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J R's Images & Ideas

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Movies starting with:
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V

Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues***/ truly moved me. I saw a movie a few years ago, called Dicks, which in typical, male fashion was all these big ole schlongs. It was gross and disgusting and rude. Not an emotion the whole flick. The monologues are feminine in very much the opposite way. They're funny, heart-warming, real. And throughout, the actual monologues in front of an audience are interspersed and introduced by real people talking about their own and their own experiences with their vaginas. Shocking too, I suppose, and blunt, but never crass, never rude, always... well, human2002

Vanishing Point* is promoted as the classic chase movie, although of course, it is not. It's just Kowalksi racing across the desert west with a bunch of state cops chasing him from time to time with loud music playing and an uncool Black DJ telling us it's about The Last American Hero. Mostly it's just a stupid chase more like O.J. in his Bronco on the LA Freeway, with slight hippie and dumb cop variations. Boring. Silly. Stupid.

The Velvet Goldmine** is a strange film about the Ziggy Stardust glam glitter music era. It's dark, gloomy, full of brooding tragic figures and music written recently to sound like David Bowie, et al. A near miss. NS

Venus*** is a quirky, gentle, bittersweet movie about old people, death, lust and love in a December/May friendship that slowly turns to a sexless sort of romance between an elderly and infirm Peter O'Toole (essentially playing himself, only older and more infirm) and a very young, sensual but destructive woman and what they both learn.

Sometimes in a movie ya gotta figure out whether you want to watch superb acting, no matter how slow the movie is. In Vera Drake***/, I fast forwarded through a bunch of it. Too slow to hold my attention. That after holding back from watching it for nearly a week, because someone told me it was sad. It was sad. But it was so painfully slow in revealing its sadness, that I didn't care and just wanted to get it over. Oh, yeah. It's a true tragedy — at the U of Dallas I learned that means what the lead characher does entitles them to what they get in the end. Not sure I'd agree that an abortionist who doesn't charge for her services, but does it for the good of the women involved, deserves to go to jail. But Vera never seems to let on that she even knew it were possible.

A Very Long Engagement***/ is a big story of love lost and sought through many other stories in war. A detective story putting all the pieces together, so she could find him. Long — 2 hours and 13 minutes, winding story of visual poetry and hope. French 2004

Vicky Cristina Barcelona*** wants very much to be a madcap romantic semi-foreign film, but as realistic as the possibilities are, the choices only disappoint. Nice try, Woody.

Videodrome**/ was weird, and must have been all the more so in 1985. David Cronenberg is usually more organized and more dedicated to the story and the humane telling than here. It reminded me of Naked Lunch (which Croneberg also did) for its hallucinations and Max Headroom for the power of video. Truly strange.

There's a case to be made that The Village***/ is a science fiction movie with little science but one, great, idea that involves a lot of fiction both in front of and behind the cameras. This intensely fearful plot is set in a time and place of innocence, where fear serves good and evil. It's spooky from the start. Eerie, yet benevolent, quirky and humane and not entirely credible. But close.

Before I started watching it, I wanted to see Vincent and Theo**/. Once it was begun, however, I'd get mad at it for being so lame and ignoring any semblance of story, come back hours later or the next day. It never held me. I wanted to finish it, ever hopeful I'd learn something about one the painter, but there's nothing of that here, except his constant struggle with Theo and Gauguin and life. It almost never felt human or real, only conflicted. Even the paintings throughout this dreadful movie were bad copies painted by art students, because the director didn't care. So the camera often lovingly fondles bad copies by untalented fakers, as it they were telling a true story. Finally I finished it, and now I have to find their letters and read those again. This stupid movie is evil. I'm so glad I don't ever have to watch it again.

