Movies A thru D

Thursday Night Movie Club
Titles A through D

- saturday, 1/3/98
rented "addicted to love" (matthew broderick, meg ryan) - cute and light, but funny and enjoyable, tangled love quadrangle flick.  good date movie, if i ever get a date.

- friday, 4/22/05
brett ratner's "after the sunset" (pierce brosnan, salma hayek, woody harrelson, and don cheadle).  pierce plays a "retired" jewel thief who can't quite retire, and woody plays the fed who can't quite let him go. I expected a pure caper flick along the lines of "thomas crowne affair", but it was actually much less serious than that, and almost a comedy. quite good.

- wednesday, 11/26/97
"alien ressurection", the fourth alien movie (sigourney weaver, winona ryder, dan hedaya, brad dourif, ron perlman, j.e. freeman, leland orser). a formulaic but quite enjoyable monster-in-space flick with good pacing and sets, suspense, and humor.

- tuesday, 8/1/00
saw sam mendes' "american beauty" (kevin spacey, annette bening, thora birch, mena suvari, scott bakula) on an airplane.  seeing a flick on a plane, i hate to review it with any great seriousness, and this is a picture that obviously deserves a serious review.  given the constraints of the venue, my assessment is that it was primarily about denial.  that is, the way that we deny the true nature of our real life, in favor of what we choose to believe about our life.  each character thought they were one thing, but were really something else, and everyone else could see what they themselves could not.  it also had a touch of hopelessness about it, and wicked, bitter humor.  i could almost see david lynch making a movie like this.  i might be wrong about this entire analysis, but either way, the flick was hilarious, and spacey rules!

- thursday, 5/4/00
mary harron's "american psycho" (christian bale, jared leto, willem dafoe, reese witherspoon), a strange and surreal story of a tortured yuppie who might, or might not, be a serial killer.  certainly he thinks he is.  the movie seemed more interested in how he reacted to thinking he was a murderer than it was in any possible reality, which I considered a fair enough approach.  my personal opinion is that he never killed anyone, it was all in his mind.  but other interpretations are certainly valid as well.  and we got some nice killing and sex scenes on the screen along the way, real or not, plus some nice zings at corporate culture.

- thursday, 4/15/99
harld ramis' "analyze this" (billy crystal, robert deniro, lisa kudrow, joe viterelli, and chazz palminteri) - good fish-out-of-water situations, godfather-type parodies, and some great lines, with a shrink treating a mobster, but nothing too awesome.

- thursday, 10/15/98
"antz", the latest hi-tech computer animated flick (voices of woody allen, sharon stone, sylvester stallone, gene hackman, christopher walken, jennifer lopez, danny glover, anne bancroft, john mahoney, dan aykroyd, jane curtin) which was interesting only for the computer generated animation; the basic movie was just woody allen's typical whining and lame jokes without even the usual eclecticness and oddball characters of a real woody allen movie.

- thursday, 7/2/98
jerry bruckheimer's (P) and michael bay's (D) "armageddon" (bruce willis, billy bob thornton, ben affleck, liv tyler, steve buscemi, peter stormare, will patton, charlton heston as the narrator, and grace zabriskie as "dottie").  very glossy, high-tech, thrill-a-minute roller coaster with not a single scene longer than 6 seconds (trust me, i counted), and many scenes looking like diet coke commercials.  silly plot but exciting if you put your brain on hold.

- thursday, 8/31/00
christian duguay's "the art of war" (wesley snipes, ann archer, michael biehn, donald sutherland, james hong).  plotwise, this was a pretty tedious political action/thriller about united nations secret operatives trying to manipulate international trade agreements, full of the usual plot holes and cliches.  but it was stylishly directed, and it had lots of impressive, pitiless, gratuitous violence that you had to love.  and of course, any movie with james hong is a must see!  (see larry's review.)

- thursday, 8/20/98
"the avengers" (jeremiah chechik; starring ralph fiennes, uma thurman, sean connery, and patrick macnee).  boring, unengaging, and senseless british-spy-madman-special-effects type flick.  seemed to be going for a whimsical note, but never even got close to achieving it.  also, the only film i've ever seen where even the great sean connery is boring!

- thursday, 9/26/02
wych "kaos" kaosayananda's "ballistic: ecks vs. sever" (antonio banderas, lucy liu, miguel sandoval, talisa soto, gregg henry).  really, really bad.  normally, I'm a big fan of movies that blow shit up all over the place.  but this one, for all its firepower, made absolutely no sense at all; characters were inconsistent, motivations unguessable, plot was a mess, and you couldn't even tell who were the good guys or the bad guys, or why!  miguel sandoval, who is normally so good when he uses his accent, was wasted as an american-talking executive.  but it was good to see talisa soto again, just as beautiful as she was in "licence to kill".

- saturday, 3/3/01
from 1987 - barbet schroeder's "barfly" (mickey rourke, faye dunaway, jack "eraserhead" nance, frank stallone) on cable.  interesting blend of a "slice of life" flick with a "what if?" scenario.  if you ever think that you drink too much (i can relate!), watch this flick and feel relieved!  mickey and faye imbibe themselves into stupid happy oblivion.  their only saving grace is that mickey turns out to be a sought-after cult author, but that point is basically moot.  the flick is about how we do what we must, no matter how self destructive, and at the end of the day, we are, after all, what we are, so deal with it.  yowza!!

- thursday, 4/13/06
michael caton-jones's "basic instinct 2" (sharon stone, david morrissey, charlotte rampling, and david thewlis).  I went in to this movie with zero expectations since the reviews were so bad, but I figured there'd be some good sex and violence. there was!  but not only that, but the movie itself was quite good in terms of plot and acting. it's pretty much the same story as the first time: stone is suspected of killing her boyfriend, and thoroughly investigated by a cop (thewlis) and a shrink (morrissey).  she sets her sights on the shrink and basically mind-fucks him.  meanwhile the bodies stack up.  stone tries to convince the shrink that the dirty cop is responsible for all the killings. the cop tries to convince him that she is responsible. meanwhile, he is irresistibly drawn to her sex-pot style.  the movie is set in london, and morrissey plays the shrink as your stereotypical "stiff ass brit" who is fascinated by this dark side of himself.  thewlis pretty much stole the show as the possibly-good, possibly-dirty cop.  if you don't recognize the name, he was in harry potter and the prison of azkaban as the defense against the dark arts professor du jure. he sums up the theme of the entire movie in one line, trying to convince the shrink that stone is evil: "everything that comes out of her fucking mouth is a lie!  even when she tells the truth, it's a lie!!"

