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J R's Images & Ideas

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G

I finally willed my suspension of disbelief in Galaxy Quest*** just about the same time the crew of this Star Trek take-off snapped to their duties to the Universe. I didn't want to believe, but by the end I was a believer. Fun and funny, this movie makes fun with and fun of Trekkie mania. 2000

Garden State***/ had serious quirk, a strong-plot building romance with just the right characters, a lot of really nice people (many of whom also had serious quirk) and a gentle manner. I'd like to see it again, maybe with ma honey.

Gattaca*** is low-tech future sci fi where everybody wears suits, drives Citroens and Avantis. It's about identity, discrimination and the need to excel. 1997

In Gaudi Afternoon***/ a curmudgeonly Judy Davis gets caught up in a bisexual, pre-op transexual, lesbian, non-legal child custody battle that doesn't just bend sexual identity, it twists it, all the while "talking" about motherhood and slowly opening up like a quirky detective novel. And it's all set in Antoni Gaudi's Barcelona. Lots of character development and thankfully very little sex, odd toward quirky and playful but mostly oonly funny in a warmish human way. I only wish there'd been Enlish subtitles, since there's lots of untranslated Spanish throughout this movie about a translator. And I deeply miss having seen it in widescreen. 2002

Hiroshi Teshigahara's Antonio Gaudi is a fabulous movie. Read my prosaic review of that exquisite movie.
 

Georgia***** shows Jennifer Jason Leigh sure can act. This movie hurts to watch, she's so fine. Here, she plays another original, a singer with nobody else in the world's style. Not always melodic, but awesome. So's the movie. Not an upper, but a great flick. 1996

Georgia O'Keefe below

The Getaway** was another personal rerun hardly worth mentioning, except it had Paul Newman in it.

Spike Lee's Get On the Bus**/ is either excellent or mediocre. I'm not sure. Very talky-preachy, but it says important things well. Goofy story, guys mostly misses the Million Man March but learn important truths along the way. 1996

Ghengis Blues***/ is a sweet little movie about a lesser known American bluesman nicknamed "Earthquake" who visits Tuva between China and Mongolia, sings songs he composed in their language, which he has learned, and in their unique style, which he has also learned. The style is called throat singing and involves singing at least three (maybe four) different notes at once in harmony. The style sounds otherworldly, like a digereedoo is to musical instruments, Tuva is to vocals. The movie is a travelog and a friendship, imperfect but human.

At last, a good, solid movie, with solid story, sharp message, superb acting, and more murder than anything since maybe Natural Born Killers, whose violent, anti-violence moral it shares. Ghost Dog***/ tells a story in interesting, nuanced, unique, cinnematic ways, plays with our visual, aural and philosophic expectations and, at the end, lets go. 2000

We saw an interesting, if not at all fascinating, darkly humorous, real movie in a real theater. What was its name.... Oh, yeah. Ghost World***/ by the same director who brought us Crumb, and with some of the same sardonic wit. This flick is fictional, but the blood lines are the same, and so's the heart. I laughed out loud — and usually alone, but I'll see it again when the DVD comes out. Her take on it was: "Alienated teenage girl / high school art class from hell." But we both like Steve Buscemi, although neither of us can spell his last name.

Ghost in the Shell*** is intriguing, beautiful, deeply thought through, mind-boggling, great action, wonderful tech, marvelous comic book characters brought to life, solid sci-fi anime.

Hadn't seen The Ghost and Mrs. Muir*** for at least 40 years. Minutes after the wildly romantic movie started I forgot it was in black & white, let myself back into the story of the sea captain and the widow. Smarmy and absurdist, yet warmly comfortable and comforting.

Unexpected twists. Thriller stuff. A little terror, lots of great actors. Outstanding story. Intelligent plot. Fun. Oh, the name of the movie, Ghost Writer***/ Polanski is brilliant. Except I do not believe the supposed source for the secret McGuffin is was suggested, which blows the whole plot.

I rented The Gift***/ because I like stories about psychic phenomena and strongly suspect that some people have that gift, if you can call it that. The people I know who might have it only have it sometimes, and even then it's not an easy thing to have. These gifts sometimes help, but they are also a big pain, and not just because so few believe. This movie, with all its big name stars and polished cinematography, treats the subject kindly and with some insight. As a scary movie, this one's creep runs deep — with good characters and acting and story — even if it reads a little like To Kill A Mockingbird near the end.

Another TV favorite from several years ago that I can't get on my five-station TV anymore is Gilmore Girls**/. I used to love it. Then I started re-watching where my reception had left off, and it drove me nuts. That much fast-talking repartee is grand fun once a week on my little screen (or every half-year or so with my sibs at family gatherings), but four or five or six episodes in rapid succession were too much — or too little. I might pick them up further into after I lost track of the Gilmore's seasons, but not for awhile, and then only one episode at a time. I only count TV shows as one movie, even if they go on forever.

Sometimes the plot in The Girl from Monday***/ seemed confused with a rain of moment-to-moment 180 turns. Like the dialog was written by a four-year-old, but the kid's father and grandfather helped, too, so it has wisdom as well as crazy kid stuff. It's deeply funny in odd moments; I wasn't sure I was supposed to laugh, then I laughed and laughed. Other moments the plot is mind-bending fascinating. Sci-fi around the bend. Visually sharp, in focus and amazing. Surprising all over the place. Bent in the best of ways.

Girl Interupted***/ is on the money about being crazy and put me back in touch with some of my own. It's not a happy flick but serious and informed. Sort of a gloomy One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for girls. 2000

The Girl in the Cafe***/ follows a chance meeting between two extraordinarily shy people, into friendship, gradual, halting romance and a chance to change the world. Superb acting. Deeply intelligent script. Decent scenery, but most of it's interior.

My first post-NetFlix, non-DVD rental flick was Girl on a Bridge****, which was amazingly good, even if I had to stay glued to the set to read all the subtitles. Sometimes I long for dubbing, even though it's so often mediocre.

Regardless, this was an amazing movie, rendered in rich, glorious, black and white with just as rich acting and visual aspects. The dialog was fascinating, deeply intelligent and engaging. It even went on between the two leads when they were not together physically, something that usually only happens in the movies, but here it made total sense. About a down and out knife-thrower who finds the woman — and target — of his dreams. Very endearing, too.
  

I usually reserve five stars — asterisks — ratings for movies that do something new, distinctly different and superbly. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo***** is just such a movie. A thriller, violent, sometimes sadistic. Diverse characters brought together to solve a mystery, yes but deeply psychological and amazing underneath all of it, and it all ties together in the end. The book must be a literary masterpiece. So's the movie.

A little too sloppy with the teen angst and way too much pathetic crying, but for a time-travel flick, interesting with flashes of brilliance. For anime there might be too many times when the visuals went the too-easy way and got sentimental, but then there are trip scenes and some moving (the anime part) passages that are treasures, beautiful and wise. The Girl Who Leapt Through time*** isn't really for adults, but this one mostly enjoyed it.

Gladiators****? is rich, beautiful, intelligent, violent, superbly acted, deep, long and gloriously filmed. Like Titus, this flick is full of mean spirited vengeance, but it also achieves transcendence. The audience, however, was ineligant and idiotic. 2000

The Glass Harp***/ is the best depiction of Truman Capote's childhood yet. Lots of famous actors, some playing against type very well indeed. But it's hard to hear some of the actors. Sound man really fell down on this one. And even the ads mention the poor picture quality. 1996

The Gleaners & I**** plus The Gleaners & I, Two Years Later are quirkly little, free flowing documentaris on the people who find treasure in other people's trash. Fascinating and completely true, the film includes the filmmaker, who's obviously a gleaner, too. 2002

I've begun being enthralled by Glenn Gould again. Something played on NPR set me off, downloaded some MP3s of The Goldberg Variations I'd seen and heard him play on 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould in 1993 or thereafter. Which film is set to release "soon" sayeth Netflix, so I can watch it online. He could probably play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and I'd be glued to the speaker or a good set of headphones for the duration, but Bach or those other guys, including Atonal, knocks me out over and over. So Glenn Gould: On and Off the Record***/, meaning in recording sessions in New York and not and at home in rural Canada instead, thrill me without knowing much about Classical music at all, except that I like it sometimes. Always when Gould played it.

