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alastair_m

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Dreamgirls (2006)
close, 4 February 2007
6/10

this was generally a well mounted production but i came away feeling that it was good when it could have been great some of the music was regrettably lame film isn't Broadway and i think such things should be taken into consideration but for every song that made me cringe there were at least two that sold me beyond that, the major fault i found with the film was the cutting and camera movements in the musical sequences abundant cutting can help a scene's rhythm and feeling but my main feeling with musicals is that this rhythm and vivacity should be communicated by the performances the camera should be a passive observer this sort of cutting is better suited to music videos which only have a few minutes to leave their mark in a feature length film, it can be tiresome jennifer hudson's performance for her big song is everything it needs to be without however many cuts there are in the sequence the amount of camera movement also deemphasized movements that would have been more impressive had they not been lost in a sea of mobile framing (the arcing motion that leaves the dreams in a silhouette against an adoring audience)

i'm not saying that there should be no cutting or movement in a musical sequence, but as these techniques are employed in this film, they distract from the real stars the cast was solid all around and the film's strongest asset hudson and murphy both dynamite

i totally bought beyonce foxx made an excellent slimeball without completely abandoning our sympathy supporting players distinct, developed, fun and likable it's the sort of story that's been told a million times that's why i feel a story isn't necessarily as important as how its told the material here felt like it was exciting and important to all involved but it didn't entirely escape the clichés of its trappings, which i acknowledge is a tall order

i respected the film in general more than i liked it but keep trying Hollywood you might just make another real musical yet

i hate doing one line summaries, 27 July 2002

A lot of people probably went to see "Road to Perdition" simply for the fact that Sam Mendes directed. I know that's why I went to it. The fact that it has Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in it and that it's a gangster movie are pretty attractive too, so I probably would have seen it had it been placed under someone else's direction; but tonight, I had Mendes on the mind.

Exposition seems pretty obsolete here on the imdb because loads of other people will have already done that for me and a lot of the people reading this will be reading it because they want to see how many people liked or didn't like a movie they did or didn't. So until I get paid for it, I'll spare myself that aspect of my review.

For the most part, the cast is well known and highly respectable and we know that these people are going to do a good job in just about anything. And here they do that, as one might suspect.

So much of the scrutiny directed towards the movie will be focused towards Mendes because he made such an assured debut. So does "Road" measure up to "American Beauty"? I don't think so. But the latter was pretty amazing, so I'm no going to begrudge Mendes for following something great with something that's simply good.

I liked "Road to Perdition." I liked the story. I liked the cast and its dynamic. I loved how it looked. But something WAS missing. Unlike "American Beauty", "Road to Perdition" lacks identification between audience and film. Not everybody is like gangsters, some might say, so how can one expect one to identify with the plights they face. "The Godfather" got it right. The Corleones were gangsters, yes, but they were isolated in their own sort of world that held many parallels to that of the general population. In "Road" we never forget who's really good or (mostly) bad and that creates a lack of sympathy, I think. Part of what Lester Burnham wanted was wrong but oh, how we identified with him.

"Road to Perdition" was good and I'm glad I saw it. Its heart was in the right place and it's a respectable production. And I await Mendes next effort as eagerly as this one.

7/10

It's movies like this that put most other movies to shame., 8 July 2002
9/10

It seems that most very good movies that we see now are smaller films. The big-budget studio jobs insult our intelligence more and more but corporate ass holes keep on making them because people keep on watching. But when you think of the better movies of even just the last year, many of them (Gosford Park, Monster's Ball, Innocence, Amélie, In the Bedroom and Ghost World) are more obscure films that I can't see unless I sit on a bus for two hours. The Fast Runner hasn't even come to my local theatre, and I'm Canadian, and it seems to be one of the best Canadian projects ever. So it's refreshing when a major, major release finds a way of being complicated, involving and exciting all at the same time. Plus it shows that somebody is confident that the general public's brains are more than just mush.

Minority Report is a tightly woven, emotional, thrilling story. It has action, but is more than just an action movie. Even though it takes place more than fifty years in the future, against a vivid, technically enhanced backdrop, its characters, their motives, and everything about it has a universal tone than rings true, more than many of the lame brained movies which take place at present. Plus, it's the most entertaining movie I've seen this year.

Most people reading this will know that Tom Cruise plays John Anderton, a pre-crime cop who goes on the lamb with one of the murder predicting pre-cogs, Agatha (Samantha Morton), after he is identified as someone who will soon commit a murder. Anymore exposition would be unnecessary and possibly spoiling.

