Thursday Night Movie Club
Titles H through J

- thursday, 8/27/98
"halloween: H20" (directed by steve miner; starring jamie lee curtis, adam arkin, josh hartnett, michelle williams, janet leigh, and l.l. cool j.).  fairly stupid, fairly routine slasher flick, with few worthwhile kills, and jamie lee being as sexually unappealing as she's ever been.

- thursday, 1/19/06
mike newell's "harry potter and the goblet of fire" (daniel radcliffe, emma watson, rupert grint, jason isaacs, robbie coltrane, michael gambon, maggie smith, alan rickman, miranda richardson, gary oldman, ralph fiennes, and the great brendan gleeson).  I'm gradually getting into the harry potter flicks.  I only saw the first three on DVD, and those only very recently.  this is the first one I've seen in the theater.  I didn't care for the first two, they were way to juvenile for my taste.  but the third one was very good, and also quite dark.  this one was just as dark, and even better.  great effects, great acting, great intricate plot, and wonderful at creating a world that you get sucked into.  the plot?  basically, a continuation of the "uber-plot" of all the movies, but this one mostly involves a high-stakes competition (the Tri-Wizard Cup or something like that) and an attempt by a banished evil overlord to come back to life.  sounds silly, but it works.

- thursday, 7/29/99
jan de bont's "the haunting" (lili taylor, catherine zeta-jones, liam neeson, viginia madsen, and bruce dern).  pretty good horror flick with subtle but impressive special effects and not nearly enough lesbian action from zeta-jones.

- saturday, 2/10/96
michael mann's "heat" (al pacino, robert deniro, val kilmer, tom sizemore, ted levine, jon voigt, henry rollins, amy breneman, ashley judd), a loooong cops and criminals flick; fairly tedious first half, but very exciting second half.  both halves good and violent.

- saturday, 5/24/97
alone, VCRed from tv - "heathers" (winona ryder, christian slater (thinking he is jack nickolson), shannen dougherty, glen shadix) - enjoyable, cult-ish, stylish black humor about social stratification and teen suicide in a high school.  i've heard it is "uneven" and flawed, but i found it very smooth, well made, and consistently toned (ain't i something?)

- thursday, 3/11/04
joe johnston's "hidalgo" (viggo mortensen, j.k. simmons, omar sharif, louise lombard, elizabeth berridge, and an uncredited malcolm mcdowell).  a good old-fashioned hollywood feel-good movie, by gum!  down-on-his luck turn of the century (last century, that is) cowby goes to arabia to enter his mixed-breed horse, hidalgo, in an ancient race across 3000 miles of desert, against the noble and proud lineage local stallions.  viggo's character, a half-breed himself, has much to prove.  and of course he does.  great scenery, stirring emotions, and shallow yet satisfying action adventure leaves you feeling good.  a touch of "the mummy", a tad of "raiders of the lost ark", and an iota of "rocky" all combine for good old-fashioned feel-good fun.  and great reaction shots by the horse!

- thursday, 2/17/05
john polson's "hide and seek" (robert de niro, dakota fanning, famke janssen, elisabeth shue, amy irving, and dylan baker).  a little girl is freaked out by her mother's suicide, and her psychologist dad takes her to the country to try to cure her.  but she just keeps getting worse, and suddenly has an "imaginary friend" who is causing all manner of mayhem.  this is mostly just a routine type of thriller, but I liked the way you are never sure, until the end, if it is going turn out to be a "supernatural" type thriller with a demon or ghost or something like that, or a "psychological" thriller with some real, flesh-and-blood person doing the mischief.  but by the end, you want to kick yourself for not seeing the resolution coming.  at least, that's how I felt. overall, worth a look, but not a classic.

