This page was last updated on: March 11, 2007

Is it Thursday Night yet?  Why not...????
Recently Added Thursday Night Movie Club Reviews

NEW ADDITIONS ARE AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE:  These are the movies that larry and I saw in the theater in the last year or so, plus other movies that I happened to rent in the not too distant past (the dates are the date that I saw it, like you care).  All of these flicks are also listed in the alphabetical pages, but for you frequent visitors, you can check them out here to see what we've been up to lately without wading through the sorted listing meant for the hoi poloi.  Enjoy!
Recently Added Movies
Movies A thru D
Movies E thru G
Movies H thru J
Movies K thru M
Movies N thru P
Movies Q thru S
Movies T thru V
Movies W thru Z
Rented Movies
Miscellaneous Ramblings
Movies of the Year
Random Quotes
Thursday Night Toast
Hall Of Fame
Underappreciated Movies
Truly Trivial Trivia
Sean Connery's Beard
Why I Hate Tom Cruise
Phantasm Plot Summaries
Stay for the Credits, Dammit!!!

- thursday, 3/8/07
joel schumacher's "the number 23" (jim carrey and virginia madsen).  this movie has gotten very mixed (i.e., bad) reviews, but i enjoyed it a lot. it features carrey and madsen both in multiple roles. carrey plays it straight, and is a pretty decent dramatic actor. madsen, as usual, is wonderful but underused.  carrey starts out as an ordinary schmoe (who happens to be a dog catcher!), who comes across a strange book called "the number 23." the book is about a man who is obsessed with the number, and finds it everywhere. carrey is fascinated by the parallels between the character in the book and his own life, and soon finds himself obsessing about the mysterious number 23 as well. the obsession becomes darker and more dangerous as time goes on. we watch his life and his sanity crumble before our eyes.  the movie goes back and forth between carrey's character's real life , and the plot of the book, and they become more and more intertwined. at one point, i wasn't sure what was "real" and what was in his head, and was worried that the movie would cop out and not take a stand. but in the end, all is resolved (not necessarily in a happy way, but in a logical way) and you know exactly what happened. no "cheating" by the filmmakers.  if you aren't afraid of seeing a movie that got lousy reviews, and like a sort of twilight zone, x-files type plot, you might enjoy this one.

- friday, 2/23/07
mark steven johnson's "ghost rider" (nicolas cage, eva mendes, sam elliot, peter fonda, and wes bentley).  forget the critics; this was quite good. silly, of course, but it's a comic book, after all. and a damn fun movie, full of violence and special effects and stuff blowing up. what more can you ask for?  nic plays a daredevil motorcycle rider who makes a pact with the devil to try to save his dying father. of course the deal doesn't work out as he expects. but one side benefit is that nic can't be killed. the devil doesn't want his operative on earth damaged. naturally, this is a huge boon for his daredevil career.  one of the less beneficial effects is that at night, he turns into jack skellington on a flaming motorcycle! things get even worse when it turns out that the devil's son is running amok, and trying to take over both hell and earth. nic's assignment is to track down the son and his posse and take them out.  eva mendes is the girl nic was in love with as a youth, but after joining up with the devil, he figures romance is no longer in the cards. eventually, of course, their paths cross again.  sam elliot is the elder statesman who helps nic come to terms with his ghost riderness. as usual, he is the best part of the movie.  there is a great scene at the end where nic is giving a speech to the devil (peter fonda). it is almost the same as the famous speech by henry fonda from "grapes of wrath"! that was cute.  anyway, if you like silly action and flaming violence, and nic cage's brand of quirky acting, this is one to see.

