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The Bat (1959)
Captivating story, strong women and a brilliant Price
There's a likability about The Bat, an extravagant story about a serial killer after a million dollar, which I don't see in many movies any more. The acting is top notch (with Price as standout), the women in it are not hollow screamers but brave and self-dependent strong characters, and the story flies all over the place, which just makes it more interesting.
(Spoilers) In one of the first scenes a doctor and the bank-director, who just stole a million dollar, think of a scheme how to keep that money and get away with it. Murder is on their mind, and they talk about it freely and without hesitation. It's a great scene, which sums up the dark mood of the story, without ever getting really scary. (Spoilers) I won't give away any more, like who The Bat (who doesn't resemble a bat at all, but who cares) is, as I think you should see this movie for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
The Bat. Great story, great acting, great movie. 8/10.
Mar adentro (2004)
Important in general, bit of a bore for me
Coming from a country with some of the most liberal euthanasia laws (which I support) in the world, there's a huge mind-gap to be made into Catholic Spain to truly understand the controversy this movie surrounds, and the political sensitivity of the subject in it. It really takes time and effort to, to put it popular, get what 'all the fuss is about'.
Fortysomething Ramon is clinged to his bed ever since a horrible accident in his late teens. The only thing he can do is move his head, talk and, most importantly, think. He's being nursed all these years by his sister-in-law, who lives with him, her husband, their father and her son.
The story begins when Ramon hires a lawyer for his wish to die, Julia, who herself is suffering from a deadly decease. Herself, pro euthanasia activist Gene and a local woman who falls in love with him (Rosa), change his life in ways he never could have imagined. But his wish to die stands, and Ramon wants it done in a legal way to protect those who will help him do it.
Instead of what it might sound like, Mar Adentro isn't a 'legal' movie, in which Ramon has his all-defining day in court. Although such a Hollywood film wouldn't work on this issue (it's too serious a matter for that), I sometimes during the movie wished the makers would have gone more 'into the controversy' (if you know what I mean), instead of focusing solely on Ramon. The fact that for long moments in the movie, nothing really 'happens' (oh boy this must sound horrible), makes you lose focus. Another problem for me is that we never really 'get' the other characters of the movie, they're just 'there' to get the story around Ramon right.
Mar Adentro at times is a touching film, and undoubtedly an important movie in Spain and other countries, but my thoughts were wandering more than once during this picture. Without wanting to deny the importance of this issue, a little bit of extra pace might have served this movie well. 5/10.
A film which doesn't work, not on any level
If there's one thing we've learned from the endless amount of rom-com movies, it's that the ending can be predicted from minute number one. Whether it's a gross-out rom-com (such as Say It Isn't So), a silly one (let's say, The Bubble Boy) or an award-winning masterpiece like Amelie; it pretty much comes down to 'it doesn't look like it in the beginning but they're gonna end up together in the end'.
And that's quite alright. A murderer gets caught in the end of a thriller, the underdogs win in a sports flick and the monster gets killed in a horror movie. Well, until the sequel anyway. It's just the nature of these movies, and even a main reason to go and watch them in the first place.
With 'Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!', things are no different. We have the well-known 'guy who is in love with girl', the 'girl who is unaware of that' and the 'outsider who takes an interest in girl, and vice versa'. Which makes up for the 'actions guy 1 has to make to get girl back', which pretty much is the entire movie.
It's a formula, but that's OK. But you do have to play out this formula pretty good to make the romantic part really work. 'Amelie' did so, for many reasons, but mainly because we want her to be happy. We want her to get the guy. We feel for her, we kinda feel we are her, and life should be as good as possible for her.
I am aware that 'Tad Hamilton!' is a more light-hearted movie than Amelie, but I stand by my point that we should care for what happens to it's main characters. When that inevitable kiss comes, we want to cheer, and feel satisfied. To get that romantic feeling though, you need a couple of things. Things 'Tad Hamilton!' doesn't have.
Which brings me to my main issue as why this movie doesn't work. Let's review our story and it's three main characters. First there's Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel) himself. He's a rich and handsome movie star who, for PR reasons, dates cute Rosalee Futch (Kate Bosworth), who won that date on a lottery. Then there's Pete (Topher Grace), longtime buddy and co-worker of Rosalee and secretly in love with her. But Pete gets serious competition from Tad when the latter finds out Rosalee truly is a wonderful and beautiful young woman.