- thursday, 9/7/00
douglas aarniokoski's "highlander: endgame" (christopher lambert, adrian paul, bruce payne, lisa barbuscia), an interesting and enjoyable tapestry of a movie.  basically, it was the continuing scottish-kung-fu adventures of connor macleod and duncan macleod (i kept expecting gavin macleod to show up but he never did), interlaced with many flashbacks of past times and places, which gave the story depth and dimension.  without having seen the other movies or the TV show, i had to sort of figure out what was going on, but the movie gave me plenty of data to do it.  and that was part of the fun, gradually unfolding the puzzle of the immortals and what everything meant.  also, there was lots of interesting, varied scenery, neon-lit cityscapes, windswept scottish coasts, and interesting music-video like episodes to add atmosphere.  plus, christopher lambert's world-class cold stare, and deliciously evil overacting by the villain!!  bottom line, now i'm interested in seeing the earlier episodes.
(for larry's review click here.)

- saturday, 5/26/01
taped off cable, brian g. hutton's "high road to china" (tom selleck, bess armstrong, jack weston, brian blessed, robert morley, wilford brimley).  this flick is a classic example of good old fashioned chemistry.  lost-generation flapper hires boozy WW-I flying ace to help find her father, lost somewhere in china, to avoid losing her inheritance.  you just know that they will eventually get together, and plenty of facial expressions and body language promise an ending that eventually delivers.  some great scenery and flying scenes, and burly he-manning from brian blessed, keep you in stitches.  if this had been filmed in black and white in the 40s, it would have been up there with casablance, et al.   lots of low-expectation fun.

- thursday, 10/6/05
david cronenberg's "a history of violence" (viggo mortensen, maria bello, ed harris, william hurt, peter macneill).  a mild-mannered family man and diner owner in the heart of indiana rises to the occasion and kills a couple of thugs trying to terrorize his diner.  this makes him a reluctant hero and celebrity.  he suddenly attracts the attention of some philadelphia mobsters who think he is a long-lost wise-guy.  he of course denies it.  but his wife begins to wonder, as do we, the audience!  several exciting and extremely violent passages (he is QUITE the killing machine), several intensely emotional scenes, lots of thought-provoking ideas, and, unfortunately, lots of dull and tedious connective tissue in between them all.  viggo and hurt give wonderfully subtle and nuanced performances, and bello is good (and quite carnal) as the wife.  this movie earns its R rating, with both violence and some saucy sex scenes.  I kinda figure that cronenberg said to himself "the violence is gonna get us an R, so we might as well throw in some smut!"  SPOILER:  I especially liked how viggo totally changed his walk, his talk, and his face as he switched between "tom" the hoosier diner-dude and "joey" the philly wise-guy.  brilliant!

- thursday, 1/25/07
dave meyers's "the hitcher" (sean bean, sophia bush, and zachary knighton). this movie was both good and bad at the same time.  it was good in the sense that it was very edgy, exciting, and kept me on the edge of my seat. my heart was pounding like a jack hammer. i guess you can't ask for much more than that out of a thriller. and sean "boromir" bean is always good.  it was bad in that the main characters, a college-age boyfriend and girlfriend, were so fucking stupid that it lost credibility. i found myself yelling at the screen, "don't be so stupid!!! what are you, an idiot??"  other than that, it was pretty good. basic plot: the college-age couple are driving across new mexico, and pick up a hitch-hiker (sean bean) who turns out to be a psycho. they ditch him, but he won't let them go, and tracks them all over the state, creating mayhem and death. his ability to kill innocent bystanders, cops, and helicopters is beyond belief.

- thursday, 8/10/00
paul verhoeven's "hollow man" (kevin bacon, elisabeth shue, josh brolin, william devane).  great entertaining flick, equal parts special effects, suspense, action, and sex (the perfect blend!).  the effects were extremely interesting and new, if not particularly logical, and the title tells so much more than if they had just called it "the invisible man" (i.e., the hollowness of his soul as well as the invisibility of his body).  interesting contrast with john carpenter's "the invisible man" (also good) starring chevy chase, which i saw several days later on cable, but almost completely opposite from a philosophical viewpoint!  (see larry's review.)

