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J R's Images & Ideas

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The Talented Mr. Ripley***/'s previews are for a different movie. Smart plot, great performances, beautiful and often innovative cinnematography. One, fine film. V+ 2000

In Talk To Her**** Almodóvar shows us his sad, sweet, gentle but intellectual side. Quirky without getting goofy about it. Bittersweet without smarm. This is a wonderful, beautiful little film with big ideas that still swirl in my brain days later. I think perhaps I should have kept it longer. I want to see it again and see how its gentle filmic magic works.

In fact, the only gripe I have is that there's this lovely, wonderful, sad song sung "on-stage" in Spanish in the middle of this wonderful, sweet romance, that obviously means a lot to the trajectory of the film, but it's not translated in the subtitles, only in the faces of its on-screen audience. Oh, and speaking of which, this fine movie contains a strangely goofy, sexy, surreal, movie in a movie that's to live for.

 

I watched all 15 hours of Taken***. I was taken by it. Swept away. Not that it's a great film. It's not. Fascinating subject — alien abductions, crossbreeding with humans to create the benign being — but treated like a soap opera. Great production values, but thick with the sticky film of soap all over it.

The bad guy and his son and his son's daughter are all evil bad nasty mean. Thing about soaps. Not much in between. Too much of all or nothing. I saw 9 hours, then regrouped, but had to see the rest. Like an addiction. Shootin' up soap.

Flick goes on 15 hours but never gets anywhere. Lots of intriguing stuff between beginning and end, not much — but still too much — hardware sci, some intriguing ideas. Sound and fury aplenty. But signifying mostly nothing.

Liam Neeson as the grizled ex-spy whose daughter is Taken*** for the White Slavery trade in Paris, and he goes to get her back. Pretty strenuous for an old man, but exciting, fun and a little tear-jerky at the end, though hardly ever credible. The worst part was when he shot his friend's wife just to make a point. Other than that, the flick was fun.

I think I've seen Almodovar's Talk To Her**** before. I guess The Universe decided I needed to see it again. The cinne's (shortening that word to cinnematog was not short enough, only chopping off the raphy). This strange and gentle film is clear, sharp, richly colorful and dense with affecting characters and a marvelous, lilting story that involves love and women in comas — life, love and obsession, and friendship. 2002

Tank Girl *** offers an odd mix of film and comix imagery. Entirely goofy plot, but pleasant, fun. 1996

Tape*** is a post-Mammet Oleanna rip with not nearly the punch or punch line. It's two guys and a girl remembering a sexual encouter/rape with very different eyes. 2002

From the opening credits, Tarnation**** almost looks like fiction with unknown stars and weird SFX. It is constructed from remarkably perceptive but often bizarre (either dreadfully lighted or strangely digitized — visually reminiscent of Julien Donkey Boy) footage shot over many years by the son of a family who has to rank as one of the most dysfunctional of all time. Poignant, horrifying, unsettling, beautiful, nerve-wracking, offbeat, way beyond wacky. When the promo said you've never seen anything like it, they weren't kidding.

Tea with Mussolini*** was weepy with sentimentality, and the lead actress, Joan Plowright, was superb. Anti-Nazi story of elerly ladies trapped in Italy during WWII. Very pleasant. NS 1999

Tekkonkinkreet**** is amazing. Since I've been renting only four-star movies on Netflix, I've been a much happier viewer. Except TV shows, which get too much boost from idiots who love them there. I'd slid into a slump of anime boredom. Till this. This is so wonderful old dead Mr. Disney's turning over in his grave. Superb characterizations, color, story and pictures. Incredibly intelligent and intuitive story, full of spirit and inspiration.

Tell No One***/ tells a long winding story of love and guilt and seething crime. Tells it well and anything but straight-forward. Superbly put together. Amazing acting. Mysterious.

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.

Ten Canoes**** is great old-fashioned story-telling. This time by Australian Aborigines whose story this truly is. Complete with historically accurate everything, so it's as fascinating for the realities as the story. Absorbing and real.

I liked T1 and T2, because they had ideas as well as adventure and massive quantities of senseless violence, but Terminator Three** is mostly just stupid. And now I know I won't ever have to see T4.

That Old Feeling*/ is a really stupid, hollywood movie with some laughs, terrible acting, stupid premise, and stupid dialog. 1997

That Thing That You Do *** harkens back to a time when America still had its innocense. Goofy, not worth much, mostly meaningless. But I liked it. 1996

I didn't see There Will Be Blood*** in a theater, because I don't like seeing movies in noisy theaters, but also because I was tired of violent movies after the essentially stupid No Country for Old Men. So we saw finally saw it on DVD, and yeah, it's a good performance by Daniel Day Lewis and a less than good performance by his nemesis, the preacher. But a beautiful film, if you like dark and gritty. It's about a real AH oilman, whose only honest moment in the whole film is when he talked mano-a-mano with the guy who was pretending to be his "brother by another father." Mean-spirited, a multi-murderer who cheated people whenever he could. Not really the sort of movie I can get excited by. I think the academy is nuts.