It's the ambiguent Tad that provides the first problem. In some movies, 'the other guy' is just plain evil and into the girl for all the wrong reasons. In other movies, that other guy isn't so much evil and truly interested in the girl, but willing to give her up when he finds out his girl loves another guy. I called Tad ambiguent because he is none of the above: at first he's a cocky, drinking and smoking womanizing actor, but somehow he's shifting towards a regular guy really interested in Rosalee. We never really get why, and it looks like Tad doesn't get it either. His actions are never really clear, his reasoning never really explained.
Then there's Rosalee. In the other movies I named, there was always 'something' between the girl and the 'original guy'. In The Bubble Boy, Chloe loves the Bubble Boy but is unable (for apparent reasons) to really connect with him. The same as in Say It Isn't So, where the two main characters even end up together, but are separated (for a good reason). In 'Tad Hamilton!', however, there doesn't seem to be any affection from Rosey towards Pete, they're co-workers, friends even, but little else, and Rosey doesn't seem to mind that. So why would she want to give up an attractive and rich actor, who's willing to change his life for her, for this guy who she's been friends with?
Pete's role in the whole makes a lot more sense, as he's clearly in love with Rosey from minute one. Main problem with this part is the acting by Grace, who seems to be trying to mix a little bit of Stiller with a tad Perry, but never really gets it right. From an acting point of view, the biggest letdown of the movie.
So, thus for the romantic part: it just ain't working for me. What should be a saver then is the comedy. With 'Along Came Polly, this is what made me not totally slam the movie (although it was a waste after all), with some funny extra's doing the work. But if 'Polly' had Baldwin, Azaria, Brown and Hoffman to get the job done, and the 'Bubble Boy' (sorry to keep referring to it, I just saw it a couple of days ago) had Pappy and Pippy and a group of freak shows, 'Tad Hamilton' has literally nothing to go on.
Gary Cole, hilarious in Office Space and Dodgeball is only on screen for a minute or so, the best joke with the two agents is that they share the same name and the bar lady is only worthy to mention for her tattoos. The biggest upset for me though is the Cathy role (Ginnefer Goodwin), who supposed to be best friends with both Rosalee and Pete but contributes absolutely nothing to the film except some weird looks towards Pete and a cry out for sex towards Tad. And that's that.
All in all, 'Win a Date with Tad Hamilton' is a huge disappointed. I wasn't expecting Oscar material, I wasn't expecting a brilliant movie. I was expecting, however, some laughs and a satisfied feeling after watching it. All I got is cramp in my fingers from this review and a feeling I wasted valuable hours on a movie that isn't worth a minute from anybody's time.
Costa in the snow. That sucks, I know.
Basically 'Costa' in the snow (Johan Nijenhuis was one of the producers of this flick), so the story goes like this: 'Ugly duck falls for the wrong guy and overlooks the really nice one until the end.' The 'ugly duck' as I named it, actually is Hanna Verboom. As we see in her trivia, she is the Winner of Dutch Audience Elite Model Look 2003. If a girl with her looks and sweet character as shown in the movie can't get 'a guy to look at her', something's wrong with the guys at her school, that's for sure.
She and some of her 'friends' take a skiing trip to the Alps, in which they encounter with womanizer Ryan, his sweet brother Erik and some Tiroler idiots. You can tell which way this is going from minute one.
So, yet another weak Dutch attempt on making a teen-movie, it has only one good (action)scene, in which the brothers (well, their stunt doubles anyway) are boarding together with 'Charlie Big Potato' coming out of the speakers. Love that song, hate this movie.
A failed attempt
Hollywood spoofing itself? I'd want to see that! But surely not in the way 'Burn Hollywood Burn' does it.
The story resolves about a missing, big budget, big stars picture of which the director (Monty Python's Eric Idle) wasn't satisfied, so he took the only copy and ran off. This much to the dislike of the producers, as one can imagine.
The movie tells the story documentary-like, which becomes incredibly annoying after 20 minutes or so. The characters are overdone (and not in a 'fun' way) and although the original thought of the movie is a cool one, Burn Hollywood Burn fails miserably, as it's boring, unfocused, annoying and messy.
