Friday, July 14, 2006

catching up with the movies: May 1 - July 14

Since I haven’t been to a theatre since…Brokeback Mountain early this year, all of my movie watching has been on DVDs borrowed from the library and recorded on my DVR from the free premium channels we get each months from Dish Network (this month: Starz Comedy).  I realize I haven’t been writing too much about the movies.  Since I’m far too lazy to go back and find what the last movie I posted about was, I’m going to start with May 1 and get to today. 


  1. Paper Clips (2004): This documentary about high school kids in Tennessee doing a class project on the Holocaust (Shoah).  Their teachers wanted to teach about tolerance and the topic they chose was the Holocaust.  One kid said he didn’t know what six million looked like, and the teacher didn’t either, and so after some research and thought they decided to collect paper clips.  They started writing letters and eventually the clips start piling up, often with an individual story attached on why somebody sent the clip.  It’s a fairly interesting documentary, a unique subject, and moving to see what the kids accomplished with what was originally simply a school project on tolerance.


  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005): Tim Burton and Johnny Depp take on Roald Dahl and Willy Wonka.  Depp is in full weirdness mode.  I miss the orange Oompa Loompas, but it’s a decent enough movie.  I can’t help comparing to the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and I think I prefer the original.  This one is well done, but not exceptional.


  1. Cinderella Man (2005): Great, great movie.  In a sense it is your standard down on your luck story with a great comeback and lots o inspiration.  Russell Crowe proves once again why he is one of Hollywood’s Top Leading Men and it is a shame that the phone throwing incident perhaps soured the attention this movie received.  This should have been a Best Picture nominee and should have made $150 million.  It’s that good.  There were a couple of moments when I felt choked up and tears welling up in my eyes (the scene with Crowe getting unemployment money, and the climax).  This is how movies should be made.


  1. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004): All that technology gone to waste.  It’s a pulp novel on screen, with that old time adventure feel to it, but it’s actually fairly dull. 


  1. Memoirs of a Geisha (2005): I thought the book was fantastic; and the story of a poor young woman being raised and trained to be a geisha but conspired against is a decent story, but the movie didn’t capture the magic.  It looked pretty, but what works well on the page doesn’t translate to screen.


  1. George Washington (2000): Sad to say, but I don’t remember too much from this movie.  Nothing to do with the former president, really, just the George Washington neighborhood of an inner city.  You’ve got some fine performances by some young actors, but I couldn’t tell you too much about the story.  Fairly urban, well done, but it doesn’t capture my imagination.  Part of the Criterion Collection, though.


  1. Hustle & Flow (2005): Yes!  The story of a pimp who wants to follow a dream and become a rap star shouldn’t be something I want to watch.  I don’t want a pimp to succeed.  I don’t want to feel for his character.  But I do.  It’s the story, but it’s the talent of Terrance Howard (also in Crash).  Good soundtrack, fantastic movie.  Not for the kiddies and the language may be a turn off, but fantastic movie.


  1. Howl’s Moving Castle (2005): An animated movie by master Hayao Miyazaki.  I enjoyed it more than I expected, but it wouldn’t rank with my favorite Miyazaki movies.  It’s the story of a young woman who is cursed by a sorceress who turns her into an old crone.  The crone leaves her family’s home and ends up stumbling across this moving heap of junk which is actually the home of a wizard named Howl.  Hijinks ensue.  Not slapstick by any means as there is a depth of emotion and storytelling here, but there are quite a few comic moments. 


9, 10, 11. 28 Up (1985), 35 Up (1991), 42 Up (1999): The Up Series is a series of documentaries every seven years following the same fourteen children from Age 7 through adulthood to see how they change and what we can tell about them from when they are seven.  This is a British series, though I believe there is an American version in the works.  These three movies are ages 28, 35, and 42.  The series is interesting in theory, but I wasn’t exactly enthralled.  They’re just ordinary people and at times I was bored.  Some stories are heartbreaking, two kids dropped out several films ago, and others are snots.  But as a whole, they are just normal working folk.  The series takes kids from all strata of society and economic background, so we can see a range of expectation and a range of life.  I wouldn’t rush out and buy the set, but it is an interesting experiment.  There is one more film, 49 Up and I think that may finish the series. 


