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J R's Images & Ideas

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Fritz Lang's M from 1931 is a compelling story that belies its age and introduces many of what we now consider 'contemporary' themes. Well acted and scripted, it's a moving picture of a stage play that's amazing.

The Machinist***/ is more Kafka than Hitchcock, more paranoid noir than psychological suspense, but a lot of both. Dark, weird and visually amazing. Haunting.

Madagascar**/ was mostly stupid. Every five or six minutes, there's be a chuckle. Sometimes an outright laugh. I didn't think it was possible, but I actually liked the penguins, though they were a small part of this movie that didn't have much humanity. I know it was all about animals, but we humans have come to expect humanity in our animations, and this didn't have it. Fifteen years ago, this good animation would have been astounding. Since Pixar, however, it's just second rate.

The Majestic***/ is about remembering and forgetting.

I keep remembering Jim Carrey in Man on the Moon and The Truman Show, where he acted and superbly — and the guilty pleasures of Pet Detectives and The Mask, where he was just goofy, and trying to forget Dumb & Dumber.

Not all that easy when he keeps rolling his eyes and dancing that dance he'd often intro into some major schtick in other movies and TV shows. First half of this longish movie I kept expecting him to go all goofy, but there's only the hints now and then.

Meanwhile, the film builds slowly and surely into a strong story with outstanding characters and character actors — Martin Landau is amazing (again), James Whitmore, David Ogden Stiers, and a startling host of cameos. Then, finally, the flick veers off into a hokey send down of the Hollywood Blacklist for a rousing Hollywood finish.

But along the way, the sincere small town and girl next door and rebuilding the movie theater (the Majestic in the title) scenes are pretty wonderful, and I find myself going back through them over and over. 2002

The Magdalene Sisters*** were an order of Catholic nuns in Ireland who operated a fleet of homes for "penetant women." What’s the Catholic church more afraid of than anything, despite the proclivities of sex-fiend priests? Sex. So, naturally, who they put in these dreadful slavery places, were young woman who had, or might have had, or whom young idiot priests were afraid might have, sex. Dreadful places. Awful nuns. Not, apparently, overacted. But why on earth did I feel the need to see this movie?

The Magnificent Ambersons***, like the recent remakes of Lolita and The Quiet American and, no doubt, others in this era of relative acceptance of truly human novelistic exporation, finally lets its authors (here, auteur Orson Welles) shine through with their original literary or filmic, explorations — once thought too scary for the general public, or at least for the powers that beed — intact.

Ultimately, the magnificents aren't, of course, and neither is the movie, though there are memorable characters, fine acting and great story telling. We are to be pleased, I suppose, that the characters who had already long suffered and shone through with love, still were doing it in the end. But me, I wanted more.

I doubt Welles woulda been all that happy with it, either, even with the complexly oedipal, central relationship at last intact.


Magnolia***/ is wonderful, fast-paced and kinetic at first, slowing toward the end of the three-hour run. Truly a vivid tapestry of interwoven threads. Maybe too many characters, but what fun, lotsa funny and deep and dense. One great movie. 2000

I am indulging in a history of art of the 20th Century, one famous artist at a time. Lately, I've watched Picasso, Alexander Calder, Mac Ernst and Frazetta flash DVDs. It is not like watching Dallas artists appear, grow, learn, expand, expound, disappear (etc.). But my concentrated attentions have taught me new facts and fascinating concepts I did not learn from reproductions in art history books. The filmmaker of Magritte: An Attempt at the Impossible****'s contemporized film sequences of the painter's works at first seemed odd, over edges. But they are informative. Some — like the candles burning — quite marvelous and memorable. We see the filmmakers making art of the artist's art. I've seen it twice now. I will see it twice more again before I send it back.

Maid in Manhattan*** is Hollywood fluff, mistaken identity only very slightly updated. Charming but never original, pleasant enough but goofy. Jay Lo doesn't quite reprise Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, but it's close. 2003

Sixth Sense was carefully crafted to stay within its own rules. Malice*** (1993) plays a little loose, though it's a well nuanced short story, replete with clue cues, an off-tracking subplot, malice aforethought and a remarkable cast, including Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, Bill Pulman, Bebe Neuwirth, George C. Scott, Anne Bancroft, Peter Gallager and even a bit part live — and later a battered corpse — by ingénue Gwyneth Paltrow, plus Ann Cusack and Second Assistant Director David Kelley ( He the guy from TV? ), wonderful music in at least two places and an entirely predictable ending. Oh well. _

Manchurian Candidate*** kinda trips and falls over itself trying to reinvent the plot updating to the Gulf War that didn't involve Manchuria, so they could still use the old name, but the evil mom is perhaps more insidious, and the plot chilled, though the first one was much more shocking and intricate.