Didn't' know I was so angry with Gone Baby Gone**** till the end. Fiercely strong movie whose conclusion gave me the willies. Long detective story needing lots of detecting. We follow a motley crew of characters through twists and turns high and low. Moral dilemmas all along. Till the end we thought we knew what was going on. Then it got hijacked. Creepy big movie with pretty great everything, except ending. Shudder.

Gone in 60 Seconds**/, like Con Air features a bunch of criminals creating havoc and destruction. At the end, instead of a spectacular plane crash they're a semi-spectacular car chase. It's exciting enough, but... 2001

The Golden Compass***/ is a figuratively and literally dark (noir) movie of magic and adventure. The music and plot is often silly and predictable, but the story is entertaining when it is not too busy setting up the next sequel, and the special effects pretty and wonderful, although the heavy color casts were annoying.

Some movies I never figure out what they're about. I'd see any George Clooney, because he makes interesting, often lefty choices. Eventually I'll even get around to Ocean 13, I suppose. Meanwhile, The Good German*** is, near as I figure, about all the rocket-science genius Nazi scum (Werner Von Braun?) we got in the trade with the Russians at Pottsdam. They got the Iron Curtain countries, and we got evil men with brilliant minds, that made the U.S. the world-dominating power. And forced Eastern Europe into years of slavery. Good for us, except that it was bad for them and for everybody else we've dominated since. Like the last film I reviewed, this is set after the end of World War II. Again in black & white. More stylish than that, but not as human. The B&W itself is superb, as complicated as the plot but easier to watch than understand. The music's as stringy but sophisticated. I like that Clooney gets clobbered every fight he's in, all very anti-hero, and that Spiderman is not just the bad guy but mean and stupid, too, like many here. When it first came out, we chose The Good Shepherd as that year's spy flick in a movie theater. They are very different films, but this one may be better.


This movie is nothing like what I expected a movie about Phillip Glass to be or about. Though of course I never thought about it enough to have any ideas of what to expect. Years ago I saw 32 short films about Glenn Gould, and I don't remember movies.

I don't remember dialog — except maybe fragments — and I don't remember plots, but I remember sensations, feelings. And this movie reminds me of those in that one. I'm sure it's entirely different with hardly any analogs, but there's that feeling back there somewhere that's operative.

From almost the first moments, this one is touching. It is human, and it's got a lot to do with art, but more than just that Chuck Close is one of Phillip's lifetime best friends. All the way through it phillip talks about the creative process. Disparagingly much of the time. It's real. It's human. I kept feeling myself smiling big. It's funny. It's fun. It's real. I don't "like" his music, unless I don't know it's his music, then I love it.

The film is beautifully and unobtrusively shot. we are aware there's a camera there and sometimes we even see it. The composition is elegant. The talking heads are real. Everything is. All the way through Glass: A Portrait of Phillip in Twelve Part***/, I was excited to be hearing it, watching it, feeling.

 

It's about self-righteously doing the right thing, every wrong time. It's tuff, grisly, dark. Heavy detectiving, not a lot of soul-searching, but everybody makes the wrong decisions and only one has to live with it. Lot of the others die with it. Gone Baby Gone***/

Good Night and Good Luck*** is a gritty black & white rehistory of Edward R. Murrow's part in the rise and especially the fall of Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch hunt of 1950s America, when the fear of Communism was so thick people were fired and/or committed suicide merely for being called that by the evil senator. The timing of the film, of course, has much to do with the current regime. But the telling is long and slow and frankly boring. 2006

Far from being "the best spy movie ever," The Good Shepherd** was long, slow, tedious and predictable. It was about style more than telling a story, and lame at that. The style was all that held up.

Good Will Hunting**** may be a little weepy, but superb acting, story, filming. 1997

Gosford Park*** is a powerful soporific without even the common courtesy of English subtitles. 2002

The Governess*** is a smart, sharp Jewess passing for Christian in the Scottish boons. She falls for the scientist/photographer Dad, and the Son falls for her. She discovers how to permanatize photographs and make it an art form. Along the way are brief bits of sensuous surreality, strong characters and delicious film-making. A flawed delight. S 1998

Goya, Crazy Like a Genius***/ is remarkable for showing us Goya while an only mildy egomaniacal critic tells the great painter's many stories. Darned few talking heads. More than anything else we see Goya's works, in detail, in most of their glory and in chronological order. Not so much a cinnematic masterpiece, but a story very well told and profusely illustrated.

I've often wondered who Francisco Goya was. How he lived. What he did. How was he so, lucky, if that's the word, to have been in the thick of the action war, friends and portraitist to kings, yet intimate with the madhouses and whore houses — all the most fascinating places. In Goya's Ghosts***, I see glimpses into that rich brown era, lurid with evil and madnesses in every direction. The Inquisition, wars and revolutions. Badem's another ultimately evil bad guy, and except for the paintings through the titles at the end, I don't want to have to see this one again for many years.

Grace of My Heart****
Following the career of a songwriter/singer through her pop, soul, psycedelic and rock years. Strong performances, outstanding soundtrack. Like That Thing That You Do with meaning and soul.
1996

I got Grace of My Heart***/ thinking it was Saving Grace, which I still haven't seen. Nice seeing GoMH again, but not nearly as nice as I thought it might have been.
  

I thought I needed to know about Gram Parsons, mysterious, enigmatic, crazed, tied with Emmylu Harris and a lot of other women and musicians, etc. But again it's the music that kept me watching his life story till the whole crazy story of his burial and reburial and partial cremation in the desert that woke me up again. Lot of footage of Gram performing and words from enough famous and involved people to keep it complex and interesting. Gram Parsons - Fallen Angel***

Clint Eastwood's Gran Turino***/ is a solid story with rich characters and gritty realism, and a nice, heart-warming twist at the end that will shock.

I saw Grave of the Fireflies*** but days after I couldn't remember a single scene, and now the only reason I know I saw it is that it's on my returned list at Netflix. Not exactly memorable.

The Greatest Game Ever Played*** is another rags to riches golf story, pleasant enough, well acted, solid story, just so very much like all the other good ones of the nearly word-for-word genre. I don't care for golf, but I like golf stories more than most sports but in most respects this is just another duffer, with more than a nod to history without being quite realistic.

Despite its dreadful reproduction of her work, which are sometimes even cropped and the narrator's mispronunciations and hackneyed text, Great Women Artists: Georgia O'Keefe**/ shows an intelligent, if stilted history of her life and work. Presented in the elderly, short rectangular format of early television, with no talking heads and few back stories or images beyond her own and old black & whites of landscapes and a few people, all narrated by a sonorous voiced male reading a script, it's still interesting and presented in chronological order, so we begin to understand the progress of her career.  45 minutes long.

I couldn't finish Grey Zone* since it made no sense and didn't even intrugue me enough to stay sat in my big comfortable green chair with my feet up and my head back in perfect viewing mode. I never knew what was happening, so I never cared where it went, if anywhere.

When I first saw The Great Escape**** I was the same age my mother was when she first saw Wuthering Heights. And i was similarly affected. Mom found her Heathcliffe just a couple of years later and has stuck with him for 58 years. I found many escapes along the way and have been thrilled by the adventures, including a war and other death-defying feats.

I worried about the color while I watched the trailer — all faded and decolorized. But the informative 'filming of' made it clear that the colors of 1964 were still vibrant. So was the high adventure, the tension and all that excitement. It was thrilling to see it once again in its original very widescreen aspect. Watching the complex plot unfold, and all those individuated characters grow was fascinating. No wonder this movie — if not all the details of it — has stuck in my mind for all these 37 years. Wow. +

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I did not see The Great Gatsby***/ when it was made in 1978. Perhaps I should have. Everybody seemed amazing young now. Interesting story, though, and good acting. Would have awarded it three and a half asterisks.

The Great Robot Race*** has been in my Netflix Queue for a couple years. Every time it made it near the top, I'd put other movies in front and push it down the list again. I thought I knew I wanted to watch it, but ya just never know for sure till you see it, then it's too late. I liked it. It was exciting and the majorly funded giant team did not win. Winning involved a robot-driven (no remote control or human intercession) 72 miles through the desert and mountains. A remarkable feat for vehicles that operate themselves, and a decent 'movie.'