- thursday, 1/8/04
vadim perelman's "house of sand and fog" (ben kingsley, jennifer connelly, and ron eldard).  trust me, I didn't set out to see this movie.  I had planned to see john woo's "paycheck", but the newspapers and the theater had a disagreement about showtimes, and I ended up seeing this weepy melodrama rather than nothing at all.  it was very well made; well acted, well written, well directed.  and they did a very good job of presenting two different parties (a struggling alcoholic chick and a proud but down-on-his luck Persian immigrant) who both wanted the same house, and both had approximately equal claims to it, without you feeling that anyone was obviously in the wrong.  that left you free to watch the conflict unfold and feel BOTH of their pain.  if you like personality-driven melodramas, this is a good one to watch, but one caveat: the ending is very, very depressing!  and there is a cringe-worthy scene of a bare foot stepping on three (count 'em, three!) nails that really bugged me!  Yowzaa!!! (okay, I guess that's two caveats).   and oh, by the way, jennifer connelly STILL has those damned bugs bunny teeth!

- thursday, 6/26/03
ang lee's "hulk" (nick nolte, sam elliott, eric bana, jennifer connelly, and lou ferrigno very briefly).  this was really three movies in one.  there were the cg-violence scenes where the hulk was smashing shit up; these were pretty good.  there were the scenery-chewing over-acting scenes with nick nolte (as the deranged scientist) and sam elliot (as the monomaniacal general); these were also pretty good.  but then there were the tedious weepy scenes with eric bana and jennifer connelly; these were way too long and way too boring, and pretty much killed the fun in the other two types of scenes!  the most interesting feature of this flick was the way that they utilized split-screen techniques to make the screen take on the design aspects of a comic book page.  that was pretty cool.

- thursday, 3/27/03
william friedkin's "the hunted" (tommy lee jones, benicio del toro, connie nielsen, ron canada).  a totally unnecessary movie, basically a "rambo" clone.  trained military killer goes on a rampage, and his aging trainer is called in to track him down.  poor tommy lee has yet another role where all he has to do is chase somebody! (shades of the fugitive, double jeopardy, US marshals, etc.).  the only trace of originality in this flick is jones' decision to play the aged teacher as sort of a dork, more at home in the wilderness with the animals than in the company of humans, which was kind of amusing.

- friday, 11/25/05
harold ramis's "the ice harvest" (john cusack, billy bob thornton, connie nielsen, mike starr, oliver platt, and randy quaid) .  I consider myself a fan of film noir, so I probably should disdain this flick as just a cheap ripoff of many better offerings.  but I didn't; I liked it!  certainly anyone who does not possess a knowledge of film noir history would probably find it hilarious and innovative.  I did NOT find it innovative, but rather very derivative of a zillion other films.  still, it was good, fun, and enjoyable.  some gritty crime drama, some good humor, some gross stuff, and some fun stuff.  all I can say for sure is that I enjoyed it.  the plot: a lawyer for the mob attempts to abscond with some dough, and runs into all manner of grisly and funny obstacles.  oliver platt stole the show as the drunken buddy, living cusack's former life and showing him that he isn't missing anything.

- thursday, 5/8/03
jame's mangold's "identity" (john cusack, ray liotta, amanda peet, john hawkes, alfred molina, clea duvall, john c. mcginley, jake busey, rebecca de mornay).  agatha christie meets the twilight zone.  eleven characters are stranded at a creepy motel and they start getting bumped off, one by one.  but it's much more than just a remake of "ten little indians" as psychological and even existential issues come into play.  very well done.

- thursday, 1/17/02
gary fleder's "the imposter" (gary sinise, mac sinise, madeleine stowe, vincent d'onofrio, tony shalhoub, mekhi phifer, lindsay crouse).  "the imposter" was a great elvis costello song, but a lousy movie.  i expected much better from the director of "things to do in denver when you're dead".  a pretty pointless sci-fi thriller, basically just a long, muddily-shot chase scene with some pretty ordinary special effects and myriad plot holes.  snooz-o-rama.