The solid, capable cast also includes Max von Sydow and Colin Farrell, but the best performances of the movie belong to Cruise and Morton. Cruise is always real, with his added classic movie star appeal, in one of his best performances. He doesn't play up being the emotionally tortured work-alcoholic that he is, which, in a roundabout way, augments the pathos evoked for that aspect of his character. Morton takes a role that could have been totally cornball and overwrought and makes Agatha's sickliness credible; and her weird mutterings don't come off as some actor trying to be "weird".

The only way a movie like this could get made is with a director behind it who has the studio's confidence behind him, 100%. Nobody has that more than Steven Spielberg who, with movies like E.T. and Jaws, has always found a way of perfectly blending special effects with the story instead of coming off as showy. His pacing feels natural, instead of formulaic; a trait which has proven him one of the most solid storytellers in the movies. He succeeds in Minority Report where he didn't in A.I. Adding humor where it fits in perfectly, choosing a moral dilemma we can identify with and knowing when it's time to end the thing, although I felt it waned slightly, very slightly, towards the end. Maybe I just need to see it again.

If you generally like Steven Spielberg's work, wanted to like A.I., and like what movies are all about, you should definitely see Minority Report.

Joy Ride (2001)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I'm not insulted! (couple spoilers), 14 May 2002
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sometimes you get a teen movie. Sometimes, you get a movie about teenagers. The aforementioned, uses attractive stars in extreme circumstances (whether it be shocker or soaper or gross out). The latter, usually better, uses realistic characters and observes attitudes, plights, situations, etc. surrounding teenagers. Something like "Welcome to the Dollhouse." But on occasion, you get a teen movie that rises above the rest.

"Joy Ride" is one of them. It's a solid shocker that doesn't require a low score on an aptitude test for enjoyment. It doesn't substitute body count for suspense and tapped into some effective key fears. Such as, no matter where you go, your pursuer is always one step behind you. (See "Night of the Hunter). Also in doing this, they didn't go too far in trying to explain it. Sometimes, these things seem more plausible if you're given less information. Good use of atmosphere: corn field, gas station and bookend sleazy hotel showdowns. It was also better to leave the trucker's face unseen. We know he's a freak, but our imaginations creating the freak makes him that much scarier.

It would have benefited, though, from the exclusion of several clichés. Such as: not running off to the side when that's obviously your best bet and the ending that, most disappointingly, tossed in a sequel set-up. These things are too bad, but that's only two strikes.

Adequate performances and the surprise that this movie isn't nearly as bad as you'd expect make this a pleasant once-through.

Spider-Man (2002)
Spoilers galore, 9 May 2002
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's really too bad. You'd think the stage would have been set for an outstanding comic book romp. Good, solid cast; direction of Sam Raimi, all brought together by the everlasting appeal of Spider Man; the fearlessly cheesy, noble alter-ego of nice guy geek Peter Parker. But for some reason, it hasn't gelled.

The basic story covers Spider-Man's origin and his first battle with his first big super evil bad guy. Oh, and he falls in love too. `Spider-Man's' problem isn't the story. A movie is never so much about its story as it is how it tells its story. And this movie tells its story with cheesy dialogue, one heap of clichés and some sketchy effects.

When the side effects of the gas that transforms Willem Dafoe into the Green Goblin are being described, the list terminates with an `iSaNiTy!' so ominous that Adam West would be jealous. And, my God, who the Hell had the idea that they should start calling May Jane' M.J.' (Forgive me if that's what they call her in the comic book.) My name is Alastair, and there are only certain people who can get away with calling me Al. Very few, at that. Peter Parker, being the shy geek that he is, wouldn't be one of them. He should call Mary Jane `Mary Jane' because he's polite and timid and that's just what he'd call her. Plus, they aren't on colloquial enough terms for that. It just sounds phony. As it did whenever anyone else said it, with the exception of a carload of Mary Jane's friends. The intense confrontations between Spiderman and the Green Goblin produce some pretty hard-hitting lines. `Goblin, what have you done!?'; and the Green Goblin's rendition of `The Itsy-Bitsy Spider' are just a few bites of cheese you'll find. Oh, and after Harry thinks Spider-Man has ruthlessly killed his father, not realizing his father was the Green Goblin, `Spider-Man will pay' he assures repeatedly. Geeze. There's more than all of this. Much, much more. I should have taken a notebook to the theater.