Theramin **** is a superb documentary on the weird pioneer genius of electronic music. This is what a documentary should be. What Ann Frank couldn't be. Outstanding. 1996

Tickets***/ is a lilting, lovely slice of life. Three directors. Three stories. Not sure I could tell you when one started or another ended. They intertwined without the obvious tricks Hollywood would have suckered us with. Gentle. Mean-spirited. Positive. Negative. Like real life. Connected by a train going to Rome. Beautiful along the way. Odd, quirky pacing. Italian. Very differing sorts of people. Dreamy, too real, a little pain, a little pathos, some bathos. Fine little film, despite English subtitles I had to pay attention to rather than the visual subtleties, but I guess I caught enough of those. Sweet.

Thieves*** is oddly compelling. Many questions; few answers. Complex story about thieves of several sorts, told in disjunctive time, gradually revealing truths. Pretty European flick with memorable characters. 1997

It's really too bad they couldn't come up with a better title than The Thirteenth Floor***/. That very nearly wrecks it, although there is a flair in the name. The movie is part immersive digital life/game, part time-travel, part a complicated interdimensional Thugs vs. The Good Guys in Computerland — On Beyond Tron. Intriguing mix. Some of it is smart; too much is dimwitted. Overall, not terrible and certainly not great, but watchable and even better, ponderable. 1999

You know something is amiss when the first thing I mention in a DVD review is that the user interface is high, techily intuitive. I love time travel movies, even the terrible ones. And I'd see any flick with Jeremy Irons in it, so I saw the latest take on HG Wells' classic Time Machine***, which is obvious and mostly dreadful almost from the get go. Although still fun enough, and I love the spinning machine itself and the time-lapse fantasy sequences. It's just the actors and the acting and the story and the characterizations and the monsters and the plot that are seriously amiss. 2002

The Thin Red Line**** is one of those movies that bowl me over with their strength and simplicity, all in a new way of seeing and understanding. It's about fear and courage, loyalty, the myriad stupidities of war, humanity and inhumanity. No Sex, but lots of usually played-down violence. It's a gorgeous, usually calm, almost quiet film, full of surreal moments and superb cinematography. Wow! 1999

I saw it because it had David Duchovny, not for any sane reason, and I like the title. Things We Lost in the Fire***/ is about friendships and facing fears and taking the good. In it Halie Berry plays an evil selfish bitch who won't grieve the loss of her husband, an overzealous small-time hero, and Benicio Del Toro is amazing as a her husband's lifelong best friend and heroin addict, whom she takes advantage of, twisting him in and out of her control. It's a bittersweet little weeper, but watching Del Toro is worth the tears.

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This is the third time I've seen The Third Man**** and the first time I've understood what was going on. Not sure why I missed it before, but this truly is one fantastic movie, despite it being mired in postwar clarities and absurd black and white. Amazing everything. 1946

After so many three or three-plus asterisk movies running, it's really a blessing to come upon a genuine four-star, er... asterisk movie again. Grittily filmed in grainy overblown colors, The Third Miracle***/ is a minor miracle of good filming, story and damned little sentimentality. Fine acting by Ed Harris, wonderful characterization by Anne Heche and others combine to a meaningful, almost religious experience as a doubting priest defends an American saint. 2000

This Film Is Not Yet Rated*** is brilliant. A documentary, it's a good, solid story. Superbly plotted and edited. Very funny. An adventure with detectives and spying and revealing secrets. Has lots of sex and violence. It's fascinating, educational and entertaining. The deleted scenes are amazing. I was draft age, in college and scared when JFK stared down the Ruskies in Cuba back in 1963, so I was fascinated to watch Thirteen Days***/ on the big screen. Fine movie, powerful concepts. Only flaw that struck me was that it inexplicably shifted into black & white and back to color for no reason I could discern, but I'm really tired of that technique anyway.