12. Shadow Boxers (1999) : This documentary film follows several female boxers and explores their motivations, training, and lives.  It doesn’t explore every aspect of the sport, but Lucia Rijker is one of the top boxers in the world, I believe, and she also was Blue Bear in Million Dollar Baby (Hilary Swank’s last opponent).  Interesting flick.


13. Team America: World Police (2004): The Puppet movie from the guys who made South Park.  Trey Parker and Matt Stone take on Hollywood, liberals, and some conservatives as they bash everybody in mocking America’s self assumed role of policing the world.  Funny, but not worth watching twice. 


14. Capote (2005): The movie that wins Phillip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar for Best Actor, and deservedly so.  Great actor, great performance.  This is the story of how Truman Capote wrote the true life murder story In Cold Blood.  The movie comes off a bit cold.  Well done and well crafted, but cold…  It was difficult to engage with any of the characters, though every actor did an outstanding job. 


15. Bewitched (2005): Crap.  Next.


16. The Constant Gardener (2005): An adaptation of John Le Carre’s novel and one which worked very well for me.  A British Diplomat to an African nation is devastated when his wife, a younger activist is murdered.  As he investigates what happened he learns of a deeper conspiracy but also comes to appreciate his wife more.  Ralph Fiennes stars.


17. The Corporation (2005): An overlong (2.5 hours) documentary regarding the history and impact of corporations in this country and around the world.  Mostly negative in perspective, though it does raise interesting points about corporate ethics.


18. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993): Animated Batman flick.  Not bad, but I had heard this was one of the best things ever and it’s just decent.  It’s a good Batman story that touches on character origins and sets up future Batman animated movies, but I’m not rushing out. 


19. A History of Violence (2005): Outstanding!  A minimalist tale of a man who seems to have a good small town life, but he has a past he has escaped, or so he thought.  When he stops a robbery at his store he becomes a celebrity of sorts and men from his past come looking.  This is an excellent quiet movie with shocking brutal acts of violence that end quickly but the repercussions last.  Loved it.


20. Hellboy (2004): Adaptation of a graphic novel.  Better than I expected, but amounts to nothing.  Whatever.


21. My Date With Drew (2004): Now this is a cute movie.  A guy wins $1100 on a game show (it’s the pilot, so low prize money) and rather than spend it on bills and productive stuff which would leave him just as unhappy a month later as blowing the money, he decides to take 30 days to see if he can get a date with Drew Barrymore.  The fact that this movie was released tells you something about how it will turn out, but watching this guy try to make contacts and go through the 30 days…it’s worth watching.  He has a great personality and a fairly original idea for a movie, and it is a sweet little film.  The 30 day restriction is because if he returns the camera to the store within 30 days he doesn’t have to pay for it. 


22. March of the Penguins (2005): Another documentary, I must watch more than I think.  This movie follows penguins in Antarctica as they trek 70 miles to mate and raise their children while surviving the harshest conditions.  Good movie.  Not this amazing groundbreaking documentary, but well narrated by Morgan Freeman and it’s a good movie.  The baby penguins are cute.  Yeah, that’s a selling point for me.  I need to go watch a manly movie, excuse me.


23. Mad Max (1979): A manly movie, good.  Mel Gibson was not yet a star when he made this movie.  It is set a few years in the future in Australia and some calamity has occurred (or Australia is a rough place).  Motorcycle gangs roam the roads causing havoc, and the police are their own gang, though working for the greater good.  Gibson is a top officer and when tragedy strikes he goes to get revenge against all that had a hand in the tragedy.  The movie holds up fairly well today.  There is quite a bit of down time in the movie, but it is something of an odd classic…or better put, it is an iconic role for Gibson


24. Munich (2005): Spielberg’s latest film tells the story of the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympics where Palestinian terrorists killed Israeli athletes.  This is their response as Israel sends men to kill those responsible for the planning.  Eric Bana (I think) leads a team of 5 across Europe on a mission of assassination.  It is brutal and it makes some of the men question what they are doing and the moral position of why this is a proper thing to do.  Well made and thought provoking, Munich still is lacking something.  The film tackles a tough subject without passing judgment or telling us what to think, but something is missing that would make this one of the best films of the year/decade.  It should be, but it isn’t. 

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