The Virgin Suicides**** is sumptiously beautiful, with a quiet, Hanging Rock sensuality in vivid color with rich characterizations. It's a sensitive teen... well, not quite love — maybe lust — story... Complex, intelligent, truly oddball casting and a story that almost works. This often luscious flick has the flavor of an indie with a Hollywood cast and an almost just-right story that just misses explaining why the girls did it. The kids are the real treat here, and they're intelligently rendered. Maybe this movie that not-so-neatly sidesteps the actual suicides, is just not violent enough for a teen suicide flick... 2000

Visions of Light***/ is a wonderful compilation of movie history's great technical visual leaps forward with lots of intelligent movie fan experts and a fascinating, chronological collection of clips from each. Now I've got a great, long list of even more movies worth seeing.

The Visitation** was a spooky little film with a Christian attitude about a healer who comes to town, only he's the devil in disguise, only he's the abused son of a preacher, only... Not a terrible plot, just a mediocre execution, except it's spooky. A real B movie.

I was thinking sci-fi when I learned I was getting The Visitor***/, neatly forgetting all the info I'd gathered at NetFlix. I loved The Station Agent as I loved this heart-warming tear-releaser about cultures coming together in our supposed melting pot. Superb characterizations, opposites getting involved in each others' lives. Well acted, marvelous story, outstanding movie.

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Schulman*** is the long way around calling Mr. Schulman the best photographer of Modernist Architecture. This documentary about the photographer shows his work and the houses he portrays giving us a four-dimensional view of architecture in the middles of the 20th Century. Sewing the segments together are sometimes delightful — one is utterly goofy, but most are beguiling and entertaining transitional animations. There's too much reliance on what the filmmakers thought a view camera sounded like — the hackneyed camera click transition, but overall it's an informative and occasional entertaining thesis on Modernist architecture and its photographer

Vitus**** is utterly charming. The story of a boy prodigy, who just wants to be a boy. But his parents, especially his mother, is too caught up in him being altogether special. His grandfather is the hero for our little hero. Grandpa treats him in immediacy, sparks his interests, plays with him. Superb film with outstanding characters, fine acting and an excellent story and plot.

Volver**** is the first Pedro Almodovar movie I've seen that translates everything, even the songs. There's always a pivotal moment when a song moves the plot, and I have often complained that they aren't translated. This one was. The women in this marvelous, gentle, sweet movie about murder and dead people coming back, look like real people, not the strange women Pedro used in the past. Even the Almodovar colors are toned down making the movie all the more vivid. Fine story, superb acting and actors, gorgeous filming. Not an envelope pusher like I usually award four asterisks to. Just a lovely, kind movie.

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W

W** is a lame movie about a dufus President. Once I started it, I really did not want to plow through the whole thing. But I did, finally, in five sittings. Just doesn't hack it. I'm not a fan, but Condie Rice could never be as simpish as the uh... actress who plays her. At times the dufe seems almost real, but not any more often in the movie as in real life, and not convincingly or often enough to carry this sad, essentially stupid movie. It's a waste of a lot of fine acting talent, though. Great actors, lousy acting. Gotta be the director's fault. Bad as all this is, though, the movie still gives me the willies.

I wanted a good laugh, maybe several. So I visited Wag The Dog**. It was sarcastic, sardonic and thought-provoking. But it wasn't much for laughing. This movie is a great play. Too theatric and not real enough for a movie. And the end is stupid.
     After Basic Instincts, Neil and I started identifying the endings of way too many movies as "Basically It Stinks" endings. Wag has one of those. Sometimes directors can't figure a good enough bang to go out on, so they kill off somebody who doesn't need killing. Or they leave a knife under the bed just to confuse us, when the audience is already confused enough about what's really going on. Oh, it's funny enough, but with these actors, it coulda been great. And it's not.
1998

Pixar is technology. Disney, for all its lacks, has heart, maybe even soul. Together, their films are wonders. This latest, Wall E**** is darker, gloomier, dustier than the lot of clean, shining movies. Less soul, more laugh out loud laughs, more classic story.

Waking Sleeping Beauty*** is a documentary about the rise and fall and rise and fall and rise and fall and ... of Walt Disney's Animation department. Like any decent movie, it's got plot and characters, more than one moral, challenges and triumphs, etc. It goes on and on and on, with marvelous little transitional sequences of sunrise to sunset of the buildings the animators inhabited as transitional sequences. It gets carried away with itself sometimes, probably pushes too hard on the corporate side and little light on the creative side, but it's all in there together.