The Thirteenth Floor**** is one great movie. Dark, moody, truly sci-fi noir. Superb sets, great costumes. Fine acting and more than a few comparisons to Blade Runner pop to mind. Maybe a copout ending, but just beautiful overall. 1999

The Thomas Crown Affair*** seemed, while watching, to be glossy and beautiful and oh, so smart. Later, I had to wonder why anyone who went to so much hassle and expense to rip off a world-famous painting would put it back a couple days later, but watching Pierce Bronston — and whatsername was a real joy. Lots of nice, different cinnematic angles, some beautiful scenes. Nice. 1999

A Thousand Acres*** is a modern King Lear with costarring great actresses, decent plot, fine performances, but this is not the best drama of the year, like the hype claims. It's nice, melodramatic and all, a little weepy. 1997

Somewhere between Lonesome Dove and The Cremation of Sam McGee, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada***/ seems long, sometimes brutal, often ironic and eventually darkly hilarious on several competing levels. It's about friendship and a last wish and a long trip and that word again, redemption. Heavy on redemption. Oh, and an aging Tommy Lee Jones. 2006

Three Kings***/ is a non-stop heist romp that turns humane and remains intelligent throughout. It's the only movie I can remember that makes violence look like the evil it truly is. This time it's army guys running around out to steal Saddam's gold after the Gulf War, but the characters learn as the plot flies. A little violent, but a fast-paced, high adventure with great heart. 1999

3000 Miles from Graceland* was bleeding awful, and I had to force myself to sit through the whole thing. 2001

The 3:10 to Yuma***/ is a compelling, viciously bloody Western with a passel of competing moral dilemmas, vivid characters and a story that trashes some well-worn clichés.

More, major quirk, this time Korean. The blurb calls him homeless, but clearly he has accesses plenty homes, just they belong to other people, and he always improves some things, cleans, buries a suicided body, waters the plants, feeds the Koi But he's the Trickster, too. Changing clocks and scales. Stays one or two nights. When he stays too long owners return and treat him variously. All's quiet so far. No dialog from him, or her when she joins his adventure. Then the violence starts. Sado and maso. Beautifully filmed. Outstanding story, actors, cinematography, concept, plot, everything except the savagery the 3-iron plays part in. 3-Iron****

Oh, Lard! I've finally seen one of The Twilight Saga: New Moon***. I'd hoped to catch the first one, but it musta got confused in my Netflix Queue. But it hardly matters. Now I've seen one, I don't have to see more, and that, to strain a pun, is a blessing. Vampires vs. Wherewolves, Indian and old White Guys, lots of goofy symbolism. I love a good scare, but there's hardly any there.

I realize it's like missing the point even before there is a point, but I rented Thumbsucker***/, because Vincent D'onofrio is in it, and I'd see anything with him. I loved him as the tweaker who'd snorted his nose off in The Salton Sea and I can still stand him in Criminal Intent on TV sometimes, though I used to love that program, fascinated by the guy's intense characterizations and effective know-it-all-isms.

I'd forgot that was the reason this movie kept jumping up my Netflix queue. Here, he plays an out of touch dad who's still not sure he wants to be called that, and his son's about to go off to college. And of course a lot more, too. Intense, twisting little movie. I may have to see it again.

Enough preamble. This is a sweet little movie about coming to know oneself by, of course, becoming what this one's self isn't really; the relative ease of mothers and sons and the comparative difficulties of fathers and sons. With Polyphonic Spree schlocking up the soundtrack at the most inopportune moments, and everybody if not exactly living happily ever after, at least making minute adjustments into a possible future. Lilting, with a lot of truth, some pat answers about not having answers, and a gentle but realistic screenplay.

Thunder Road***/, however, was fine to see again after 43 years. I saw this independent film written, produced and directed by 50s bad guy actor Robert Mitchum, when it debuted, and parts of it have stayed with me all my life. Nice, too, to see Keely Smith as his love interest, singing without Louie Prima. It was grand to reacquaint myself with this revenuers adventure and discover that It stands up very well over time. "The law they swore they'd get him, but the devil got him first." 1957

I somehow managed to miss THX-1138**** in 1971. I would have loved it then as I love it now and still cannot imagine missing it first time around. So many subsequent films owe their all to copying from — homage to — this starling original view of the future. Every sci fi flick since then, including all those star wars, has ripped it off. I suppose I should mention this was George Lucas' first feature. A classic original. Amazing.

The Tick**/ looks but does not sound quite like a Brit Comedy about superheroes. It is funny in a stupid kind of way, but I've seen enough episodes, I don't need to see any more. I get it. It has its charm and charms, but enough is already a little too much in a too little kind of way.

I've seen strange movies. Generally like 'em best. Terry Gilliam is a favorite director. But. Phew! This one is hanging off the far edge of the gone world. Madness and truly deeply disturbing. I didn't even know it existed. Would have paid attention. Thought they wouldn't let him make any more movies for awhile. Easily see why this did not achieve wide theatric release. During and after, I felt separate from reality. Had to stop 26 minutes to go, twice, to remind myself I wasn't crazy. Not all that certain now. Affecting movie, this. I am afraid Tideland**** will be memorable nights I'd rather forget. Its madness is what makes it special, but as Gilliam prefaces, half the people who see this film won't like it. It's also funny in strange, twisted way. Funnier in hindsight.

