Sunday, July 23, 2006


Movie of the week:

Try this experiment. Go around to people that you know or meet and ask them if they've seen the movie, Amelie. Now watch their face change to a grin just before they say yes. Now continue to watch their face as they play scenes in their head from the movie. You'll then have every reason you need to see this film.

Follow the link above to the imdb site. The Internet movie data base keeps every kind of statistic about movies you can think of. Among them is a list of the top 250 films of all time. That is, the top movies, rated by readers - visitors of the site (that's a lot of people). Of all the films of all time, Amelie comes in at #29, right between Lawrence of Arabia and It's a Wonderful Life.

What makes Amelie so good? Amelie is such a likable character, you can't help but feel good no matter what she's doing, whether acting as a matchmaker, or pursuing her own love interest across town. Amelie is an instrument of fate, a force of nature. Here's why you should see it.

  1. In French with English subtitles. Deal with it.
  2. Whenever you're in a tight spot, and you think to yourself, "What would Amelie do in this situation?", you'll know.
  3. You'll never have to lie on your deathbed and regret never having seen Amelie.
  4. You've seen "Lawrence of Arabia". Amelie is next.
  5. If you haven't seen "Lawrence of Arabia", make it a double feature.
  6. If you're going to make it a double feature (see #5 above), start early. "Lawrence of Arabia" is really really really long.
  7. Amelie was made by the same creative team that brought you Delicatessen. It has a similar vivid look - but this is a much more mainstream movie.
  8. Here's another idea for a double feature. Watch Amelie twice.
  9. Here's yet another idea for a double feature. Watch Amelie plus this week's archive movie, Whale Rider. You'll feel so "up" by the time you're done, you'll need to watch some horror show to ground you back to earth. Try watching the news.
  10. Watch for all the little visual details. Freeze the frame now and then if you have to. For example, watch for the framed pictures in Amelie's apartment.
Rent it this week and enjoy.


From the archive: 4/18/2005

At the 2004 Academy Awards ceremony, Charlize Theron won a much deserved Best-Actress Oscar for her role as Aileen Wuornos in the movie Monster. Everybody expected her to win, everybody admitted she deserved to win, and so she did. Good for her, she was only 28. If Monster had been made just one year earlier or one year later, that Best-Actress Oscar probably would have gone to a 13 year old girl, Keisha Castle-Hughes, from Donnybrook, Australia. Keisha was the youngest person ever to be nominated in that category. It was her first role.

In Whale Rider, Keisha Castle-Hughes plays Pai, the 12 year old granddaughter of the chief of the Maori tribe, the native people of New Zealand. The chief is getting old and is looking for a successor. Pai is the only descendent available, but no woman in the history of the tribe has ever been chief, and ........... well, you get the idea. It's kind of like Disney's MULAN, only it's good.

This is the ultimate kind of family movie. What makes it ultimate? There is no particular age group that this movie targets. From the surface, you might think that it' geared toward teenage and pre-teen girls. No, it's not! This is such an emotionally deep movie, that everyone will want to see it. And it's not just dramatic. It's also funny, and inspiring, and thought provoking. It's a FORREST GUMP of a movie! I have no children living at my house any more, yet we were all engaged by the story.

There is a scene in the middle of the movie where Pai puts on a performance at a school pageant that makes you stop and stare in amazement. There is a depth to her performance that is seldom seen, even in older actors. This is a "goose bumps moment", one of many in this movie. The end is particularly satisfying.

Rent Whale Rider and watch it with one or more of the following:
  • your spouse - you can get emotional with each other without feeling weird
  • your children - Pai is a good role model for kids of all ages
  • your date - this movie will make them feel emotional and vulnerable, use this to your advantage
  • your neighbors - you will "one-up" them. They will have to paint your house or some other task to catch up.
  • your friends - you know, for moral support.
  • yourself - cry with abandon! No one's looking.
FYI: For more affirmation, the link below will take you to Roger Ebert's excellent review.