- thursday, 7/7/05
christopher nolan's "batman begins" (christian bale, michael caine, liam neeson, katie holmes, gary oldman, cillian murphy, rutger hauer, morgan freeman, and linus roache).  after the flurry of tim burton and joel schumacher batman flicks of the 90s with their constantly escalating goofiness quotients, it seemed like the franchise had gone moribund.  well, after lying fallow for eight years or so, it is back with a totally fresh perspective.  fresh, and wonderfully dark and brooding.  this version, which goes back in time to explain batman's origins, is very good.  good action, good dialogue, good characters, good balance and pacing. also lots of great chicago streetscapes, which I always love, like the drawbridge and the chase on lower wacker (the same place where the blues brothers had their giant cop-car pile-up).  I especially liked the first part, where bruce wayne is getting trained in the fine art of man-hunting, inter-cut with the scenes where he's a kid and is acquiring all of his life-long demons.  also, this is the most "realistic" batman I've ever seen, where they explain all the outlandish stuff (toys and tools and settings) so well that the story almost seems plausible!

- thursday, 11/4/99
"bats" (lou diamond philips, dina meyers, "leon"). pretty lame formula horror flick, but with some clever touches like after they kill "all" the bats, and the obligatory one survivor starts to peek his head out from underground for the sequel, he gets run over and squished, unknowingly, by the heroes' jeep driving off into the sunset!

- thursday, 1/3/02
ron howard's "a beautiful mind" (russell crowe, jennifer connelly, christopher plummer, paul bettany, ed harris, judd hirsch, austin pendleton).  a reasonably serviceable melodrama about a scientist with schizophrenia who rises above the odds to reclaim his life, marred only by the usual ron howard sappiness.  but you have to hand it to russell crowe, who is really amazing.  i think the reason it has taken him so long to become an "overnight sensation" is that he totally immerses himself in each role, and you never realize that he is the same guy you saw deliver all those other great performances in all those other movies!  his own enormous talent works against our realizing that he has turned in great peformance after great performance, since he approaches each one from a fresh and different direction and we never realize his vast range.

- thursday, 1/23/97
mike judge's "beavis and butthead do america" (mike judge, robert stack, englebert humperdink singing "lesbian seagull").  good but not great feature-length version of the cartoon.  the hilarity was somewhat diluted by the length, but still clever and funny.

- thursday, 2/19/04
george armitage's "the big bounce" (owen wilson, sara foster, morgan freeman, charlie sheen, gary sinese, willie nelson, bebe neuwirth, and harry dean stanton).  a lighthearted and bouncy little caper flick, which unfortunately made no sense at all by the time it was over.  but it was cute.  owen wilson, who normally annoys the hell out of me, was actually pleasantly self-deprecating and enjoyable for a change.

- thursday, 4/30/99
a john woo production of a Che-Kirk Wong film "the big hit" (mark wahlberg, lou diamond phillips, avery brooks, christina applegate, lainie kazan, elliot gould) - interesting genre blend of hip-hop, hit men, and screwball comedy that sometimes worked, sometimes not.  of course it was worth seeing just for avery brooks.

- thursday, 3/19/98
the coen brothers' "the big lebowski" (jeff bridges, john goodman, julianne moore, steve buscemi, david huddleston, john turturro, tara reid, ben gazzara, peter storemare, john polito, and sam elliot), a rambling and funny-by-the-minute caper flick that never achieves any momentum or big concepts.

- saturday, 4/23/05
jonathan glazer's "birth" (nicole kidman, lauren bacall, arliss howard, michael desautels, peter stormare, anne heche, and the incomparable ted levine).  this one is not for everyone!  nicole kidman, with a very harsh buzz-cut hairdo, plays a widow who lost her husband ten years ago.  now, on the eve of a new wedding, a creepy ten year old boy comes along and claims to be her first husband, reincarnated. she starts to believe him, and to (eeewww) become attracted to him! several very long, slow, almost static scenes added to the creepiness.  and as the creepiness factor climbed (watch out for the bathtub scene), I was tempted to turn it off, but I had to see how it ended. aside from the cringe-worthiness, it at least ended with a good, interesting explanation.

- thursday, 10/12/06
brian de palma's "the black dahlia" (josh hartnett, scarlet Johansson, aaron eckhart, hilary swank, and mike starr, with brief appearances by k.d. lang, kevin dunn, and rose mcgowan).  I liked it, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to most people.  it was "based on a true story" but only in the roughest outline: an actual unsolved murder. the characters and the resolution of the mystery I assume are completely fictional.  I liked the retro feel of it; it was based in hollywood in the forties, and the look and feel were just right. the scenes, the color of the images, the cheesy dialogue, and the editing were all right out of a bogart noir movie. of course, hartnett is no bogart, so it didn't live up on that score. but it did have the trademark de palma directing style: long unbroken takes, lots of POV shots, and interesting crane shots.  the story was kind of a mess; you have the mystery, you have some other crimes, and you have a love triangle, which all kind of get in each others' way. I can see some people being put off by that. but they do all get tied up neatly at the end.  so, if you want a good moody atmosphere and period details, plus a reasonable amount of sex, this is a good choice. if you want a well-told yarn, this ain't. oh, and if you are a fan of women with bright red nail polish and full pouty lips, this is for you, too!

- thursday, 1/24/02
ridley scott's "black hawk down" (josh hartnett, ewan mcgregor, tom sizemore, william fichtner, sam shepard).  so you think your job sucks?  mean boss, long hours, hard chair, lousy view?  well, go see this flick, darling.  you'll be SINGING AND DANCING on the way to the office the next morning.  brutal, pitiless, unrelenting violence in an in-your-face combat flick.  a mission in somalia in the early 90s goes horribly wrong, and the grunts and jarheads have to fight their way out while trying to rescue their buddies.  grisly violence ensues as you watch men get their legs, fingers, hands, and heads blown off.  like the early battle scenes in "gladiator", ridley scott goes for a confusing POV approach rather than an easy-to-follow documentary approach, giving you empathy for the characters' personal experiences rather than an overview of what's really going on.  and it works quite well.  tom sizemore, as usual, steals the show.  my only slight quibble: a bunch of 20 year old white guys, all with shaved heads and wearing fatigues, are pretty hard to tell apart!