Deep Throat (1972)
'And Deep Throat to you all'...
... that ending left me laughing endlessly, but as a movie, 'Deep Throat' is rather disappointing.
Apparently, this movie was needed in the America in the 70's, so it became something of a 'thing to see', just as we in the Netherlands had the incredible hit 'Blue Movie' (1971).
But when looked upon some 30 years later, one can see 'Deep Throat' is a rather weak attempt to put some sort of story (which involves a woman with her clitoris in her mouth, and the problems (and opportunities) that arise from that) into a porn flick. Rather silly if you'd ask me.
The buzz this movie gets (and it will heighten considering the recent documentary Inside Deep Throat, and a planned re-release of the movie), it certainly does not deserve from the quality of the film. Great songs though! 4/10.
Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986)
Didn't make any sense
I absolutely adore the 'Toxic Avenger' series, but this weak offering by the Troma people didn't make any sense, and it had me yawning all the time.
A leaking nuclear plant (and the growing weed next to it) makes the youngsters of Tromaville High go nuts, which causes them to join a gang, have sex, explode, and whatever. Also there's some sort of monster breeding in the high school... my God, this movie's a mess.
The actors pretty much stopped their efforts after this one and they should. The (intended) overacting started to get on my nerves in about 5 minutes...
Blade: Trinity (2004)
Fine. But please let this journey stop now.
The 'Blade' series haven't quite made it to the heights of 'Spiderman' or the 'X-men', but at least Trinity has some fun to offer, au contraire to the abysmal 'Blade II', which followed the enjoyable if nothing special original 'Blade'.
Snipes as 'Blade' is being set up by the vampires and their friends, so now he's chased by the police as well. Good thing he gets some assistance from Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel) and Hannibal King (really, who makes up these names?) (Ryan Reynolds) who offer a contribution in the babe-and-fun factor.
There's still a lot lacking of Blade: Trinity, as the end fight is rather boring and overlong, and it has a really bad 'bad guy' to fight, but the extra's make it an OK ride.
Striking performances, but little to enjoy
'Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf', Nichols' classic debut on the big screen is one of the few movies I *haven't* seen yet of that brilliant list we call the IMDb top 250, but after watching 'Closer', the director latest film, you won't see me rushing to the nearest videostore to get it. And here's why.
'Closer', which adapts the play of Patrick Marber, is about 4 people and their ever-changing (or are they) relationships to one another. In the beginning of the movie, we meet Alice (Natalie Portman), a young and mysterious New Yorker, who bumps into (in a way) Dan (Jude Law), a journalist-later-turned writer.
After that first scene, which was quite impressive, Nichols plays a little trick. In the following scene we meet Anna (Julia Roberts), who's taking photo's of Dan to print on his book. At first I thought it was the next day, or even a flashback, but it turns out the story progressed a couple of months, to the point where Alice and Dan live together. In this scene, Dan falls for the more matured Anna, who finds him fascinating as well. And the misery starts.
The fourth player in this drama is Larry (Clive Owen), a doctor who, partly accidental partly 'weird Dan scheme', meets up with Anna. The two get along, and a scene (which, in 'Closer', is a year) later are living together. But Anna can't quite forget Dan. Nor can he forget her.
That's basically the plot line there for 'Closer'. In a movie like this, as in any adapted play, the acting comes first. Of the four performances, Portman's portrayal of Alice is by far the best. She's as innocent as sexy and as much a girl as she is a woman. She can play one scene in which she's a fragile, young girl, while the next moment she's stripping and saying quite nasty things to Larry.
As for Julia Roberts: she once again proves she's not much of an actress. She has chosen some wise projects over the years (Notting Hill and Erin Brockovich in particular), otherwise she would have been long forgotten. Her portrayal as Anna is boring and annoying, by far she's the least shining of them all.
As for the men: Clive Owen beats Jude Law on points. Both actors get their job done, but Law's 'puppy faced mean guy' routine starts to irritate in the second half of the movie, while Owen's performance is sharp and well-delivered, in quite a difficult role.