The script may be a downer, but it's the clichés that kill it. For example, Peter goes back to meet uncle Ben after he's been to the `library.' How many times have we seen someone in a movie instantly force their way to the front of a crowd surrounding a crime scene? Then, shocking tragedy awaits... well, maybe not all that shocking. Earlier on, there's the scene where dude in charge of the wrestling match refuses to give Peter his money promised for the victor. `It's not my problem,' he tells him. (That's not an exact quote. I don't remember the line, perhaps because the line wasn't as great as it thought it was.) So a few minutes later, a burglar steals the money, runs down the hall and Peter doesn't stop him. Buddy from the desk asks Peter why he didn't stop him. Peter repeats the same line. Oh, the poetic justice of it all! And the whole `With great power comes great responsibility.' Ok, we get it. You don't have to keep ramming it down our throats. There are a lot of things in `Spider-Man' that could go unsaid. Not a lot of innovation went into this movie. The story could have been dealt with more originally.

We haven't seen anything like the Green Goblin's death before, have we? Peter's revelation that the Goblin is business tycoon and father of his best friend and roommate Harry, Norman Orbson sure hits home (right.) And then his hand grasps upwards through that wall and they share a poignant final moment. It's just sooooooooooo dramatic. Not a lot of innovation went into this movie. The story could have been dealt with MUCH more originally.

I didn't have a lot of complaints about the performances. Tobey Maguire was perfect for the lead roll, much better than, shutter, Freddie Prinze Junior would have been. Parker is a geek and so is Maguire. But they're both cool geeks. I usually like Willem Dafoe, here is no exception, even if he wasn't always able to render the insane bantering of his surprisingly two-dimensional character plausible (one situation, however, where he coped especially well were the difficult scenes of his dueling personalities.) Dunst was very pleasing and dealt with the script the best of all (maybe because she didn't have to say M.J.) And J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson seems to have flown in straight from the campy cartoon, in a good way. It's too bad that with all of these characters in the right place, the rest of the movie couldn't have been better.

`Spider-Man' couldn't decide whether to be totally cornball or to go for the drama. `X-Men' was shamelessly cheesy, and for that I enjoyed it a lot more.

The special effects are, if anything, a little rough around the edges. He might be a super-hero, but Spider-Man isn't in outer space. As a consequence, there's still gravity. Then why does it seem like he's flying half of the time? Maybe it's some aerodynamic mystery like the bumblebee. Other effects are, well, all to obviously effects.

But the thing that bothers me the most is that they could have done something really great with this movie, and it would have made just as much money, so why not bother?

But who cares what I think, really? I've never really read the comic book much. I just watched the cartoon and looked at some of the cards when I was a kid. If the fans of the book like it, that's what really matters. Although it doesn't sound like some of them are too pleased. I gave this movie a zero. In actuality, I'd give it a four; but a lot more people gave it a ten than should have and now it's in the top 250. Come on, this movie is not better than `The French Connection.'

4 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
bizarre, 25 April 2002
5/10

i liked this gaudy piece of christmas hokum as much as anyone when i was a child, but now i think it's laughable and kind of sad

it sure is ignorant if anything

the toy gun;

rudolph and donner concerning themselves with "getting the women back

to the north poll" or whatever that line was;

the persecution and the fact that they only ever really accept rudolph when they find a way to use him;

and (not that i'm religious, but if you're going to celebrate christmas, you should acknowledge its purpose) it is an archetypical example of the commercialization and abandonment of what christmas is.

this one goes on the shelf right next to the cheese whizz

geeze.

25 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
surprisingly razor sharp, endearing comedy, 1 April 2002

I don't understand why more people don't like `The Oblongs.' It seems exactly like the kind of lowbrow humor that I can't stand and everybody else likes. But I find myself in somewhat of an infatuation with the show, while most people don't seem to like it or haven't even heard of it. I'm hoping it will catch on.

The show involves a poor family of mutants who live in The Valley area of Hill Valley. (All the rich folk live The Hills.) The father, Bob, has no arms or legs. The mother, Pickles, has no hair (she usually wears a wig) and is an alcoholic. The oldest brothers, Biff and Chip, are conjoined jock twins who are tough on the home front but losers elsewhere. The only daughter, Beth, is like a cross between something from a Tool video and the French children's book character Madeline. Their youngest son, Milo, suffers from numerous maladies associated with modern children but is endlessly chipper and the most focused-upon child. Milo is often seen with his Valley companions; Peggy, whose head is a hemisphere with beaver teeth at the bottom; Helga, whose appearance and demeanor are connoted by her name; Mikey, who has long saggy butt cheeks; and Creepy Suzie, who is, well, creepy but in a fun way.

After I had heard the description of the show I was sure I wouldn't like it. And if I read the description I just wrote, I probably wouldn't understand the show's appeal. But the show works, very well, and for two reasons.

