It occurred to me that I had only ever seen the first in this franchise of films and decided to treat myself to a quadruple feature. Ridley Scott's original film in 1979 is still today a powerhouse of action, horror, and suspense. The chest-bursting on-screen debut of the alien has been parodied so many times in television and film that it's been ingrained in our collective consciousness, whether we've seen the film or not. James Cameron's action-packed sequel nearly rivals the original. The latter two films are are not as solid as the first two and problematic, but still fun and interesting for numerous reasons. Alien3 is notable in that it was David Fincher's directorial debut and his artistic eye is immediately felt, making it the most strikingly different, in tone and vision, of the quadrilogy. His background in the then burgeoning field of screen CGI lent a new dimension to the alien; agile mobility. By today's standards, though, the CG effects look flat and fake and not nearly as scary when slow-moving, physical animatronics are in use. Nearly 20 years since the first film (and nearly 300 years in "on-screen" time) , the final chapter of the quadrilogy suffers from a hack-job script which reduces a lot of Sigourney Weaver's dialogue to clever one-liners, but still packs the action punch of its predecessors. All-in-all I'd recommend watching these films if you enjoy this sort of thing. Especially when viewed as a whole, it is one of the most solid action-film franchises in existence, thanks no-doubt to Weaver's co-production credit in the sequels insuring that these wouldn't be just a cash-in on the popularity of the original. Each film is unique in its story and setting, and each exhibits strong production ethics, befitting Ridley Scott's original vision.
Little Miss Sunshine
This is a fantastic film. It has one of the.best. scripts to come out of Hollywood in a very, very long time. It's funny, touching, and absurd all at once. It's up for an Oscar for Best Picture this month and deservingly so. If you've ever had any doubts about Steve Carrell's talents as an actor, this film should set you straight on that. ALL of the performances in this film are top-notch, even Greg Kinnear. Production-wise: the color palatte is a little over-bearing at times, but the lensing is clever without being distracting and the direction is subtle and even.
A subversive and dark treatment of teenage summer camp from the same director who brought you Heathers. It has its moments, but all-in-all probably not worth your time.
Wet Hot American Summer
Another camp movie, this time a parody, from various alums of "The State" and "Saturday Night Live". ALMOST worth it just for the hilarious "going to town" montage, but as a whole gets too ridiculous and absurd for its own good. If you're a fan of this brand of humor, it might be worth checking out but otherwise it doesn't offer much else.
Sometimes I think Cameron Crowe just wants to make a definitive young-adult romance story for each generation. He doesn't with this tale of GenXers in Seattle in the early 90's. *yawn*
I hate Ethan Hawke. This movie does nothing to change my opinion of him. Maybe I'm just getting old, but these post-adolescent angst films just seem contrived and whiny.
The film which essentially ended David Lean's career as a director. On the heals of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, Lean pretty much had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted. The result was a stunning box office failure and it received some nasty reviews. It is gorgeously lensed and superbly acted, with an uncharacteristically sensitive portrayal by Robert Mitchum. You'd probably only be interested in this if you're like me, wanting to round-out your experience with Lean's work.
A Passage To India
Ditto goes for this. Lean's last film was an HBO production that didn't afford him the sort of budget to which he had become accustomed. It was 14 years since Ryans' Daughter when he finally got back behind the camera to make this interesting look at colonial India. The story is more palatable than his previous film and offers some trademark Lean photographic moments, but it's lacking the sort of grand, wide-screen Panavision production so prominent in his previous three films.
The best way to describe this Steven Soderbergh film is real. Aside from a couple of artistic cinematic flourishes it is completely lacking in any pretense. For anyone who is living, or who has ever lived, in a dead-end American town, these characters are SO life-like it's... amazing. It's a quirky, love triangle gone awry. What makes it quirky is that it's much more real than the glossy big-movie version you're accustomed-to. It's probably not worth going out of your way to see, but if you ever have the chance, don't miss it.