Time-changer* was so inept, stupid and soulless I quit watching it. I could tell you a little about the story but I've already said enough. I thought I could watch any time-travel movie, no matter how bad, but I can't and won't.

Time Code***/ sounds like more sci-fi, and in a way, it is. The title says it all. It's about time code, the measure of film footage as it clicks through a camera. In this case, they did everything four times, once for each quadrant of the movie screen. At least 3/4 of it is intriguing and interesting. Overblown, of course, but it is Hollywood. The technique is fascinating. And watching up to four somewhat distinct lines of the story simultaneously is absorbing. It's new and different, and since this is the first iteration, the production gets away with more than any who dare follow. The next iteration will have to be much more interesting, but there's always hope. 2000

I still think I have to see every time travel movie out there. Timecrimes*** is another one. A lot on the grisly side as if every choice was to get the hero/protagonist a litle more bruised and bloody. It works. Then it works again. The time condundra that makes a time-travel movie what it is, and may be the only way to prove it, keep piling up. After several iterations, we kinda side with our hero, but ...

For an awfully long time, I thought Time Out***/ would never end. It's long, painfully slow, emotionally excruciating. A man loses his job, hides out in his car, tries a scam on friends and family, loses faith, joins with a smuggler. Finally, painfully, he goes back to his two wives and families. Beautiful filming. Rich colors, no trickery. 2003

A Time to Kill **** is smart, taut and chilling. A little light in law, but heavy on justice. An excellent flick. 1996

I haven't even started with The Time Traveler's Wife***, but I'm already angry with it, because it won't let me skip the interminable previews and go to the movie, which oddly enough is why I rented this DVD. I get "Not Permitted" every time I attempt to watch the movie. And that's just wrong. Luckily, my iMac remembers how far I'd got the last time and returns me to that point every time I restart it. But this is really a nuisance. Okay. I saw it. I've thought about it. I liked it. Time travel is one of my favorite flick genres. I'll probably rent this one again in a couple years. It's smarmy and intelligent, warm and cuddly and starkly unreal. It's pretty to look at, but really very so-what? We loved it as an audio book all the way to Colorado, but as a move, nyeah.

Cute little plot-play, but essentially and repeatedly stupid. It's a time when most people have timers, hence the name of the movie. Sorta science fiction. The TIMER*** on the back of their wrist, counts down to the time — sometime in their lives — when they meet their true love. Guaranteed. Maybe. The movie is about doubts. Our hapless and deeply disturbingly inept heroine has one and believes way too deeply in them, till she finds out stuff that she'd been lied to about, then decides to .. oh, you just have to watch the movie, which has its own charm, some humor — which entirely escapes most of the people in the movie but not everybody, and some sparing intelligence. What I'm trying to say is that, it grows on you. It even gets a little sad near the end. With inklings of Eternal Sunshine all through it and a lovely soundtrack.

Titan AE*** is an interesting sci-fi experiment. Exquisite, soaring 3-D animation scenes mixed with truly mediocre 2-D, thin story line, not at all like Star Wars, despite Ebert's comparisons, and sudden character developments. Visually, it's often fantastic. But when you think about it, you've already forgot it. 2000

Okay, Titanic*** has made a gazillion dollars, but does that really mean we need more slopping wet flicks like Deep Rising, Hard Rain and Phantoms? Not to even mention Amistad and Sphere... 1998

There's at least a dozen good reasons why The Bard's Titus***/ is performed so seldomly. This production is lurid, surreal, vengeful, extremely violent and filled with deceitful, mean-spirited, evil, ragingly disloyal characters. Meanwhile, it is visually, stunningly beautiful, even sumptuous, amazingly acted and overlong. V+ 2000

The godfathers of the title are a disreputable bunch. Hardly heroes. Liars, homeless, father-stabbers, drunks, homos, louts. But somehow lovable. Sometimes. Other times I couldn't stand them. It's anime, so they're just lines and areas of color. Moving Hanna-Barbera style across a comix Japanese landscape. They are ruined souls, each with a horror story how they came to be where they are, but they have heart. This movie has soul. And redemption. Tokyo Godfathers****

Tom Dowd and the Language of Music***/ is about a recording engineer who literally changed the course of human history by introducing technology into recording many the great musicians of the last half of the last century. Or something like that. Fascinating yet kind of tedious at about the same time.

Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz*, which was so bad they had Leonard Maltin come on as a speciat feature to tell us the movie really wasn't so bad, even if it didn't have any stars in it. But that was a lie. 1969

Topper Returns*/ was essentially dreadful, a bad period piece. What I really wanted to see again was Topper, the TV show I grew up with, not this abomination.

Topsy Turvy*** about Gilbert & Sullivan's rise to fame follows the Mikado from creative glint to full-blown production. Lots of strum und drang, but little real import. It's historically interesting, but as a movie, oh, ho-hum. 2000

Touch* is lame, inept, naive, loose. Every time a rhythm gets going, it stops dead in its tracks. Johnny Depp look-alike in a Johnny Depp role Depp woulda made a lot better. If it weren't a healer flick, it'd beeen utterly awful. 1997

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I waited two weeks while NetFlix lost, then found, then finally delivered the new DVD of the newly re-edited and re-dubbed version of Orson Welles' more or less classic, Touch of Evil***. But I'm not entirely sure it was worth the hassle. Visually, the film is a delicious treat with full noir treatment — sharp angles, great lighting, shadows and dark masses, and lots of fabulous chiaroscuro all over the place. Superb cinematography. All in glorious black and white.

The acting and characters are solid, varied and utterly fascinating. But the story is a drunken wreck. Maybe exciting, certainly inspiring, probably even innovative in 1958. Now, however, it's a sore thumb that sticks out in time — a major anachronism. Hard to imagine these plots twists and lurid, unglamorous filmic anomolies or dark leather gang scenes were ever seen as subtle, intelligent or effective. The sensational screenplay was so Reefer Madness cheap and exageratedly comic book goofy that I had to stop it in the middle, and go watch TV to get my bearings. But I came back.

The bad guys are over the top bad. The good guys are crisp and immaculate. Great cast, though, including a young, elegant Zsa Zsa Gabor cameo, a hideously overly-made-up Marlene Dietrich as a Mexican madame, a startlingly un-credibly innocent Janet Leigh, a young, dark, famous Mexican drug cop Charlton Heston, and a marvelously sniveling Dennis Weaver as a gutless motel clerk. Best of all, of course, is director / star Welles as the fat slob bad detective. He's as sleazily evil as the cheesy, hand-drawn typeface used for the title in the theatric trailer.
  

Touch The Sound**** is the joyous documentary of a profoundly deaf woman who has learned to hear through her body and become a superb musician, percussionist, teacher and collaborationist who works — or plays — with other gifted and strange musicians in acoustically fascinating places around the world. Unexpected musics fill this aurally mystical movie. It's about sound, of course, but this movie directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer is also visually stunning. The visual transitions — musicians might call them bridges — are transportive. I chair danced to both watching this wondrous production.

Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre**/ is a 35-minute program about Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's life and art. It's interesting, has photographs of the artist and paintings and drawings and posters by him in a sort of twisting, turning life's story. The art is discussed by somebody who keeps assuring us that the artists, poets and dancers in Lautrec's life were working on Modernism, not on their ouvres. Which is to say, the narration is full of high-falutin' art crit, which as usual, has little to do with the facts of an artist's life and time. Worse, the same images of his work keep recycling till I had most of them memorized. There's also a lot of early photographs of Montmartre and Toulouse and his friends that are fascinating, and movies of the times and some of the places that are just parked there for historic, not significance, more like flavor. I know a little more about Lautrec now, and I'm thankful for that, but I know there's much else that needs telling that is not dependent upon bullshit art crit.

Torchwood*** is a B-movie serial thriller about tracking down aliens. The new Dr. Who has referenced it on American TV, so it's only a couple years old now. Interesting but predictable. Almost intelligent, but never quite. The ends don't hold together, the story frays here and there, and most of the excitement is pedestrian.

I remember another, far sadder movie about Townes that led me to buy some of his deep down blues, that I still love. Townes Van Zandt: Be Here To Love Me*** is a little more upbeat. Tells the story, in post-modern disjointedness, so we never follow the chronology — though maybe it's like a Townes song even he doesn't understand, but the words and music come into his head like a dream, and he writes it down and plays it.

The Tracker***/ is about race and racism, justice and humanity. It takes its time. Coulda done without the fella singing, until he sang in aboriginal language. But then he switched back later. That the only really lame idea in the film about white racists tracking a black man accused of killing a white woman through the outback. Our hero is the tracker who metes out everybody's justice. Obviously written by a white guy with broad taste in story telling, but so well acted by David Gulpilil as the tracker, it was hard to fault.    Then there's a documentary about Gulpilil's real life that's fascinating if much less exciting than the movie.