Waltz With Bashir**** is a slow, often surreal and deeply affecting animation (no rotoscoping) of trying to remember a soldier's part in a famous, very real massacre. It's a movie about war and remembering and trying to forget. About stupidity, fear and base human meanness. War. Presented in often painfully slow walking figures across a desert landscape. Fighting, escaping, battle, firing incessantly. About the reality and the psychology and the not wanting to remember.

My main degree's in English Lit, but I didn't have any firm grip on who Walt Whitman was, so I watched American Experience: Walt Whitman*** and am wiser for it. He is or he is not one of the great American poets, but this two-hour documentary is one of the better of those, and the images mix free form from then to now, and some of the moving images chosen to help tell his story are amazing. It has few of the obnoxious cliches of so many PBS documentaries and invents a few of its own.

Waking Life**** may well be the only existential animation you will ever see. It's both terribly intellectual and a spoof on that sort of thing. The visuals are also unlike any animated movie you've ever seen. The characters move, of course, but so does everything else. The effect is truly dream-like, as is the "plot." Strange, wonderful, subtly fantastical, goofy and intriguingly intellectual things happen in this flick. When I saw it, the audience was spell-bound. Lots of smart laughs and plenty of food for thought. This is one of those all-time amazing movies. 2001

The only thing surprising about the geezer flick Waking Ned Divine*** is the wild ending. Otherwise it was pretty much what I expected. No new way of seeing, no real discoveries, no grand ideas or intimate understandings. It's just cute, fun and funny with characters I grew to appreciate and a wicked understanding of justice. 1999

Waking The Dead**/ is a terrible moniker to stick on this Lost Love flick about a ambitious young politician with no ideals who fell in love with a smarter woman with high ideals and little ambition. An indie whose story really needed the deleted scenes to explain it. 2001

Walk The Line*** was okay for a biopic. I never once believed River Phoneix was Johnny Cash or Reese Witherspoon was June Carter like I often believed Ray Charles was Ray Charles in that other movie that year. Not once. It was mildly informative, and I liked Miss Witherspoon's character, whoever she was, but thought they smoothed over Cash's many issues, and I was a big fan from his beginning.

War, Inc.* has John Cusack, and I kept wondering why he'd make such an obvious dud as this. Was it fun? He needed something to lower his average? Then I see at the end of this terminally supid wreck, that he helped write it. No wonder. It's supposed to be an anti-war send-up. It's supposed to be: funny, interesting, engaging, a romp. It isn't.

It didn't help that the Netflix version I saw kept freezing at every exciting moment, but War of the Worlds** doesn't make much sense, is hackneyed, predictable and mostly stupid. If science fiction movies don't make the audience think, wouldn't it be okay if the characters did?

The War Room**** was outstanding, foreshadowing many of the awful and glorious truths of the last administration. I'll want to see it again in another couple of years. And in 2016 I did. I wrote another review, hoping I hadn't already reaviewed it this century: "Saw this one sometime in the last century, and I loved it. Now, today — well, tonight really, seeing it was fun, exciting. Like watching a bunch of really smart people figure out what was going on, and what they could do about making it better, often almost immediately. With no dirty tricks. The War Room**** by D.A. Penebaker and Chris Hegedus on the inner workings of the first Clinton's run for the Presidency of the USA. It still holds its excitement."

Warriors of Virtue** sounded great, had about a dozen plot lines strung in the air. Only a few connected — not nearly enough. Great heroes — Kung Foo Kangas called "Roos." Goofy flick, smarmy music, worth missing. 1997

Strangely coincidental that Heights and the last DVD I watched, Tim Roth's War Zone,*** both were set in craggy, mysterious moors. Zone is unsimilarly dark and moody. Creepily malevolent, it stars two children who've never acted before in a movie about incest, which it portrays graphically. Oddly, American Beauty's director mentioned his original intent to blame that film's murder on 'the kids.' In this movie, the kids really do it.