Film critic Roger Ebert's review of Whale Rider.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Sci-Fi movie of the week:

The best sci-fi usually begins with a premise. It’s an idea that the writers ask you to believe, take as given, and move on from there. For example, time travel. Most people don’t believe time travel is possible, but if you don’t temporarily suspend disbelief and just accept it for a couple hours, then you’d never be able to enjoy a movie like “12 Monkeys”, or “Time Bandits”, or even “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. The best sci-fi is never about the special effects, it’s about that premise, and the consequences of that premise. Unfortunately, most sci-fi today begins with a budget. Then the question is, how many special effects can we buy with that budget? How many name stars can we buy with that budget? How much media blitz can we buy with that budget? How much money are we going to make? Oh by the way, does anybody have a story or a script?

Dark City starts with a premise that’s not revealed immediately. You are actually way into the movie before you realize what you’re asked to believe. By that time, you’re so engrossed in the mystery that you’ll believe anything.

People usually have a certain image when they think of science fiction. It usually takes place in the future, has aliens, spaceships, gleaming futuristic cities, or deteriorated cities as in Blade Runner. You think of Flash Gordon or Star Wars. What you usually don’t think of is Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. This film may be categorized as sci-fi, but it can also be classified as “film noir” (note that it seems to be always nighttime in Dark City. At the heart of every film noir is a mystery. The mystery here is that there seems to be a group of dark mysterious strangers who can stop time. They do this every midnight, and while the people are stopped, they take a few selected individuals and completely erase their memories and give them new ones. Since a person’s entire character is based on their collective past, they become different people. Time starts up again and the strangers stand and observe. Our hero’s memory wipe didn’t completely take one night, and now he kind of remembers some things, and now he has to race against the clock to find out to answer the following burning questions.

  1. who is he?
  2. what’s happening to everybody?
  3. what do the “strangers” want from him?
  4. where’s Sam Spade when you need him?
  5. why is it always night time?
  6. did he really kill somebody, he can’t remember?
  7. why doesn’t Jennifer Connolly make any comedies anymore?
  8. what’s the deal with Kiefer Sutherland?
  9. can he trust the few memories he has left, or were they injected into his head on a previous night?
  10. who are the mysterious strangers, and who’s their tailor?, and
  11. They can tune reality, but can they tuna fish?

This is one of the most visually stunning sci-fi movies of recent times. And although I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it, I’m betting that you will. All I can say is that I liked it a lot. The link below will take you film critic Roger Ebert’s review of the movie.


Film critic Roger Ebert's review of DARK CITY.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


From the Archive: 3/29/2005

First of all, let me say that this movie's title makes certain promises. I will put your mind to rest that it certainly delivers on both counts. There is sex, and there is Lucia. Now before you get the wrong impression about this film, let me say that the movie is neither about sex nor about Lucia.

It's actually about Lorenzo, the main character in the story. While on vacation, he has a brief encounter with a beautiful young woman (not Lucia) that changes his life forever. The story is not told in a linear fashion, and although it is in no way confusing, you do have to pay attention.

This is a wonderfully beautiful film. It is a "must see". You must go out, rent it, and see it. Go do it now. I'll give you a quarter if you see this movie. You can give me a quarter if you like it.

  • There's nudity and sex in this movie, and although it's done with taste and beauty, the usual warnings apply. Don't see this movie if this bothers you (but then you don't get the quarter).
  • It's in Spanish with various language subtitles.
  • There almost no violence - so it's inappropriate for children.
Now, here's why you should see it:
  1. a quarter
  2. It's really hot.
  3. It has an actual plot - and it's a good one.
  4. Despite various catastrophic tragedy and such, it has a very satisfying ending.
  5. It's fraught with symbolism and stuff
  6. Makes you want to say, " .........aaaaaah".
  7. I'm not sure what #6 means.
  8. It not only tells a story, but it does it in a very artistic way. Don't forget that film is an art form.
  9. Paz Vega is fantastic as Lucia. It made me want to look for other movies that she was in. She also starred in "Spanglish" with Adam Sandler, which was another of my recommended films. Unfortunately, there wasn't nearly as much nudity in that movie. This is a much better film (not just because of the nudity).
  10. I think I'll turn off my computer now and go watch it again.
I know that many of you with small children have trouble finding the time alone with your spouse to watch a movie like this. I had the same problem when my kids were young. That's why I watch them all now.