- thursday, 5/20/99
"black mask" (jet li chop socky flick).  very hong-kong in the close-ups, slanted framing, and choppy editing, plus great action, good body count, and some nice grisly scenes.

- thursday, 3/28/02
guillermo del toro's "blade II" (wesley snipes, kris kristofferson, ron perlman, leonor varela). snipes is a half-vampire good guy who excels at martial arts and can go out in the sun.  the regular vampires, his mortal enemies, enlist him to help kill a new breed of super-vampires.  this leads to lots of high-tech comic-book style violence, backstabbing and double crosses, and an abortive love story.  basically, the movie was a lot of fun.  i especially liked the way the vampires explode when exposed to the sun.  if only john carpenter had used this effect.

- friday, 6/17/05
david s. goyer's "blade: trinity" (aka, "blade 3") (wesley snipes, kris kristofferson, jessica biel, ryan reynolds, and parker posey)  yes, that's right, kris is back again, despite dying in both previous "blade" films!  like the first two, this one is short on plot and logic, but long on action, quick cuts, violence, and grim humor.  ryan reynolds, whoever the hell he is, was hilarious, and parker posey also stole the show with her dominatrix-tinged bad girl.  check your brain at the door and rent this one just for fun.

- thursday, 8/5/99
daniel myrick and eduardo sanchez's "the blair witch project" (heather donahue, michael c. williams, joshua leonard), a very creative and innovative and purely distilled horror movie with some good thrills and chills. the pure POV style never wore thin and was a lot of fun, and I especially liked the constant swapping between color and black and white.

- thursday, 11/9/00
joe berlinger's "blair witch 2: book of shadows" (stephen barker turner, tristine skyler, erica leerhsen, kim director, jeffrey donovan).  i think this is a first:  the first sequel ever to treat the original movie as if it WAS a movie, and not just a previous episode.  also, it was a lot of fun; pretty good killings, nice cinematography, and nice creepiness.  it also had five strong characters that i really enjoyed watching; all different, and all realistic.  i liked the original feel to the plot; you never had any idea what was going on or where it was going until the very end, if then.  basically, it involved five teenagers, in the woods and elswhere, who get caught up in some mysterious goings-on, including a blackout period of time that none of them can remember, some mysterious deaths, a scrambled video tape, and several twisted versions of reality.  it had few stylistic similarities to the original, going for a more mainstream third-person perspective.

- saturday, 9/16/00
watched mel brooks' "blazing saddles" (cleavon little, gene wilder, harvey korman, madeline kahn, david huddleston, john hillerman, mel brooks, alex karras, dom deluise, slim pickens, etc.) on video with a bunch of drunken buddies in monroe, wisconsin.  of course, we'd all seen this movie a gazillion times before.  raucous, hilarious, cliché-busting, profound and profane parody of the classic american western, and probably the most politically incorrect flick ever filmed.  I kept commenting to myself how "you could not possibly make this movie today!"  given the crap that Dr. Laura receives for her relatively mild level of politically incorrect rhetoric, this kind of stuff would get you ridden off the PLANET on a rail in today's environment!  but of course it is still hilarious, so THERE!!!

- thursday, 4/12/01
ted demme's "blow" (johnny depp, ray liotta, penelope cruz, pee-wee herman, max perlich).  basically, this movie was pretty boring.  the only interesting part was watching johhny depp and ray liotta doing their best to imitate boston accents.  otherwise, it was a pretty routine and uneventful story of a drug dealer's rags-to-riches-to-rags story with nothing much new to add to the genre.  demme thinks he is martin scorsese, and he's wrong.  lots of good 70s music, though, and lots of bad 70s fashions.  rent "scarface" for a much better take on the same theme

- thursday, 8/29/02
john stockwell's "blue crush" (kate bosworth, matthew davis, michelle rodriquez, sanoe lake).  not much else to see, so we defaulted to this rather wholesome disney-esque story of hawaiian chicks who live to surf.  excellent action photography of the surfing, and lots of hard bodies in bikinis.  what's not to like?  could have used some beach boys music, though.

- october, 1996
"blue velvet", (dir: david lynch; kyle mcclachlan, laura dern, isabella rosallini, dennis hopper, jack nance, brad dourif, dean stockwell, hope lange), rented.  not quite as erie as i remember it being, but still very bizarre.  i had totally forgotten about the resolution of the mystery.
- 8/26/00: watching it again, i'm struck by how david lynch's works are NEVER about the resolution, but mostly about the atmosphere, the conflicts, and the layers and ambiguities.  and, of course, very bizzare and disturbing; you don't want to look, but you can't look away.  see twenty quotes.

- friday, 11/14/97
watched on cable: "bound", written and directed by chicago's very own Wachowski Brothers (gina gershon, jennifer tilly, joe pantoliano).  great, atmospheric, funny, and deliciously lesbianly sexy gangster/caper flick.  great scenes with jennifer and gina! oh my gawd!!

- thursday, 6/27/02
doug liman's "the bourne identity" (matt damon, chris cooper, franka potente, and julia stiles).  this would have been a nice little thriller, if matt damon had any more charisma than a wet bar napkin.  basically, he plays a spy with amnesia, trying to figure out who and what he is while his superiors at the CIA try to bump him off.  good stunts.

- thursday, 5/15/97
"breakdown" (dir: jonathan mostow; kurt russell, j.t. walsh) - great action scenes and suspense, with kurt excellent as a regular guy who has to get tough.  ridiculous opening premise - why would he let his wife go alone with the trucker?  but after that, everything else hangs together.

- thursday, 10/28/99
martin scorsese's "bringing out the dead" (nic cage, tom sizemore, ving rhames, john goodman, patricia arquette). good slice-of-life view of the seamy underbelly of urban life, as seen through the eyes of a depressed paramedic. very well crafted, great camera work and atmosphere, but somehow I never really got caught up in it, didn't feel as swept away as I expected too. maybe my expectations were too high.