Washington Square***/— I'd see Jennifer Jason Leigh in anything, but she'd been being the same in way too many movies last few years. Here she's different, superb. Solid story of overprotective father, meddling "mom," idealistic suiter and a daughter caught in the middle. Outstanding cast, beautiful cinematography, terrific tension. Wow. 1997

Watership Down***/ is a fierce and exquisitely beautiful, annimated, unDisney story for children and adults about rabbits on the run. 2003

I wanted to enjoy The Weather Man**/, because it's Nicholas Cage playing yet another mildly interesting character caught in the throes of the human condition, but this one paces slow and replaces the expected humor with gloom.

Where is The Weather Underground***/ now that we really need them? I had low expectations, but learned a lot about who, how, why and what they shoulda done. Talking heads mixed well with historical footage. These folks were the principles. Fascinating. 2006

Welcome to the Doll's House **** gets all the stars for the vicious belly laughs you'll have, and will feel guilty about having, but won't be able to restrain. Refuses to portray as victim the little nerd girl ( Dawn Weiner aka Weiner Dog ). Great sendup of adolescent male sex gods. Good performances from all the kid actors. Check out Dawn's brother. Don't miss it.— Contributed by James Dolan    PS: Jim obviously liked it immensely, but I thought it was junior high dumb. 1996

I missed most of the last season of The West Wing**** when they changed nights from when I expected to see it as it went down the tubes for audiences or sponsors or the government or the idiot Conservatives or whoever really killed it. But I have loved watching it end on end on 5 so far and about to see the sixth and final disk of the Seventh Season. It's better than most movies. I'm only counting it as one, but it's better than that, too.

Whale Rider***/ is about a 12-year-old girl who battles her stauncly Male Chauvinist Pig of a grandfather for her rightful place as chief of a Maori tribe. Well acted. Colorfully filmed on gorgeous location, though there's nothing innovative about the cinematography. Except for the healthy dose of mysticism, it could have been mangled by Hollywood. These filmmakers, however, made it fly.

What Dreams May Come***/ is an incredible, surrealistic journey of the soul. Special effects are truly fantastic. It's very intelligent and requires intelligence of the audience, which may be why the critics didn't get it. What I still remember is all the wet textures so densely presented in this great but under appreciated film. It's a strange new view of heaven and hell and earth. 1998

It sounded like the real title, and the previews were full of moist imagery, so I started calling it "Wet Dreams" weeks before I saw it, and the movie itself is brim full of wetness — rain, lakes, oceans, hoses-squirting, wet paint — What Dreams May Come**** is pretty wonderful. Surreal all over the place. Serious, intelligent — tells the story in motion in pictures without explaining things in words. Fabulous special effects without anything blowing up or chasing in cars. Odd. Strange. Utterly bizarre. But human and touching. Very romantic. NS but incredibly visual. Luscious. 1998
  

Whatever**/ is slow-paced and oddly elegant. Along the way are intriguing characters, fine acting and a blatant teenaged moral tacked onto the end. The images I still have a week later are teen girls funneling beer down their throats and, finishing without gagging, flashing two-fisted V for victory signs, all proud and ego-centric; the opening CU of Brenda disinterestedly carrying on a monotone conversation, her body bobbing as she endures sex with yet another guy and carries on a conversation with her best friend; and a kitchen full of guys spitting wads of phlegm into a cup on a $20 bet some guy will drink it — he did. The title is perfect, the subjects creepy. The film, memorable. Lotta Sex. 1998

I wasn't prepared to be blown away by a documentary movie about a women's writing program in a maximum security prison. What I Want My Words to Do to You**** snuck up and whomped me. It's got real stars from Hollywood who perform the stories the women, who've all got 15, 20 or 25 to life sentences, usually for murder, wrote. But this movie is about the women who confront who they are and what they did, learn from it and become somebody new. Each episode follows giving the assignment, talking about it, the women reading their words, then snippets of the star performance. Simple, powerful, fierce. Full of psychology and reality inside the walls. Wow.

