lee documentary about the four little girls killed by a dynamite blast in the formative years of Birmingham's climb out of segregation. It's solid, not great, eminently predictable in a historic way, doesn't give the evil perpetrator much humanity, not that he ever had much, but otherwise tells the story in depth.
The Fourth Dimension** is long, slow and essentially brain dead. It's about clocks, people and time, but nothing comes of it that I can see or understand. All during it I longed for color and story and understanding. What I got was paranoia and mind-numbing film school over-"acting."
I caught part of one episode of Foyle's War***/ on the local NPTV station and was entranced, so I've begun with the first episode and will work my way through to the end. Nice WWII period piece with eveolved characters and plots (there's always at least two seemingly separate murders that Foyle and his crew put together). I've seen six now and am eager for more, though here, they count only one, total..
ALPHA INDEX NEAR TOP
Frailty***/ is a spooky tale, engaging and smart. The acting, filming and especially, the surprising twist at the end, is superior. Edgy, taut, strong. 2003
The best thing about Frazetta*** is his art, by the hundreds, filling the frames of this documentary, and it's nice to see him and listen to him talk about his life, his family and his art — and even watch him make art. His art surpassed the supposed limitations of illustration in the 1950s and reinvented it since, but this movie never makes the jump. Although the content is fascinating, the movie itself is gimmicky and hokey.
Freeway** is Reece Witherspoon and Keiffer Sutherland causing lots of violence, blood splatter andl mayhem. Acting is really bad, filming is adequate, story is dumb and the plot never thickens. Not much intelligence and almost no humor, black or otherwise, and damned little irony.
Although no one in it actually travels back or forward in time, Frequency**** may be the best time travel movie ever made. It truly is about time, its liquidity and possible alternate time lines. What's so fascinating about the genre of time travel stories is the business of resolving the anomolies created by divergent time lines, and this movie sorts them out more visually and intelligently than any other attempt.
What else has it going for it? Well, it's got all that sci-fi with none of the usual high-tech trappings. In fact, it's a very human and involving drama about realistic people, focusing on an amazingly sharp, well-drawn and emotionally intriguing father and son relationship, which is itself extremely rare in Hollywood. Then there's a very relevant and on-target murder mystery that provides plenty of action and angst.
From the opening credits, it's a fast-paced, taut, superbly crafted and spectacularly well edited film that shows an ongoing human drama with bits of very humane comedy all along the way. The science fiction aspeccts are seamlessly stitched into the 30-year story. And every succeeding shift in the timeline is beautifully and precisely visualized. V 2000
I somehow managed to miss writing about Frida****, which we saw right about here in the chronology. Wonderful visualization of a familiar historical story about one of North America's greatest art couple and one of this continent's most expressive visual artists. The movie was better than we expected, with a solid grasp on history in general and Frida Khalo's work in particular. I can still — several months later — see her and her famous painting of herself and husband Diego Rivera's portrait coming to life via special effects. Lots of delicious art philosophy, great characters and characterizations. A delight.
From Hell*** is spooky, violent, dark, dank, vicious, vivid, horrific, creepy, compelling, a smart retake on the Jack The Ripper riff. I like Depp better when he's quirky, but he was fine here, too. Kinda goofy, largely unbelievable Hollywoodian love story badly sewn into the fabric of horror. But the horror was plenty horrorish. I always liked blaming it on the queen, too. But then I think the more recent one did in Princess Di, too. Those dark ladies have been up to a lot of darkness in the last century. 2001
Frost/Nixon***/ is dramatic and historic, although not precisely so. For truth to history, I'd give it an 8, maybe 7.5. I'd rather see the real debates. What little I've seen of that is noticeably different from this movie's depiction. At least there, the interviewee looks like somebody in history, and that vision is unnerving. The guy who plays Nixon is very good but only for a few instants ever looks like Nixon, although he's got some of the characteristics down. Calling it a dramatization would true enough. The fictionalization is done in the usual haphazard Hollywood manner, although I liked the actors. The Nixonization, however is better than reality.