So, why didn't Closer do much for me then? Well, for one, I was surprised in how little depth the characters (other than Alice) had throughout the film. The characters seem to be lacking emotions, and wander around like machines. They looked made up, not so much real or confronting. Furthermore, I couldn't relate to any of the characters, I didn't feel anything for them. It was almost like the more misery they had, the more I enjoyed myself.
As a whole, 'Closer' has some good performances, and Owen and particularly Portman are allowed to actually win their Academy Awards, but as for story or character development, there is no way I could give 'Closer' the familiar two thumbs up.
It seems that every ten years a movie is being put out which I can fully enjoy over and over again, despite it's silliness. And it seems the TV executives know exactly what those movies are, as both 'Commando' (with the Governator and Alyssa Milano) as well as 'Species' finds it's way to the small screen in the Netherlands a couple of times every year.
'Species' is nonsense played out great. A secret governmental group, led by Kingsley, is mixing human DNA with a code they received from outer space (why is not clear), creating 'Sil', a young woman (Natasha Henstridge) who has a serious appetite for eating and mating. When she escapes the lab she was in, a group of experts set out to hunt and eventually kill her.
Great over the top performances by Kingsley, Madsen and in particular Whitaker, who's whispering incoherently to the camera while wearing some sort of silly hat. Meanwhile, Henstridge is a nice surprise as a first-timer, and not that bad for the eye either.
When the team finally faces battle with 'Sil' (in an underground oil cave?) all logic is thrown overboard, but what remains is a fun movie. I'm sure I'll catch it again in 6 months or so...
Well... it's *kinda* funny
If you like movies such as 'Dude, where's my car?' or 'Road Trip', 'Harold and Kumar' might just be your taste. Now, that might not come as any surprise as H&K share the same director as Dude. What *is* a surprise is that many people see H&K as more than just an easy 'crazy kids getting high, wanting to see breasts' kinda movie. To them, it's something more. When I first went to the IMDb page of Harold and Kumar, there was a comment on it's main page by a certain willden21, who claimed H&K was a 'Hilarious Social Satire'.
Mind you, this comment by me is by no means intended to slam that statement. In fact, considering it's high IMDb rating and the positive reviews it got from many, young and old, I must be missing something. But what is it? Let's start with the beginning then.
Harold (John Cho) is a shy, hard-working Asian guy who, on Friday night of all nights, is being put up to do some overtime work for the office he works for. This to not only his shock, but also that of his intelligent yet lazy Indian roommate Kumar (Ethan Embry, who looks like a cross between Zach Braff and Mark Ruffalo, don't you think?). Anyway, the two stoners find themselves hungry just as a commercial for fast food joint White Castle come up. Having a serious case of the munchies, the two set out to find the nearest White Castle. As you would have guessed, that is easier said than done.
I won't go into all the detours the two make, but they include mean skater kids, a game of Battlesh*ts, a guy named Freakshow, a cheetah with horse skills, and a mysterious hitchhiker who turns out to be actor Neil Patrick Harris, famous for the TV show Doogie Houser apparently (never heard of that).
Now, considering all this, why is H&K something else, something better than the two movies I named in the beginning? Perhaps people notice the fact our two heroes are not your typical surfer dudes, and find that so refreshing they overlook the fact that 'the racial factor' is only very slightly there, and not really played out very well. Another point of interest might be the fact that Harold in the end shakes of his shyness to ask out the girl of his dreams, and yells at his superiors at work. Or that Kumar finally decides to make something of his life. But to me, it was too little too late.
What's left is an entertaining movie about two guys on the road for some hash and some breasts. Nothing more, nothing less.
Young Guns Make It Worthwhile
Although George C. Scott only has a small part in this film, it's the cast of actors that make 'Taps' something of a special movie. The movie was one of the first in both the careers of Tom Cruise as well as Sean Penn, and Timothy Hutton once more (after Ordinary People) proves he's a fine actor.
But otherwise, there's a lot lacking in the movie. Although it has an interesting premise (Group of students take over military school after it is scheduled to close down), is spun into a way too long story. It's really hard to keep focused on this one for over 2 hours, I'm afraid to say...
But if you're a fan of one of the young guns in this film, you should definitely go rent it some day or catch it on TV. 5/10.