What Planet Are You From**** may be a perfect little movie. No grand anythings here. Its premise is fairly simple. It's execution is nearly ideal. Grander scope would only have muddied the waters. This is a clear, sweet gem. Funny from almost the very beginning. It's about human relationships from a simple alien's view. Gary Shandling and Annette Benning are superb, so's Jeanine Garafalo, Ghandi and everybody else in this quiet wonder. 2000

We finally saw What The Bleep***/ and almost every minute of it reminded me deeply of Waking Life ****, whose animation is quirkier and more original — and whose subplot story is ever more intriguing and, of course, original. Bleep was plenty thoughtful, entertaining and informative and fascinating, though a little slow till the rock 'n roll started. Waking was more surreal, although I never heard of discussion groups for it, though it richly deserves that much thining and rethinking. Still, Bleep is not bad for such a direct rip, and its science was stirring, and Waking had not moral (to its great benefit).

What Women Want**/'s previews were better than the movie. In the former, the co star says "crotch," but in the actual movie, she says "penis." In the previews, the concept is paramount. In the movie, it gets lost. The previews are sprightly, intriguing and very funny. The movie is much less so. The actual plot is more classic light comedy — the plot is contrived and obvious if not entirely stupid. A lot — but not all — the dialog is dull, the action is eminently predictable and the characters are thin. Even worse, this movie seems to attract bozos who can't stop talking out loud all through the flick. 2000

When The Sky Falls*** apparently began life as When Heaven Falls, but somebody musta complained, so they changed it to this minor key title. Quasi documentary of a woman journalist who gets killed for writing about mobsters in run-amuk Dublin. Interesting characters, okay drama, nice other glimpse of Joan Allen, whom I'm coming to truly appreciate. 2001

When We Were Kings***/is combination music fest and fight documentary. Shakey organizing principle, intriguing look into 23 years ago. Great for Mohamad Alli. One of the better docs. The mostly white audience applauded at the end. 1997

I hadn't been reviewing the movies I've seen lately. I still see several a week — thanks to NetFlix trying to run its competition into the ground, it's cheaper than ever, and I'm taking big advantage of their movie wars against the evil Blockbuster (who censors the movies they rent, though they don't tell you that.) and other upstart competitors. I hope they win.

Then along comes the experimental When Will I Be Loved***/. Shot in 12 days then edited in 18 months, this is yet another one of those awful orange movies where flesh is rendered as flesh colors but everything else sucks orange in otherwise a fabulous little experiment of a movie. Film, actually, of the first order. Much of it is improvised, and all of it, once we figure out where the quite separate lines that are crosscut throughout the long beginning is going, is fascinating.

Richly visual (in more ways than the insipid orange) and richly storied, with lots of amazing, offbeat and truly quirky characters (Mike Tyson playing Buck, the pimp from Minnesota) flashing by. The film, once it gets going, fairly flashes by. At end, I thought it could only have been a couple of minutes but a whole 81 minutes had flickered by.

The story is selling the costar's girlfriend to a rich Italian for a million bucks for sex, explores fathoms deeper than Woody Harleson's earlier attempt, this is deep and psychological film and story. Excellent. Wow.

 

Where's The Money?*** is a barely adequate Paul Newman heist flick. Mildly amusing, largely predictable, hardly memorable. I saw it because of Paul, but there's more of his presence in his spaghetti sauce. Not enough S. 2000

Spent a long time and many stops and restarts seriously disliking Where The Wild Things Are**** for not being understood by me, then suddenly near the end I figured something out and loved it. Seriously different from any other movie ever. Gently serious in several crazy ways, it makes sense without a lick of linear progression. Goofy, maddening, wonderful.

While the Cat's Away*** is, essentially, the story of a woman seeking her cat in what seems like the small town of Paris, France. But that's not all she's looking for, of course. And what she finds is more joy than a cat can supply. But, of course, there's more than that in this easy-going film with love and not much romance and no violence. Cinematography's superb and the plot is simple, with lots of intriguingly normal characters. I loved the running scene at the end, all a flurry of joy and movement. 1997

Whisper of the Heart**** gets a little strange when they keep singing "Kuntly Loads" in Japanese, but otherwise a superb example of contemporary anime. It's a teen romance with gentle, realistic characters of all ages for all ages, with a special feeling for visualizing light and traffic.