- saturday, 2/11/06
terry gilliam's "the brothers grimm" (matt damon, heath ledger, jonathan pryce, peter stormare, lena headey, monica bellucci). this might have been a good movie, as the idea behind it was amusing: a pair of flim-flamm brothers in napoleonic germany make a living by staging supernatural catastrophes, and then "curing" them, for a price. but, terry gilliam (who has made some very good movies in the past, e.g., brazil and twelve monkeys) totally screws it up with incoherent directing, writing, and pacing. it seems like he doesn't give a fuck if the audience can follow the story or not. oh well. maybe someday it will be re-edited into a coherent version that will not suck. in the meantime, only rent it if you are really desperate for entertainment. but, i will give credit where it is due: this is the best performance I've ever seen by matt "mr. sock puppet" damon, who manages to achieve almost 50% of a personality for a change.

- saturday, 10/16/04
don coscarelli's "bubba ho-tep" (bruce campbell, ossie davis, reggie bannister).  definitely for cult film fans only!  bruce plays an old man in a run-down texas rest home, who may or may not be elvis presley.  he and another old geezer (who probably is not JFK but thinks he is) have to track down and destroy an ancient Egyptian mummy turned un-dead soul-eater.  this flick has the trademark coscarelli directing style (long slow tracking shots, tedious cheesy dialogue, painfully slow pacing, extremely low-budget look and feel) made famous in his "phantasm" movies, but also some good strange humor.  NOT for mainstream audiences, trust me on this!

- thursday, 6/29/06
the pixar animation film "cars" (directed by john lasseter and joe ranft; with voice talents by owen wilson, paul newman, bonnie hunt, larry the cable guy, cheech marin, tony shalhoub, paul dooley, george carlin, john ratzenberger, jeremy piven, bob costas, and many others).  it was okay, but not great.  in this movie, all of the characters are cars, and the main plot thread was centered on a self-absorbed and egotistical race car who wanted to be the first rookie to win the "piston cup".  however, on the way to the race, he gets stuck in a small town in the middle of nowhere, and learns the value of relationships and helping others instead of always looking out for himself.  awwww.  it was fun trying to identify the actors by their voices, though, especially as I went in "cold" not knowing who was in it.

- friday, 4/28/06
rented lasse hallstrom's "casanova" (heath ledger, sienna miller, jeremy irons, oliver platt, lena olin, omid "the mummy" djalili, and natalie dormer).  a light-hearted farce about a fictional episode in the life of giacomo casanova, the famous venetian lover.  it makes no attempt to represent real historical facts, but rather invents a farcical plot about how the famous womanizer is finally brought around to faithful love, and lives to tell the tale.  lots of great costumes, real venetian settings, and light-hearted humor.  oliver platt and jeremy irons steal the show as the clueless fat dude and the avenging inquisitor, respectively.

- thursday, 12/14/06
thursday night movie club with lar - we saw martin campbell's "casino royale" (daniel craig, eva green, mads mikkelsen, judi dench, jeffrey wright, giancarlo giannini).  Quite good. Although the plot deviated a bit from the book, the character of James Bond was finally done right: a grim, pissed-off assassin with no humor and no pity, and always on the verge of quiting his job in disgust.  I was a bit disappointed at the way vesper died (not as gritty as in the book) but still, better than expected.

- thursday, 9/1/05
bruce hunt's "the cave" (cole hauser, morris chestnut, lena headey, and piper perabo).  another obvious b-movie with lousy reviews, but I thought it was lots of fun.  good scenery, good explosions, and lots of good kills.  cole hauser (last seen in "paparazzi") is turning into a fine action hero.  basically, scientists discover a huge underground river in romania, and hire a band of "cave divers" to help them set up a base camp for the study of the new and exciting species they are bound to find there.  uh-oh!  this is one of those movies where a large group of people go into a dangerous situation (spelunking, rock climbing, and scuba diving all rolled into one, not to mention man-eating monsters), and you just KNOW they are gonna get bumped off one by one. The fun is to try to guess who will be the next to croak, and who will be the ultimate survivors.

- thursday, 8/24/00
tarsem singh's "the cell" (jennifer lopez, vince vaughn, vincent d'onofrio, james gammon, patrick bauchau).  this should have been a wonderful and compelling flick: it had bizzare, fascinating visuals and imagery, suspensful situations and multiple entwined plots. (basically, a shrink and a cop team up to use virtual reality to enter the mind of a psychopath to save his latest victim.) but somehow it just had no tension, no edge, and i couldn't get caught up in it.  larry put his finger on why that was.  since it was so rooted in virtual reality, anything could happen.  so there were no rules, no internal logic to be obeyed, and therefore no real sense of danger.  everything that happened just seemed arbitrary.  still, nice images and imaginative costumes, makeup, etc.  reminded me more of "altered states" than anything else, but without the danger.  (see larry's review.)

- thursday, 5/2/02
roger michell's "changing lanes" (ben affleck, samuel l. jackson, william hurt, amanda peet, toni collette, sydney pollack).  half drama, half action.  two busy men have a car accident on a new york freeway, which delays them and causes them both copious problems.  they start taking out their frustrations by pimping each other.  the drama involves what is going on in each of their lives, and the action involves how they get even with each other.  good blend of genres, and great acting from all characters.  if you like to hate lawyers, this is a good flick for you.  i really didn't like the upbeat ending, though, and suspect it was tacked on by the studio.

- saturday, 7/30/05
tim burton's "charlie and the chocolate factory" (johnny depp, freddie highmore, david kelly, helena bonham cartar, james fox, deep roy, christopher lee, and geoffrey "un-cola-nut" holder).  very good tim burton type creepiness factor, and very true to the original book, as far as I can remember it from my misspent youth.  all the actors were very good, except for johnny depp, who didn't seem to know what kind of character he wanted to represent wonka as.  I also liked the back-story that they provided for the wonka character.  loved the use of the uncola nut dude as the narrator!  oh yeah, the plot: famous candy-maker willy wonka opens his mysterious factory to five lucky children, most of whom succumb to the evils of childhood (ambition, gluttony, chewing gum, etc.) and lose out on the big prize.