Shrek 2 (2004)
Lacking in wit and charm
The original Shrek was a treat for the eye, and deserved the praise, awards and money it got. Too bad the sequel doesn't really provide any of the aspects that made 'Shrek' such a fun movie.
The main problem of the movie I think is that 'Shrek' now is an engaged man (well, male ogre anyway), who feels he has to 'fit in' in society. If in part 1 he was free to be himself, now he is bound by rules. In this way, the story feels more 'real' if you will, with real people and real emotions playing a part in the 'Kingdom, Far Far Away'. Shrek 1, in a sense, was more absurd, and therefore way funnier and fresher, than part 2.
I'm not getting my hopes up for part 3 anymore... 5/10.
Roger & Me (1989)
Moore and Me
Although I was always fond of Moore's 'The Awful Truth', over the last couple of years I started to grow a disliking towards him and his documentaries, of which I thought 'Bowling' wasn't really saying anything and 'Fahrenheit', although an improvement, still took way too many liberties to really be taken seriously.
So here's 'Roger and Me', or 'A Humorous Look at How General Motors Destroy Flint, Michigan', as the subtitle is. Viewing these titles there are numerous errors to be found in it: 1. It ain't humorous. 2. GM did not 'destroy' Flint. 3. The title should be: Me, Me, Roger and then Me again.
Let's take all these points by the hand. First off, there is little humor to be found in 'Roger and Me'. It seems Moore doesn't really have his wit or originality from The Awful Truth yet, and it shows. As voice-over, he makes some supposedly humorous observations, but everybody can do that after-wards. It's when confronted eye-to-eye Moore should be at his best, but here he's more of an observer than questioner, until after-wards he finds his tongue back in the voice-over room.
The second point of which I am protesting is the claim that 'General Motors, and it's president Roger Smith in particular, destroyed Flint', the town Moore grew up in. GM simply decided it would be cheaper to move it's factories to Mexico. It's a simple, and logical, business decision, made by Smith because he is being payed to generate as much profit as he can for General Motors. Now, if Moore would have his way, then: 1. Business should not do the economically best thing. 2. The USA should shut it's border for foreign products. 3. Workers should come before stockholders. Now, I am not claiming such a system to be 'communist, therefore bad', but it is a *change of system* he would want to happen, not a change of a single decision by a single company. So he shouldn't seek up Roger Smith for that, but the US president, congress, he should have held a referendum. In other words, he should be fighting politics, not cooperations.
The third main problem, and we've seen it in his recent documentaries, is that Moore is a smug 'look at me, I'm so socially and politically correct' kinda person, who offers some questions but never seeks out to truly answer them. Within this documentary he follows the routine 'Rich and mean guy shuts down factories. Honest and good poor people suffer. Poor people forced to sit around doing nothing and having problems with the police because of rich guy'. End of story. There is never a true analysis, as said before, of the system, it's just picking an easy target to blame for everything that has gone wrong. And that's the end of the story. The title itself is misleading as well, as Roger Smith barely speaks a few words. In honesty, Moore tries but Smith refuses, over and over again. But years later, watching Moore unjustly slamming a good-willing Charlton Heston in 'Columbine', I'm sure Smith (if he's still alive), will see the justification for that refusal.
So, what is Roger and Me then? Other than one-sided (which was to be expected), it's also a pretty boring experience. If 'Columbine' had some humor and 'Fahrenheit' had an interesting issue at an interesting time, 'Roger and Me' fails on all accounts for making a good documentary. 3/10.
Far Far Away Idol (2004)
The whole Shrek 2 experience wasn't my taste anyway (I thought the original was way better), and this extra they put on isn't as funny either. It sure ain't of the standard of The Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Party on the DVD of Shrek.
All of the major characters can sing a song in this one, judged by no other than Shrek, Fiona and our very own Simon Cowell. But it all just seems so much less funny and spontaneous than the aforementioned Party in the Swamp. As Shrek 2, there's a serious lack of wit, enthusiasm and charm. Well, that's my opinion, anyway.
If I had to rate this: 4/10.
Before Sunset (2004)
Not completely satisfied I'm afraid
Alright, shocking confess: I only heard of 'Before Sunrise' when this one came out. So I went out to see that a couple of weeks ago, so I could start with 'Sunset', as I believe it's pretty obligate to watch both movies to really know what's going on.