The White Countess***/ is a lilting genius of a gentle, romantic film involving serious quirk, only occasionally devolving into predictability — about imagination, blindness and, peripherally, race; idealistic freedom vs. world domination, and refuge, set in Shanghai shortly before and during the Japanese Invasion.

White Noise**** goes way past spooky. It's disturbing. In clear, sharp cinematography, rich, real colors (except the EVP scenes, which, like remote viewing, tend to be in grainy black & white). Another supposedly varifiable, beyond kind of phenomenon. This time it's EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), what you sometimes get when you leave a radio on between stations, or take a tape recorder into a haunted house and ask questions of the silence, then take it home and play it back, maybe with some computer audio enhancers. That's kinda what Michael Keaton gets obsessive compulsive about doing in this movie after his wife dies, and what a pair of investigators do in the inevitable special feature. I remain skeptical of the phenomenon, but the movie was a grabber, and a repeated shaker. I shook.

After so many father/son movies, it's past time for a good mother/daughter one. This one is. A good movie. Dark for all its light. Little joys dashed by one or the other for each other. A lesson in all of it that's subtle, but eventually they each get it. White Oleander***/

It probably would have seemed a lot funnier if I'd seen it with an audience full of people, but The Whole Nine Yards*** was very so what. A week later, I don't remember anything about it. 2000

It's about an important guy in New York in the middle of the last century Who Gets to Call It Art?***/, and it may be the best movie about an art era I've ever seen. Henry Geldzahler curated exhibitions and knew artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, David Hockney, Helen Frankenthaller and many others who are now household names. At least in the households I know. It's done standard documentary style with few new edges and an irreverent style. Wonderful soundtrack that got me boogying when the art world changed and settled me down when it was settling. It's only 80 minutes long not counting all the extras, but it tells more about that era in art, via the voices of the artists and the visuals of them than anything else.

Who Killed the Electric Car*** tells the truth and tells it visually. Which is an apt description of another leftist plot movie, An Inconvenient Truth***, which proves Al Gore isn't nearly as wooden as he used to be. Why couldn't he be this smart and direct and intelligent when he was running against The Fool and The Devil 7 years ago?

Most collections of short film are dreadful, contain elderly movies or are by friends or families of who did the collection. Wholphin**** is better, the selections stranger and the shorts almost all fascinating. And blessedly short. Getting a good collection of Shorts is almost always a pain. Here the quality and diversity is a joy.

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I remembered Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf**** as a gleeful, repartee-filled conversation. But I remembered wrong. It is wildly intelligent, quick and deadly. And even fun, in a demented, torturous, word-smithing and relationship-murdering way. It's a memorable movie, one of the all-time great conversation flicks, and Mike Nichols' first directorial outtng. But there's little joy in this modern ( but not contemporary ) American masterpiece. The acting is incredible, utterly superb, although it's pretty obvious all the way through that this movie is a thinly disguised stage play.
 

The Wind That Shakes the Barley** is pretty much the same stirring anti-Brit Irish independence movie we've seen again and again. More vicious. Good acting, a lot of violence. As much Irish on Irish as the overplayed mean, awful Brits, not a human in that bunch. Uncredible.

Remember the madcap 30s movies when characters made near-miss passes down long hallways, casually ducking into a room just as another important character we all knew they just had to meet passed by the door in the nick of time not to? Wicker Park**** is like that, only no madcap. In fact, serious, a little spooky, dark.

A little Single White Female identity stealing mixed with more than a little Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind chrono-illogic, it is purposeful misdirection almost all through, with character and identity and place and time misdirection throwing us into repeating loops.

Every motion, scene, character, situation is rendered in rich color, luscious composition, spectacularly visual jig-saw puzzling cinnematography, befitting a movie about a photographer. Careful, intelligent. I have to see it again. And again.
 