Greenfinger*** is hokey, contrived, lightweight and silly, with enough heart to make it charming, although whomever chose the music should probably have their ashes scattered in the garden. It's about hard-core prisoners who take up gardening, so they'll have a job when they get out, who make it big in the horticultural world. With a young Clive Owen and Helen Mirren, whose talents here are slight.

The Green Mile***/ was sweet and serious Sci-Fi at its subtlest. Fine story of a black man trapped on death row in a southern prison manned by kindly guards and one, noteworthy, mean sleeze. The prisoner is uneducated and has only one, supernatural skill. Truly put us in a different world. The cast is superb, as is the story. V 2000

Green Zone***/ is a great name for a movie, even if it has little to do with the Green Zone, although that's where the political intrigue part is. Baghdad is where the action intrigue almost all is. Exciting, fast moving, intelligent, telling the truth with fiction. Good politics, good spy flick. Great message: We lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction, so we could start a war there and kill a quarter of a million Iraqis just to show we are the biggest and baddest country in the world. The world knows no terror like American terror. We are the great Satan.

I didn't notice the music when I first saw Grizzly Man***/. Too busy dreading the end, caught in the downward flow. Madman suicide by bear. All through this role of a lifetime, our hero's videoing his bears, daring to interact with them, the only real life he gets close to. Beautiful, innovative, fanciful filming, starring himself of course, but off. The fox run is fabulous, but something's always a little off. Innovative but scary. Another fascinating character study by Werner Herzog. Perfect except for his falling star. Then the Scoring Special Feature**** nets that last half star. Herzog with Richard Thompson and ace musicians. Completes the movie superbly. Reveals the director and the movie far better than some stupid commentary. Then I had to see the movie again to hear the music. And the scoring feature four more times. Chilling.

Groove*** is a demi-documentary on Raves that unfolds simply and visually like a ballet. The latticed plot that holds it together is putting on and attending a rave. Of course, it's a boy meets girl, boy keeps boy, boy loses girl and a bunch of other subplots thrown in for interest and humor. And the music is throbbing fine, and very much the lead character throughout. It's colorful, densely characterized and interesting. 2000

Grosse Pointe Blank***/ is a quirky, smart-ass flick with witty dialog, lots of mayhem, a bit of romance and some great actors doing bit parts. 1997

Guarding Tess***/ was annoying at first, then pleasant, finally, heartwarming.

Guinevere**/ is about an obsessive's compulsion to mate with young women with overbites. Supposedly, he inspires them to create art, but we never believe that. It's a dark, chiaroscuro film with mostly engaging characters but not much character development evident. 1999

Gustave Courbet** gives hints as to who this artist was, shows his work, tells a once over lightly version of his story for TV audiences, misses a lot, is kinda stupid.

Gundam Wing** was utterly awful repetitive without ever making any progress through several episodes. Disappointment.

I rented Guys & Dolls***, because I missed another early TV favoirte, The Damon Runyon Theater, which was probably not as good but different enough that I'd still love to see some of those quirky scenes and characters again. G&D was pleasant enough — great to see Brando young and thin, and singing yet, but just not the same...

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Haiku Tunnel** is srange, quirky with broad humor, too TV, less than a movie. Mercifully short.

I missed learning how the famous Life Magazine photographer made his photographs, what he was thinking in those moments of exposure, how he dealt with the people in his photographs. But I learned much more than that about the human being who was Gordon Parks, photographer, musician, writer of fact and fiction, maker of movies and photographs. His own unflinching narratives were amazing to watch, his story through his times fascinating. Fine movie, great leading man. Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks***/

Some serious quirk at work here, too. The Hairdresser's Husband***/ is erotic without approaching porn. It's about love and not at all about growing up, although we see the husband of the title as a young boy and learn of his early obsession for hairdressers and his marriage to one much later. Gentle, funny, I don't mind repeating, erotic and loving. A sweet movie.

Hamlet***/ is superb, but you have to pay attention. The language — and this delicious movie — is thick, juicy, rich, deep and original. The visuals are bright, contrasty and lush. Everything comes off the screen at us like wildfire. It's fast-paced and superbly acted. First time I've ever seen that story and understood darned near all of it. 2000

Hamlet****/
Great story, great film. Lush, long and superbly acted. Beautiful and powerful. 1997

Hancock***/ is almost an excellent movie, but the screenwriting wasn't given as much attention as the special FX. The story is fine, just the plot suffers without transitions between segments. They come without notice, so they seem unglued, dopey. A little finesse would have gone a long way.

Hands on Hard Bodies*** is about real people in a real situation — if you can call standing around a new pickup truck (the hardbody) with one, gloved hand on it — no leaning, no drugs and no lifting your hand — for 78 hours, or until everybody else goes crazy and quits — reality. Shot directly, humanely and appropriately surreal on Hi-8 video, this is a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story that reveals real people in ways that will surprise, amaze and entertain you. Often both moving and funny. NS 1998
  

Following my recent penchant for renaming not quite stellar movies, I'm calling this one The Noises of Pigs. If you've seen it, you probably know what I mean. It's an exquisitely filmed movie in which violence is an inherrent component. I would have awarded it four asterisks, except that it's fatally flawed by two issues.

The worse is an insipid FBI-as-bad-guy subplot. As much as we are willing to believe that the FBI is stupid and corrupt — as is manifest in a multitude of American movies in the last couple decades — just now, in history, we depend upon them more than ever, and suddenly, we all trust them again. (Funny how that works out.) But it won't last, of course. Still, the FBI bozos in this movie are meaner, stupider and more coniving than is credible even by us gulible Americans. Way over the top. Not that the movie is a mainliner anyway, but most of its over-the-top isms are pleasing and credible, in a willful suspension of disbelief sort of way.

Juliane Moore is a favorite of mine, and she's been stellar many times in many different roles. But in Hannibal***/, she just isn't. Not once did I ever believe she was the same agent we saw in Silence of the Lambs. Of course, Little Man Tate's mom got an Oscar for that stellar performance, and JM's Southern accent is even worse. I liked the character, I just wish she didn't have to be Clarice Starling, whom she clearly was not.

Otherwise, the movie, was stunning, beautiful, great plot, beautiful to watch, exciting to listen to. Everything.
  

The Hanging Garden**/ is disturbing. Partially because it is the graphic story of a dysfunctional family — violent father, senile grandmother, masculine (whose kid is this, anyway?), codependent mom, homosexual boy child, everybody's angry. But more disturbing than just that, because the story is mostly about the son, who gets grossly fat as a teenager, hangs himself (dead), then comes back ten years later when his younger sister marries whom would have become his gay lover. When he returns, he's skinny and well, even though he and others still see him hanging there in the garden. Superb, unique concept and (dare I say) execution. A haunting but satisfying movie. Wow! 1998

Of course, every novel and most longer stories necessarily involve serendipitous interrelationships of characters, but Happinstance**/ is yet another in too long a line of casually linked story lines that don't go anywhere. 2002

Happiness*** is yet another quirky flick about relationships. It's funny and smart most of the time, even endearing in places, and the ensemble cast is decent, but there's a nasty, overriding undercurrent that leaves a bad taste. 2003

M. Night Shyamalan having a movie makes it worth my while to see it. The Happening***/ may not be an important entry into his body of stories brought to film. It's no Sixth Sense, for example. Maybe more on a par with The Villiage, which I liked, even if it wasn't amazing. But I'm glad I saw it. I was angry before I saw it, and its scariness calmed me. It's spooky like the best spookies spook. A little Night of the Living Dead, the first one, that I laughed out loud at when I saw it on LSD so many years ago, inspiring the wrath of fellow movie-watchers. The Happening could be laughed through. That would make sense, and you wouldn't even need the acid.

I remember Happy Endings** had a happy ending, that it was all confused in the middle, and never went anywhere, and I was happy it was over, but that's about all. 2006

Hard Candy**** is a searing little movie that lets us think and question and wonder all the way through. No pat answers or story elements or music or anything else here. Stark, direct. Outstanding dialog, beautiful camera work, shocking story about control and pederasty and a couple of humans who engage in or against that stuff. Even the special features are startling good.