So, it's nine years later. Celine (Delpy) and Jesse (Hawke, who, even more than Delpy, looks like he hasn't changed at all) have grown up without ever seeing each other again after that 16th June they promised to see each other 6 months later. As it turns out, Jesse was there in Vienna, but Celine had to attend the funeral of her grandmother.
But fate, in a way, served them well. Jesse now is a somewhat famous writer (he wrote the story of 'Sunrise' down), and is on tour through Europe, signing books and answering questions. When he's about done in Paris, his last stop, Delpy walks in. That scene, by the way, is worth watching a second time.
So the two start talking while wandering through France, not unlike they did in Vienna in Sunrise, but you would expect the talks to be different, more adult. And they are. After some babbling about reincarnation, playing the guitar and anything else there might come up, the two get down to the core: what's your current relationship like? Up until then, the movie is pretty jolly. When Jesse confesses he was in Vienna on December 16th, all Celine can do is laugh out loud. There's a feeling there on both of: well, okay, too bad about that, but life goes on. When later, while driving in the back of the car that should take Jesse to the airport, both confess they just can't forget that night 9 years ago, the movie starts getting more serious.
You can't help comparing sequels to each other, and if I had to do that here, I'm afraid 'Sunrise' did more to me than this movie. The conversations seem more fabricated this time (I know a lot of people don't agree with me on that), the characters a bit less likable (maybe because in Sunrise they resembled my age more), and the ending far less satisfying than that of Sunrise.
Not in any way that Before Sunset is a bad movie, and anyone who saw Before Sunrise should really go see it, but I just felt more connected with the first movie.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
Carrey saves an otherwise mediocre flick
Way before Carrey started his Academy Award quest with movies such as Man On The Moon, The Majestic or the recent Eternal Sunshine, goofiness was what the man was about. Now, in this first 'Ace Ventura' movie, Carrey needs to do little more.
Carrey is Ace Ventura, a pet detective (duh) who's called in to find a stolen dolphin who's a mascot for a major football team (as one might expect: The Dolphins). While the police do their job to find it as well, Carrey proves his investigating skills while a young Courteney Cox helps along as Melissa Robinson, who works at the Dolphins (as what I don't remember. Oh well, who cares?).
The story provides some funny moments (the 'coming out' at the end, and in particular the scene in which Carrey snoops around the huge mansion of the cocky billionaire), but it's mostly Carrey's facial expressions and moves that saves this movie. Whenever you feel like the movie's getting more stupid by the minutes, he comes in and bags yet another scene. I'm gonna tell you, that guy is pretty damn funny.
If you feel like you can need an incredibly goofy movie, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective might just be your thing. 6/10.
The Village (2004)
Top notch acting and a haunting story... but a disappointing ending
Of Shyamalans previous movies I only liked 'Signs', so I'm hardly a fan of him. Still, there was some anticipation surrounding this movie, with it's superb cast and an interesting plot.
It involves a small town hidden in the woods, where the people have some sort of truce with the creatures from those woods: they won't come in the village if the people don't go into their territory. This way, the small village has no bonds with the outside world.
Problems arise when a young man called Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) is stabbed and desperately needs medication from the outside world. His blind girlfriend Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) sets out to seek help, through the woods, into the wide world.
In the first hour of the film, it's perfectly balanced between the scares of the creatures and the relationships unfolded, but once Ivy sets out into the woods the movie loses it's momentum. Although I filled the box 'spoilers included' I won't go too far with that: an observant viewer might know enough by remembering who the director of this movie is...
As said, the ending is rather disappointing. It feels strange to see 'the real world' as we know it. There's a rather useless scene with a patrolman stealing some medication for Ivy... it just didn't really fit in to the movie.
What still stands though are the excellent performances by the whole of the cast, with some exceptional acting in particular by the relatively unknown Bryce Dallas Howard and William Hurt as her father.
On the whole one would perhaps expect more after it's first hour, but 'The Village' still is a movie to watch, as it's truly scary at times and has some of the best performances of the year.
Edit: after watching the movie for the second time I feel I have to upgrade it to a 7/10. Special notice to the scene where Lucius grabs Ivy's hand for the first time. Perfect scene.