- thursday, 2/1/07
joe carnahan's "smokin' aces" (jeremy piven, ray liotta, ryan reynolds, andy garcia, alex rocco, alicia keys, ben affleck, jason bateman, curtis "booger" armstrong, and wayne newton).  this was your basic violent action/comedy with lots of strange characters and bizarre situations, frenetically directed in a tony scott "domino" style of fast cuts, moving cameras, multiple frames, and plenty of weapons of all types.  a mob informer (piven) is holed up in a lake tahoe penthouse, snorting cocaine, hiring hookers, and doing card tricks while waiting to testify. for some reason, several different factions want him dead, and a variety of high-priced hitmen are competing for the privilege of bumping him off, all the while a team of fbi agents are trying to keep him alive. it seems confusing at first, until you realize that the myriad characters all have one of the same two motivations: kill piven, or save him. and kill everyone else, along the way.  it is fairly good at what it tries to be, and was constantly entertaining. no stupid plot holes (once you accept the outrageous premise and general implausibility of the story), and i never once lost interest. but in the end, it was just a nice piece of story telling, not destined to be a classic.  it was good to see piven, so often playing second-banana (and often to that charisma-free bowl of oatmeal named john cusack) get his chance at a meaty central role.

- 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, 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.

- saturday, 12/30/06
sylvester stallone's "rocky balboa" (sylvester stallone, burt young, antonio tarver).  quite good. the beginning is very sad, though. i liked the way they reworked the famous "rocky theme" song into a slow, haunting melody to underscore the sadness of rocky's life.  the other thing i liked was the way the movie parallels stallone's real life. rocky, an over-the-hill boxer, had his hey-day and some huge triumphs in the past, but now everyone assumes that he is washed up and is only a joke. but he surprises them all.  likewise stallone, an over-the-hill writer/director/actor, had his hey-day and some huge triumphs in the past, but now everyone assumes that he is washed up and is only a joke. but he surprises them all, too!

- thursday, 12/21/06
saw stefen fangmeier's "eragon" (some kid named edward speleers, robert carlyle, sienna guillory, john malkovich, rachel weisz's voice, and jeremy irons as obi-wan).  not good.  the first thing you have to know about this movie is that it was made for kids. particularly kids who have never seen a sword-and-sorcery movie before and can't tell a good one from a bad one.  the next thing to realize is that it is a star wars ripoff. many reviewers compare it to a low-rent version of lord of the rings. maybe the setting, but the plot was pure star wars: the orphan being raised by his uncle, the grizzled old warrior who mentors him, the evil dictator and his henchmen, and the mysterious "force" that he gets from his dragon. to mention the other similarities would give away too much of the plot.  the special effects were good (especially the dragon), as was the scenery. although peter jackson should sue them for several scenes (horse riding through the mountains and plains) that were stolen right out of "the two towers." i expected to see helm's deep in the distance.  rachel weisz supplied the voice of the dragon. normally, she has quite a sexy voice, but not here. how they managed to de-sex her tones is a mystery to me.  the movie was based on the first book of a trilogy (allah help us!), and the ending clearly set up a sequel. but i'll be very surprised if this one generates enough cash to pay for making them.

- thursday, 12/14/06
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, 11/9/06
darren lynn bousman's "saw III" (tobin bell, shawnee smith, dina meyer).  cleverly plotted, and plenty of gore, but it was an extremely unpleasant experience.  not a trace of humor or subtlety, and even such a philistine as myself found it difficult to enjoy.  basically, "jigsaw," the clever killer, snatches up people who need to "learn a lesson" and puts them through gruesome ordeals that they might learn them.  and then die.

- thursday, 11/2/06
clint eastwood's "flags of our fathers" (ryan phillippe, paul walker, robert patrick, harve presnell, david "sledgehammer!" rasche, john polito) (yes, basically a buch of nobodies).  very moving story of the soldiers who raised the famous flag at iwo jima, and how the DoD then recruited them to lead a pledge drive back home to get people to buy war bonds.  the reluctant "heroes" were conflicted, because they wanted to help the money-raising cause, but at the same time, felt guilt at leaving their buddies back at the front.  lovely palette used in the cinematography, almost monochromatic.  and the lack of any real "stars" gave the film a more intimate feel, somehow.  also, good use of chicago locations, including The Drake, the steps at Union Station, and Soldier Field.  only downside is clint's continued dependence on narration to tell a tale, when a more skilled director might have been able to "show" us the story, rather than "tell" us.  but it was still very moving.

- 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, 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!