It might have helped if Hard Rain* had been presented in correct order. (We in the back row figured out soon after the "second" reel started that something was missing — a major portion of the story, and we were making loud jokes about it. The theater management didn't figure it out till twenty minutes later. Then they stopped the movie. Which was a big mistake, because they didn't get it back together in the right order while we — or most of the audience — were there. They'd promise fifteen minutes, then thirty minutes, then — after that was gone, they promised another 45 minutes of wait. We finally left.) We didn't mind watching it out of order, tho. It's a stupid movie, and order was not gonna help. I've said before that I'd see Morgan Freeman in anything. But now that I have, I'm gonna be more discriminating. I'd got free passes for both Hard Rain and Fallen, so I didn't lose any money on the deal — in fact, the theater gave us free passes because of the reel-order stupidity. 1998
 

I've watched two documentary movies about two of science fiction's best writers in the last two weeks. In both, the hero/protagonist has seemed loony tunes crazy over the edge bonkers. Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth*** presents one of America's greatest writers being his own highly individualized and curmudgeonly old overweight guy both wickedly smart and goofily stupid in so many ways.

Philip K. Dick: The Penultimate Truth**/ is constructed as a secret government agency's paranoid investigation of whom we learn from countless talking heads in his life actually was a paranoid schizophrenic, who just happened to be one of America's best and most fascinating writers.

There's a commonality about both movies that's striking. The Harlan Ellison movie is better, but they're both marginal. Unless you know who these guys are, you'll probably not be interested in learning what they tell us. I'm a fan of both, even more of a fan of Ellison now I've seen how uniquely individualist he is, less of Dick, now that I see how paranoid and crazy he was, but I'm still a major fan of both their fiction and will continue a course of serious study of both their books.

Not to find out more about their authors, but to enjoy more of the books. What I've read so far was thrilling. I'll probably watch every movie they've been associated with, too.

 

Lately, I've been looking to movies for excitement, thrills, spills and adventure. I've been ignoring my cultural literacy most of that time, as if it would just go away. Tonight, after jockeying it all over my NetFlix queue for months, I accidentally let Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle***/ slip to the top of my list, they shipped it to me, and I watched it.

Most of the way into it I didn't know what to think. Either it was one of the stupidist flicks I've ever seen or it was truly historic (the girls bathroom fart scene truly is) and deeply cultural. That's it. It were. Glad I finally saw it; sure took me long enough. My cultural education, while far from complete, has taken a long-delayed speedbump into the present.
 

Harry Brown*** plays on the same fears, sympathies as Charles Bronson's vigilante hero did decades ago. But this is a grisly movie. Dark, fright-laden. Scary stuff when lowlifes take over a neighborhood and the police are too stupid to do anything about it. So Harry Brown does. If Harry Brown were not played by Michael Caine, I would never have rented this vicious and malevolent movie, but he is, and I did. Caine is still amazing. Of course. Emily Mortimer is good also. And the bad kids are truly evil.

Harry Potter*** was okay, I suppose. I was eager to be charmed, but disappointed. Nice enough special effects — I really liked "Fluffy" the giant, three-headed dog, but the students at Hogwart all seemed clichéd nearly to death, the plot — if any — was primarily episodic, with not much character development, and the magic was pretty hoaky. A lotta noise, not much import. 2001

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets**/ just goes on and on and on. It doesn't seem to be about anything, except having exotic adventures that make sorta interesting special effects.

I was glad Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban*** back storied a bit of his earlier (?) life, and the bit about time travel was greatly appreciated, but overall, an extended yawn.

Hart's War*** was the typical Hollywoodian take on World War II POW camps crossed with a nasty, anti-Black prejudice subplot. Kinda interesting, mildly amusing turns of plot, but mostly just nyeh. 2002

The Haunting***/ takes us back to the black & white 60s, when madness was still new and intriguing. This truly original extrapolation from the haunted house genre novel is craftfully spooky and almost intellectual — with a tight ensemble of dimensional, surprisingly non-stereotyped humans, and a strong female lead, with only threadbare hints of male dominant chauvinism. After 40 years, this smart, nearly taut flick remains unique in a genre rampant with me-too, copy-cat-itus. 2003

Hearts in Atlantis**/ shows the kinder side of Mr Lecter, was nice for its small town feeling — a little movie that we liked enough. Goofy name, even though Hannibal quoted something about it, it never made any sense. I loved the little boy and his dad feeling about it, liked very much that Anthony Hopkins could see into the future and was running from the guvmint. I would, too, if I knew what was gonna happen next.

Heat *****is utterly superb. Fabulous acting. Lotsa little dovetailing vignettes. High tension. Lotta violence. Everything works. Amazing, almost surreal sometimes cinematography. An All-Time great. Saw it twice on the big screen. Wish I could find a letterbox version. 1996

The Heart of the Game***/ does all those feel-good sports team movies a couple better by being real, about real people, with real everything. It's a documentary that follows one high school girls basketball program till they finally win that state's championship. Along the way, we learn who many of the girls on the team are. There are team stars but there's more stars in the movie than those. It's moving, not just because our team sometimes wins and sometimes doesn't, but because these are real people involved in reality.

Heaven**** is a quiet, gentle movie about corruption, murder, terrorism, family and true love. A love story within a credible escape. It is about redemption and is gloriously acted by Cate Blanchett and Giovani Ribisi with many, exquisite visual transition and an ascension.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army** features the same smart-mouthed characters, but this film is lazy, predominantly stupid, and I loved the first one. This seems an incidental step on the way to Hb III.

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.

Henri Cartier-Bresson* and William Eggleston, Photographer**/can easily be placed in the Ho-hum Department. The former does show us this strange guy's droll personality well enough, but it goes on and on to little effect, except to show us his amazingly droll (but stellar, sometimes simplicity is an artistic, if not a human, joy) photographs, which are better enjoyed in a book at the library or bookstore. Same for Cartier-Bresson, which is a better and better known photographer, but the movie is a complete bore.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye***/ lets the master of the Decisive Moment tell his own stories, often about his photographs, many of which are shown. It is outstanding because it is his story while he's still alive. Always amazing photographs, many just shown and many others shown and told. It is a lovely movie. I didn't know he was in so many places at so many times.

I'm a typophile. I've been a typesetter, a publication designer and a publisher nearly all my life. I have used it and abused it. The movie Helvetica***/ is funny and fascinating. I know a lot of the talking bodies in it, because they are and have been my type and design heroes. If I'd known David Carson was going to be in this, I would have rented it just for him. As it is, there's scads of great type and design ers here, and I found it fascinating.

Herb and Dorothy***/ are two of the greatest collectors of minimal and conceptual in the world. They amassed their remarkable collection slowly, carefully and passionately — they wanted to see everything — within their modest means. Herb worked at the Post Office, and Dorothy worked at the Library. They lived on her wages and bought art with his. It only had to be affordable — and fit into their smallish, one-bedroom apartment, and they often paid it off on time. If Herb couldn't carry it or take it home in the subway, they didn't want it. Most of their collection, that was eventually donated to the National Gallery of Art, is what Herb calls "tough art." They never thought the artists they bought would become famous — they bought it because they liked the work — and the artists, many of whom became their friends. The movie is not just about the collecting couple, it shows many of the artists — famous and not — they collect, early and late, so it's a wonderful bit of New York art history.

Hero**** is gorgeous, rich in color — especially red and blue — and landscape and detail and surreality. A few flying kungfu scenes are a hair short of perfect but most are phenomenal — the blue lake battle is luscious; the red leaf flurry is exquisite. The weaponry is awesome, the expertise fascinating. The story seems odd to this western mind, but it's stitched together with elegance.

The Hidden**** is still one great B movie. Except for brief cameo appearances by a slimy, dark invertibrate monster near the beginning and a much goofier one near the end, this interstellar mystery looks like an 80s detective shoot 'em up. Most of the creepy sci-fi in this thriller is conceptual. Think of Fallen — the name's not the only similarity here, folks — with a bunch of white guys in suits, many of whom, each in turn, gets to host the vicious, thrill-seeking intergallactic bad guy/entity.