Then I procrastinated seeing The Man from Earth***/, never having heard anything about it. The blurb sounded like B movie sci-fi. And it was, low-budget, full of fascinating ideas. A bit of theater translated up to a movie, with no external action. All of it up here (points to brain) and in a cabin in the hills on a cold winter's eve. Close friends with differing beliefs. A great long conversation sparked by someone who looks about forty, but has accumulated some serious history. A goodbye party for a teacher, with other teachers and a student or two, asking questions and not quite believing the answers. About a lot of realms, but it kept circling back to religion. A great conversation movie I want to see again sometime. I believed everything but that the terrible painting near the beginning was a Van Gogh.

Man of Flowers***/ is a Quirkly, Little Movie about a very repressed little man who, despite volleys of bad advice from all the wrongest possible peoople, does Something Right, albeit in the oddest fashion (and not morally right, anyway). Along the way, several art subplots meander and twist, to some humor. And there's just enough frontal nudity in both sexes. A sparkling jewel of idiosyncratic characters and growth, lovely to behold. 2003

Except for the little girl instead of the singing star Man On Fire***/ is The Bodyguard with less smarm. Noble to a fault. Heartwarming there, too. I liked it but felt guilty later. The main relationship, between bodyguard and child is gentle, although the former CIA torturer's relationships with all the bad guys and suspected bad guys is horrific.

Man On The Moon**** is brilliant. Featuring the life (based on a true story via Hollywood) of Andy Kauffman, this hillarious and snide inside joke is revealed to the audience early and deftly. It's an impolite portrayal more about audiences and performance and what's really funny than a comedy. 2000

The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes***, a documentary about Garrison Keiler and his Prairie Home Companion radio show I've been listening to for more than three decades, is considerably more to the point of the show than Altman's fictionalized recreation, also called A Prairie Home Companion. This one's true and follows Keillor as he does what he's been doing all these decades, entertaining and showing other gently creative souls on his radio revue. I saw him do one of his shows once, and this was far more revealing — and entertaining.

We saw Man On Wire**** in a theatre where the audience did not intrude, and we loved that and the movie, about a tight-rope walker who walked a wire strung between the towers of the World Trade Center back when there still was one of those, told in real historic film and fictive recreation and talking heads strung together into a fascinating tale of bravado and courage and stick-it-in-your-eye reality. Bravo.

Manny & Lo*** are runaway orphans who adult-nap a lost soul, bestowing upon her, redeption. Pranks and pregnancy mix in a pleasant romp with a very young Scarlet Johansson and another young actress we've never seen again. 2006

Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky**/ was a good deal more than America's most important intellectual talking about what makes sense to him though there is that, too. What this movie does is sandwich him telling us what he's thinking into a visually comedic movie that works pretty well. But it is nearly three hours long. The guy is smart. But I'd much rather listen to him talk in unbroken lectures, have done with others of his DVDs. But then I like sitting in a darkened room while someone ruminates intelligence or art. This man's art is politics, and he is more intelligent about it than anyone. Wise, too. However, in this movie, everybody who is nobody openly disagrees with what they think (always wrongly) he is saying, and it is annoying to have to listen to all those boobs when I'd rather hear Noam.

Despite its psychobabble soul, I was enraptured by the film craft and acting — a joy to see Sean Connery's first American role — in Hitchcock's Marnie****, which I somehow missed in 1964. I still don't much appreciate Tippi Hedren, but the movie was a star. There were filmic seconds in this film that I watched in slow and no motion for minutes. Restored my faith in the master. Now I've scheduled a mini retrospective of AH flicks over the next few months.

Manufactured Landscapes*** is like a very slow Koyaanisqatsi. It is a documentary about a documentarian who makes art of industrial destruction and construction. The artist has dense, complex rationale for his works and his subjects. Of what many consider ugly, he creates a spooky beauty in still photography, and the video documenting him doing that does the same, in massive scale. Haunting, scary, beautiful. Art.

The Man Who Knew Too Much***/ (1934) was so much better than the other Alfred Hitchcock movied I'd watched a little of. Enough to know that despite it was by The Master, he wasn't very good at it that time. Like he ignored a lot of stupidity in the story and in the acting and in the movement and flow and humanity of it. Foreign Correspondent** (1940) was stupid and dated. Really stupid. Yet six years earlier he'd made a timeless masterpiece. Well, sorta a masterpiece. A really good movie.