The first is the dialogue crackles with sharp, bizarre wit. The show doesn't rely completely on gross out gags. Here is one exchange between Beth and her father that makes me laugh every time I hear it:

(The Oblongs home is very cold because the town has shut off their heat in an attempt to blackmail them)

Beth: I think I'm catching ammonia.

Bob: That's pneumonia, honey.

Beth: (Shaking her head) It's too cold for silent P's.

Every episode you get a few great lines like that that leave you howling and assure you the writers' interests aren't strictly to try and push the envelope.

The other main reason `The Oblongs' works so well is that even though they're mutants, the Oblongs function as a normal family unit and love each other. Pickles and Bob are deeply in love (she gave up life in The Hills to marry him) and have a healthy sexual relationship. They're concerned parents who want the best for their children even if they sometimes aren't sure how to go about it. The children feud in an amiable fashion and remind me a lot of my siblings and me when we were younger. The show has heart. This can also be seen with Milo and his misfit friends.

Is it offensive? Not really. Shocking? More than it is offensive at least. The shocks remain somewhat intact because the show is in the guise of a Saturday morning cartoon. The simple, rounded, fun character design, the bright colors, excellent vocal casting (especially Will Ferrell as Bob Oblong) and a general feeling of innocence upheld by Milo, his friends and most other characters in fact, counter what surprises the show holds with functional contrast. Most adult cartoons (North American ones anyway) seem to be convinced that being disgusting and derogatory is the only way a cartoon can appeal to an adult audience. `The Oblongs' tries this as well, but it isn't the shows sole purpose, so it somehow works; I believe, because it's truly what the creators want to do and not just some ploy. It's simply better than shows like `Kevin Spencer,' `Quads' and whatever the hell Tom Green is doing. Items such as these as plain boring while `The Oblongs' manage to strike some sort of balance between the total idiocies of the aforementioned and the humor and brilliance of something like `The Simpsons' (an obvious, at times too obvious, influence.)

There are only 13 episodes of `The Oblongs' and the WB has canceled production. Hopefully, someone else will see it for what is and pick it up. `Seinfeld' and `The Simpsons' took a while to find their audience, and `Third Rock from the Sun' never really did, and they're three of the best sitcoms of the 90's. `The Oblongs' may turn out to be one of the best sitcoms of this decade; we just need to give it a chance.

(I don't know if many people give star rating to television shows, but out of 4, "The Oblongs" rates a strong 3 1/2.)

210 out of 239 people found the following review useful:
A hilarious, warm movie in a world all its own., 19 December 2001
10/10

Not a lot of movies create their own sort of universe. Some that come to mind include "The Wizard of Oz", "American Beauty" and "Vertigo." These movies are so distinct and original that they seem to have created there own spot in the universe, untouchable by anything else. You can add "le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain" to that list.

Here is a film so original, so funny, and so warm that it left me with smiling for hours and the people on the sidewalk thinking I was crazy. Yes it is heart warming, but not in the phony Wal-Mart commercial sense; but in the sense of how good you feel when laughing with a dear, dear friend.

The film tells the story of French waitress Amélie (Audrey Tautou.) She is in her early twenties, lead a gloomy childhood and is missing something in her life until hearing of the Death of Princess Diana causes her to drop the cap of a bottle which rolls along the floor and dislodges a tile on her bathroom wall. What she finds behind that tile leads her to the decision that she is going to do what she can to make the people around her happier by whatever means possible.

Amélie goes about this with great success. One particularly wonderful scene shows Amélie helping a blind man across the street and rapidly describing what's happening around them to give him a picture of the world he doesn't get to see. This is only one in a mountain of selfless deeds she does to make people happy.

As she continues enriching the lives around her, Amélie becomes challenged with the fact that if she only helps others anonymously, she may live her life alone and without the happiness she brings others.

Amélie's conflict is what rounds out the picture and makes it complete. The movie is deep and takes Amélie's inner struggle seriously, but it's never heavy. Brilliantly hilarious, "Amélie" has a wonderfully funny script and is brought to life in visual splendor by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("Alien: Resurrection", of all things) and has at its center Audrey Tatou giving one of the warmest, most sincere and funniest performances you'll see this year.

I can't tell you how much I love this movie. Just thinking about it gives me goose bumps and I can't wait to see it again. SEE IT IN THE THEATRE IF YOU CAN! This may be the year's best picture and is not to be missed.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The best sitcom we never watched., 8 December 2001

It's a low down dirty shame about 3rd Rock. While I've been a faithful viewer going on five years or so, the show never got the appreciation it deserved. Sure it won its share of Emmies, but that doesn't mean anybody watched it. It's a Ross and Rachel world out there, and the brilliance of 3rd Rock was often overshadowed by soap operas disguised as sitcoms.

