Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ray (2004)

I've always liked Ray Charles as a performer, so when I heard they were making this movie I was definitely interested in watching it. It falls somewhere in the middle for me as far as biopics go. It wasn't as innately fascinating to me as The Aviator, but nor did it just sit there and be dull. It had great music, an interesting plotline (primarily focusing on the battle for dominance between drugs and music) and I really did learn a lot of interesting things about the man that I hadn't known before. That's probably what a biopic is supposed to do... So I guess it did its job well, although I wouldn't ever sit down and watch it again. 3.5 stars.

Two For the Money (2005)

This movie is fairly deceptive because it looks like a thriller, or possibly a heist movie, but it really isn't. It's a serious drama about moral issues involved with gambling... But at no point does it turn preachy or silly about them. It examines them slowly and carefully and humanly, and at the end reaches a conclusion that makes sense. It was one of those movies where even where not much was happening, I was kept interested in the moment-by-moment happenings of the movie, which I've found is usually a sign of good screenwriting. Definitely an interesting movie, and worth watching. 4 stars.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Firm (1993)

This movie was intriguing because it didn't Hollywoodize the story as much as I'd expected them to. (That sounds like I'm comparing it to the book, which I'm not - I've never read it.) Although it was a very dramatic plot, it didn't bring out the "ooh, ooh, drama and tension!" strings until much later. For a two and a half hour movie, it definitely managed to hold my attention all the way through, which it gets big coolness points for. However, even though I enjoyed watching it, it wasn't really all THAT great a movie. Not one of those where I stand back and say, "Now THAT was good." Oh, well. Certainly a good way to be entertained for a few hours. 3.5 stars.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Glory Road (2006)

I know I said I didn't want to see this. But somehow I ended up watching this anyway. It was pretty much as I expected - we had Remember the Titans, we had Coach Carter, now we've got this. It served the same purpose and ran the same course and ended the same way. I really had very little reaction to this emotionally, but I'm sure if I had been a basketball fan it would have appealed to me much more. 2.5 stars.

Miss Congeniality (2000)

When this first came out, I had friends who raved about it, but it sounded like the dumbest premise on earth to me, so I was all prepared to hate this movie and was surprised to find it was actually not all that bad. The mystery was pretty lame ("The crown! It's hidden in the crown!" Um... okay...) but Sandra Bullock manages to carry the movie all the way through. There's nothing uproariously funny in this, nothing that made me laugh out loud or even think, "Now THAT was great," but there was also nothing that made me hate it, which, in my book, makes it a "not bad" which is much higher than I expected it to be. 3 stars.

Nurse Betty (2000)

Wow, that was... interesting. Hmm. Did I like it or did I not? That's a tricky question. It took me a long time to decide whether this was a drama or a comedy or some mixture because it didn't play exactly like either one. Because of that, I was emotionally confused throughout the entire movie. About two-thirds of the way through the movie I began to finally settle into a comfortable mindset for watching the movie, and the rest of it was really interesting. I guess I had the same issue with this that I had with Garden State - once I knew what genre it was, I could actually relax and let myself enjoy it, but whenever I got confused about the genre and wasn't sure whether to be happy or sad, that weirded me out enough that it became not cool for me. 3.5 stars.

Garden State (2004)

I have mixed feelings about this movie, actually. At the very beginning of the film I though to myself, "Hmm, this might just be a little too weird and indie for me." Then it settled down and became quite fascinating to watch, with some really good dialogue. And then, out of the blue, in jumped a silly romantic comedy ending that left me going, "Wait. What? No!" This was clearly a drama (albeit one with a sense of humor), and should have ended as such.

However, I was really very interested in the middle of the movie. As I said, great dialogue, and the characters were really interesting. So three and a half stars for the middle of the movie. It's too bad they had to goof all that up with the end, though. Meh. 3.5 stars.

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Very few dramas can hook me at the beginning of the movie and keep me interested all the way to the end. Before Sunrise was one. Ordinary People was another. And this is a third. I found myself completely absorbed in the characters and the story in about ten minutes. However, while I can pinpoint exactly *what* kept me interested in the first two dramas I mentioned (dialogue and plot, respectively), I can't quite pinpoint just one thing that kept me more interested. This movie works together so smoothly... the characters, the dialogue, the plot... everything just flows together to create a movie that I really enjoyed quite a lot. (Although time progessed a lot faster in the movie than I thought it was progressing. Heh. All of a sudden it's 15 years later and I was like, "What? I thought only like a year and a half had gone by!") 4 stars.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

This was only on my "moderately want to see" list, but I'm extremely glad I finally got to see it. I really had no idea what to expect. Comedy? Action? Thriller? A little bit of all of that. While the thriller and action parts of the movie weren't my favorites, the portions of the movie going for comedy were hilarious. The characters' dialogue was beautifully witty, and a few of the out-of-the-blue unusual moments had me laughing out loud, something I don't usually do during movies. Come to think of it, I laughed out loud quite a lot during this movie. Truly funny, and well worth watching. No doubt goes on my all-time favorites list. 4.5 stars.