And finally, a director's commentary that honestly appraises his actors. "Really bad," he said about one hapless plugger. But even easily recognizable leads get direct commentary. Quickly dated, almost stupid special effects, a really annoying soundtrack (on purpose), very well shot car chases, and truly intriguing concepts, this flick is about being human in an angel vs. devil sort of way. +

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High Fidelity***/ is about a guy who owns a record store and his history of romantic breakups and what he learns. and applies to the latest. Unlike in most movies our hero speaks directly tino the camera often, which I found totally believable and endearing. The dialog, characterizations and story were outstanding, the movie funny and true to life. 2000

The DVD of High Fidelity****, which I still think was one of the best movies of any year, has deleted scenes, commentaries from writer/star John Cusak and the director but no ongoing commentary, except, of course, the star's own sparkling soliloquys fired directly at the camera / audience. Especially annoying was a draining 12-second wait between individual instances of special features or anything you need a menu. Otherwise, ++
  

The made-for-TV and boy does it show The Highwaymen - Florida's Outsider Artists*** lacks visual or video or lighting — or for that matter audio or much of anything else — sophistication but it does tell the story of this historical group of Black artists led by "a benevolent White artist" (naturally, or could they have shown it on TV?) whose work is now, supposedly, selling like tulips. The title's sponsor is the gallery selling the work, and the video sells and sells and sells (but is anybody buying?). It is racist through and through, running subtitles on Black guys whose words are plenty clear, and it is repetitive, befitting that it was made for TV viewers who don't know from ART, and some of the "historical" visuals are just stupid. But it's also interesting and shows a lot of these outsider artists' work.

Hilary and Jackie***/ comprises the visually dark stories of two musically talented sisters told separately (although they come together at the beginning and the end). Starring Emily Watson and Mare Cunninghamå, it's a superbly acted, beautifully noir telling of one nice and one spoiled child growing up, making a name and falling from the heights. Plot is holey, and it's "based on a true story," whatever that means... F S 1999

There must have been a time when a movie like His Girl Friday** (1940) was entertaining or even funny. I almost remember when that was. But it's not now. No. Now, this movie is just extended, excessive and stupid.

A History of Violence**** should have been called The History of Violence so it would been just a little bit less universal and more predictable. It is violent in pieces. The larger pieces are human, and as weird as Cronenberg has been, this movie is humane at its core, and emotionally accessible. Subtly, it is about transformation and identity. Overtly, it is about our capacity for violence. Oddly, it proves its ultimate goodness through displays of viciously efficient, happily ever after, mean-spirited violence.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy**/ might have been better if author Douglas Adams had lived, and I'm afraid any success at all for this slow-mo bomb will doom us to another agonizing Ringish serialization, but maybe they'll just let it die. This flick isn't big enough an improvement over the TV show, the radio show or the book to merit repeated viewing. But wouldn't it be wonderful if some other, more creative bunch would tackle Adams' holistic detective, Dirk Gently?

The Holy Girl*** is sensual teen girls playing with religion as they play with reality and love and sex. Almodovar is one of three producers, and it was directed by a woman, but only after I saw his name did this make sense, if only in a post-Almodovarian way — sexy, sensual with the major complications and complexities of morality.

Hard to believe a movie incorporating this many really gross, stupid and bad ideas, yet shot through with time travel and its many wonders, could be such a hoot. Hot Tub Time Travel**** is almost too good to be true. A guy flick, no doubt: stupid runs deep through it and out the other side. But funny and a little human even, and maybe a little inconsistent, but great.

Alejandro Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain*** is bizarre yet visually fascinating and tedious at the same time. It has its points, but by the end of that many strange scenes, I didn't care but was glad to have lived through it.

Home Movie***, though only one hour long, is amusing and entertaining. Pretty much straight-ahead TV program-like documentary hones in on five eccentric homes and their very eccentric people. I always think my house is pretty unique, but compared to these folks, I'm utterly ordinary. Cat people whose home is devoted to their 11 cats; a former Japanese TV star's exotic tree house in a remote valley in Hawaii; an inventor who "updates" homes and ideas; a Louisianna man who lives on a houseboat floating in a big river; and a couple who live in an abandoned Atlas missle silo. A pleasant romp of a serio-comic little movie.

I've just finished watching the latest version of Horton Hears a Who*** and missed the original that was all verse without any snide 21st Century references. Guess I'll have to go back into history and grab an earlier version with all the rhyming and silliness and none of the mean stupidity. I read Seuss in college and loved him, but never as much as I loved Poo when Poo was new and was only available at book stores, and even I know the good doctor spelled it Hoo.

Among the Special Features for The Host***, the director apologizes to all the actors whose parts got cut out or whose costumes hid their identity and citizens whose leisure and commuting time got interrupted. He did not apologize for incredibly stupid dialog, utterly indifferent and nonsensical jump-cut editing, lame monster and effects or the essentially stupid plot. Still, this darkly humorous and sometimes touching story about a family whose daughter is taken by a monster (think giant, animated sushi) is involving and exciting. Instead of the government tracking down the monster, they pursue the family who was exposed to the monster, believed to be hosting a secret virus. Lots of cops and army and their concomitant bureaucracy, but no official effort to find or kill the beast. Desperate to get their daughter back, the family pursues it. This film has much more beautiful cinematography than it has any right to have, it's badly dubbed in English and goofily inane.

Little movies aren't necessarily shorter movies, they just have shorter reach. This weekend I saw the big movie, The Horse Whisperers,**/ which was superb, if (but not at all too) long. And I saw a superb little movie, The Leading Man.***/ The big movie had two, essentially simple, intertwining plots — healing and romance. The little movie had a fairly simple plot of arranged romance, but it proceeded so complexly that the audience had to keep thinking all the way through. It was a much wilder ride than horseback — We didn't have to think during the big movie, but we wept and honked all through it. The little movie hardly jerked a tear, but it kept our minds engaged. The big flick was gorgeous and sentimental and grandly Hollywood. The little flick was intellectual, engaging, sardonic and Independent. The big movie had Robert Redford. The little movie had Bon Jovi. Both were just short of superb. 1998

I remember desperately trying to schedule seeing House of Flying Daggers** on the big screen, then finally caught up with it on DVD last weekend and was so glad I saved the difference. It started slow, sped up briefly in the middle where we saw some of the magic of Hero and Flying Dragons Hidden Suspenders or whatever that was, and the snow and lake one we liked so much, then this tedious mess. Trilogies really should stop after the third bump.

House of Fools**** mixes the madness of war and the sanity of a comunity of mental patients. The irony runs deep, but the humanity is deeper. This joyous film about love turns into color when the music plays, and the subtitles are never a problem, except the untranslated momentes when the Chechens talk among themselves. Funny, poignant and amazingly intelligent.

Looking down this long list, only a rare few movies have stayed in my mind. Rare indeed is the film that affects me, makes me think, sticks it to my deeply held beliefs and expectations. The House of Sand and Fog**** does that in spades. It's been about a week, and I still remember big pieces of it, and not just the lilting too-short, dark scenes of fog rolling along Golden Gate. It's replete with heroes and anti-heroes but we never know which is which and, in the end everybody in it is both. Rich acting, sterling screenwriting, beautiful cinematog, this is a movie lovers movie.

House of the Spirits**/ was dispriting and disjointed, about a family growing up in a fictional Latin American country. Great ensemble of fine actors tormented by a seriously flawed script. Jeremy Irons looks and acts significantly different from his other roles — truly malevolent. Unfortunately, his character, whom the leading lady — Meryl Streep, no less — claims to love deeply, is absurdly malicious almost through the end, although she proclaims otherwise. The title is stupid; the plot is absurd, but the filming is quite beautiful. 1994

Howl's Moving Castle**** is charming and enchanting, involving war and witches, good, evil, love and loss, spells and magic, with distinctive, often endearing characters (even the bad guys); and a huge, wildly imaginative castle moved by a wise-cracking, yet fearful fire demon. This is a long (2 hours) story with a complex plot twisting through joyous dream-like beauty and dreadful nightmare scenes of war. I've been catching up with Hayao Miyazaki's anime classics, and this (from 2004) is his most imaginative, detailed and contemporary story yet. (See also Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984), My Neighbor Totoro (1998), Porco Rosso (1992), Princess Monoke (1997), Spirited Away (2002) and others by master Hayao Miyazaki)

How to Draw A Bunny**** is the story of Ray Johnson, a strange art genius known for his simplistic cartoons, complex collages, drawings and, primarily for his extensive mail art. Anna and I have sat through too many movies about artists lately, so I did not have high expectations. But I was wrong. This sprightly documentary shows us who Ray really was — a difficult man, at best — in most of his glory and many of his foibles. It's put together strangely, to the beat, as it were, of a different drummer, and it's several different kinds of wonderful.