- thursday, 11/11/04
brad bird's "the incredibles" (craig t. nelson, holly hunter, samuel l. jackson, wallace shawn, and of course john ratzenberger).  another very good, fun, rousing, and impressively animated movie from pixar.  a family of superheroes, forced into retirement by too many lawsuits, find themselves back in action after years of dormancy.  the characters were good and believable, the performances subtle and interesting, the jokes hilarious, and the visuals sumptuous.  I especially liked the way each family member's super power reflected their position in the family (strong silent dad, ultra-flexible mom, angst-ridden teen daughter putting up force-fields, etc.).  a bit slow in the middle, but then it gets rollicking again.

- wednesday, 7/3/96
roland emerich's "independence day" (will smith, jeff goldblum, judd hirsch, bill pullman, margaret colin, robert loggia, randy quaid, adam not-a-brother baldwin, brent spiner), a great, epic, ensemble, action-packed, special-effect, touching and funny, innovative opus that was delightfully fresh and unpredictable.  but i seem to be the only person who thinks so!!

- thursday, 1/21/99
neil jordan's "in dreams" (annette bening, robert downey junior, stephen rea, aidan quinn); a surreal and visually elegant mystic fairy tale of murder and madness; actually pretty boring in a story sense, but beautiful enough to look at that I enjoyed it.

- thursday, 11/11/99
michael mann's "the insider" (al pacino, russell crowe, christopher plummer, diane venora, philip baker hall, gina gershon (too briefly), lindsy crouse).  extremely well made, taut, stylish thriller about people who are trapped by circumstances. it was so good, I didn't even mind the anti-tobacco undercurrents, which were pretty mild.  about the only movie I can think of where nobody smokes!  kinda long, but you could still see some rough cuts from where it probably used to be longer.

- thursday, 4/28/05
sydney pollack's "the interpreter" (nicole kidman, sean penn, catherine keener, and earl cameron).  when a movie is crafted by a highly professional journeyman director like sydney pollack, you just KNOW it will be well made.  and it was.  good pacing, good plotting, and seemless (if uninspired) directing.  syd, I'll always watch your flicks.  beyond the directing, it was a decent, straightforward drama, with good performances, good pacing, and good plotting in the finest Hollywood tradition.  basically, nicole plays an interpreter at the UN who overhears a conversation about an upcoming assassination, and Spicolli, er, ah, sean penn, plays the Fed who has to follow up, even though he's not sure he believes her story, or her motives.  the flick is nothing new, revolutionary, or daring, but it is mighty fine entertainment.

- thursday, 7/22/04
alex proyas' "i, robot" (will smith, bridget moynahan, alan tudyk, james cromwell, and bruce greenwood).  a very good flick.  this was one of those combo-platter deals: it worked as a summer action/adventure/special-effects extravaganza of the type that will smith makes all the time, and it also worked as a fairly thoughtful and thought-provoking science fiction yarn.  the basic theme (the unexpected consequences of the famous "three laws") is one that Asimov used constantly, so I suspect that the good doctor would have approved, even though the plot itself was totally new, centering on a robot-hating police detective investigating the suicide (or was it?) of a robotics scientist, while the robots themselves are hatching their own devious plans.  I liked the way they set the movie in Chicago, home of the real-life company US Robotics, which took its name from Asimov's fictional robot manufacturer!  I also liked they way they used a black actor to depict a story based largely on prejudice and its implications.  one final anecdote: I was in Spain during much of the run of this flick, and the posters were everywhere.  only in Spanish, the name of the movie is "Yo, Robot."  hilarious.

- thursday, 12/3/98
danny cannon's "I still know what you did last summer" (jennifer love hewitt, brandy norwood, freddie prinze jr., bill cobbs, and jeffrey "weyoun" combs).  surprisingly not too dumb, but very basic slasher formula.  enhanced by a few twists, nice carribean location, and brief appearance by weyoun of DS9.