Ebert called Traffic*** "a masterpiece," but it's more of a mess — a confusing mellange of conflicting notions, thrown together in a visually complex gumbo. I knew that different cities were to be filtered in differing colors, but the technique still confused me and mildly repulsed me. It's ugly and stupid. Mexico always looks like Mexico, and who cares what different cities in the U.S. look like? And leaving the theater, I heard several people trying to explain who were the bad guys and who weren't. Interesting but not fascinating in tedious detail. Racistly enough, a black guy and an Hispanic provide most of the movie's comedic relief. And it goes on and on and on. In fact, it never really ends, it just stops eventually.

Traffic: A Film by Jacques Tati*** is a goofy little old-fashioned visual humor film with dialog that mostly doesn't matter and just adds to the quirkesque madness involving attempting to deliver a odd bit of automotive design in the forrm of a camper to an Auto Show and the trials and tribulations along the way. More amusing than outright funny, but done in anintricately choreographed burlesque ballet sort of way that reminds us we are all human and thereby a little off. 1971

Trainspotting ****/ is Naked Lunch surreality with dismal, grisly heroin addict action. Well crafted characters. 1996

Traitor***/ is the best spy thriller I've seen in years. Intriguing plot, tense action, fine acting (Don Cheadle is amazing.), with a strong, smart message, unlike most action movies, especially American spy flicks. This one's got depth of character, intelligence and excitement, while still blowing up a bunch of people, while holding back from answering the question about who the good guys really are.

Transamerica*** is a buddy pic, a road pic and a transsexual journey, although I never believed the man about to become a woman (played by a woman) was ready to transgenerize. Half the plot depends on her not telling the kid (who is an obviously fatherless and parent-less wild child) she's his father. She has a terrible mom, whom they visit on the way trans America, so she/he never had a good role model to peg her new femininity on, and she doesn't do it well, ever. But the movie never gets maudlin, and there's no real character development, just acceptance. So the movie is real on several levels, just never enough.

I haven't had as much pure, raw fun watching a movie as I have watching The Transformers***/ in a long, long, time. The plot is riddiculous, the acting suspect, the dialog often borrowed from other movies and popular culture is sometimes surprising and often hilarious. If it weren't having so much fun making fun of itself and its whole teen monster, save-the-world gesnre, this might be a lesser movie. But it's not. Everyone we've told about it, have turned their noses up at the very idea, much like I did before I saw it. Now I know better.

Travelers*** — Almost likable Irish gypsies on the road get in over their heads. Interesting characters, extreme violence just when I didn't expect it. But it was, I suppose, inevitable, predictable. Odd duck of a film. 1997

Tree's Lounge*** sounds a lot more depressing than it really is. Our hero is a miserable failure of a human being, very much in the mode of Harvey Pekar and worst. Lost, grabbing hold of any iffy line through the storm, each step slippery and dangerous and always knowing he's going to make the worst possible choice. Every evening back at the bar, drinking and making more stupid mistakes. And yet... Steve Buscemi as star and director and life force lends a certain interest, a certain need to know more. He's very good at both, and I need to see his next flick, too. He wraps us around The Loser in a fascinating way that goes beyond character development.

Triage*** is about two war photographers, only one of whom comes back. What happened to the other is the question, and it is slowly answered through psychiatry. Unfortunately, it is not a new story or plot. It's a tired to the bone version of both. I wanted to like it, because it's about photographers, but despite the subject, I kept wanting more than the usual, and it wasn't there.

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

The Triplets of Belleville***, while not really the best of any category, including annimation, in any given year, is entertaining and pleasant with some interesting visual ideas. The song video is the best part.

It's too bad the name Clueless was made so popular recently. It would have been perfect for Emily Watson's detective debut in Trixie***/. Not entirely unlike the Stupid And Stupider flicks of recent years, this one is a major goof that toys with any sincere sense of reality as the eponymous private eye bumbles her way through the investigation of the murder of an unpopular, uh... singer. Trixie's malaprops are fascinating but so is all the dialog and constantly unexpected action in this quirkily intelligent flick about stupidity. I've been a major fan of Ms. Watson since her superb performance in Breaking The Waves three years ago. It was a joy to get to watch her act wonderfully again, often in large close-ups. I still think she may be the best actress alive. 2000

True Crime***/ is gritty and cool. There's sharp jibes in almost every scene. So it's simultaneously sardonically funny and serious. A down and almost out alcoholic investigates a murder on the night of the murdurer's execution. Good story, plot, characters, a decent car chase, good tension. The end is obvious and after that, it's stupid, but so what? 1999

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The Truman Show presents a new reality that Hollywood will copy over and over in the coming new Century. Jim Carrey in the best role of his life — one that lets his true talents shine through. Much better, deeper and more American than Liar Liar 1998

The Truman Show**** is superb. Carrey actually acts, instead of just acting stupid. He's good. The story is solid. The filming is beautiful and sharp. A lot of the acting is purposefully over-the-edge. 1998

Trumbo*** is a documentary about writer Dalton Trumbo whose movie credits would startle and amaze you. They did me. But then, so would his life. I had hoped to learn more about him, but at first thought this movie centered too much on his years on Hollywood's Blacklist. Then, gradually, I began to understand that by telling what he did, and what he wrote — including his letters acted by actors you will recognize — I have learned deep about him. Amazing man, superb writer and fighter against prevailing idiocies.