- thursday, 1/30/03
rob marshall's "chicago" (catherine zeta-jones, renee zellweger, richard gere, john c. reilly, queen latifah, christine baranski, and taye diggs).  a new-age musical, with very modern directing and editing styles right out of jerry bruckheimer, with rarely a slow spot.  great songs, great dancing, great funny but cynical story of murderesses in chicago during the jazz age, and how the press and public love them.  not quite as sleazy as bob fosse probably intended it, but he's dead and didn't get a vote this time.  the only glaring flaw is richard gere, who has an even more annoying singing voice than I do, and can't quite pull of the farcical, larger-than-life character.

- thursday, 1/4/07
alfonso cuarón's "children of men" (clive owen, julianne moore, and michael caine).  i have to say, i totally loved this movie. will you love it? well, that i can't say. it was pretty strange, and i could see lots of people not liking it. what i loved about it was the bleak tone, the totally original ideas, and the pitch-perfect direction that kept it interesting as the bizarre plot unfolded.  basically, it is set in the future, about 20 years from now, and the human race has become infertile. no new babies. sounds like paradise to me (nice quiet plane rides, etc.), but in the movie, it has made people despair. the world has fallen to barbarism, since there is nothing to live for.  and then... lo and behold... a woman becomes pregnant! the lead character has to help her get to the "human project", a bunch of scientists who will help spread her new progeny and figure out how to save humanity.  the directing is awesome. for some reason, this story, interesting enough in its own right, becomes so compelling that i was transfixed watching it. very bleak, but very interesting and exciting at the same time. i was completely mesmerized.

- thursday, 1/5/06
andrew adamson's "the chronicles of narnia: the lion, the witch and the wardrobe" (tilda swinton, james mcavoy, jim broadbent, and liam neeson).  sort of a kids version of "Lord of the Rings" with a primarily juvenile tone.  four young siblings find a wardrobe that somehow leads them to a magical land, where they find themselves embroiled in a war between an evil witch and a good lion.  good special effects, but paper-thin characters and motivations.

- thursday, 7/1/04
david twohy's "chronicles of riddick" (vin diesel, colm feore, thandie newton, judi dench, karl urban, alexa davalos, and keith david).  I liked this movie a lot, despite the fact that it was terminally stupid.  as long as you can check your brain at the door, the visuals and sets and costumes were incredible, and the action was acceptably violent.  the overall "look" was like something out of "alien" -- another world that is so different, but so well realized, that it just sucks you in.  but the story, of one lone anti-hero stopping a race of conquerors as they grind through planet after planet, was still completely stupid.  and someone tell me why vin diesel always has to be photographed looking at people back over his shoulder, instead of facing them!

- thursday, 9/19/02
michael caton-jones' "city by the sea" (robert deniro, james franco, frances mcdormand, william forsythe, george dzundza).  pretty good cops-and-dopers flick, with the twist that the doper wanted for another doper's death is deniro's (the cop) son.  straightforward filmmaking, good acting.  might have made a decent "dirty harry" installment.  i'm not spoiling anything by mentioning that dzundza, of course, plays the canonical "cop's partner who gets killed"; is this poor guy typecast or what?

- thursday, 5/1/03
james foley's "confidence" (edward burns, dustin hoffman, rachel weisz, andy garcia, paul giamatti, luis guzman).  if you loved "the sting", you'll like this one.  complex con games, colorful characters, and twists that you sometimes see coming, sometimes don't.

- thursday, 8/14/97
richard donner's "conspiracy theory" (mel gibson, julia roberts, patrick stewart).  pretty good donner-type thriller, with humor and characters thrown in, and nice conspiracy touches.  julia must have taken acting lessons since i last saw her - she didn't bother me as much as usual.

- friday, 2/25/05
francis lawrence's "constantine" (keanu reeves, rachel weisz, tilda swinton, and peter stormare).  keanu reeves plays a chain-smoking, demon-hunting gumshoe type in this demons-vs-angels flick, steeped in catholic mysticism.  lots of great imagery right out of dante's inferno, tons of groovy violence, and many scenes of rachel weisz soaking wet!  what's not to like?  peter stormare plays a great satan, and tilda swinton makes a good duplicitous gabriel.  the story revolves around demon-buster reeves helping weisz prove that her twin sister did not commit suicide, and therefore can be buried in hallowed ground.  naturally, they uncover a bigger game afoot, and have to battle the demons from "the other side" with their fists, guns, and souls.  some viewers might quibble that the story is completely unbelievable, and they'd be right; you need a healthy dose of suspended disbelief to get into it, but I had no problem.  oh yeah, and stay for the credits... you get one final scene after they finish rolling.

- thursday, 4/1/04
wayne kramer's "the cooler" (william h. macy, maria bello, alec baldwin, paul sorvino, ron livingston, and estella warren).  this was a surprisingly good little picture, and seems to be the story that macy was borne to play.  the story of a loser who's luck is so bad that he is hired by a casino to cool off other people's winning streaks.  he makes a decent if depressing living this way, until he falls in love and everything changes!  the story proceeds from there through a variety of interesting twists and turns, some more believable than others.  there is also a fascinating blend of tones; sometimes lighthearted and whimsical, and at other times grim and menacing.  but that contrast just emphasizes the feelings of each extreme, and somehow it works.  oh, and it's all pretty darned funny much of the time, too!

- thursday, 10/23/97
james mangold's "cop land" (Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Rapaport, Anabella Sciorra, Cathy Moriarity).  pretty good drama about corrupt cops and semi-corrupt cops trying to be non-corrupt, with lots of great acting and interesting concepts.

- thursday, 9/29/05
tim burton and mike johnson's "corpse bride" (johnny depp, helena bonham carter, emily watson, tracey ullman, paul whitehouse, joanna lumley, albert finney, richard e. grant, christopher lee, michael gough, deep roy, danny elfman).  this movie was much like "nightmare before christmas" (which I loved) in style and tone: silly, sweet, and macabre all at the same time, with characters that are at once totally alien yet totally sympathetic.  all the voice talents were wonderful, and mostly were transparent in the sense that you didn't think about the actor behind them.  the only exception was christopher lee, who I couldn't possibly NOT think of as christopher lee.  I don't know if that is an insult to his effectiveness, or a tribute to his presence!  either way, I liked it.  the plot, not that it really matters: a nervous bridegroom accidentally finds himself married to a dead woman (I know, it doesn't make sense; just accept it and move on) and then must reconcile his predicament.  he's in love with his true fiancé, yet committed to the corpse bride.  what to do?  great danny elfman music, and great little detail touches, like the brand plate on the piano (it was a "harryhausen") that show you how lovingly the filmmakers take their craft.  and the way that the scenes in the land of the dead were colorful and vibrant, while the scenes in the living areas were dreary and monochromatic.  also great visual jokes, like the "jaw dropping" scene near the end.  if you see it, you'll know what I mean!