The Man Who Planted Trees**** is wonderful animation that looks like it's growing on the screen as we watch. A fascinating story I'd read decades ago in The Whole Earth Catalog but heart-warming and fascinating to see it fleshed out in this marvelous film.

Like a low-contrast black & white grandfather of Koyaanisqatsi, Man with the Movie Camera*** (1929) is long, tending toward the tedious with a repetitive sleep-inducing soundtrack, and it is not nearly as interesting to see than to talk about its importance. It's only an hour and eight minutes long, but I had to watch it in segments. It is more visually fascinating when it shows the man with the movie camera than what he filmed, and the editing is experimentally and annoyingly non-sequitur. It's an interesting enough look at the early years of movies while the syntax of film was still being invented. Documentary in content and context, it's a truly lurid portrait of "Modern Soviet Living," accomplishing its purpose to create a new language of film by being far enough ahead of the curve technically, but it lost its soul and most of its meaning in all the early/basic visual gimmicks, and now it's more dated than historic.

Mary Riley ** has beautiful, haunting cinematography, but it's painfully slow and goofy instead of scary. 1996

I got so angry at the lead actor in Match Point**/ that I didn't want to watch the rest of the movie. He's a sleaze, and why I should care about this conning sleaze escapes me entirely. It's a luscious film to watch. There's lots of talent here. But there's this major sleaze ... Netflix called it Hitchcockian, which is as good a reason as any to ignore it. Hitchcock was a great director, but any time a film feels need to compare their work with his, we know we're going to lose.

The Matrix***/ is truly comic book, unremitting fast action, strange spirituality and hi-sci. I thought it was gangbusters fun, didn't worry about Keanu Reeves' lack of acting ability. It was a joyous experience. I want to see this one again. 1999

The Matrix Reloaded*** is slick with action, full of loud sounds, one wondrous video-game car chase, and not much else to get excited about. It employs every adventure trick in the book, but is souless and devoid of meaning. Empty calories.

A Map of the World*** is about communities and support and friendship in both positive and negative forms. We get to watch Sigorney Weaver go quietly mad, then, gradually come back to the sanity we recognize as reality. It is a very realistic realism with intensely humane humans in flux.

Finally saw March of the Pen-goonies**/, but what a disappointment. Cute, funny sometimes, sorta serious others. It drew an idiot audience with kids who squalled and parents who didn't seem to care, and people even older than me who talked out loud all the way through. Not sure what that says about the movie, but I've been as impressed and more by National Geographic Specials on TV.

Seems like I saw The Terminal*** and Maria Full of Grace*** at about the same time. Both the Tom Hanks character whose country temporarily goes out of existence, stranding him in the airport in New York City and Maria, who'd swallowed big caps of cocaine in Columbia, spent a lot of time in airports. Maria, the movie, has a lot more going for it. Hanks is smarmily maudlin, and I didn't care for him until the end, by which time he'd won over everyone in the airport, even the broadly overplayed villain airport manager. I cared about Maria almost from the beginning, and her villains were much more believably evil. Hers was the more important of the two movies, but neither has all that much going for them.

Martian Child***/ is a heart-warming little movie about a boy who thinks he's from Mars and an adopting father who writes science fiction stories set there. The writer wrote the original Star Trek's "The Trouble with Tribbles," and the kid who plays the kid is almost as good as John Cusak, who's the reason I saw the movie. It's about love, of course, and understanding who we each are and accepting our differences, and it's smart and funny and a bit of a weeper.

Marvin's Room**** is a superb rendering of a complexity of plots. Great acting, fine plot, lots of character and character development and subtly effective editing. About dysfunctioning and functioning family. 1997

Mary Cassatt was a fine American painter, and we're told that repeatedly in this uninspired movie that suffers from an insipid script, spurious and oft-repeated images and a lot of stirring b.s that sounds good but doesn't mean much. Mary Cassatt - A Brush with Independence*** is adequate as a documentary and an introduction to her work and life story. We learn about the person but not much about her work. One of the stupider lines in this fairly stupid movie is near the end. "She slipped into a diabetic coma, but like she had so many times before, she persevered." As if that meant something.

