Posts tagged movies

Garden State of Mind

Product Image: Garden State

Garden State

My rating: 5 out of 5

I found this movie very touching. It starts off quite surreal, but it gradually warms up and really grabs you by the end. Zach Braff did a fantastic job of portraying Andrew Largeman’s disconnection with life and the strange and wonderful journey he takes to get back into it.

[]: “Garden State DVD @ Amazon”

Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun spoke to me of sun-warmed fields, good food, and great companions. It made me wish that I was the sort of person who could drop everything and go live in Italy. The evocation of the country reminds me of Stealing Beauty, another movie with incredible imagery that grabs me, even without the story.

It’s fascinating to me that the movie is based on a book of the same name, which is a memoir based on author Francis Mayes’ experience of buying and renovating a villa in Tuscany. It is the book which brings us the vivid picture of the area, the house, and the people. Of course, a memoir would not make a good movie without a plot, and so there is a story nestled into it by producer Audrey Wells, with Diane Lane playing a writer, Francis, who finds herself in Italy after a staggering divorce.

The story seems perfectly at home in this golden version of Italy. It is not heavy-handed with its romance or its comedy, because this is definitely not what you would usually call a romantic comedy. There is love, but no main love interest. There is heartbreak, but no astounding turn of events to sweep it away. It is a story that tells us that life continues. There is sorrow and joy, back and forth, because life is both of those. She finds love and loses it, but the important thing is that she comes to believe in herself.

The way that friends collect around her is beautiful, and she slowly comes to have a sort of family here, so far away from what she knows. Contractors, neighbors, and the real estate agent are among those who become important to her, and vice versa, as the movie unfolds. Eventually, she is joined by her friend from America, played by Sandra Oh, whom I love. There is something wonderfully expressive about her face. Her friend, who was so in love when Francis left America, is now also in need of healing.

In the end, nothing is certain, except that beauty comes in unexpected places.

How to Not Quite Lose a Guy in 10 Days

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is, as expected, utterly predictable. It is exceedingly charming and witty in its predictability, though. Kate Hudson plays the perfect modern woman, gorgeous, independent, spunky, yet ladylike. Matthew McConaughey fills out his typical role as a dashing and adorable hunk, boyish, but sweet inside.

At least until the end.

I thought I knew how they were going to wrap the story up. I figured that, after falling in love, she would convince herself that she had to make a last ditch effort to wrap up her story. That would be stupid though, since she didn’t need to to actually go through with it in order to write her story. Instead, they went with the classic situation where each party finds out about the other’s deception at the last minute. (Yeah, I know, I should have seen that coming.) Somehow, it wasn’t quite what I expected. It was very funny and lovely; everything that a romantic comedy should be.

Love Actually is an enjoyable holiday flick

Love Actually had the potential to be bad, very bad. It’s a romantic comedy, it’s British, it’s about eight movies rolled into one. All of these things could make it good, but any one of them could go horribly wrong. But it didn’t.

It was a charming movie. Maybe a little cliche at time, but that’s what entertainment is for. Like any romantic comedy, the end is fairly predictable, at least for most of the story lines. However, the road there is quirky and delivers quite a few laughs. I was amused, I was touched, I loved it. It was a solid set of stories played by terrific actors.

Matrix Evolutions

Many people have said that the Matrix movies have been getting progressively disappointing. After watching the final film of the trilogy, The Matrix: Revolutions, I’d have to disagree. The action sequences have definitely increased, but perhaps that’s unavoidable when building up to the final confrontation between man and machine. Maybe the love scenes have been a little cliche, but people have been writing love stories for hundreds of years. There’s only so much that can be said.

The Matrix was a special movie, a ground-breaker. It was an innovative tale that constantly turned us on our ears, stretching our perceptions of reality. It stands on its own. There’s only so many times you can stretch something before it rips. Eventually, you have to take the plot and run with it to see where it leads. Barring the few trite moments and overboard action sequences to which most films fall victim, I have really enjoyed the Matrix series. I even liked the final fight scene in this movie, after being rather annoyed by the battle of the Many Smiths.