- thursday, 3/18/99
james foley's "the corruptor" (mark wahlberg, chow yun-fat).  basically a john woo rip-off, a hong-kong style cops and drug dealers flick in NYC chinatown.  lots of violence, some good, and an intricate plot that didn't quite hang together.

- thursday, 9/14/06
mark neveldine and brian taylor's "crank", (jason ("the transporter") statham, amy smart, and dwight yoakam). this movie was great! violent, non-stop action, and funny as hell. it was sort of a cross between "DOA" and "speed" with some humor from "snatch" tossed into the mix.  basically, a hitman in LA wakes up to find that he has been poisoned. the poison will kill him, but will be kept at bay as long as his body is pumping with adrenaline. so, he has to keep himself at a fever pitch while he tracks down his killers and deals out his revenge, before dropping dead. what a great concept for an action movie!  I expected (and got) non-stop action and over the top violence. but I wasn't prepared for the hilarious comedy that came along with it. statham is an incredible action hero (he did most of his own stunts), but is also extremely adept at black humor, showing both the desperation and hilarity of a man who has no shame and no qualms at doing whatever it takes to stay alive long enough to bump off his killers.  if you like that sort of thing, this one is a must-see.

- friday, 5/9/97
dave cronenberg's "crash" (james spader, elias koteas, some chick who was great who played spader's wife, holly hunter, rosanne arquette) - very creepy and affecting, makes-you-squirm kind of movie about people who become sexually turned on by car crashes.  great acting and directing and eirie music and overall feel.  it had a very david lynch kind of feel - you're glad you saw it, but wouldn't recommend it to normal people, and hate being asked if it was "good" - because it transcends good or bad through its sheer strangeness!

- friday, 9/23/05
rented with Hazel - paul haggis's "crash" (matt dillon, brendan fraser, sandra bullock, don cheadle, thandie newton, ryan phillippe, ludacris, keith david, hold me closer tony danza, and star trek's own marina sirtis).  I think that this was just about the most FUCKED UP movie I've ever seen! It was very well written, acted, directed, and edited. but it was still totally FUCKED UP!!!  basically, it was about a wide ranging variety of folks living in los angeles, ALL of whom suffer from major racist/bigot/prejudice issues. no matter how normal they seem in their first screen shot, they turn into a fucking bigot before the camera has to load the second reel of film.  nobody was spared. there were white bigots, black bigots, mulatto bigots, chinaman bigots, hispanic bigots, middle eastern bigots, etc.  you want'em, we got'em. reality?  screw it!  what the hell is that all about?  if the movie's point is to tell us that WE ARE ALL racists, well, then I say SCREW YOU, no we aren't.  bottom line: I don't know WHAT the hell they were trying to say, but I hate to think that a movie so well written and directed and acted would have such a stupid premise.  I'm still pissed off.

- thursday, 1/4/01
ang lee's "crouching tiger, hidden dragon" (chow yun-fat, michelle yeoh).  well, i'm sorry.  i know that everybody seems to love this flick, but i have to call 'em like i see 'em.  this movie is just plan SILLY.  i mean, it's a fairly straightforward, slightly pretentious, masterpiece-theatre type story of mysticism and friendship and a stolen sword in medieval china.  that alone, i could forgive.  but when the "action" scenes pop up, that's when things fall apart.  the protaganists flip and fly through the air like freaking PETER PAN on a wire!  the end credits make a big deal about the "wire removal" efforts.  well, you might wipe them off the screen, but if the actions are so obviously yanked back and forth on strings, the mind just puts the wires right back in there, and to hilarious effect.  in the theater where i saw this film, the audience was howling with laughter whenever the "mystical" action scenes kicked in!  oh my god, it was like a marx brothers movie.  just rent a jackie chan film, or even "the matrix" and see this kind of stuff done properly.  ang, old buddy, you have to match the moods.  if the dialogue is dramatic and pretentious, but the action is slapstick and hilarious, the end result is just confusing, unsatisfying, and annoying.

- sunday, 7/31/05
rented wes craven's "cursed" (written by kevin williamson) (christina ricci, jesse eisenberg, milo ventimiglia, and joshua jackson).  I'm not sure if this was meant to be a parody or not, but it was a relatively tongue-in-cheek modern retelling of a standard werewolf story, as a brother and sister stumble on a major wolf problem in modern-day hollywood.  good wes craven style humorous horror, and good kevin williamson style hip, pop-culture referencing dialogue.  don't take it too seriously!

- thursday, 3/5/98
alex proyas' "dark city" (rufus sewell, jennifer connelly, richard o'brien, kiefer sutherland, william hurt) - very atmospheric and creative science noir, great comic-book feel, excellent effects, interesting and engaging plot, but no real staying power.

- thursday, 8/4/05
salles' "dark water" (jennifer connelly, john c. reilly, tim roth, dougray scott, pete postlethwaite, and camryn manheim).  boring, boring, boring!  I must have looked at my watch a dozen times, hoping it was almost over.  good cast (reilly was hilarious as the landlord; postlethwaite and roth were excellent as well), but they are all totally wasted in a cliché-ridden nothing of a story.  a divorced mother and her daughter move into a creepy apartment only to find - surprise! - it is haunted!  and the ghost manifests itself as a dripping leak of water from the ceiling.  oh dear.  I swear, this is the last time I make the mistake of seeing a remake of a Japanese horror flick.  "the ring" was good, but "the ring 2" sucked, as did "the grudge" and now this piece of crap.  from now on, I stick to good old american horror product!

- friday, 6/23/06
rented: aaron seltzer's "date movie" (alyson hannigan, adam campbell, eddie griffin, fred willard).  silly, "airplane"-style spoof of date movies.  might have been funny if I'd actually seen any of the movies it was spoofing!