Actually an improvement over part 1
The first 'Anaconda' may have had it's cast (with Jennifer Lopez, John Voigt, Eric Stoltz and Owen Wilson), 'Anacondas, The Hunt for the Blood Orchid' offers more fun and some pretty cool effects.
When a drug-company finds out the Blood Orchid can extend human life, a group is set out to find it somewhere in the Asian bush, as it only blooms once in seven years. Soon, as you would expects, their numbers are going down...
Amusing flick with some great looking snails, but the problems come with the acting. Johnny Messner isn't much of a hero, Matthew Marsden is a disappointing bad guy and it just hurts to see KaDee Strickland act... she must be of the worst around.
But if you don't look too closely, you might have a fun evening after all... 5/10.
Interesting in many ways
After watching 'Saved', a rather unfamiliar satire of Christianity crossed with a high-school comedy/drama, I found myself rather puzzled of the intentions of the makers and the meaning of this movie. When reading some of the external reviews presented, I found both the point of Rogert Ebert as well as James Berardinelli interesting, meaningful, and true in it's own merit.
While Berardinelli is slamming this movie as anti-Christian, claiming 'Saved! treats religion as a disease, not a life choice', the (often overly positive) Ebert concludes that 'by the end of the movie, mainstream Christian values have not been overthrown, but demonstrated and embraced'. Two completely different views on this movie, but after watching it I felt both claims to be somewhat true.
Let's start with the beginning. Christian teen Mary (Jena Malone) is confronted by her boyfriend that he's gay. She thinks she can 'cure' him by having sex with her, but things all go wrong from there. He is being put away in some sort of center to get rid of his 'gayness', while Mary turns out to be pregnant.
From that moment on, Mary starts having doubts with some of the Christian values she grew up with. She more and more starts rejecting friend and as beautiful as knowing all as bitchy Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), and starts hanging out with some of the other outcasts, such as crippled Roland (Macauly Culkin) and no good, smoking Jewish girl Cassandra (Eva Amurri). Other characters who play a significant role are Mary's mother, Pastor Skip who she has an eye for and his son, Patrick (Patrick Fugit).
So that's the outline right there. Now what does this movie intend? Throughout the movie the main issue is Christian hypocrisy. Hilary Faye says she wants to save everybody so they can become 'good Christians', but meanwhile is treating some of her friends like dirt. Pastor Skip preaches that one should love another like yourself, but condemns homosexuality. Furthermore it seems he, as a married man, has feelings for Mary's mother.
This is all a pretty one-sided and inconclusive view on Christianity, agreed. The question you need to ask yourself is: is this pure satirical comedy, or is it truly meant as anti-Christian. After answering that question you can also ask yourself if Christians should be offended watching this film.
Those aren't simple questions. At times, you feel the movie is going somewhere. It's when Hilary Faye is throwing a bible at Mary, who responds by holding it in her hand shouting 'This is not a weapon!'. It's when Mary's gay boyfriend from the beginning comes to the prom with his boyfriend, claiming that 'God wants us to be different and think for ourselves' (I lost the exact words, but it came down to this). It's at times as this, and the more comical scenes (Pastor Skip's 'getting down with Jesus' or Mary's friends trying to do an exorcism on her) the movie most definitely is watchable.
But, at other times, 'Saved' is unfairly attacking Christians as being hypocritical, narrow-minded and downright mean. The movie should have been more balanced on that point. Maybe it should have pictured the struggles of Pastor Skip in this better. Furthermore, making Hilary Faye such a bitchy character in the end was way over the top, even though Mandy Moore is playing her character with joy and success. Maybe one of those new actresses who somehow are all singing as well finally can act as well.
I started out with the two views of 'Saved' one can have, and I still haven't found out for myself with who I agree more. So I think I'll just sit between Mr. Berardinelli and Mr. Ebert. I dunno, we could chat about the movies I guess...
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Best characters of recent
It's not hard to love and embrace 'Napoleon Dynamite'. It's funny and fresh and surprisingly well acted and directed by the unknown cast and crew, plus it has the number one character of 2004: We all love you Pedro! Man, I would've voted for that guy any day...