How to Make an American Quilt **** — Nice flick. Weepy but honorable. Mostly made by women. Excellent 1996

The Hulk**/ — Nothing exceeds like excess.

The Human Stain**** is great acting by Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris even Gary Sinese as the young author — all quite different sorts of people from most movies, a great chronology-jumping story by Philip Roth. Searing emotionalism from Kidman, easily the most original character in this or most movies. Harris is sometimes chilling as the protagonist in the quasi love triangle. Knocked my sox off. Wow.

Hunter** must have been near the nadir of Steve McQueen's popularity. He was obviously coasting through this minor adventure. Bounty hunter on tepid tea, boring, insipid, episodic. The only thing it really had going for it was his inept car karma throught out the movie. In real life, he raced cars, here, he drove like a dud. That was almost funny.

I'd watched my non-widescreen, VHS version at least two dozen times since I've owned it — often discontinuously, so it was with a sense of joy and relief to see all of The Hunt for Red October**** once again. It's still one of my all-time favorite movies, and though I know it almost by heart, it was fine to watch again in its original widescreen aspect. Sean Connery is still fabulous; sonar-man Jonesy is still a credit to his service and country; Alec Baldwin is still a better CIA agent than Harrison Ford ever got to be; and the submarine action is still amazing.

In 1968, I had the opportunity to participate in a war. Called Vietnam. It was strange and stupid enough to run screaming from any notion of war since. Iraq baffled me. Afghanistan, too. The Hurt Locker**** scared the bejesus out of me. I believe there are people who are so good at something so necessary that they can do it in life and death circumstances of total chaos. This is a movie about one such man. Beautiful, strange, surreal, violent, vicious and stupid. The movie is amazing, but I don't want to be there.

The Hurricane***/ and Snow Falling on Cedars***/ are great stories. They're not spectacular movies, because they don't advance the craft or startle and amaze (like any of the four-asterisk movies listed here). But they are way more than competent, very well acted and photographed. 2000

Although I had a vague idea what Hustle & Flow**** was about, it threw me. For awhile near the beginning, I didn't know what to think, didn't think I needed to finish it, but I stayed on and was richly rewarded. Except for some heinous violence toward the end, it is about reality and following your dreams and the people who help make it happen. 2006
  

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How strange. I've just seen and immensely enjoyed I Am Legend***/, only I saw the alternate, special features disk version and with what I assume is spacey happy ending — I assume the other one was not. I've heard it was complex and confusing, and I think that probably would be better. Now I'm wondering what else was changed in the alt version. I've seen this plot before, and I think I read the book thirty or so years ago. Too many movies and Twilight Zones and short stories have the essentially same plot, except maybe the zombies, who aren't all bad once you get to... Well, you and I both might have to see the movie twice to know. So exciting I had to stop and gentle down a couple times. Listen to music. But then, I couldn't watch 24 past the first season. My heart 'd get thumpin' too much. Visceral effect, not emotional. I liked Sam in this movie, and Will Smith has been great in everything I've seen him in, every apocalyptic one of them

The Ice Storm****/ is slow, sad, surreally serene and superb. Carefully paced, vivid movie-making. Very human characters, great acting, spectacular tension. Fine cast. About family and love, sex, need — and fidelity. 1997

Last time I saw Idaho Transfer*** was in 1973 at a film festival in Dallas. I think director Peter Fonda was there, maybe with a youngish Keith Carradine. I liked it then, as I like it now, because it's a time travel flick, although one that doesn't entirely deal with the conundrums of that genre. The acting's hardly noteworthy, either. I like the story though that's got holes, too. And at least twice there's objects other than what's supposed to be in front of the camera in front of the camera, and while those continuity incongruities are fun enough, they show the cheapness in a cheap movie that couldn't come up with a good ending at the festival. Now, there's a slightly more comprehensive ending, accomplished with voice-overs, even if it doesn't make much more sense.

I Dreamed of Africa**/ pits a woman against her men and the beautiful continent in an almost good film that suffers from bad writing by a supposedly great writer and an episodic plot that goes from place to place, action to action, but never really leads anywhere. But beautiful. Makes me want to see Out of Africa again. 2000

I Have Never Forgotten You*** is a good but not really great documentary on the man who made Nazi Hunting a serious pastime, and his catches that have suicided and been locked away forever.

Igby Goes Down*** is a quirky, dark, coming of age flick with flakey, nutso adults and less than praiseworthy kids. Few out-loud laughs, but this sucker is funny to the core, without ever engaging in irony. 2003

I Know I'm Not Alone**/ is a stirring little people-to-people visit to places that are under occupation. Who's visiting is a film crew, of course, led by an American musician. What's special is that when it is not devolving into person-against-person politics, these visits show real people who live there — Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories — and we learn what they have to do to survive. The music he sings as voice-over is from a recording studio someplace else and is good, but when he sings playing his guitar in people's homes and soldiers' recreation areas and in the streets is pretty bad. About it all is a naive hope for peace.

By the end of the really long and slowly, moving, Ikiru****, I realized I'd seen this film at the University of Dallas in the middle 1960s. It was already a classic then. Initially, I resisted seeing it. So slow and such an alien culture, I put it off, and put it off. By then, the movie grabbed me in and hauled me off with it. The great anti-bureaucratic story of the last century. Marvelous characters and characterizations. It was the drunken wake near the end that brought it all together, and the hero's fellow bureaucrats figured out what happened, and what they assured themselves they would do about it, but we know in fact, they could never accomplish. Amazing movie in squarish black & white.

I Like Killing Flies*** is an old fat cook who owns his own very peculiar restaurant in a big city somewhere, where he makes almost anything for a very select set of customers and runs off at the mouth about everything else while he kills fly after fly in his kitchen. Fascinating character, characters and situation.

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead*** looks good enough but there's just nothing to it. Reminds me of a much longer and more involved movie by Kevin Costner called Revenge. That's it. It's just revenge. Stylish but tedious.

At last, a great little movie. Illuminata***/ is charming and complex in a smart, sexy, semi-surrealistic way. Phil called it "a poor man's Shakespeare In Love." I'd say "a smart person's." Dweebs who like the two flicks below probably wouldn't sit through this twisting, twirling tapestry of plot that winds in, around and through "real" life and the play within the play within the movie. An absolute delight, but you have to pay attention. 1999

I met I.M. Pei**/ when he was designing our bent city hall, so seeing him and some of his projects and a lot of his thinking and designing in this movie was pleasant.

I'm a major fan of Terry Gilliam movies but The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus*** seems weak-hearted and unneccessarily dark, without ever going anywhere. This is probably a lot like everybody else thought The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was, only I loved that movie and saw it several times. Anna suggested it was great on the big screen, but as much as I like watching movies on the big screen, I don't like sharing the space with all those idiot people who talk, talk on the cell phones, play video games, etc., so I far prefer seeing movies on my little screen at home. And there, this one don't make it. Maybe I should rent it again in six months when I calm down.

I hadn't seen Imagine: John Lennon*** though I've meant to for a long time. Now I have seen it and I think I've been seeing it on public tv for years. I thought he was amazing, but the movie's just plugs along.

Imagine Me & You***/ is an odd bit of Brit romantic comedy we assume is the usual hetero affair, then subtly slowly turns to lesbian romance, without, of course, ever quite getting graphic about it. Funny comedy in the human manner.

Imbedded/Live* was so lame and so politically polluted I couldn't finish the damned thing.

I'm Not There**** An odd, but irritatingly confusing dialectic around and about Little Bobby Zimmerman's protest and progress, with fanciful riffs on historical facts and a remarkable faithfulness to lyrics, even those that have not survived. A strange and complexified bag of rhythms and looks and characters that were and were not Bob Dylan.