- friday, 9/22/06
rented at home, robin hardy's "the wicker man" (edward woodward, christopher lee, and britt ekland) from 1973.  a scottish policeman shows up on an isolated scottish island, looking for a young girl who has been reported missing.  but nobody has heard of her! the more he searches for her, the stranger the island becomes. eventually, he uncovers the island's strange pagan culture, and its need for ritual sacrifice to maintain its apple crop. his own deeply devout christianity clashes with the pagan attitudes on the island, adding fuel to the fire of the conflict. eventually, a deadly showdown is inevitable, the results of which I will leave to the viewer to discover on their own. along the way, there is lots of nudity and suggestive sexuality, all of which clash with the cop's own rigidly straight-laced morality, add to the pagan nature of the island, and enhance the enjoyability of the film overall! very satisfying and enjoyable.  MUCH better than the 2006 version.

- thursday, 9/21/06
neil labute's remake of "the wicker man" (nic cage, ellen burstyn, and a bunch of television actors). bad, bad, bad. skip it.  basically, cage plays an LA motorcycle cop who witnesses a horrible car accident, where a mother and little daughter are horribly killed, and it messes him up, emotionally. he takes a leave of absence from his job to rest, but soon receives a letter from his ex-fiancé that gets him back in action. apparently, she has a daughter (who may or may not be nic's), who is now missing. so he hops over to the remote island where she lives with a bee-keeping matriarchal cult of bizarre, inbred chicks to try to find the missing daughter. but he is soon embroiled in a deeper mystery: what the fuck is going on with this island?  this could have been a good movie (and I understand that it was, in the seventies), but it was so badly done that none of it makes sense. cage's character is clueless to the point of unintentional comedy, the plot is way too convoluted to make logical sense (we kept saying "why didn't they just...."), and the acting is pretty much atrocious. the music was by angelo badalamenti, so I was looking forward to a good soundtrack, but even that was pretty lame.

- 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.

- thursday, 8/31/06
david r. ellis's "snakes on a plane" (samuel l. jackson, julianna margulies).  a lot of people have been disappointed by this movie, and I can see why. personally, I enjoyed it a lot, but it has a "tone" that will fizzle for most people. it's not quite serious action, but it's not quite camp, either. it's somewhere in the middle, and that probably doesn't appeal to most viewers.  basically, a young surf dude in hawaii witnesses a brutal murder committed by a crime lord. the crime lord wants him dead before he can testify in los angeles. but FBI agent jackson is protecting him. the only way to kill him is to take down the entire plane that is transporting him to california, by sneaking hundreds of poisonous snakes on board. jackson is surprisingly low-key throughout the film as the calm, stoic hero who saves everyone's ass. (well, not everyone's, of course.)
          the most fun part is all the stock characters that board the plane at the beginning. we are introduced to them one by one, and they all seem right out of "airport." the young heiress, the newlyweds, the two kids traveling for the first time without their parents, the grouchy businessman, the stewardess on her last flight before retiring, etc. no nun, though.

- 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.

- friday, 8/4/06
rented richard shepard's "the matador" (pierce brosnan, greg kinnear, hope davis, and philip baker hall). good, thoughtful flick, about friendship and loneliness and how we trade what we have for what we need. pierce plays a hitman, who is good at his work, but lonely. kinnear plays a plain vanilla businessman, who is happy but lacks excitement in his life. together, they provide each other what they are lacking. several surprise twists and turns reveal an interesting story. the title comes from pierce's explanation of how a good hitman is like a good matador: he executes a swift kill, with no muss, no fuss, and minimal blood and pain. well worth a rental.

- friday, 8/4/06
rented atom egoyan's "where the truth lies" (kevin bacon, colin firth, alison lohman, david hayman). this was a hollywood-based mystery with a film noir feel and lurid sexuality. a martin-and-lewis type nightclub act had broken up years before in the wake of the mysterious death of a young waitress, and a young reporter, years later, tries to find out the truth.  I liked the voice over, the whodunit story line, and the gradually unfolding mystery. however, I don't think it will go down as a classic. there was nothing all that new or innovative. it just seemed like a typical made-for-TV mystery with NC-17 sex added in. not that there's anything wrong with that!  if you like mysteries and good acting, and you see it in the New Releases section of your video store, you might want to give it a try.