But 3rd rock is rollicking comedy and nothing but. John Lithgow is simply one of our best in one of his best roles as Dick. If you like this show, I strongly suggest you see some of his movie work such as The World According To Garp, the movie I hate to love and love to hate, but Lithgow's performance falls on the love side of the scale.

Gangly Kristen Johnston plays Sally. The towering beauty and hilarious flake. She adds some amazing physical comedy to the show's ensemble. Her physical presence is so amusing she can crack you up just by standing there. I can't wait to see her in other comedic roles, my main fear being she'll fall into toilet humor instead of something sophisticated.

French Stewart as Harry is more or less the cute little pet and adds tremendously to the show. He acts as what at first might seem like the dumb member of the alien four, but in fact, his idiocy is what exposes that of the people that surround him in how they deal with him.

Finally, teenager Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tommy is most impressive in the fact that he plays at the same level of the rest of the ensemble. The show hasn't used him as an idle, but as another resource for more of the social observations with which the show is bursting at the seems.

The four play together as a remarkable comedy team, each with their own quirks that evoke criticism on society. The satire is complete with the addition of the stereotypes they encounter every day. Jane Curtin as Mary, Dick's love interest, tries to appear normal and show the Solomon's that they aren't but is really as bizarre as anyone else on the show. Then there's Nina, the secretary; Don, the cop of Sally's dreams; the lovable nympho landlord, Miss Dubcek; and countless other students, colleagues, peers and various characters that teach the Solomons, themselves and us about society (I love Judith.) The show is as observant as any I've ever seen and equally funny with it's slapstick, zany dialogue, unusually usual situations and running gags.

My feeling is that the main source of 3rd Rock's brilliance is it's mocking classic sitcom formula. It takes the perpetually utilized premise of placing a group of outsiders in the middle of a "normal" group of people and completely turns it around. Unlike a show like the Beverly Hillbillies where we principally laugh at the Clampets, we're laughing it the Solomon's AND the people around them. In 3rd Rock, nobody is normal and there is no true norm, which is much truer to the world in which we live. There are all the classic patterned events from sitcoms (meeting people, dating, finding one's purpose, and the trials with which every day sitcom life presents you) but none of these situations lack a deeper meaner on 3rd Rock. Then there's the little things. Aspects such as the fact that there is no couch in the living room and that all the characters' names are those which one would have found on an older sitcom (Who's name is Sally anymore, really? Then Tom, Dick and Harry- the quintessential normal trio) are just some of the ways of the creators screw with our established expectations of prime time.

I love this show, and think it will endure in syndication long after we've forgotten about Veronica's Closet or whatever other weeknight carp they're handing to us these days; I don't pay much attention to it myself. Like M*A*S*H, I Love Lucy, All in the Family and other purposeful shows that have been with us for decades, 3rd Rock From the Sun always has meaning and hilarity at the same time. That's sure enough proof that this is more than your average hip singles in the city tripe and that 3rd Rock will stay a part of our society since it has done such a good job of mocking it.

Shrek (2001)
Funny, in more ways than one., 6 December 2001
8/10

I don't laugh a lot at movies. Even if I think one is brilliantly hilarious, you're lucky if you get more than a couple of good, honest, hard laughs out of me. I saw Shrek. I almost had to be rushed to the infirmary.

The thing I love about Shrek is how much it makes you laugh and laughing makes you feel happy. A movie that can make you feel happy has something great about it.

Shrek has a wicked sense of humor. It does does contain yuck-yuck-poo-poo-fart jokes, for those of you that like it. But it's much slyer and more creative than that in its purpose and wonderfully funny situations, lines and gags jam pack the film. The things that bothers me about toilet humor are:

A) I just don't like it, ok.

B) Most American comedies contain only gross out humor and don't cater to the type of comedy I prefer.

But I can forgive Shrek it's toilet gags because it caters to my preferred comedy too. I appreciated this soooo much and thought it only fair that if there were laughs for me, there should be the gross-out stuff as well for those who like it and so that its greatness could be shared with everyone. But do you know what!? Even the people that like the common easy route humor, liked the more sophisticated stuff as well! *gasp* So maybe you should take a hint and a lesson from the makers of Shrek all you low-brow American filmakers, we're not as dumb as you think we are.

As much as the gags have already been given away in other reviews for what few of you there may be who read this and not that of someone else, I don't want to spoil them for you. They are that much more genius when you don't know what's coming.

A colourful cast of characters (featuring voices of Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow, a personal favorite) and some of the best animation ever give Shrek a great frame work with which to start, but it's its rollicking sense of humor and splendid gags that give it its center, and what a center! (9/10)


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