The Truth About Charlie** is a truly stupid name for a goofy, mixed up movie with some charm, a lot of style, but not much intelligence, that I nevertheless enjoyed some of the times. But it never made much sense, and it was so busy being convuluted and full of swtich-back, hairpin turns of identity that it never slowed down to tell any truths — unlike the original, Charade****, which is included on the flip side of the DVD, but I didn't want to see that faithful charmer till I got this retro retard out of my head. 2003

Tuck Everlasting** started out a interesting little fantasy romp, nice characters, sorta interesting plot. Then, about half way through, it lost all grasp on story or intelligence and just flew off into utter stupidity, when all anyone woulda had to do was tell the truth. But no, we can't do that in a movie, we gotta have a jail break and yet another slow "fast getaway," and lost in all that stupid shuffle was not a single bit of the whole supposed concept of living forever. Nobody in this movie is ever shown doing that. What a waste.

Tumbleweeds*** is mother and daughter on the road and finally settling somewhere as they work our their demons. 2000

Turtles Can Fly***/ is a joint Iran Iraq production about and starring children in war just before the toppling of Saddam. In films, we often know what's about to happen. In this one, every time we have filmic knowledge that something awful is about to happen and tell ourselves, oh, no, that can't possibly happen in a film about children, it does. In that way, this is tragedy and sad and strange. In other ways, however, we see the resilience of children, their wisdom and their dogged insistence on going on. 2005

Groundhog Day is a great movie, nearly perfect. 12:01*** has an essentially similar plot but less fascinating characters involving a shorter learning curve. Its recycling has a sci fi theme that's it's endearing, but it's not Groundhog Day. I dunno which came first.

I shouldn't have seen 12 Monkeys again. It has fallen in my estimation at least an asterisk. First ten times I saw it I thought it amazing intelligent, well puzzled together and a remarkable time-travel movie. This time I was awestruck how well it was edited together, how low was the tech, how simple the story, how amazing good the acting.

Then I saw it again a year or so later, and I loved it.

Twenty-Four Seven**/ is a dark, violent, psychological black & white character study starring Bob Hoskins as a bloke who starts a boxing club for boys to channel their violent impulses but can't quite tame his own. 1998

21 Grams***/ is long and confusing because of the shred editing so popular now and because of the complexity of inter relationships, despite strong characterizations and probably good acting, too. But I tend to suspend disbelief early and concentrate on the stories and try to figure out who's who.

Twice in a Lifetime*** sounded like sci-fi so attracted my attention. It wasn't sci but it had fi in spades. Bobbing up and down my Netflix queue for months till I finally let it pop to the top. It's a long, painful descent from unhappily married to unhappily divorced the guy, and from bored wife to a real, 3D person with just a lilt of pain.

Twin Falls Idaho**** is the eeriely spooky story of co-joined twins. It's a dark and beautiful film that gradually finds its own light. It's about the strong and the weak twin, their unique bond and the woman the strong one loves. Poignant story and strong characters, flawless screenwriting and unpredictable, this is a fascinating film. 1999

Twister ***/ is a stupid movie with great special effects. Funny. Evil storm-chasers is goofy concept. Want to see it again and again. 1996

Had low to no expectations of 2012***, just looking for some big escape, and I love science fiction, so have at. Only after this end-of-the-world disaster film started did I realize John Cusack and a bunch of other famous actors were in it. Him alone woulda done it. Lots of high adventure excitement separated by slow scenes I mostly fast-forwarded through, going for the thrill. Yee-ha! Loved it.

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I didn't expect great depth from U-571***, and I wasn't disappointed, except when the stupid soundtrack translated adequate sequences into Hollywoodian syrup. Lots of excitement, not nearly as much intelligence, but a good flick romp, if you're not too discerning. 2000

Ulee's Gold****
Sweet, mostly gentle, beautiful, sometimes sad Hollywood movie with European pacing. I was hoping Peter Fonda would finally be great in a movie after so many duds in the thirty years since he was Capt. America. Here, slowed and deliberate, he is superb. These are real people living believable lives. The heroism isn't flashy or false. Nothing's out of place. 1997

In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the unrestrained hedonist slowly traps himself in true love. From the joy of Prague Spring, through the inevitable communist crackdown, it's a fascinating story, well told, in often inexplicable actions and remarkably beautiful filmic nuances.