- thursday, 7/27/06
m. night shyamalan's "lady in the water" (paul giamatti, bryce dallas howard, Jeffrey wright, bob balaban, and m. night himself).  a very strange movie.  the kind that one hesitates to recommend, without some explanation. I loved it, but will YOU? not necessarily.  if you liked previous shyamalan flicks, and appreciate his slow, careful, twilight-zoney plots, you might.  basically, paul giamatti plays a sad-sack super of a cheap apartment complex in suburban philly, who suddenly finds himself taking care of an unnatural chick from another dimension. she makes him feel very alive, and he wants to help her. but, she is in danger from creatures from her universe, and he must help her, despite the peril.  all the diverse characters and details that mean nothing in the first half finally come together for the feel-good ending. the movie critic character played by bob balaban is a nice touch, but will probably ensure that the movie gets very few good reviews!

- thursday, 7/20/06
richard linklater's "a scanner darkly" (keanu reeves, robert downey jr., woody harrelson, winona ryder).  a very strange movie.  yes, but is it any good?  well no, not really.  but interesting if you like off-beat stuff.  the rotoscoping (filmed live action, painted over to look like animation) is very distinctive, and the plot was pretty out-there as well.  set in the near future, in a world of rampant drug abuse and high-tech narcs, a deep undercover narc (keanu) is sent to spy on a gang of derelicts, one of whom may be a drug kingpin.  but our boy keanu IS one of those derelicts!  they go through a series of amusing drug-fueled misadventures, and he has to try to remain sober enough to solve the mystery.  a lot of it made no sense at all, and the plot was very tough to follow.  but I'll give credit where due: robert downey jr. is hilarious as one of the derelicts, playing a fast-talking oddball who is probably too smart (and certainly too stoned) for his own good.

- friday, 7/7/06
gore verbinski's "pirates of the caribbean: dead man's chest" (johnny depp, orlando bloom, keira knightley, jack davenport, bill nighy, johathan pryce,stellan skarsgard, tia dalma, and geoffrey rush).  excellent flick, even better than the first one!  exciting, funny, full of action and great special effects, and very well paced.  davy jones's crew of undead sailors, and the cracken, were great effects.  and the escape from the cannibals, and the big "wheel duel" near the end, were hilarious and thrilling at the same time.
          the plot: a big-wig with the east india trading company wants to rule the world (why are the capitalists always the bad guys?) and needs jack sparrow's special compass to accomplish his goals (we don't find out why until much later). to get it, he imprisons elizabeth, and tells will that he will have her put to death unless will can bring him sparrow's compass. meanwhile, sparrow needs the compass himself to find the dead man's chest, which will help him avoid paying a very nasty debt (his soul) to the abominable davy jones. got all that? not like the plot really matters much in the end, especially as it DOESN'T end, but just sets up the next sequel.
          and I'm sure I don't need to remind you to stay for the damn credits!  like the first installment, the post-credit scene gives you some vital information.

- monday, 7/3/06
bryan singer's "superman returns" (brandon routh, kate bosworth, kevin spacey, james marsden, parker posey, frank langella, and eva marie saint).  sorry to say, this flick was quite lame.  first disappointment: the same damn theme song as the 70s and 80s superman movies!  it's a nice tune, but aren't we due for a new one?  second downer: the plot.  it is ALSO just like the 70s and 80s movies, nothing new or innovative.  and I expected a few 21st century additions in the details, like having superman talk on a cell phone or use a laptop or SOMETHING!  strike three: not enough ass-kicking.  and strike four: the actors were kept on way too tight of a leash.  routh played superman just right (wooden and arrow straight), but spacey, langella, and posey can all be hilarious if you give them some leeway.  here they were kept in check and just came off as boring.

- 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.