(I’m going to continue, however, you may not wish to read on if you don’t want the movie to be spoiled.)

The movie came to an exciting and intriguing conclusion, with enough left hanging to make one wonder. In fact, I’d love to see something along the lines of The Animatrix that explores the future of the peace founded by Neo. How do the machines and humans come to form an agreement? How do they live together? I know it would never make a feature film, but I think it would be cool to have a few glimpses. The Matrix is something that’s distant enough from our world that it is hard for me to imagine how the rest will unfold.

The films hang together nicely. They’re not perfect, but nothing ever is. I believe they are worthy, though.

The Hulk: Lean, Mean, and Green

The Hulk was not your average comic book film. Ang Lee gives it a deeper feel, which I think suits it well. The Hulk is all about internal struggle, between his higher-functioning brain and the more primal corner that contains his power. Lee focuses on that introspectiveness.

To those who say the CG graphics are horrible, I say “phooey.” Well, except for the part with the mutant dogs. That just looked bad. But the rest is the Hulk as he was meant to be. Large and in charge… and green.

Enter The Animatrix

The Animatrix is a collection of animated short films that are based on the world of The Matrix, including The Last Flight of the Osiris, a computer animated film done so well that you could almost believe that the people were actually filmed. Some of stories were written or outlined by the Wachowski brothers and others were created by the animation artists themselves. The different interpretations that each artist brings to the visual world of the Matrix is fascinating. Some of the stories fill in history of the Matrix. Others are more explorations of the idea of the Matrix. If you’re a fan of the Matrix movies, you must see this.

The Ice Storm

The Ice Storm is a movie about family. It’s about the people who tear us apart and put us back together. Not a lot actually “happens” in this haunting Ang Lee film threaded through with images of ice. The ice storm itself is a major event, but it’s only secondary to the true meaning of the story. It doesn’t matter what happens, but instead how the characters react to it.

The film is also an interesting portrayal of life in 1973. The parents are searching for identity and experimenting with drugs and sexuality as much as the kids are. Watch it, and think about what family means to you.

Brian Takle examines The Matrix Reloaded in detail

Check out this really in-depth analysis of The Matrix Reloaded.

My basic thesis is that Matrix Reloaded is a story about Genesis. Not the creation story. I mean the transcendence story that comes immediately after the creation story, in which the serpent, who is Loki the Inventor God, who is Neo, leads humanity from the Garden into Middle Earth. (I have a sneaking suspicion the three-movie arc is going to be about machine evolution as well.)

The Italian Job gets the job done

The Italian Job is that perfect mix of comedy, action, and romance. A group of thieves pulls off an inspired scheme to heist a load of gold bars. The adventure leads them from Venice to Los Angelos and finishes with a car chase with three Mini Coopers, my favorite part.

Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron are sparkling as the leads. Seth Green is a riot as the token geek. The Italian Job has fast cars, good quips, and plenty of ingenuity.

Adaptation redraws line between fact and fiction

I’m not sure how much I can say about Adaptation. It’s an extremely bizarre film that mixes real elements with imagination in a way that makes my head spins. There is some description of the plot, but I don’t think there are really spoilers. However, if you prefer to go into this movie without any idea of what it’s about, please don’t read any further.

Charlie Kaufman is a real screenwriter. His brother, Donald, is fictional. Susan Orlean is a real author, and she really did write The Orchid Thief about John Laroche, another real person. There is even a weblog about the movie on Orlean’s web site, written by Jason Kottke, a real guy who does not appear in the movie whatsoever.

It seems that Kaufman was actually hired to write a screenplay of The Orchid Thief and found himself in the same quandry that appears in the movie. This was mentioned in several reviews. The resulting film is not entirely unexpected from the author of Being John Malkovich.