And that's just the beginning: Napoleon himself is fantastic (where did that guy come from in the first place) and you gotta love Kip and his internet dating... some hilarious stuff! Still it's not way up my top list of last year, because the movie is kinda losing momentum in the second half and starts drifting a bit. But don't that spoil the fun for you: 'Napoleon Dynamite' still is better than 90% of the other movies of 2004.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
It's all been done before
I have to admit: 'Resident Evil' was some sort of a guilty pleasure. But now there's a part 2 and I'm sure that someday there'll be a part 3 (concidering the open ending of 'Apocalypse'). And I feel myself thinking: I've seen this before. Dozens and dozens of times. Why do I even bother anymore? Milla Jovivich is Alice again, and this time her fight is against some evil 'Nemesis' monsters and other nasty Umbrella corporation types, while saving a little girl from zombie-dead. Main help is Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), whose main importance it is to 'look hot', as Jovovich explained in a TV special.
The movie has all the necessary ingredients to make up for a decent movie (a cool heroin, some monsters, a really really bad guy and fine effects), but it's never fresh or original. Too bad.
The Vanishing (1993)
As a Dutchman I'm ashamed to say I haven't seen the original 'Spoorloos' yet (nor have I read 'The Golden Egg'), but I sure hope it's better than this American re-make.
While buying some beer, Diane (Sandra Bullock) is kidnapped by Barney (Jeff Bridges), leaving boyfriend Jeff (Kiefer Sutherland) left in despair. Years later we still find Jeff hanging up posters of her, wanting to know what happened to her.
When finally another woman comes in his life (Nancy Travis) he can let go a little bit. But this is exactly what psycho Barney did not want to happen. So the two guys meet...
So far, this all sounds pretty interesting, and it is. It's a bit of a different thriller, as we already know who the kidnapper is, but it all works out pretty well. Up until this point, that is...
Because somehow the last 30 minutes the movie changes from an intelligent kinda thriller into the slash and hack formula of your basic teen thriller. It kinda reminded me to the distorted ending of 'Don't Say A Word'.
It makes this movie not that credible and below average in my opinion, in particular since Bridges (an otherwise fine actor) is not at his best here. 4/10.
The Two Jakes (1990)
Not quite Chinatown
No less than 16 years after Polanski's masterpiece came this movie, this time directed by it's main star and Hollywood hero, Jack Nicholson himself. And although Nicholson's got some great supporting actors to work with and the setting is just right, you feel like something's missing that makes 'The Two Jakes' no less than a fun movie experience, though nothing quite more.
Again, PI Jake Gittes finds himself on what seems to be a simple case, until things get completely out of hand. This time, a client of his wants to catch his adultering wife, but before Gittes knows it has shot the guy she slept with. Things complicate when that guy turns out to be his business partner...
Slowly the truth unfolds unfolds, not unlike Chinatown actually, but this time it's not as exciting as the original, and the movie is way too long for it's own good.
All in all not a bad attempt with Nicholson in his so far last role as director. 6/10.
Well made, well acted, well done.
So here it is: a story about a horse that would give spirit to a whole nation, after the depression of the late 20's and early 30's. Make it a story where the horse and it's jockey have to overcome injury to win it's final great race, and you got your tearjerker (and, therefore, Oscar winner) right there.
But, somehow, 'Seabiscuit' is much more than that. What is definitely a help, is it's incredible cast. Tobey McGuire once more shows he's one of the better youngsters around in Hollywood, and old-timers Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper will do the rest for ya, even though Cooper is not at his best here as Tom Smith, the trainer for the horse. Then there's William H. Macy in a hilarious role as 'Tick Tock McGlaughlin', a radio presenter.
The life-story we follow the most though is that of Charles Howard (Bridges), owner of the horse. As a self-made millionaire selling cars, who lost his son due to a car-accident, he finds a little bit of joy back to life, with his new wife and his new love, the horsing business. His inspirational speeches make 'Seabiscuit' a crowd-pleaser, in particular that of the 'common people', who recognize themselves in the little horse.
As said, the movie is a little bit too much of a happy ending story to really make it into the 'classic' category, but the movie looks great and hasn't got a boring moment in it. Good acting all around therefore make it a very pleasant movie experience. Although the 7 academy award nominations were a little bit much...