- saturday, 5/20/06
ron howard's "the da vinci code" (tom hanks, audrey tautou, ian mckellen, jean reno, paul bettany, alfred molina, and jurgen prochnow).  a "symbologist" searches for clues to a murder, and to the location (and nature) of the "holy grail", along with a young cryptologist, and an old grail enthusiast.  murder and cover-ups muddy the trail.  lots of ancient artwork and architecture, but also a lot of talking!  apparently a lot of exposition was necessary to translate the book into a film.  as far as the grail theory and the history presented, it has all been published before, by the likes of graham hancock, michael baigent, etc.  I was impressed that ron howard was able to avoid most of his accustomed sappiness this time around, and tom hanks was able to play a character without a hint of silliness in him.  jean reno breaks no new ground, though, playing "the cop" for about the billionth time!

- thursday, 4/15/04
zack snyder's "dawn of the dead" (ving rhames, sarah polley, jake weber, mekhi phifer, ty burrell, matt frewer).  very slick, well directed and well produced zombie flick.  ostensibly, a remake of the george romero classic from 1978, but without the social satire of the original.  still, it had lots of good grisly zombie violence, sick humor, and heads being blown clean off  - what's not to like?  as in the original, they never explain what is causing the majority of humans to turn into flesh-eating undead zombies, but focus on the survivors' attempts at continuing to survive while cooped up in a shopping mall, futile though it may be.  classic line: "is everyone there dead?"  "well, dead-ish."  some of the characters were well developed and believable, others were cardboard cutouts.  but, it's always great to see matt frewer, even in a bit part.  oh yeah - and stay for the credits, dammit!

- thursday, 6/3/04
roland emmerich's "the day after tomorrow" (dennis quaid, jake gyllenhaal, emmy rossum, jay o. sanders, sela ward, ian holm).  not quite up there, quality-wise, with "independence day", but still in the same emmerich tradition: big awesome special effects, global cataclysms, and small bands of gritty but photogenic survivors doing their best to hang on against all odds.  basically, global warming leads to a new ice-age (if that makes any sense) and the world is, in a word, hosed.  the plot has major holes that you could pick apart if you felt like it, but why bother?  go along for the ride and it's fun.

- saturday, 9/13/03
rented at home, kenneth branagh's "dead again" (kenneth branagh, emma thompson, derek jacobi, andy garcia, wayne "newman!" knight, campbell scott, and robin williams) from 1991.  a woman with amnesia shows up on the steps of an orphanage.  the nuns call a former resident of the orphanage, now a private eye, to try to figure out who she is and where she came from.  eventually, a hypnotist is consulted and past lives -- and past murders! -- soon figure into the convoluted equation.  film noir conventions, parallel stories 40 years apart, and black-and-white and color story lines blend seamlessly.  I saw this movie when it first came out, and liked it quite a bit.  now, a dozen years later, I liked it even more!  it has some over-the-top scenes and concepts, but it follows its own rules with a passion, and throws in enough twists and turns to keep you smiling to yourself, both at the ones you saw coming and the ones you missed.  and when you see it a second time, you pick up on all sorts of subtleties (like mike church constantly protesting "I'm not roman!").  good fun!

- saturday, 3/22/97
cable movie at home alone - tim robbins' "dead man walking" (susan sarandon, sean penn, robert prosky) - ineffective attempt at making you feel ambiguous.  since the sean penn character so richly deserved to die, all attempts to make me feel bad for him failed.

- thursday, 3/31/05
angela robinson's "D.E.B.S." (sara foster, jordana brewster, holland taylor, and michael clarke duncan).  a really stupid movie that could probably have been called "teenage bimbo lesbian spy school".  think "get smart" meets naughty school girl night.  actually, that would have been better!  this was just plain dumb. great soundtrack, though.

- thursday, 9/2/99
renny harlin's "deep blue sea" (saffron burrows, samuel l. jackson, thomas jane, stellan skarsgard, LL cool J, aida (yet another) turturro), a high-tech and very effective thriller, sort of a 90s updating of jaws.  lots of good surprises and twists. nice double meaning in the title, too.

- saturday, 1/1/05  
irwin winkler's "de-lovely" (kevin kline, ashley judd, jonathon pryce, elvis costello, alanis morissette, sheryl crow, diana krall, natalie cole, others) a loving, but unflinching, look at the life and times of genius composer cole porter.  basically a bio-pic, this movie celebrates cole porter's joi de vivre, but also explores his diverse and sometimes perverse sexual tastes; and his love for his wife linda vs. his craving for gay sex with men.  the overall tone of the movie is very sad, chronicling his declining health issues and relationship problems.  but then, ANYONE's life can be made to look sad if you take the saddest two hours out of an entire lifetime. the movie features many great performances by modern artists (elvis costello, diana drall, etc.) who totally understand the motivation behind porter's music. there are perhaps a few TOO many performances by kline himself (not the world's greatest singer), but then, it IS a movie about porter, not his vocalists.  overall, being a HUGE cole porter fan myself, I loved this movie.

- thursday, 10/26/06
martin scorsese's "the departed" (matt damon, leonardo dicaprio, jack nicholson, mark wahlberg, martin sheen, alec baldwin, and anthony anderson).  quite good. I loved the intricate plot; complex and multi-layered, but still easy to follow because it was like a pattern, almost like one of those computer-generated fractal designs, where each part depends on the other parts and bends back on itself.  basically, two recent police academy graduates are sent deep, deep, deep undercover in the underworld of organized crime in boston, and find themselves clashing without even knowing each other are there.  the acting was very good all around, with one glaring exception. matt damon continues to exhibit all of the presence and charisma of a coat rack. in this role, as the arrow-straight cop, it wasn't too bad of a liability, but it would have been nice if his performance could have had some of the subtle menace that his character was written with.  dicaprio is always one of my favorites, and he just gets better and better. nicholson, to my relief, DID create a new and believable character, and was quite good. baldwin was good too. but the best performance in the entire picture, I thought, was by mark wahlberg. you never knew if his character was a psycho, or pretending to be one just to get results. well, you never knew until the end, that is.  and of course there was lots and lots of blood and violence, joyously so.  overall, a very good movie, way up there with scorsese's other crime classics.

