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movie mania!
have been watching a ton of movies lately. Here's a somewhat brief rundown of them.

Alien Resurrection
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.

Happy Campers
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*

Reality Bites
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.

Ryan's Daughter
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.

Taking Lives
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?

Nacho Libre
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.

King Kong
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.


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Alien Resurrection: proof that Joss Whedon is not God.

That movie could not have been worse if the Alien had been played by Carrot Top.

I thought the general premise was a good idea for a story, but, yeah, the script itself was pretty awful.

I ♥ To Kill A Mockingbird! Book and ...ironic the movie, for a non movie person like myself.

I shall look into the other movies being I trust your views on them as I'll be need something to watch lately.

Being a photographer, how can you not be a movie person? They just seem to go hand-in-hand to me.

I'm not your typical photographer, that'd be one thing. And another I think it is the fact that I'd rather watch some "Independent" films then "huge" Hollywood films. Plus, I'm very picky when it comes down to what I'd "watch". For some reason I've never been the big TV/movie watcher because I lack the relaxed vibe to sit there and enjoy it. I much rather mess around with my camera or play with my laptop.

But, when I got a friend like you who reviews them and gives me a "real" feedback vs a stranger, I find more of a passion to want to go see it. Or not see it. I'm weird. I know.

I find cinema as a means for inspiration. Seeing the way other photographers look at things, even though it's moving photography, the principles are basically the same: composition, lighting, exposure, color.

I've found that since immersing myself more and more into cinema that I find myself paying attention to the photography and general production values as much as I do the actual story.


I'm slowly getting there, slowly. Slowly! I think soon as I graduate high school, the film industry will more "eye opening" for me. Will see.

That icon still makes me giggle every time, even if it isn't "LOL" funny. I like the way your hand is grasped around your lens but the fact that for some reason I am waiting for the lens poppin' off stuck to someones eye then they'll have a "Photographers eye".

John advised strongly that I go and see Little Miss Sunshine, but of course by the time I got my shit together, it had finished at the cinema. I had seen trailers for it at other movies and was kind of "meh" about it until he (and now you) recommended it. I'm waiting for its appearance on DVD in Australia now.

I completely agree about Coffee and Cigarettes which I had meant to see for ages. A lot of the pacing was rrrrr and some of the vignettes utterly boring (Jack and Meg White, eg.) However, I think Iggy Pop and Tom Waits were worth the price of admission alone - I laughed my ass off for that entire section.

I saw To Kill A Mockingbird about twenty years ago, and have been left with the feeling that it was such an uncomfortable movie that I don't want to watch it again. The book is one of my favourite novels, though.

Are you going to get to/have you got to Thank You For Smoking at any stage?

The trailer packaging of Little Miss Sunshine doesn't do it justice. They go more with the angle of it being a heart-warming comedy. And it is, but it's also got some very darkly humorous subject matter afoot that gets glossed over in the marketing. It is a hilarious film and one which I think John was right in recommending to you.

I liked the Iggy/Tom story, too. I think my favorite though was the the British actors and their ego trips near the end and how the tables were turned.

I keep seeing trailers for Thank You For Smoking but hadn't made up my mind enough to add it to my queue. Worth my time? The subject matter and trailer leads me to think that it's provocative merely for the sake of being provocative, and I've not seen anything else in the way of a review or had someone recommend it to me to consider otherwise.

Not that I don't see a lot of bad films as it is, but most of that is borrowed from friends for free, I typically leave my rental queue for things I actually want to see for whatever reason.

I thought Thank You For Smoking was really clever and worth watching multiple times. I'm not a big movie watcher either, so I have to really like something to watch it more than once.

Now there's a recommendation. I guess I need to add it to my list.

I spent way too much time on Netflix this morning reviewing movies and adding them to my queue. My queue grew to over 300 for the first time today. At the rate I consume Netflix, that will take me three years, at least.

Well, I don't know. The premise was probably better than the execution, like "We Will Fall" from The Stooges. I enjoyed it, but it doesn't go down as a Permanent Personal Highlight or anything.