I wasn't as enthusiastic about Mary & Max**** as Anna who highly recommended it to me, but it grew on me. Not unlike a familiar wart, I suppose. Droll, dark, human — despite that everything was clay-mationed — loving, friendly, odder than almost anything else I'd ever seen. There's serious quirk here, from both main characters. In fact, it's a world of quirk. Yet perfect unto itself. Psychological and psycho-illogical all rolled up. Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but usually deeper and stranger. The clay-mation is superb, I kept forgetting I wasn't watching actual humans interact.

May*** was not scary in the usual sense, although I'll admit I grimaced at several of the slashings and slicings and other blood lettings. I'm not usually squeamish, but all that bleeding, especially via nasty cutting was difficult to take. I writhed, tightened up, and my hands fisted and shook in the air. Visceral, indeed — and vicious, too. May's mother's answer to May's lazy left eye was to saddle her child with a patch, so naturally the child May did not acquire friends. When, as an adult, she suddenly did start acquiring them for this movie, they all claimed to like weirdness. But nobody liked it as well as May. Creepy.

Max**/ is a young, rich, Jewish art dealer in post World War I Germany, who spouts fascinating Modernist art philosophy and intermittantly interfaces with a young, angry and obviously already seriously derranged, yet almost likeable, Adolf Hitler, who wants to be an artist and actually shows significant talent (and they actually used the real Mr Hitler's art in the movie). Intriguing, huh? Sadly, the plot is ham handed, and the story never quite breaks into credibility, although it is certainly memorable.

Max Ernst*** was a color- and shape-ful character. One of the greats of 20th Century art. But this documentary, at least the first hour is not up to his quality, although it has its moments. I've had to stop it in its tracks four times now, just to stop the stupid soundtrack long enough to regain my sanity. Igor Stravinsky is great, and maybe whoever used it here was attuned to surrealism, but it grates. Great, though, to see so much of his art and to hear his friends, especially the women in his life talk about him — often more eloquently than he does. Waiting endlessly, for the rarely simultaneous for translations of his early German is tedious. But once he gets to America, the story brightens, and he learns English. Watching him dance down a narrow street in New York City is almost worth the price of admission. Nice.

Somehow in my long history of movies out the yin-yang, I managed to miss McCabe and Mrs Miller****. Now, finally, I see what so many others have seen in this one the last 40 years. Hilarious to see Warren Beatty playing an empty-headyed goofball most of the movie. Nice, too, to see a Western town very much like they probably were, complete with cursing and cussing and not so much strength of character, but a lot of weakness. Nice.


Mean Girls*** is just above lightweight fluff. It is lightweight fluff with a moral. Oh, and it's way too believable, with a smart mouth and a wicked sense of humor, without ever quite being anywhere near as stupid as most teen flicks.

Meet Joe Black***/ is beautiful to watch, with long, slow, almost-European pacing, beautiful people — especially the remarkable Bad Spit — very decent acting, gorgeous cinematography and a plot that only falls apart after the movie is over. It even has a very sensual sex scene in which nothing at all is revealed. It's also very smart — much smarter than most movie-goers. Huh, whadheesay? The only violence about the movie is the abusive soundtrack that swells over loud every time it feels the need to warn us of upcoming emotional content. S 1998

Meet the Robinsons*** wasn't as absolutely wonderful as the Pixar / Disney flicks are, but it was fun and funny and remarkably smart. I'm not convinced I'd like it better if I were a kid.

Memory*** is a stale gimp of a movie with acting and story and visuals and editing that are sometimes right on and sometimes at least absent minded, if not completely gone. What we used to call a B movie. Must have been expensive, with Ann Margaret and Dennis Hopper and Billy Zane, but directing is also MIA. Not completely stupid, but lost somewhere along the way. A little spooky, a little lame, more than a little intriguing trip down primordial memory lane.

When I first saw Men In Black***/ I thought it was funny, sharp, had great aliens, was fast-paced, with lots of gooey blue slime, and an obvious set-up for sequels. I've seen it at least eight times more since then, and I love it more every time I do. The continuous cosmos scene at the end is an all-time great ending. And still no sequel. 1997

Men in Black 2** is hardly worth mentioning, so I won't.

Men of Honor** is, of course, an ironic title. It's about one skilled and heroic Black man's failure to be integrated into the US Navy as a deep-sea diver. Which means it's at least forty years too late. The story is badly over simplified, manipulative and essentially banal. It's about institutionalized meanness, overt and extreme racism and somehow nobody being or being held responsible for it. The acting is over the top bad and the characterizations are maddeningly stupid. 2000

Men with Guns**** is the best movie so far this year. John Sayles' truly international plot — it could be set anywhere where men with guns rule the local reality. It's smart, funny, sardonic and surrealisticly real. 1998

Not so much laugh out loud ha-ha funny about this movie, but lots of deep, quiet chorteling and knowing that's how we humans really are. The Men Who Stare At Goats*** is humanly hilarious, and toward the end of the movie, it all gets funnier and funnier. This is how wars should be.