- thursday, 8/24/06
neil marshall's "the descent" (shauna macdonald, natalie mendoza, alex reid, saskia mulder, myanna buring, nora-jane noone) (no, I've never heard of any of them either).  a horror flick about six chicks who are thrill seekers, some more than others, and they decide to go caving in north carolina, despite the fact that they are all british. a cave-in traps them down there, which is bad enough. but then they learn that .... they are not alone! blind creeping monsters, who look a lot like gollum but are somewhat less cuddly, live in the cave, and just love eating tasty young brit chicks (and not in a good way). yumm!!  there is also a sub-plot that gets pretty much abandoned after the first hour: one chick suffers a personal tragedy a year before the caving trip, and this is her first time trying to get back to normal life. there were also some pretty strong hints that another of the chicks is screwing her husband, but that is never really explored or explicitly stated.
          is it any good?  well, you won't be missing anything if you take a pass. but if you like horror, you'll have a decent but forgettable time. that's about the strongest endorsement I can muster.

- monday, 9/15/03
robert rodriguez's "desperado" from 1995 (antonio banderas, salma hayek, cheech marin, steve buscemi, quentin tarantino, and joaquim de almeida).  rented in anticipation of seeing the new sequel, "once upon a time in mexico".  this flick was much more slapstick than I expected.  kind of a cross between a sergio leone spaghetti western and sam raimi's "the quick and the dead", with lots of over-the-top violence and physical humor, plus interesting camera work and a nice touch of sentimentalism.  basically, a musician-turned-revenge-seeking-hitman is out to wreak vengeance on the drug lord who is responsible for the death of his woman.  it both sends up, and pays homage to, all the genre clichés at the same time.  good low-brow fun.  and salma, what a drop-dead beauty!

- friday, 11/21/97
taylor hackford's "the devil's advocate" (al pacino, keanu reeves, charlize theron, delroy lindo, craig t. nelson, jeffrey jones).  pretty decent drama with supernatural overtones, great acting, some nice breasts, and almost a crappy ending but they pulled it out.

- saturday, 11/23/02
lee tamahori's "die another day" (pierce brosnan, halle berry, toby stephens, rosamund pike, samantha bond, john cleese, judy dench, michael madsen ).  bond movies always seem awesome to me when they first come out, then years later, look pretty stupid.  this one seemed quite good from many perspectives:  lots and lots of chases, explosions, and hand to hand combat.  plenty of sex for a change, and bond even smokes a cigar!  and not too much of the stupid, goofy, too-funny stuff that marred the roger moore years, and beyond.  I liked the fact that bond was held captive for 14 months; they seemed to be trying to take away his "superstud" status and making him more of a grizzled, no-nonsense killer.  cleese moves seamlessly into desmond llewelyn's old role (Q).  the plot started out pretty creative, but ended up with the usual world-domination-bent megalomaniac.  it was pretty complex, though, and took two viewings before I felt comfortable that I'd followed all the details.  michael madsen was completely wasted in his trivial role ("mr. blonde vs. mr. bond").  I just hope the whole thing doesn't look stupid years from now.

- thursday, 10/20/05
tony scott's "domino" (keira knightley, mickey rourke, edgar ramirez, delroy lindo, dabney coleman, lucy liu, jacqueline bisset, christopher walken, mena suvari, jerry springer, and tom waits).  tony scott has reached an all-time crescendo in his quest for never-ending camera motion.  the scenes are never static, but continuously moving, jumping, and jiggling.  if you have a weak stomach, it could drive you crazy.  I kind of liked it, but wouldn't have minded if he'd settled down after a bit.  anyway, keira plays domino, the real-life daughter of lawrence harvey, who grew up to became a bounty hunter in los angeles.  the story centers on one particular caper she and her partners are involved in, intercut with how she came to be who she is.  lots of good performances (mickey, lucy, jacqueline), a fairly complex plot with double- and triple-crosses, lots of good violence, and a little bit of pretentious mysticism.  overall, a fun time for those who are into that sort of stuff.  and who don't get motion-sick easily.  oh yeah: great to see dabney coleman in a serious role!

- saturday, 12/27/97
rented at home alone, "donnie brasco" (directed by mike newell; with al pacino, johnny depp, michael madsen, bruno kirby, anne heche), a disappointingly blase gangster flick with good atmosphere but not much in the way of plotting, pacing, or resolutions.

- thursday, 9/30/99
bruce beresford's "double jeopardy" (ashley judd, tommy lee jones, bruce geenwood, annabeth gish).  kind of a "fugitive lite" with tommy lee chasing the framed judd all over the US.  you had to check your brain at the door to ignore the plot holes, and the way the heroine switched randomly between genius and extreme stupidity, but other than that it was kinda fun.  beautiful shots of sailing and water and mountains at the beginning, too.

- thursday, 12/28/00
patrick lussier's "dracula 2000" (christopher plummer, jonny lee miller, justine waddell, gerard butler, jennifer esposito, omar epps, jeri "seven of nine" ryan).  i don't care what the critics say, this movie was a lot of fun!  basically a sequel to the original novel, with van helsing and dracula still alive in modern times, and VH trying to find out where dracula really came from and how to really kill him once and for all.  good sexy violence, good effects, good use of new orleans locations, and lots of cute lady vampires!  also a bunch of great in-jokes that most people probably didn't get.

- thursday, 5/3/01
renny harlin's "driven" (sylvester stallone, kip pardue, burt reynolds, estella warren, gina gershon).  basically, this flick was lotsa fun if you can suspend your disbelief at the goofy parts.  plot is very rocky/star-wars: stallone plays yoda to a young, undisciplined auto racer and helps him overcome his demons to rule the world.  the special effects during the car chase and crash scenes were awesome; i actually ducked a few times! (a special mention goes to the raindrops-on-the-windshield effect).  the chase scene through chicago's loop, while ludicrous, was very exciting and worth the price of admission.  so was gina gershon's total bitch on wheels.  coupla other notes:  this was the second pairing of stallone as writer/star and harlin as director (first was "cliffhanger" and if you liked that flick, you'll like this one); other note:  if you ever wanted an opportunity for "product placement" during a major motion picture, you can't beat pro racers and their cars and jumpsuites; this movie probably made a profit before it was released!

Is it Thursday night yet?
Movies A thru D