Dude, you totally slammed some of my favorite movies! Of course you were seeing them through the eyes of an adult man in the 2000's and I saw them through the eyes of a teenage girl in the early to mid 90's...aside from Wet Hot American Summer which you only slammed a little bit. I think that movie is fucking hilarious. I make everybody watch it...even mad Dad who called it "a 70's summer camp acid flashback"

I think my big problem with Wet Hot American Summer was the same problem I have with a lot of writers who cut their teeth writing sketch comedy: it gets tedious in a feature-length format. I mean, I typically LOVE parody movies, but this just felt like an overblown SNL sketch that stopped being funny after about 20 minutes.

I assume the other movies you were referring too were Singles and Reality Bites. It might be an age thing. If I had seen them when they came out, when I was still in my early 20's, I may have felt differently. I suspect, not though. Don't get me wrong, each of those two films had their moments, and they weren't AWFUL... I just didn't think they offered more than your average bittersweet romance comedies, they were just packaged for a particular generation.

I need to watch Little Miss Sunshine again--mostly because I was only halfways paying attention to it when we watched it together.

Singles had some good lines, but other than that, eh.

What, not more about Mr and Mrs Smith?

I'm glad we both liked Nacho Libre so much. I wouldn't mind buying that one.

Yeah, I re-watched it for the same reason. The kid that plays Dwayne, the brother? He's got a very small role in Taking Lives which I reviewed above, although as a whole that movie is probably way too graphic for your tastes.

To be honest, it's been so long I don't remember enough details about Mr. and Mrs. Smith to write much more. I just remember that it was good, and funny, and that I enjoyed it muchly.

Buy away! I don't plan to buy any movies myself this year. Year of frugality and everything.

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I've been a fan of Jack Black ever since seeing High Fidelity. For whatever reasons, he just cracks me up. I can't wait to see Pick Of Destiny.

You're crazy - Wet Hot American Summer is one of my favorite movies of all time. It's ridiculously funny. The town montage is pretty amazing, but my friends and I area always casually dropping "it's for my pussy" or "I want you inside me" into conversation. And that amazing song gets stuck in my head whenever I think of that movie.

I think Wet Hot American Summer is the kind of movie that will be interesting and funny to certain people and not others. I think there are lotsa movies in this cateogry and it's a very subjective thing. For instance, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Amazon Women On The Moon and think it's crazy funny, but there are lotsa people who've seen it and are like, eh.

I also think that, particularly with comedy, there are few universals, and that it's particularly true as a function of age and exposure. I don't mean that to sound condescending, as in, "my sense of humor is more sophisticated than yours because I'm older". I think that at any given point on the time-line of someone's life, the things which they find funny are very different than another point. I think that exposure is a process, in that as you experience more and more in life, it becomes harder to truly impress you. Had I seen this movie at another point in my life, it may have had a different impact on me. It may have been the movie to which I compared others, and not the other way around.

The other thing is that, I watched it alone and don't have any friends with whom I can share quotable lines and memorable points. This is definitely that sort of movie, so in that sense, I missed out on a part of the experience.

oh, it should be noted that wet hot american summer gets better on every viewing. while the plot is not really "all there", the one-liners and quotability goes up on subsequent watchings. like "the big lebowski".

now if youll excuse me, i'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

I debated getting that but, I dunno, that just feels like cheating and that it's not REALLY part of the series.

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Heh, well take my opinion of Wet Hot American Summer with a grain of salt; there are lots of people who totally disagreed with my assessment of it here.

I'm sorry; brand of humor? As if Michael Showalter is an acquired taste. Please check out The Baxter.

I would argue that the Stella boys are definitely an acquired taste... I think comedy in general is because there is so much variation.

I think my problem with Wain/Showalter/Black is that they rely too heavily on personality rather than strength of joke. I think this is true of lots of comedians and comedy actors; some which I like and some which I don't. I think that a lot of what one finds funny about them is whether or not you connect to their projected persona. I've found Showalter mildly amusing in other things, but he's never stunned me. I think Michael Ian Black is largely annoying.

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