I always thought Shakespeare's plots were convoluted and over every edge available. Merchant of Venice*** is like that. I suppose the acting was good. They sure do carry on and on. But the girls are prettier and the boys are meaner than usual. And I understood almost everything they said — only had to revert to the subtitles maybe thrice through the whole, long movie. Plot a little pat. Rationale a little thin. Glad I could back it up and replay some scenes.

Mercury Rising**/ was fast, smart, high adventure.


I couldn't bear to watch all of Messenger**. I know Jean d'arc get crisped in the end, but I was bored silly well before that. I remember being amazed by Roujin Z, but that's all

Some movies are actually better viewed at 8x speed. Metropolis** is one, and even at that pace, all the captions and all the action was understandable. Tedious and slow, though, even at breakneck speed. 1926

Mostly, Me and You and Everyone We Know***/ is quirky and deeply and humanely funny. There's an ongoing undercurrent about art and several others about romance and growing old and being a kid and more sex than you'd normally expect in a movie with so many cute kids — everything else.

Michael***/ — If you don't love funky goofy angel stories, this may not work for you. Travolta is perfect here, although the story isn't. Still, it's consistently funny and smart. 1996

Michael Collins**** is nicely edited, well acted. Good story. Great novelistic saga. Plenty of violence. Just enough romance. Lotsa stars. Even Droolia Roberts is well directed. 1996

Two stinkers in a row. A friend, who usually has great taste in movies, said that Mickey Blue Eyes* was Hugh Grant being Hugh Grant, so I didn't have high expectations. But it still wasn't funny, and I hurt from cringing at this stupid excuse for a movie.

Mid-Summer Night's Dream**/ has some amusing and several beautiful scenes. But I almost fell asleep. All the good stuff was in the previews. 1999

I'm hooked on MI-5***/, detective and secret service adventure from the BBC. Solid stories, excellent acting, sometimes vicious violence, but searing good TV.

At best, Mifune** is mediocre. About a man whose wife never even tries to understand him when he returns to the home he never told her about — and his idiot brother. The two brothers hire a woman to clean up and much stupidity and unfunny absurdity and even some stupid violence ensues. Ho-hum. 2000

A Mighty Heart*** is about Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan. More specifically, it is how his wife experienced the kidnapping and everything that followed. His heart may have been mighty, but the heart in the title is hers. This is an emotional event. Not a great movie, but an involving one.

Mildred Pierce***/ had been on my NetFlix list for ages. I kept bouncing it down when it'd rise to the top. When I finally got to see it, I understood why it's such a noir classic. Spectacular black & white lighting and filming; Joan Crawford at the acme of her power and acting; and a thrilling, switchback murder mystery story of a mother whose darling child grew into a spoiled brat of unprecedented evil. On the other side of the DVD was a feature length feature of the rise and fall of Joan Crawford***, the conniving star and failed human being — another chilling account.

Millions**** is wonderful. Visually quirky from the get-go, a marvelous sub-plot involving God and saints who appear to one kid brother who wants to give the millions of dollars that opportune themselves into their lives, and the other who just wants to spend it all. A classic find-some-money tale without a lot of complicated characters, but with a lot of heart and whimsy, a little romance, not much religion but lots of human condition laughs, and joy.

Millay at Steepletop** is a poetic snoozefest, although I learned a bit about Edna St. Vincent Millay's life, but less than a week later, I can only remember that that was in New England somewhere...

Finally saw Million Dollar Baby***, but I'm not sure what all the gaga was about. Interesting if unbelievable characters. Often sappy, but sometimes smart. Anything with Morgan Freeman it it is probably worth it all my hisself. Didn't know it was gonna be sad at the end, but this is the guy who brought The Bridges of Madison County to the screen. Not sure what I was expecting, but surely better than this.