Movie prevues are such an elusive art form. How to speak the truth about a visual event in quick-cut snips without giving the plot or ending away, while, all the while substantiating mood and flow and other insubstantial elements. Nonetheless, I knew, when I saw the preevs for Unbreakable that I had to see it. Despite his mind-numbingly conservative politics, Bruce Willis is the god of adventure acting. 12 Monkeys is my all-time favorite flick, Sixth Sense is awesome. I even loved Fifth Element and look forward to yet another Die Hard.

Still, I wasn't prepared for Unbreakable.**** Thanks to the previews, I was way off on the plot, couldn't have been more wrong about the treatment. Never guessed it was going to be the greatest ever comic book brought to film.

I didn't expect to be seeing Unbreakable**** so soon after watching it on the big screen where it utterly fascinated me. But when I heard the DVD release had two disks, including many previously unseen scenes, I jumped at an overnight rental. Well, the new scenes were not in the movie, they were on the B side with too much other clutter. The flick is still fabulous. I understood and appreciated even more with this second watching, and I still think it's the best comic book ever movied. The special clutter is interesting enough — especially the writer / director introducing the deleted scenes. The movie's just so much better.

True, it was dark black noir. So slow paced even Europeans might get nervous. Deep. Elegant. Inspired. Subtle. And amazing. Our hero is Joe Everyman learning and growing in his special talents and sanity while the very real people around him are going the other direction.

Quite a feat. A startling visual treat with a slender, subtle thread that vivifies comic book heroes and villians without leaving the earthly plane. Darkman meets Sixth Sense. X-Men on intellectual sterioids. Too smart for its own popularity. Superb. Sublime. Walking out of the theater I knew I'd been movied. 2000

  
A black-out drunk played by Albert Finney dearly loves and viciously hates his estranged wife, played by Jacqueline Bisset, then she comes back to him in Cuernavaca, and he goes to a fortune teller but ignores her advice and they both die, he by evil Mexicans, she by bumping into a horse. Under the Volcano**

Unforgettable ****/ combines murder mystery, sci fi, romance into a complicated plot, all of which makes sense and all of which is brought to conclusion. Very intelligent and fast paced. Beautiful, too. 1996

The United States of Leland***/ is about right and wrong, guilt and remorse, love, not love, hate and responsibility. At all that, it's better than most movies. Stranger, too. Put together as a post-modern pastiche, it's easy enough to tell when whatever happened happened, but like the rest of life, it's disjointed and all in the wrong order, except it turns out to be right.

The Universe of Keith Haring***. Nice enough flick. A little uneven. Intrusive soundtrack sometimes. Historic video smears on pan and keeps panning, but the contemp stuff is good, clean. Lots of works by him and him making lots of work, usually sped up to amaze us. Yoko Ono among the talking heads. Interesting. Lively. Not a great film but a great artist.

Unprecedented*** was direct documentarianism, up close and personal, about how a Third World Nation's president's brother threw a national election.

I wanted to see Up***/ in 3-D, even though I was cross-eyed as a kid, and my eyes still don't usually work together. The 3-D was okay, since I apparently missed most of it, but the glasses took about about half the light, so I kept looking over them at the fuzzy screen, so now I have to see it again in un 3-D. I'll probably wait for the Blue-ray for that. The movie was several kinds of wonderful, a little slower, maybe more adultish than most of Pixars, but there was always marvelous little touches.

Up in the Air*** was a lot better and deeper than I thought it would be. Less than wonderful people making character transitions into actual human beings, and visa versa. Think-worthy, gentle, humanly funny, almost deep.

Urbania*** deftly mixes urban legends — keep your eye out for the lady, the poodle and the microwave — with a surrealist flashback sequenced blend of the real and the unreal. Gradually, it becomes a gay love-lost story of revenge, violence and unhollywoodian ressurection. Odd but sweet, starring Judging Amy's brother Peter, sharp dialog, and lust-worthy gay love scenes at long last. I mean, they actually touch each other. 2000

U.S. Marshalls**/ — regardless of its Fugitive copy-cat plot, was good action adventure. 1998

The U.S. vs. John Lennon*** is a good movie about a fascinating character whom Nixon feared might turn the tide against him and the war. One of many such people, of course. Some of the best-known of whom speak in this film. The music, performances and historic film clips are wonderful and the revelations would be startling, if I didn't live through that period of official paranoia and catch my own little bits of it, myself.

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