Wild America** is a goofy movie "based on fact." It could have been an intelligent adventure of three brothers growing up to become superb wildlife documntarians. Instead, it's stupid, with too many insipid subplots. 1997

Wild Things** was eminently forgettable. I remember hating it, but I can't remember anything at all about the film, except there weren't nearly enough naked women. 1998

William Eggleston, Photographer**/ and Henri Cartier-Bresson* 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.

Winged Migration

Le Peuple Migration**** is utterly unique, superb, fantastic, astounding. I've admired birds most of my life and am just beginning to know them. This amazing movie follows migrating birds all over the world, with an emphasis on gorgeous scenery and bizarre bird behaviors. We don't just see them take off and land and fly away. In this movie, we fly along with them. No special effects or animation, however, the camera actually flies along with them via Ultra Light aircraft, etc. The How It Was Made featurette is — like the movie itself — wordless, fascinating and gorgeous. 2003

Wings of The Dove***/ was elegant. 1998

I remember being amazed how good the characters and story was in The Winslow Boy****.

Winter Passing***// is gentle, and kind. The characters mostly lovable. The lead is Ed Harris, but the star is probably Zooey Deschanel, and she's not entirely lovable but gets there. Three and two halves asterisks doesn't quite make four stars, because this is not innovative in any of the filmic directions. But it has heart.

Hmmm. I can't remember Wit***/, except it had to do with John Donne's poetry and I liked that a lot, probably mostly because of that. Reminds me I should write these reviews immediately after seeing the flick or it's gone forever.

I only give four asterisks to movies I think are genius, that push the envelope of this art form, that do new things in new ways. Wit**** fits all those categories. Then some. Told in soliloquy, it involves cancer and the poetry of John Donne, but it is not about that. It is about death and Death. Wit is more than sarcasm and well beyond irony, it is the ability to perceive and express truth, in poetry, in life and in death. Emma Thompson stars, and she is superb. Mike Nichols directs, and is even more so. Smart. Surprising. Eloquent. Beautiful. Every movement means something; every moment is important.

Two very intelligent, quirky character movies in a row. First, there's High Fidelity:

The other is older but more intelligent, witty and quirkily funny. About writing and various blocks, Wonder Boys***/. was more complex, less cinnematically unique and more literal. I'd love to see either or both again. They'd make a great double feature. 2000

The Woodsman***/ is a dark, little movie about torment, with a feathered hint of redemption. Its darkness lies in our collective dread, while we turn our thinking around the baddest of the bad, the men who prey on children. It is, of course, also about sex and love, mirrored in the noir of us thinking around this forboding subject. The adult sex scenes with Kyra Sedgwick reflect and parallel the mood, quick cut, chiaroscuro. The screenplay is deep and intelligent. Kevin Bacon is amazing, subtle, reserved. Robin, the little girl in the park, is an oddly juxtaposed triumph.

Wordplay*** was an entertaining documentary about crossword puzzlers, following the annual world championship competition. Interesting people, fascinating fascination for words. Much more interesting than it sounds.

The World's Fastest Indian**** is a delight. About an 67-year-old Aussie (Anthony Hopkins) who wants to go fast. And does. Mild, never wild, adventures and a traveler's interesting collection of friends along the way. 2006

I've just watched 2 hours and 8 minutes of Oliver Stone's World Trade Center** and it's a big copout. More than 2,700 citizens murdered with police and firemen and rescuers everywhere, and this movie ignores all that to tell the long, slow story of two guys who survive barely. Okay for a movie called two guys who survived 911, but hardly one called this. Tear-jerker, tense, emotional, etc., but such a little movie about such a big event. Like wars, it make take decades to do this story right. This ain't it.

A Wrinkle in Time** starts off affably cosmic then gets lost in space. Eventually we learn they're talking about a wrinkle in space, not time, at all. By then, the hooey has piled so hight we don't want to remember anything about this goofy flick. Oh, well.