Parts of the movie reminded me uncomfortably of myself. The Kaufman portrayed on screen fumbles through life, unable to reach for what he really wants. His self-doubt drives him crazy. He speaks of how nothing really happens in life, something I found depressing because I currently feel like it’s true.

That feeling aside, the movie makes some rapid turns thereafter that show Kaufman that quite the opposite is true. He thinks that no one in the book is changed, but that is because Orlean did not put the whole story in her book. Kaufman turns to his brother for advice, and Donald arrives in NYC to help him with the screenplay. Masquerading as Charlie, Donald decides that she is not telling the truth and leads Charlie on a madcap pursuit to uncover the real story. From there, the movie gets even weirder.

Adaptation will provide you with no end of food for thought. It is operatiing on so many levels that I cannot begin to process it right now. The only thing I am sure about is that now I want to read The Orchid Thief. I can’t quite say why, but I suggest you watch the movie and see what you get out of it. Maybe write back and tell me. ;)

White Oleander blooms beautifully

There isn’t a whole lot I can say about White Oleander. I think that it upheld the spirit of the book very well. One of the DVD featurettes indicated that the author was involved in the production of the movie, so that would probably explain that. Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn, and Svetlana Efremova were great as Astrid’s “mother” figures, and Alison Lohman did a stunning job portraying Astrid through her journey to free herself from her mother’s pull and discover who she is. She manages to convey a huge range of emotions and span years of Astrid’s childhood.

It’s a fairly depressing book and the movie is no different, but it ends on a note of hope. If you like that kind of thing, be sure to pick this movie up.

Birthday Girl holds a few surprises

I was intrigued by Birthday Girl when I first saw it advertised, but I wasn’t sure if it would really be any good, so I didn’t see it in the theaters. I did rent it recently, though, and I liked what I saw.

Nicole Kidman was haunting as a Russian woman who speaks no English when she arrives in England to meet Ben Chaplin’s complacent and sweetly foolish Englishman.

Birthday Girl was dark, funny, and had a bit of a twist in the end. It’s not the most profound cinematic experience ever, but a solid piece of entertainment. I didn’t quite expect the depth of entaglement that resulted, but it was a nice surprise.

The Matrix Reloaded

We saw The Matrix Reloaded last Wednesday, the day before its supposed opening. A curious move on the part of the studios and theaters, but one that works for me!

It was not as unique as the first film, of course. That was a one-time shot. Aside from a couple over-extended fight scenes and the disappointing choice of brand placement in the car choice, I was highly entertained.

Spoilers, of course, may will follow.

The Emperor’s Club: No club, but lots of ethical dilemmas

When I first heard about The Emperor’s Club, I figured it was just a rip-off of Dead Poet’s Society. It takes place in a similar setting, club versus society, come on! However, I decided to rent it anyway and was pleasantly surprised with an extremely thought-provoking movie about ethics, morals, and virtue. I’m still wondering about the title, though. It’s based on a novella called The Palace Thief which doesn’t make a whole lot more sense to me, but “thief” seems to go with the movie better. There was no discernable club in the film, only a class, so I’m left mystified. However, there is much more to this movie than the title.

The main character, William Hundert, is a teacher at St. Benedict’s Academy for Boys. He is asevere, upstanding man, devoted to Greek and Roman history and “molding the character” of his young students. That is, until Sedgewick Bell comes along. Bell is amischievous, yet charismatic, slacker, attending the Academy on his father’s merit as a United States Senator. Hundert sees intelligence and potential in the boy and attempts to foster it by encouraging him to study for the Mr. Julius Caesar academic competition in western civilization. In this endeavor, Hundert compromises some of his ideals.

These compromises spark an investigation of the slippery slope our nation is headed down, with particular emphasis on polititions. Bell and his father are of the school of thought that the ends justify the means. This is in contrast to the Academy’s motto, “The beginning determines the end.” I like the juxtapostion of those two statements. Is it true that cheating and lying are okay if you get what you want, or will being acheater and liar ultimately lead you to what you deserve. More to the point, even if the former is better for personal gain, and the latter isn’t really true, since life isn’t fair, how do we want to live our lives? We aim for high ideals, but are so often distracted by temptation.