- sunday, 6/25/06
rented: susan stroman's "the producers" (nathan lane, matthew broderick, uma thurman, will ferrell, gary beach, roger bart, michael mckean, david huddleston, jon lovitz, and richard kind).  pretty lame.  the musical numbers within the show they produced ("springtime for hitler") were quite good, but the musical numbers by lane and broderick were really bad, not to mention WAY too homo-erotic for my taste. maybe they were better on stage. uma's character had no place in the story and was only a distraction.

- saturday, 6/24/06
rented: robert schwentke's "flight plan" (jodie foster, peter sarsgaard, sean bean, greta scacchi).  "panic room" at thirty thousand feet: jodie plays a propulsion engineer (and apparently an airplane design expert) whose daughter disappears during a trans-atlantic flight, but nobody believes that the daughter was ever there.  she will stop at nothing to find her.  it made for a pretty good action/drama, but then I didn't exactly try to diagram the plot for holes.  I just enjoyed the action and the frantic emotions.  it also provided an excellent example of ebert's "law of economy of characters" -- if there is a name-brand actor who doesn't appear to have enough to do, he will turn out to be the bad guy.

- friday, 6/23/06
rented: thomas bezucha's "the family stone" (dermot mulroney, sarah jessica parker, diane keaton, craig t. nelson, rachel mcadams, luke wilson, and claire danes).  horrible, horrible movie.  a family full of whiney, hand-wringing, self-righteous, liberal pinheads torture a poor career girl who is engaged to one of their sons and visiting for the holidays.  I knew I was in for trouble in the opening scene when one of them was carrying an NPR tote bag.  each family member was more smug and annoying than the next, with one exception:  in most movies, I can't stand luke wilson (or his useless brother), but in this one, he was a breath of non-hand-wringing, non-kvetching, non-angst-ridden fresh air with a simple folksy don't-give-a-fuck counterpoint to his tedious relations.  at least someone dies at the end.

- 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!

- thursday, 6/8/06
tim Johnson and karey kirkpatrick's "over the hedge" (bruce willis, garry shandling, steve carell, william shatner, nick nolte, thomas haden church, eugene levy, catherine o'hara, and others).  not quite pixar-quality entertainment, but I still thought this flick was quite good.  a bunch of animals try to forage for food in a newly-built housing subdivision, which gives ample opportunity for satire on suburban life.  and the conniving raccoon learns a thing or two about friendship.  awwww.

- thursday, 6/1/06
brett ratner's "x-men: the last stand" (hugh jackman, halle berry, ian mckellan, famke janssen, kelsey grammer, patrick stewart, cameron bright, and others).  very good stuff!  i think it is the best of the trilogy.  lots of violence, humor, and special effects.  lots of nice little touches, too, like wolverine lighting his cigar on a pile of flaming wreckage in the middle of a battle, and xavier's wheelchair always stopping with the big X on the wheels in proper orientation.  there were too many mutants for me to keep them all straight, so eventually I just stopped trying and enjoyed the spectacle.  you can take this movie as an allegory about nazism, discrimination, or genocide.  or you can just enjoy it as an action flick.  TNMC favorite cameron bright appears in a small but pivotal role, and yes, he's as creepy as ever.  note: if you don't stay for the credits, you don't know how the story really ends!

- thursday, 5/25/06
clark ("homicide: life on the street") johnson's "the sentinel" (michael douglas, kiefer sutherland, eva longoria, kim basinger, blair brown, david rasche, "raynor scheine"!!, and clark johnson hisownself).  finally saw this movie which has been in the theaters for at least a month. it was really good! first of all, it featured david rasche as the president! as I'm sure you will recall, he played "sledgehammer!", a sort of dirty harry spoof, on tv in the 80s. he always makes me laugh, even when he's being serious.  second, it was directed by a fellow named clark johnson, who played one of the detectives on another favorite tv show of mine, "homicide: life on the street." that show had the strangest directorial style, with lots of jump-cuts and rapid camera movements, giving it a very kinetic feel. I'm sure not everyone would like it, but I did. anyway, he directed THIS movie, and brought some of that same style to it. helps heighten the suspense. he also had a small role in the movie, but got himself killed off in the first reel. I guess it's easier to direct when you don't have much acting to do. I didn't realize he was a director at all, but it looks like he's directed a lot of cop shows on tv.  anyway, it is all about the secret service and how they protect the president. michael douglas and kiefer sutherland are both excellent as rival agents. when it is discovered that there is a traitor in the service, evidence points to it being douglas, and sutherland is relentless in trying to track him down. douglas must avoid capture, clear his name, and find the real bad guys. the story is pretty standard stuff, but it is so well done that it feels fresh.