I'd seen Immortal Beloved*** when it first came out, but I needed to see — and hear — it again. I usually get a little pissy about rewriting history, but this time I just went along with the flow. Impressive period piece, fabulous music. I'd forgot Gary Oldman was Beethoven.

Immortality**/ was an odd duck of a vampire movie. I'm still not convinced he was one. He craved the love in the blood he sucked, and he was dying. Too weird even for me. 2001

Turned out, I'd seen Impossible Spy**/ on late-night UHF TV. Seeing it again did not improve the reception.

Imposter** was high action but basically bad Sci-Fi, with ubiquitous touches of mediocrity to constantly remind us just how bad the fi is. We assumed it was made for HBO or something. Like too many other flicks, the ending — and most of the middle — was a foregone conslusion. 2003

From nearly the beginning of this taut, tense chase movie — no cars — you'll know all but the final twist, but there are some surprises in this sci-fi thriller originally by Philip K. Dick and interesting characterizations — Vincent D'Onofrio's bad guy or is he, Sinese' good guy or is he and Madeline Stowe as wooden as I've ever seen her. Somebody said it was over-directed but it's worse than that. Even scifi needs to be credible and this never quite makes it. Imposter***. Now I want to read Dick's original. I suspect it'll be an improvement.

I almost quit The Importance of Being Earnest*** about two-thirds through this silly farce, then came back and finished it. If I'd known Judi Dench was in it, I might have liked it more immediately. All those other stars don't hurt much, either.

Perhaps I shouldn't have begun The Impressionists with Disk 2, but the thoroughly fictionalized lead characters, all of whom were the masters of Impressionism were vivid and human, even intelligently shown. Monet, who outlived them all, tells us the story, filled with enough historical fact to make us wonder what all was made up. I found it entertaining and informative.

I've never awarded a movie less than one asterisk before, but I'm the One that I Want was so bad, so boring, so incredibly unfunny, that I fell asleep three times. I'd hoped for a few laughs. But I didn't even get one. Cho seemed to be enjoying herself, but I think she was in a different movie.

In Bruges**** is murderous dark humor that's funny like humans are at our best and at these humans' worst. Spectacular characters, superb story, marvelous acting, deeply intelligent dialog, even nice scenery sometimes. It's about being good at what you do and honor and hating being there.

Inglorious Basterds**/ is mostly stupid, but I'll give it an extra half an asterisk (/) for rewriting World War II, but it's still mostly stupid with scads of gratuitous violence.

I had higher hopes for a movie called Inside Bob Dylan's Jesus Years: Busy Being Born Again*. For one thing, I expected some Dylan performance. Foolish me. This sad, scrawny little film. Is about the talking heads who are this movie. And only incidentally, maybe only coincidentally about Dylan. Which is too bad. They refer to songs, to style, to music, but they don't show us those people singing, and we don't hear them playing those songs. This is a pitiful excuse for a movie. Too much Jesus, and not nearly any Jesus singing, dancing or playing.

Except for that one little plot swerve, In the Cut***/ (really stupid name) coulda been a contender. But any thinking person who sees it, will know soon as they witness the evidence too early on what the plot's gonna be. Then the who who sees it, won't tell who she really should, because of her trust issues, and because the stupid movie's mired in one of those dumb ass plot devices left over from the 90s, 80s, 70s, 60s, etc. back into movie time forever, where somebody knows but just won't tell, stupid reasons, dumb plot device, idiot writing makes viewers angry, not intelligently toyed with. And this flick has a very sexy Meg Ryan (upper frontal nudity) and a close-up organ blow job in about the first scene, and Kevin Bacon, and Jennifer Jason Leigh and Mark Ruffalo. And any movie, sensual, otherwise intelligent, very sensual, this good shoulda had a plot coach to tell them, no, that's not going to work. However it might have been finagled in the book. Unlikely they could get it past the censors with the overt orals sex. But really, Jane Campion directing. These are not stupid people. Nice love story, nice side stories, fascinating characters, solid acting. Everything going for it, but that incredibly stupid story swerve. Damn.

Sean Penn's Into the Wild**** is subtle movie-making with an overt story that travels inside the real and extended family of a young man who needs to leave it all behind to live in the wilds of Alaska. Beautiful story told in the jump-back snatches so popular these postmodern years, but lush in the ways of making films not movies. Beautiful. Bittersweet. A delight.

In the Electric Mist*** is Tommy Lee Jones in the role he usually plays, this time a near New Orleans cop following a variety of clues leading to locals. Netflix reviewers didn't like it all that much, but I did. Dark, bayou thriller with Tommy Lee, Peter Sarsgaard, Mary Steenburgen, Ned Beaty, John Goodman, Levon Helm and some pretty scenery and vicious violence and seedy characters. What more could anyone want?

Intolerable Cruelty* was stupider and more inane than The Brothers Grimm.

In & Out** is a stupid Hollywood take on becomming gay. Kevin Kline become gay without knowing it before from one kiss from Tom Sellik. Yeah, right. Mildly amusing. 1997

The Invisible*** by, it says here, the producers of Sixth Sense. Too bad they couldn't get the writer. Then we learn this teen angst murder ghost story is the Hollywood clone of a Swedish film that was probably amazing enough to try to copy line, fish and stinker. Lots of gratuitous stupidities that don't quite stitch together all the flyaway plot threads and never quite knows what to do with the enigmas. Sometimes it almost works but usually not.

The United States government has a long and inglorious history with the Indians of America. After all the broken treaties and promises, what's a little injustice that keeps one Indian in jail forever? Incident at Oglala - The Leonard Peltier Story*** proves one more injustice against one more Indian. He didn't murder the two incredibly stupid FBI agents who crashed into the reservation guns blazing, but the government needed a scapegoat, so they fixed the evidence, threatened witnesses and convicted them an Indian. Big surprise.

Independence Day **** — Yahoo! Star Warsian, big-scope flick gathering lotsa little stories. The genius figures it out and saves the world from alien disaster. Lotta action. Longish. Great fun. 1996

The Indian Runner*** is sibling rivalry carried to its inevitable (in the movies) conclusion. No surprises, except this movie is long.

In Dreams*** is gorgeous to see, smart (until the final goofy moments) and spooky. The cinematography amply reflects the dream-like, and the actors are excellent. There are a spare few plot inconsistencies — mostly in the Basically, It Stinks ending, but overall it's good. 1999

Infamous*** came out just after that other movie about Truman Capote. It may be more honest and true to life, but it's not as good a movie and covers the same limited scope of his life, those same few years he was hooked into the Cold Blood killers.

I never expected The Informant*** himself would be a bigger nightmare than Archer Daniels Midland, whom he schemed for. This movie is a lark. It's not deeply funny, it's deeply stupid, and I feel taken for watching it and about half of the dozen or so previews it came with, and in another tweny years, I might like feeling duped again to watch it.

In the Bedroom*** is about losing a grown child and getting what TV and movies foist on us as a good idea — closure. The movie is heart-rending till the end when it finally breaks the bonds of intelligence and goes straight into stupidity.

Inga** promised sensuality. Good thing it didn't promise intelligence, good acting, color, a plot or anything else we've come to expect in movies. It's not very sensual, either. Why bother

I saw In Good Company*** day before yesterday, and I'm having trouble remembering much about it, except it was funny. Deep down funny without busting much laugh. In a way, tender, how who's in charge keep twisting around, thick with irony and visual echoes of earlier scenes, although even the most important plot threads fray.

The Inheritors**, originally and better named, "One-Seventh Farmers," is a dark and mean-spirited film (disguised as art) that started out as one of those indomitable human spirit flicks, but ends in defeat, misery and gratuitous sex and violence. The good guys not only do not win, but they get raped and robbed all along the way. The bad guys are trite and mean, and they always win. This dreadful (acting is excellent; cinemtography dark, gloomy and gorgeous; many scenes of intelligence and grace) leaves me feeling used. The feel-bad movie of the year. F S+ V+ 1999

Inkheart*** is almost wonderful. The story is stellar, but the producers, directors, scriptwriters, etc. never really gave Cornelia Funke's original children's story a chance. Brandon Frazier sleep walks through it like he usually does. Helen Mirren (!) is dreadful — I kept wondering, is that just somebody who looks like her? Several characters almost bring the movie to life, but it never happens. Entertaining about half the time, but there's always something missing. Spirit. Joy. Intelligence?