- thursday, 8/28/03
f. gary gray's "the italian job" (mark wahlberg, charlize theron, edward norton, donald sutherland, seth green, jason statham, and lotsa cooper minis).  your basic caper flick, following the tried and true formula of an intricately plotted and detailed plan, which of course goes awry, and nothing but guts and determination can save the day.  the plot was actually pretty good, with intricate and interesting twists and turns, but the quirky supporting characters somehow never really rang true enough to make you care about them.  as he did in "the negotiator", f. gary did a good job of showcasing the urban landscapes where the story is set.  norton brings more depth than you usually get in a movie's bad guy, balancing out wahlberg's total lack of charisma as the good guy.

- thursday, 1/22/98
"the jackal" (bruce willis, richard gere, sidney poitier) (a remake of "day of the jackal").  good acting (great cold-blooded killer by willis) and concepts and interesting how-to crime story, but with a goofy plot full of enormous holes.

- thursday, 3/10/05
john maybury's "the jacket" (adrien brody, keira knightley, kris kristofferson, jennifer jason leigh, kelly lynch, and mackenzie phillips).  a wounded GI returning from Gulf War I suffers delusions and ends up in a mental hospital for the criminally insane.  the bizarre treatments he endures at the hands of sadistic shrink kristofferson send him time-traveling, which naturally leads to strange consequences.  we end up with a fairly interesting flick that is part psychological drama, part science fiction, part romance, and part "cuckoo's nest" with a very "X-Files" feel to it all.  also: it was good to see mackenzie phillips again after all these years, but unfortunately she has NOT aged well.

- thursday, 1/15/98
quentin tarantino's first flick in awhile, "jackie brown" (pam grier, samuel l. jackson, robert forster, bridget fonda, robert deniro, michael keaton, denise crosby) - a very intelligent, involving, and impressively plot-hole-free crime thriller with a good low-budget look and great acting.  it was about 2.5 hours long, but only felt like about one hour!  unfortunately, although involving, it just wasn't very exciting, and i was disappointed by the lack of violence and humor.  (note: although i saw this flick in 1998, it came out on christmas day 1997, and was therefore competing for movie of the year that year)

- saturday, 12/27/97
rented william friedkin's "jade" (david caruso, chazz palminteri, linda fiorentino, michael biehn, kevin tighe, richard crenna) a really badly written mystery with more loose ends than... (can't think of a good analogy), but some sexy cinema and good car crashes to keep you interested.

- thursday, 9/6/01
victor salva's "jeepers creepers" (gina philips, justin long, jonathan breck, patricia belcher, eileen brennan).  what do you know, an actual non-ironic, pre-"scream" style horror movie.  what a relief!  and a pretty good one, too.  some great sibling dialogue on a long car trip kicks it off, and soon we have horrors unimaginable to contend with, and a pretty original form of evil.  also, some great camera shots, like a tracking shot that goes back and forth between two conversations in two different moving cars, without a cut!

- thursday, 9/4/03
victor salva's "jeepers creepers II" (ray wise, jonathan breck, travis schiffner, nicki lynn aycox, and lots of other people you've never heard of).  a worthy successor to a very good (if very underrated) original.  you gotta love a movie where you have NO idea where it's going!  good scares, good surprises, good suspense, and some sideways humor.  not quite enough gore, and the characters are pretty interchangeable, but if you like horror, it is pretty good, and original.  nice to see ray wise NOT playing a sleazy businessman for a change.

- thursday, 8/9/01
joe johnston's "jurassic park 3" (sam neill, william h. macy, tea leoni, laura dern).  nothing special, just more of the same, which is as to be expected from a movie with a "3" at the end of the title.  basically, an estranged couple trick sam neill into accompanying them back to the dino island to help rescue their son, who got stranded there.  more dinos and more chomping as character actors meet their makers in reverse order of famousness.  laura dern's part is basically a cameo for continuity purposes, and sam does his best to look like a cynical indiana jones.  most over-used line in the film: "listen; did you hear that?"
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