- saturday, 5/20/06
rented: DJ caruso's "two for the money" (al pacino, matthew mcconaughey, rene russo, armand assante, and jeremy piven).  a washed-up football player gets a second chance as a sports handicapper, and a manic, almost insanely-driven promoter takes him under his wing and shows him how to push it to the limit.  you get to see matthew mcc. flex his muscles, and pacino chew the scenery.  but in the end, not much is accomplished.

- 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!

- friday, 5/19/06
rented: kevin reynolds's "tristan + isolde" (james franco, sophia myles, and rufus sewell).  this is the perfect date movie: romance and costumes for her, sword fighting and explosions for him.  it was actually pretty good, too, although I doubt that the history was very accurate (it's based on a wagner opera).  the fractioned petty kingdoms of britain try to put off their differences and ally themselves to fight off their irish oppressors.  young tristan wins the hand of the irish king's daughter (sight unseen) for his master, not knowing that she is his own secret love!  the love triangle that ensues causes no end of trouble.  decent acting, decent action, great scenery, and tons of cheesy dialogue.  reminded me a lot of one of my all-time favorite movies, "the vikings."  I didn't expect much going in, and I had a good time.

- thursday, 5/11/06
paul mcguigan's "lucky number slevin" (josh hartnett, bruce willis, lucy liu, morgan freeman, sir ben kingsley, and stanley tucci, with brief cameos by danny aiello and robert forster).  movies like this make me glad I'm not a professional movie reviewer, because I don't know if I would recommend it to most people or not. I enjoyed it a lot, but many people probably wouldn't get it. you have to see a lot of movies to understand most of the humor.  hartnett plays slevin, a man who is mistaken for the friend he is visiting, a friend who is in trouble with two different (and warring) mobsters. soon slevin is playing them off each other, like clint eastwood in "a fistful of dollars." bruce willis plays the hitman, lucy liu is the love interest, and everyone else is either a cop or a mobster. (or both?)  the tone is kind of strange, sort of a cross between a film noir and a screwball comedy. it sort of works. the plot is intricate but followable, and there is lots of blood which is never sugar-coated. the dialogue is cheesy, but meant to be, and very quotable.  if you like oddball films with quirky humor and graphic violence, this one is for you.

- thursday, 5/4/06
christophe gans's "silent hill" (radha mitchell, sean bean, laurie holden, deborah kara unger, alice krige).  bad, bad, bad!!!  that's about all you need to say about this trainwreck of a movie. it had some good actors in it (sean "boromir" bean and alice "the borg queen" krige) but they couldn't do anything to save it.  supposedly, it is a horror movie based on a video game. actually, it is a series of random images (which, to be fair, were kind of interesting in spots) about a woman looking for her missing daughter in a ghost town. full of plot holes, and so badly acted and paced that you couldn't help but laugh at it.  the part that made me want to laugh the most was when the creepy townspeople captured the heroine and decided that she is a witch, and must be burnt. "burn her, burn her!" they cry. my mind kept filling in the missing dialogue: "she turned me into a newt!" and "i got better."  unless you want to enjoy making fun of the flick for an hour afterwards, don't bother.

- sunday, 4/30/06
rented andrew niccol's "lord of war" (nicolas cage, bridget moynahan, jared leto, ian "bilbo" holm, ethan hawke).  the tale of an international weapons dealer, always one step ahead of Interpol.  this would make a great companion piece to "thank you for smoking" as both films focus on the dedication of the "hero" without making a judgment about what he is doing.  very sarcastic, sardonic, and tongue in cheek.  it is a perfect vehicle for nic cage, and his ability to represent an off-beat character that you come to love, even if you hate him at the same time.  slow moving and thoughtful rather than exciting and action-packed, in stark contrast to the marketing for the film.  I liked it a lot.