Minority Report***/ may well be one of 2002's best movies, certainly one of its most ambitious. I need to see it at least three more times before I decide. And I need to. I learned recently that plethora means way too much, not just a lot or a wide variety. This DVD truly has a plethora of special features. I may have to buy the silly thing just to settle into all those. The movie is good. The plot winds and twists. I noticed no gaps or gaffs. It gets a little smarmy at the end, but that's not exactly atypical. It's good, solid science fiction, high adventure and lots of it, strong on philosophy and determination. Hey, it even steals a character or two from other good movies. 2002

Minus Man***/, which is an honest, direct and human (as well as humane) view of a serial killer and how he doesn't plan his poisonings, but the movie or the Universe seems to anticipate them and provide him with workable coincidences that enable him to do what he does. Very unusual movie. Unpredictable, quirkily but sardonically filmed, true-life charactes. Eerily spooky but with honest characterizations and no hysteria. Cool but hardly calming. Lots of in-your-face head shots add up to a remarkable film 1999

Miracle*** is the inspiring and heartwarming story of the 1970-something USA Olympic ice hockey team that defeated the previously undefeated Russians. It is an interesting but not fascinating story of character development — both for the team and the coach.

Interesting because a lot happens. Not fascinating, because much of the more bizarre human psychology is simply not explained — verbally or visually. The coach does it, therefore it is good for the team. There is little interchange in the supposedly educational process. The team wins. That seems to be enough, but of course it isn't.

MirrorMask**** is a marvelous fantasy, aimed at children but more in there for adults. It blends drawings and computer-generated animation with actors in a manner and style I'd not seen before or since. Fun, funny, marvelously inventive. Unique.

Mishima, A Life in Four Chapters*** was difficult. A Japanese movie about a Japanese author caught between action and words. Each of the four novels in the title were shot in a different, very Japanese style, despite the fact that the directors and producers are American. The actors speak Japanese, except the narration is in English. And the music was by Phillip Glass. I tried to like this mish-mosh of cultural influences all stuck in the same movie, but it was a struggle — despite the mix of fascinating stylistic treatments, pseudo-documentary and whatever else is here...


Mom and I saw The Missing*** in a real, live theater full of loud, boorish people with cell phones and whisperless voices, reminding me why I don't do that very often anymore. The flick was pretty good, with Tommy Lee Jones as a white Indian wannabe, wise in the ways of American Aborigines but weak in family — till the triumphant end, when he and his daughter rescue his abducted granddaughter from an evil Indian witch doctor and his mean mixed Indian and White Guy gang. Opie's done better movies, but showing the ugly, bad Indian casting evil magic had to be worth something.

Mission Impossible ** has a truly silly plot, senseless story, nice cinematography, lotsa stupidities, plot lines going nowhere, extravagant effects. The TV show was much better and smarter. 1996

Mission Impossible 2**/ is beautiful, colorful, exciting, glitzy, full of amazing speciai effects, yet ultimately incredibly stupid and inept. The film works harder to fool the audience than the mediocre good guy does to defeat the overly stereotyped bad guys. The story, supposedly a seering love story based on a lackluster one-night stand, lacks anything approaching humanity or intelligence, and the leading lady simply cannot and does not act. 2000

Mission to Mars**/ is not as awful as I'd been lead to believe from the media. But it's painfully slow, and it doesn't really go very far, except to Mars, of course. It's interesting to us sci-fi buffs, good characterizations, okay story, but fabulous special effects, which may make the movie worth watching. 2000

All I knew for sure was that Frances McDormand was in it, and that was enough. Miss  Pettigrew Lives for a Day***/ is set in 1939 London and involves a thoroughly confused ingénue with too many men in her life and not enough sense to figure out what to do next. Along comes Frances as another failure in everything with nothing left to lose, who helps her for one day and solves all their ills. A tad too pat perhaps, but a delightful one at that, with lots of quirk and hearts of glass and gas and gold.

Mists of Avalon*** goes on forever, has its moments, could be considered "King Arthur, The Prequel," interesing without edging into fascination.

For a long time I thought I could watch anything with Cary Grant in it. And when I picked up this movie, I though, hey, great, the sultry Marilyn Monroe. This should be fun. And it should've. But it wasn't. I suspect Marilyn was even more disappointed in her Monkey Business* was stupid, although kids might like it, unless they think logically. 1950-something

Monkeybone**/ is one, flipped-out flick. At its best, it is fast-paced, sharply barbed and funny. But that's only a few minutes in hours of dreck. I'd see Whoopee Goldberg in anything — even a terrible movie, and, this is one of those, and her part truly sucks. I like that it's about an artist — comic book variety — confronting his nightmares, from whence come his creativity. And there's some great nightmare and fantasy stuff, with very abstruse characters. But mostly this flick sucks.