It's Denzel, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen and Spike Lee, but other than the really intriguing concept behind the plot, The Inside Man*** is mush of a movie that doesn't make a lot of literal, A to B, let alone A to Z sense, ignores its own rules and is showy offy rather than intelligent.

The Insider**** is Hollywood at its best. Smart, kinetic cinnematography, great acting and a gripping story that's bound to lose audience for CBS News' 60 minutes. 1999

After loving watching Insomnia***/ overnight into the brightening day, I listened to doctors in the Special Features tell me how bad it is to be sleep deprived. After that movie — Al Pacino and Robin Williams — woof! mine was barely sleeping a bad day. The movie, though, was clear, sharp, intelligent, with hairpin plot turns and fine characters. Aces. 2003

In the Company of Men was good, I think, I don't remember exactly, but akward and mean-spirited.

Instinct** had great promise. When it said it was based on the novel, Ishmael, I got excited. But that promise faded quickly, since the subject of that profound book only barely surfaced in this mediocre flick. Then it sank out of sight. Nice performance by Sir Anthony Hopkins, however. I especially liked the scenes with the gorillas.

Intacto*** has a fascinating concept that never quite manages to make literal American sense. The English dubbing is awful (badly translated and gruff instead of nuanced) and the innate, Spanish surreality is sensual, in several ways. The story that people can steal other people's luck is intriguing. But it's played out in such mean-spirited and often violent way, with so many evil and illogical tests along the way that the movie becomes unneccessarily dense.

In The Bedroom*** is this spookly litle interior movie that has not much to do with sex. The title is a lobster trapping metaphor. Solid acting, moody, dark, but nothing new story about parents not dealing with losing a kid. Stupid — not stupid like most movies, stupid like the stupid things humans go along with. Nobody calls the cops with a clearly violent potential. The kid's making it with a woman who's only separated from her violent, jealous, mean husband... There's a murder, people don't deal with it, then they do, but most inappropriately, then everybody lives happily ever after. A total dud on the moral scale. 2002

Intimacy*** is about a man and a woman who share sex one day a week, but never talk. Eventually needing more, he follows her home, stumbling into getting to know her husband and child, causing great difficulty and very nearly destroying what little he had, trying to get more intimacy.

The sex scenes, though gritty and graphic, are in not erotic, at least not gently so. There is male but no female frontal nudity and vivid oral sex. Much in the movie is incomprehensible for this English, but not Anglish speaking reviewer. I looked for English subtitles for this Brit flick, but there was no way to learn what all the hubub with his mates was all about, so I'll just call it texture.

The beginning was lustful but too real. The end was gentle, and we finally learn who these people are, but by then it is too late.
 

I wanted to, but I never did believe that a mediocre national team rose to be an international winner by wanting to. Even if the whole country was behind them, we never saw the players learn to be better, we just saw them want to and hope to. Meanwhile the movie played every emotional trick, and of course they won. Ho hum Invictus***.

Iron Man 2** sexist, racist, violent and stupid with no redeeming social value. Aimed at 13-year-old boys, who will love it. The Island**** really is two, clap, two movies in one. Deep, thought-worthy science fiction in the beginning, and a wild, wonderful car-crash heaven of chase scenes in the other. The science is deeply flawed, but both movies are visually and verbally smart and grand fun.

The Island**** is a truly unconventional story about a sniveling coward who becomes a holy man, albeit a seemingly ornery and difficult one, who lives in a monastery in the farthest reaches of the northern territories, where he earns the reputation as a seer, healer and exorcist of uncommon ability and humility. I was expecting an art film and got a new story. I've seen more than three thousand films, and this plot is unique and its telling idiosyncratic. Amazing movie, fascinating character development, darkly and humanely amusing and transcendent. In Russian with good English subtitles.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers***/ reminded me of the chills I got from this thriller when I first saw it in the 50s. ..

I had no idea that The Invention of Lying***/ could possibly be as charming and honest and real as it was. Or that it would be deep down interesting and entertaining. Made me laugh out loud often. Even made me think several times running.

Iraq in Frangments**** is a beautiful and crisply detailed movie in three distinct parts that are in few ways unified, except by the country and the direct documentary style. Intimate into the lives of of Iraqis in three very different places and all but ignoring the American invaders, this is about the people, in gritty detail, in their own words and day-to-day lives. Hardly kind to the people there, this movie shows their wisdoms and their stupidities and as close as I've ever seen of their realities.

The strictest of documentaries, this startling movie begins with the story of an illiterate boy in Baghdad in the weeks before, then during the war's beginning. The second part takes us into southern Iraq for astonishing footage of al-Sadr and his supporters fomenting liberation. Up close, very personal. Scary real. Then finally and nearly as intensely into life with the Kurds.

It is a beautiful movie, shot with grace and beauty by one man. Not just the director, the everything. No crew. Just James Longley. Shooting what he could where he was. Un scripted, this movie lets us piece together in our minds this place where war is.

I Robot*** wasn't near as bad as I expected it to be, even if it started the same way his other big sci fi flick did. But it certainly was not great.

The Iron Giant*** was excellent, fulfilling everything good I'd heard about this movie. I'm more or less an adult, and I loved this quirky cartoon. 2001.

I Shot Andy Warhol ***/ is the gruesome tale of the woman (introducing Liv Taylor) who shot AW and why. Hurts to watch her spiraling downward — somewhere between Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer and Sid & Nancy. 1996

Isn't She Great*/ follows the rise of Jacqqueline Susann's (remember Valley of the Dolls?) rise to fame and stardom. Hokey acting, laughable (but not very funny) story, "based on an article." 2000

Michael Caine in anything is worth watching. There's something about his little movies that's expected. I expected, and I was rewarded. Curmugeonly at first, then kind-hearted, doddering and. And there's this little boy who's ghost-obsessed since he lives where old people go to die. The two avaget together, get apart, back together, back apart. You know the drill. Heart-wearming, even a bit sad but happy at the end. What I expected. Is There Anybody There***

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The original Italian Job** was laughable. Stupid movie, not really even worth finishing. Way worthy of redoing. The new version is spectacular, especially by comparison. The first had Michael Caine, but a Michael Caine before he figured it out. Before he was an actor, let along an actor's actor. Here, he's just lost, befuddled, dazed. The plot, that proved brilliant in the latest version, plodded in gummy stupidity.

The Italian Job***/ is exciting, intricately contsructed, intelligent, fast paced, colorful, scenic, only slightly predictable, fun, adventurous and reminded me of Topkapi and oh, so many other great heist flicks of the past. It's much better than the original.

I saw It Happened One Night***/ so long ago, I must have been a kid then, and it had to have been on TV, and I ain't been a kid for fifty some odd years. Nice to see it again. Goofy. Stupid. Wildly romantic. Clarke Gable and Caludette Colbert. Classist as well as classic. Fun.

The acting in It's In The Water* was atrocious, the worst over-the-top histrionics parading as acting I've seen since high school. And the lighting is strangely dramatic. At one point two women are sitting talking, one is rendered sharp in focus and red in color. The woman sitting next to her is greenish and blurry. Still, for all its stupid plot, dim-witted dialog and absurd directing, I cared about the characters. It's a lame, anti- anti-gay movie that makes some sense and a lot of nonsense. NS 1998

It's My Party **** is the moving story of gay man with AIDS brain disease gathering all his friends for one final, pre-suicide bash. Beautifully acted, surprise cameos by many name actors, never over-the-top. Beautiful. Finally we see gay men kissing. 1996

I've Loved You So Long**** is a deeply moving, long, slow, often subtle movie about a woman who spent fifteen years in jail for murdering her child and has come to live with her sister. Kristin Scott Thomas is amazing. The English dubbing less so, and it's always fun to see the subtitles and hear quite different dubs, but this is an emotional and affecting film. Smart, too.

I Went Down** is a minor hoot. A buddy flick about a petty gangster and a guy who doesn't really want to be a gangster but ends up being one, anyway. 1998

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