We saw Frost/Nixon some time ago. Now, I've finally seen The Great Equivocator. They called Mr. Clinton "Slick Willie," and he was, but nobody's got that down like The Great Slime Ball that is Nixon, although sometimes here, we see little glimpses of the human being behind all that. Those moments are golden. The rest is reality, and it's nothing like as dramatic as the fictionalized (!) movie with all its side- and back-story nonsense. Here, we got Frost and Nixon, and that's amazing and enough. Scary and informative. Frost Nixon: The Original Watergate Interviews***/
Oh, man. I finally finished Frozen River***/. One of those movies that sounded good on Netflix but once I got started, I did not want to have to finish. I kept stopping and not starting again. Long, slow, turgid movie I didn't want to get into again, then did, then stopped again. Slow. Painful, about near as I could figure, real people, doing real things. From the bottom of things, no money, no husbands, no real chance, two women together leaving their family where they had to while they did what they had to, and I didn't want to watch. Then finally I just did, and loved it. It's about a lot of things, of course, but it's also about kurass, what Kurt Vonnegut called our extended family, however it is they get to be members of that. Real family and extended family, and people you happen on along the way and keep. Oh, it's about smuggling and it's a little fearsome, but it's also about superb acting and what's essentially a short story that's amazingly filmed.
It says F**k: A Documentary" on the Netflix wrapper for this film. The film itself uses a star instead of an asterisk, as in "F*CK," but when it shows up on my desktop is full-fledged "FUCK***," so it's difficult to tell what the actual film's title is, but that's what it's all about. Oh, there's some knowledge in the Biblical sense. In fact The Bible gets mentioned a lot, even though the word is neither there nor prohibited there. Certainly some direct references to sex. But mostly the movie's about saying that word. How it's bad when some people say it, but okay when others say it, although either of those can change at any moment. I like words, and fuck is one I don't say nearly enough, and after seeing this movie, it seems just a little more revolutionary to say it.
The Full Monty***/has believable characters, pleasant plot, good acting. Mirthful. 1997
Full Tilt Boogie** is a hoot of a flick, all fun and silly at its best, seriously straight at the low points. A documentary about making the independent film, Dusk To Dawn, which was a much worse movie that this doc about it. NS 1998
The title of the book was eloquent. But calling the movie Standing in the Shadows of Motown is wrong. This moving movie's rightful name is The Funk Brothers***/. And though the story sometimes bogs in murky molasses, the bittersweet, previously untold story is pretty wonderful — as is nearly the whole second platter of memories truths and disk one's long sets from the best-selling but hardly the most successful band ever.
I didn't think I did till the end, but I liked this movie though it has damned little to do with Diane Arbus or making photographs or visual thinking (that's the part that angered me) and overly much about the famous photographers' strange subjects, without tying them into her work. This film is not about a lot of things it properly should have been. I appreciate historical accuracy, and the biographical aspects of this movie are blatantly imaginary. But it is strikingly visual, often beautiful and intentionally weird (even though actual freaks inhabit it), and intriguingly and inappropriately spooky, as if the filmmakers forgot they were not making a horror flick. Or they thought they were. The title is stupidly funny, but not much else about Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus*** is.
The Future We Will Create - Inside the World of TED***/sounded like a conference where highly intelligent people talked to other brilliant people about new ideas. And that's pretty much it, except they don't just talk. The ideas were brilliant and deceptively simple. The TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conference brings together 1,000 people who have resources, intelligence and have already implemented great ideas. It's a community that listens to new ideas every year then implements these world-changing ideas. Watching it happen is fascinating for the ideas, enriching for the community accomplishment, entertaining, inspirational and thought-provoking. TED.com, their amazing website, expands these notions spectacularly. (Looks like the new iPhone operating system is a subset of one of ideas.)