Moll Flanders *** is pretty, forgettable, predictable. Supposedly "the first novel," so not surprising it's cliched. Pleasant enough. Morgan Freeman is wonderful. 1996

Mona Lisa***/ has Bob Hoskins and Michael Caine in a twisted little love story between two women and a lot of criminal guys. He thinks he's in love, and she thinks she can save her, and there's a lot of confusion between, with Nat King Cole singing the theme song. Violent, mean, but about love in several important ways, some of which are twisted, some cool.

Money Train * is a stupid movie, with grat violence, dumb plot, and no chemistry. 1996

Moon***/ is set on a sound stage with all "moon" activity as obvious models, though everything else seen is mostly credible. It's about cloning, especially illicit cloning of human beings as workers in far-flung places and what happens when the clones find out. The movie is smart, sometimes exciting and often intellectually challenging.

I accidentally re-rented Moonlight Mile**/, then fast-forwarded through all of the verbose Dustin Hoffman angst, rested briefly on Susan Sarandon verbal hijinks, then glided gently along into the quirkily charming Ellen Pompeo romance sequences — and she's not even credited on the label of this not exactly great DVD. 2003 

Moonlight & Valentino ***/ — Sweet women bonding flick 1996

Motorcycle Diaries**** is an often gorgeous film following two friends on a major motorcycle journey thousands of kilometers around South America. One of the riders is the young, doctoral student Che Guevera, and on this character-building journey we get to see some of why he later became a major American revolutionary.

The Mothman Prophesies*** was dark, deep enough, spooky and, in a way, inevitable. Based on a real story, whatever that might mean. Interesting, well told story. Every time I saw Richard Gere I thought about hamsters.

Moulin Rouge***/ is a lush, stunningly cinnemagraphic, absurdist farce set in fantasy land with a fantasy romantic plot full of classic misdirection and goofy characters. Goofy but gorgeous and smart. And a great trip scene — absinthe, not LSD, but trippy nonetheless.

Mouse Hunt*** — I really wanted to like this intricate Rube Goldberg of a Movie, but it just wasn't very funny — despite broad humor, slapstick acting, wonderful characterizations and a sharp, dark brown reality. 1997

Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night**** with Nick Nolte — Carefully, craftfully, gently, subtly surreal. Dark, deadly serious, later darkly humourous. Superb. When funny, smartly funny. When dark, way dark. 1996

Mowgli and Balloo** may be the best Mowgli ever — wolf-boy wild with growling, spitting and spurting animal noises. But Balloo-- tho nice enough a big, burley bear — is not the wise teacher from Kipling. Instead of wild intelligence, this movie is full of pratfalls, physical humor and goofy music. The panther is great, the tiger never near enough menace and Ka is somebody else entirely. At least it's not an animated cartoon. 1997

Mr. Bing and L'Art Nouveau** is about a fascinating turn of art and the guy who gave it its name and who shoved it in most of the right directions and gave a bunch of later famous artists enough to go on for awhile and the impetus to be a serious worldwide moviement, and lots of intriguing art, but — and I'm not sure what it is — something major missing. Soul?

Almost all the way through, Mr. Brooks***/ (Kevin Costner) is spooky dark and smart. Then, penultimately, we get a quick taste of stupidity, then the story stutters back to semi-reality and ends. It's about a man who prays, attends 12th Step meetings, has a family he's not perfect with, a job, a hobby, a passion for murder and an alter ego (inner demon) personified by William Hurt at his most malevolent. It's amusing to hear the creators talk about their 'perfect' script. By now, they should know that's the kiss of death. It is an affecting and well written script till that end we mentioned and macabre sense of humor. Dark. Cosmically funny.

Eroll Morris (of The Thin Blue Line)'s Mr. Death***/ is a brilliant film documenting the American tragedy of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr's sad, naive life. Once devoted to creating humane execution methods and machines, Fred lost it inexorably when he lent his not-considerable engineering skills to an international court case to prove that no jews were ever gassed at Auchwitz. Not much in the special features department, but then the film says all that's necessary. Fascinating, even-handed, telling and beautiful.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium***/ is a kid's story that appeals to the kid in this adult, although the adults in this kid's story mostly do not, except when they're being kids. It's fun, but the story turns on unlikely circumstances. Like a woman who's worked there since she was 15 who does not believe in magic, even though it's all around her and she engages it and uses it. Hollywood is stuck in a world where its actors always don't believe its own premises, almost no matter what. It's like propaganda for being stupid and inept. With these movies we teach our kids and our selves never to be real (or imaginary, as the case may be).