Courage Under Fire (1996)

This review is a bit last minute, and therefore going to be a bit abrupt, but here goes. Although this movie was done really well and had an interesting plot and was acted well and had good dialogue... I just couldn't get into it. Something just never clicked between me and the movie. I'm not sure what. Maybe I wasn't expecting it to be as much of a war movie as it was. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood. Either way, it was a really good movie but I just personally didn't enjoy it. 3 stars.

Chocolat (2000)

I just finished reading the book, which was rather fascinating, and thought, "How on earth are they going to translate it to film?" Well, they did, and they did an okay job with it, except for the fact that it became a blatant morality tale about tolerance. The book at least tried to be subtle about it. The movie had a 30-second SERMON about it, for pete's sakes. (Worse still, it scoffed at the idea that one can be tolerant if you have religious ideals that don't make sense to other people. Isn't that slightly defeating the point of tolerance?)

HOWEVER, aside from that, it was a pretty interesting story, and I was actually quite impressed with the way that they handled the chocolate in the film. That sounds bizarre, but that was one of the things I was worried about. In the book, so much was about feeling things you couldn't easily portray on film. For the most part, that transition worked. 2.5 stars.

Changing Lanes (2002)

It's getting harder and harder to review movies. It's difficult to find enough to say about movies you LIKE, and I keep seeing good movies. Meh. But, anyway, on to actual discussion of this. This movie was fascinating. Although usually I'm bored by Ben Affleck, he did quite a good job with his character. Samuel L. Jackson was great as always.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the movie was its delving into moral issues without attempting to get preachy at all. Although this movie was advertised as a thriller, it was clearly more drama than action/thriller, as the focus was on the characters, not the tension or the threats. And the characters were marvelous... it was fascinating watching the contrasts and similiarities between them as they tried to exact their revenge on each other, or push each other over the edge.

If you're expecting a high speed action thriller with lots of car chases and gun fights, this isn't what you're looking for. But if you want something to mull over for awhile, this movie will do just fine. 4 stars.

If Only (2004)

Despite it being a Groundhog Day lookalike, I was all ready to see this movie and possibly enjoy it. And for the first, oh, ten minutes or so I did. A little over-the-top at times, sure, a little contrived, but I was willing to suspend disbelief enough to watch it. And then the main plot point happened (the boyfriend relives the day his girlfriend dies) and everything just went down the tubes. I'm not sure whether it was a horrid script or a horrid actor (I've never seen him in anything else), but that boyfriend was probably the least believable character I've seen on screen in a long time. Hammy, making ridiculous accusations, acting the way no normal person would... On careful consideration, I think it must have been at least 3/4 the fault of the script, because the girlfriend seems to go through mad mood swings, too. On that morning she's convinced he's the only one she could ever love, and in the evening she announces, very out of her set character, that she wants to break up with him because he doesn't appreciate her. It also has the bleakest ending of ANY chick flick I have ever seen. Most chick tearjerkers have at least a semblance of hope, or an "Oh, my gosh, that's so sweet," but that final scene of her standing on the mountaintop is one of the most depressing things I have seen in my entire life. Skip this movie. Really. 1 star.

The Out-of-Towners (1970)

I fully expected to enjoy this movie. I mean, Jack Lemmon, Neil Simon, and New York City (albeit only NYC's chaotic side)... what could go wrong? And the answer is, I'm not entirely sure. Like I said, I kept expecting I'd enjoy it and then it just kind of fizzled. I usually love Neil Simon's writing, but here it felt less snappy and more tired. I usually find Jack Lemmon very funny, but in this movie his performance also got tired. I don't think I actually laughed once during this movie... That can't be a good sign. The whole thing felt so unrelentingly BLEAK, too. I don't mind stories all about horrible situations - I adored Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - but somehow this just left me feeling depressed. I noticed almost no background music during the entire movie, perhaps that had something to do with it? It would be interesting to see how the remake compares with this. Perhaps someday. 2 stars.

Just Friends (2005)

Let me start this off by saying I've really liked Ryan Reynolds in the other two movies I've seen him in. (Foolproof and Finder's Fee.) So what happened to him in this movie? I'm not entirely sure.

The movie was a really nice concept, actually. Could have been done really sweetly and made even me think, "Now there's a good movie." However, there were two major flaws: 1) The whole thing was played far too over-the-top, which makes the entire story difficult to swallow in the first place, and 2) The main guy really WASN'T all that likeable. He was rude and manipulative and that doesn't just change in the blink of an eye. I didn't particularly want the girl to end up with him. Whoops.

That being said though, there were a few good moments throughout the film, and it really WAS a nice idea for a chick flick. It just didn't actually work out. 2 stars.

Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989)

What can I say about this movie? Do I rate it low, do I rate it high? (I'll compromise and rate it lowish middle.) It was a truly terrible movie but I laughed so hard while watching it that I actually had fun with it. I might even purchase it. This movie is one of those that is SO bad it's hilarious. The sock puppet piranhas... the people who keep switching sides... the dialogue... oh, goodness, the dialogue. This has been Rinkworks.com's Official Bad Movie for many years, and now I can take pride in the fact that I've seen it and it is every bit as horrible and awesome as they all claimed it was. 2.5 stars.