As if offing yourself and ending up in this movie weren't quirky enough, Wristcutters: A Love Story***/ has Tom Waits running a camp for wayward boys and girls. It's a road and a buddy movie with dark, desiccated humor, mostly pleasant and always interesting characters. Not a happy place but not hell, either.

Wuthering Heights**** is my mother's favorite movie; I ordered it from the internet for her Christmas, but they were out, and I found it locally (cheaper). I didn't expect to like it, but it amazed me, triumphing the test of time. Enchanting, maddening, wildly romantic. A story stuck in its own (1939) time, to be sure, with its sudden and labyrinthine mood changes, plot twists and changes of fortune. A superior triangle (quadrangle?) of love, anger, revenge and haunting in "classic black & white." I didn't even notice the lack of color. I was only sorry this fine movie was pan and scanned out of its original, wider aspect into TV's squarish frame. Larry Oliver, David Niven and Geraldine Fitzgerald are magnificent. +

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X

X-Files**/, the movie is pretty good. Of course, it has to end with Scully and Mulder and their lifeswork intact, so we can go on watching the TV show, but it's pretty spiffy a movie, too. Little bit bigger ideas and much bigger spaces and more expensive special effects than on TV, but XF-ers will recognize most of the characters, situations and setups, it's all just a lot grander and prettier. 1998

X-3, The Last Stand**/ (Oh God, we can only hope) is a sappy, eminently predictable mishmash of tired special effects, lame characterizations and a monumentally goofy soundtrack. The same old, essentially stupid, Good vs. Bad idiocy one more time with not that much verve. It was fun, but...

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Y

Y tu Mama Tambien**** is a sad sweet coming of age for the two boys, escape for the young woman, and a road trip to a place the boys made up to get the woman to go along on their road trip. It's about friendship and fidelity and sex and relationships. It is very sexy in actions and words with male frontal and female upper frontal nudity. And visually and sneakily and almost subtly it is also about the beauty and the brutality of life and Mexican politics and its people. (In Spanish with English subtitles.)

Yes**** is astonishing, like nothing else. Luscious verbal and visual love story and character, all in beautiful color, nearly surreal cinematography spoken throughout in iambic pentameter, poetry, rhyming all the way through, though it's never bothersome. Something new. Something amazing. 2004

Yesterday***/ was beautifully filmed, slow-paced, careful about a woman learning she is dying of AIDS, her husband comes back from working in the mines in Johanisburg, and their child, Beauty, goes to her first day of school. Yesterday says she is not brave, it's just the way it is.

You're Gonna Miss Me ***, the Roky Erickson story is a long, depressing story that emphasizes the power of positive thinking without showing any credible evidence that the "inventor of psychedelic music" is ever going to be sane again, if he ever was to start with. His crazy mother, his crazy brothers, his crazy father, his crazy fans, all the crazy famous people who see rebirth in his soul when there may be no soul left.

You've Got Mail**/ is sappy Hollywood "drama." Completely predictable, every step of the way. Prepare to be smarmed. 1998

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Z

Zero Effect**** was astounding. I love learn-it-all detective flicks, where some genius figures out everything by the end but still manages to stay ahead of the bad guys and everybody else. This is one of those movies that combines an especially daring plotline with an amazing, totally unpredictable story that switches back like an Alpine roadway. Every step is a logical, intelligent extension of what we learn along with ace detective Daryl Zero and his faithful sidekick, yet we're constantly surprised — maybe even amazed — at how it plays out. Great, quirky characters, a smart and emotional love interest, and a whoodunwhat like never before seen on the big screen — although there's a big helping of Sherlock Holmes in the mix. Nice enough a flick I'm keeping it to watch a couple more times. I've even contemplated buying it, and there just aren't very many movies I'd want to see more than twice.

Zodiac***/ is about the Zodiac killer in California in the 60s and the 70s. It is also about the police and other men who became obsessed with finding the killer. Obsessed to distraction. The police detectives who had to quick obsessing to save their sanity. And about one newspaper cartoonist who became the writer who solved the case, because he also became obsessed to distraction.

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