The rest of the review may contain spoilers. You have been warned.

My only real problem with Kevin Kline’s character is the pompous accent that he takes on at times. It seemed a bit overdone to me. Luckily, the overbearing properness of his character is tempered at times, such as the scene in which he plays baseball with the boyss and hits the ball through the headmaster’s car window. The look on his face as he decides to follow the boys in running for cover is classic. On a more serious note, Hundert’s flaws are also revealed, which relieves some of the overbearing nature of his character.

I was left wanting to know more about his revelation to Martin Blythe that he gave his place in the competeition to Bell. That decision was the major compromise to his integrity, since it was the one that he chose all by himself. Ignoring Bell’s cheating in the first competition was at the order of the headmaster, who was more interested in the funding that Bell’s father was providing. Ignoring Bell’s cheating om the second competition was more a realization of failure and an interest in protecting the library that Bell’s gift would provide. Allowing Bell to enter the competition, even though he knew that Blythe had the better scores was a private judgement and one that haunted him for the rest of the movie. I wasn’t sure that he would confess to Blythe, and I think that knowing Blythe’s opinion of his professors’s mistake would have been important. It seems that Blythe forgave him in the scene where he drops his son off at school, but I would have liked a more detailed response, given the significance of Hundert’s action in his life.

X-men 2: X-men United… Well, sort of

We went to see X-men 2 last Friday when it opened. I was really excited to see it, and despite my high hopes, I was not disappointed. I would even say it was better than the first. It was fast-paced and both thrilling and amusing at times. There was definitely more ass-kicking, also.

I think the plot was a little tighter because the characters and attributes of the X-men universe have been established for the movie audience. I was swept up for the entire movie.

The rest of this entry may be prone to spoilers. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, go now.

Cube 2: Hypercube lacks dimension

We finally watched the recording of Cube 2: Hypercube that was on the ReplayTV. I was disappointed, although not really surprised. There was a reason it went direct to TV. They seemed unable to make up their minds between remaking Cube, an interesting, thought-provoking flick, and filling in more of the story surrounding the cube. Thus, they failed at accomplishing either. The movie started in a similar fashion to its predecessor, strangers waking up in a cube-shaped room, unaware of why they were there and unable to recall what brought them. They try to figure out a pattern to get out, as in the first, but this cube is much more complicated.

Unlike the original, there are clues as to each person’s connection to the cube. However, these clues don’t really go anywhere. The movie ends without any real hints to the purpose of the people behind the cubes, other than it’s some kind of conspiracy. Well, duh.

Cube itself was interesting because of its lack of detail. The story was centered on the occupants of the cube and their struggle to solve the mystery and escape. Cube 2 really has no center, hence its problems. There are several interesting points, but they are never followed to any satisfying conclusions.

It’s sad that such a creative movie was followed so poorly, but I’m not really surprised. However, I had to watch it, just to see.

Phone Booth: Always answer the phone

We went to see Phone Booth tonight. It was weird, then confusing, and then intriguing. I thought the cops were annoying at first, but then they redeemed themselves by figuring it out. Colin Farrell and Keifer Sutherland were excellent. I’d definitely recommend this if you want a good thriller.

Dreamcatcher gave me no dreams, thankfully

Ed and I went to see Dreamcatcher last Tuesday. I was intrigued by the premise shown in the trailers, even though I generally dislike horror movies. After I expressed a desire to see it, I found out that it was based off a Steven King book, which made me even more wary. So, while I was hoping for a good movie, I tried not to let my expectations get too high. I was pleasantly surprised however. While not perfect, it was a pretty good movie with an interesting premise. It left me wanting to know more about the back story, but I didn’t feel like it was too lacking.