Mrs. Brown***/ is the superbly restrained, veddy British story of love, loyalty and iconoclasm between Queen Victoria and her groomsman John Brown. Based on fact and superbly acted. 1997

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont*** is a sweet, gentle movie about the friendship of an older woman and a much younger man. A heartfelt and deep friendship, but just that, although there are certain complications. The Claremont is a retirement hotel where Joan Plowright's Mrs. Palfrey goes to retire.

I've seen Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle***/ before and loved it. This time, it seemed more difficult, not nearly the wildly barbed wit-fest I thought it the first three times I saw it. Not sure it deserves an All-Time-Great anymore. I'll go back at it in another couple years to figure that one out.

Mrs. Potter*** is Beatrix, who wrote about Flopsy, Mopsy and Peter Cottontail, and many other memorable characters in a long series of children's tales that made her a woman of independent means, rich enough to buy thousands of acres of lake country real estate, which she conserved then gave back to England's National Trust. It is also about the two other loves in her life. The story is sweet, spiced occasionally with short animations of her interacting with her characters, but its plot evolves in a very predictable manner.

My mom liked Must Love Dogs**, but I agree with my neice Haley, who, when I said it was sappy, said sappy would have been better. Still, it does have John Cusak in it, and that's almost enough.

My Best Friend Klaus Kinski*** is another play of light and dark. Sane and murdurous crazy. It's about conflict and accord, best friends and, luckily, a whole lot about making movies.

One of my favorite nieces, Jennifer, got all warm and glowy, when I asked her about My Dog Skip***, and I tried three times to rent it. Finally, thanks to NetFlix, it arrived on my front porch. It's a sweet, sentimental story of an only child and his only dog and how they helped each other grow up in a small town in Mississippi. Kevin Bacon gets to be a good guy, for a change, and the filming is lovely.

Netflix called it an underappreciated comedy. I was expecting funny ha-ha, instead I got dark humor, intelligent character development, quirky characters and genuine affection. Gentle movie, deeply funny and human. A surprising little miracle directed by Christine Lahti. My First Mister***/

I was utterly enchanted with My Life As A Dog**** when I first saw it more than a dozen years ago in Swedish with English subtitles on the big screen. While I watched the DVD today, dubbed in English by voices that seemed goofy, too young, too old or too something for the characters on screen, I enjoyed it even more. This time I understood almost everything going on in this quirkly little film. Wonderful characters, marvelous story, funny, bitter-sweet, honest, telling and true to a bizarre young life.

My Name is Joe*** was clear, sharp and engaging. I liked the characters almost immediately. It wasn't a great movie, and it's funny that they were all speaking (Scottish) English, but we still seriously needed the English subtitles. Not a comedy, though, and not as horrific as Train Spotters, but really quite good. 1999

Mystic River*** has a lot of stars, and I guess that's good acting but I didn't believe a word of the dialog, and there's more holes in the plot where there should be solids than in St. Albert's Hall. Gaping holes most of which are wholy unworthy of a Clint Eastwood movie.

Myth of Fingerprints*** — Home to a dysfunctional family for Thanksgiving. Excellent cast, lilting story, stray plot. 1997

The Myth of Fingerprints***/ is a remarkable little fillm that I completely missed when it was in theaters. Small budget, several solid actors, too-typical Dysfunctional Family Thanksgiving premise gives way to some deep thinking ideas, even if the Crazy Daddy subplot didn't really work. Nice flick. Solid characterizzations. Fascinating director commentary. +

My Wicked Ways**/ was on cable late last night. It was interesting enough to stop surfing — and noticeably better than Starring Pancho Villa Himself on another channel, and not so involving I had to put down my reading. This was no in-depth study, just a okay enough pseudo history of Erroll Flynn, with just enough tragi-comedy, not nearly enough fact, and nary a mention of the Nazis.

The Mummy**/ actually has a plot and acting better than any, say, Jackie Chan flick, but it's mostly escapism with lots of special effects. Violence is mostly off-camera, and there's hardly any blood. NS 1999

Murderball*** wasn't nearly as exciting as I thought it would be. Instead of concentrating on the game — rugby for paraplegics — the movie follows the players. Who at first seem like social misfits and certifiable AHs, then gradually as we watch their lives, turn into okay guys. Heartwarming in ways the game usually is not. I wanted more game and less people, but it does provide the general public much-needed info on these guys in chairs we usually look down on.