First let me say that this film is creatively shot and is a joy to watch from beginning to end. That said, there's not much else. Like most modern thrillers, the suspense lies in not being able to figure out what's going on until the "twist" that has it all make sense. The problem is, the twist is unsatisfying and it still makes no sense. The cast is capable (Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts) but not spectacular, save a very small supporting role from Janeane Garafolo which is... surprising for her.
The film starts strong then settles right into so many tired movie cliches that you start to lose interest quick. It doesn't help that the "twist" can be seen coming from a mile away. Angelina Jolie and her absurd lips is the sexy, brilliant-yet-unorthodox FBI profiler helping the Montreal police department catch a serial killer with the help of a lone eye-witness played by Ethan Hawke (who I still hate). She crosses the line by falling for the witness when *shock* he's really THE KILLER (sorry to spoil that for you). There is one pretty, um, revealing sex scene with Jolie which might make this of interest to the people that dig her, otherwise, there's nothing else here worth your time.
The Ghost And The Darkness
Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas star in what is purported to be the true story of an Irish bridge-building engineer faced with the problem of having not one, but two maneating lions stalking his work crew. Sound boring yet? You'd be right. This is awful on so many levels I'm surprised my brain hasn't oozed out through my ears just thinking about this movie to type this.
All About Eve
"Buckle your seat belts! It's doing to be a bumpy night." While this is the most famous line from the film, it has so many quotable moments that it's absurd. Some have contended that this film had the greatest script in the history of cinema, and, until Titanic tied with it, it held the record of being nominated for the most number of Oscars for nearly 50 years. It is biting, dark, scathingly funny and features a career defining moment for Bette Davis as well as strong performances from everyone. Highly recommended, must see.
Pirates Of The Carribean: Dead Man's Chest
The first Pirates movie was a lot of fun. Unlike the Alien franchise, however, this installment makes a fatal mistake. Movies have to stand on their own, even when they're part of a larger series. Dead Man's Chest serves only to set you up for the next film, and offers nothing in the way of a real story. After the success of the first, they knew they could get away with it though. Shame on them.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
An uncharacteristic Hitchcock film; a screwball romance comedy. And it's good. Really good. Is there nothing he couldn't do?
A cute and wacky slice of absurdity featuring the over-the-top hamming of Jack Black. Personally, Jack Black makes me laugh my ass off so my judgment is a little clouded. It's a Nickelodeon production so it's kid-friendly and it's remarkably well-shot, but then, it was directed by the same guy who did Napoleon Dynamite which, if nothing else, was a pretty movie. The parodies of various film cliches which run as gags through the movie can be a lot of fun, especially the training montage.
Final Destination 2
Final Destination 3
While Final Destination was no GREAT film, it was marginally original and suspenseful while remaining true to the American horror genre. On that basis I decided to invest in watching the sequels. Installment 2 rivals the original for story and exceeds it in splatter gags. The third does neither. Given the relative success of this franchise, I wouldn't be surprised if a 4th one is in production.
A Prairie Home Companion
Robert Altman's last film is more of a belly flop than a swan-dive. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Altman's work, but to be fair, his style of direction works well for the subject matter. The problem is you're probably not going to care about this movie unless you're a fan of the radio show on which it is based, and you can't help but feel that the veritable talents of Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline were largely wasted.
To Kill A Mockingbird
A classic bit of American cinema based on Harper Lee's classic novel. Highly recommended and must see.
Coffee and Cigarettes
I don't care much for Jim Jarmusch and this movie did nothing to improve my opinion of him. His pacing is just BORING, but I thought that maybe in a series of vignettes it might be more tolerable. It wasn't. Other than the obvious thread of coffee and cigarettes in each story, there is one other commonality: awkward and uncomfortable conversation. It's a theme which runs through the stories, sometimes to humorous and/or poignant effect, but mostly not.
On The Waterfront
Elia Kazan's film features career defining moments for Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando. Highly recommended, must see.
What was Peter Jackson thinking?
While Rose McGowan shines sexily and charismatically, this Heathers knock-off misses the mark. It tries too hard to be hip, tries too hard to be a commentary on high-school social politics, and is largely unfunny.