It's important, once in a while, to make special time alone together to just relax and watch a movie that doesn't involve talking animals or cartoon action figures. When I was a kid, before the age of videos, my parents did this by dressing me in my pj's and taking me to the drive-in theater. They would always show some "kid" movie first, then follow that with an "adult" film. The reasoning being that kids would be asleep by the 2nd feature.

Put the kids to bed and enjoy SEX AND LUCIA.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Movie of the Week:

If you read a lot of the reviews for this film, you'll see many references to this being a slick murder mystery. Really there's no mystery at all. Perhaps a murder has been committed, but if so, there's no mystery as to who did it. Instead, this is more of a psychological suspense drama between the two main characters.

I'm not going to give you the plot - that would be telling. Besides you could always follow the link above to the imdb site to find out anything you want about the movie - but that won't tell you whether or not you're going to like it. Even I can't tell you that ............ unless I lie. But if you must know, I'll tell you why I liked it.

But first, some warnings:
  1. There's nudity. Don't watch it if nudity in movies bothers you.
  2. There's sex. Ditto.
  3. It takes place in France, so there's some French language - BUT, since the main character is English, most of the dialog is in English.
  4. Those of you who rushed off to watch "The Saddest Music in the World" a couple weeks ago know enough not to put blind faith in my recommendations. I make no guarantees.

Now, here's why I liked the movie:
  1. There's nudity. I don't mind nudity in movies, especially if the naked people are rather attractive.
  2. There's sex. Ditto.
  3. It takes place in France, and even though the main character is English and most of the dialog is in English, there's just enough French for me to practice and improve my language skills.
  4. Screw you if you didn't like "The Saddest Music in the World". This is a completely different movie. "Different" meaning "more conventional", but also "extraordinary". Sorry, that didn't make any sense at all.
  5. The ending took me completely by surprise. I totally didn't see that coming.
  6. If you do see this movie and then give the ending away, I make no guarantees that someone won't hunt you down and !!*&*@$$@#!#$% ...........
  7. Nice pool! They must use like plenty of chlorine and stuff.
  8. This is a great date movie. On the surface it has the trappings of a chick flick (the two main characters are women), but there's plenty of stuff for guys to look at --- I mean, for guys to get into ---- I mean .......I'll shut up now.

So, put on your swim suit (or take them off - it's France after all), rent SWIMMING POOL and ....

Sunday, July 09, 2006


From the Archive: 8/23/2004

People are always asking me what is my favorite movie. My standard answer is always, "all the movies on my blog". While that's true, these movies are among my favorites, it's hard to choose one above all the rest. There're are just so many.

BUT ........... if I had to pick, say 10, my top ten favorite movies of all time, this would certainly be one of them. I know that for me that's saying a lot, but then this movie is just that good.

What is it about? Let's see. A teenage brother and sister from the present, find themselves magically transported into a black and white 50's TV sit-com. The brother, by the way, just happens to be a trivia expert of this particular show. Can the two navigate their way through 50's America and get back home to their own time?

Now........ Forget everything I just told you because it's not about that at all. The filmaker sets up the premise and you think it's going to be just a fun phoofy little teenage comedy. It's not.

It's about change. The history of the human race shows us that at the turning points of great social change, there have always been people who have embraced that change and there have always been those people who resist it. History has also shown us that those two group of people are always in conflict. Things have always been "pleasant" in Pleasantville, but only because there has never been any change. The two teenagers are the catalyst of change.

I like films that are clever. There are lots of little details in PLEASANTVILLE that are interesting to watch. For example, note that as more changes take place, the music on the jukebox become more and more eclectic. There is symbolism as well. When people embrace the change, it's literally like painting a blank canvas. Check out the trivia section for this movie at the imdb site for other interesting details. If you want a better review than mine, the link below will take you to Roger Ebert's review.

Rent it and enjoy.

Film critic Roger Ebert's review of Pleasantville.