- friday, 4/28/06
rented peter hyams's "a sound of thunder" (edward burns, catherine mccormack, ben kingsley).  the plot, based on a ray bradbury short story, is about a high-tech entertainment company in the near future that takes adventurers back to the distant past to hunt dinosaurs.  of course something goes wrong, and the future (i.e., our present) is hosed.  and one scientist and his plucky companions have to set things right.  so much of this flick is trite and contrived that I can understand if people hate it, but I rather liked the pacing, overacting, and over-the-top concepts and effects.  the filmmakers didn't take it too seriously, and neither should we.  it's fun!

- 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, 4/20/06
james gunn's "slither" (nathan "firefly" fillion and a bunch of other tv actors you've probably never heard of). this movie wants very much to be a cult classic, like "army of darkness" or some such, but it isn't quite that good. it's set in a small deer-hunting town populated by some of the ugliest people you could ever hope to see on the big screen. all is fine until a meteor hits the ground and infects one of the townspeople with some sort of parasite. soon he is cultivating his own clan of zombies. the town police chief, the infected dude's wife, and a few other stalwarts have to fight him. lots of swearing and very gross scenes, strung together with some clever dialogue. pure camp, with elements of "night of the living dead", "invasion of the body snatchers", and "twin peaks" tossed in.  it will probably never be a classic, but it is fun if you like that kind of stuff.

- 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, 3/30/06
jason reitman's "thank you for smoking" (aaron eckhart, j.k. simmons, maria bello, david koechner, william h. macy, robert duvall, cameron bright, and sam elliot).  GREAT GREAT GREAT film!!!  I haven't see a more funny, poignant, or enjoyable movie in a very long time.  It reminded me of a coen brothers film crossed with a david lynch film. that certainly doesn't make it a "must see" for most people, but if you like both of those styles, you just might love this one!  basically, it is the story of a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, and how me manages to spin the most impossible ideas into believability.  and how his shy son learns all of his tricks.  one interesting note on this film:  nobody smokes in it!  there was one scene where nick (the star) is told he must quit smoking. I was surprised, because I had never seen him smoke, and assumed that he was non-smoker (as part of the irony). he agrees to quit, and it is never mentioned again.  nobody else smokes either. although robert duvall is shown with a cigar in his hand (in his hospital bed!), he never puffs on it. maybe this is a hint that the movie really isn't about smoking at all, but about spin, and how it is an inherent part of our modern society.

- thursday, 3/23/06
james mcteigue's "v for vendetta" (hugo weaving, natalie portman, stephen rea, john hurt).  lots of fun!  although this flick has generated lots of political discussion in various circles, I didn't see any particularly strong political messages in the film. it is about a dude who was fucked by the government (in a futuristic england), and sees it as his duty to fuck them right back. he is an anarchist, a revolutionary, a stirrer of the pot, as it were.  I can relate!  he uses his subtlety, his verbal skills, and his physical fighting talents that were given to him by the very government experiments that doomed him.  lots to think about, and lots of good violence to enjoy on a simpler level.  you gotta love it.  and lots of stuff getting blown up real good, too!  hugo weaving does an excellent job of playing the anti-hero as both brilliant and insane, and john hurt is excellent at playing the sputtering, obsessive overlord.

- saturday, 3/18/06
rented james mangold's "walk the line" (joaquin phoenix, reese witherspoon, robert "T-2" patrick).  bio picture of johnny cash and his relationships with june carter, his family, and drugs.  well done, if vaguely feeling like a rip-off of "ray."  although I enjoyed this flick, I never once really believed that joaquin phoenix really WAS johnny cash.  he was an interesting and believable fictional character, but not the famous dude I'm familiar with. other than that, it was quite good and recommended.

- friday, 3/17/06
rented, rupert wainwright's "the fog" (tom welling, maggie grace, selma blair, and other folks you've never heard of).  remake of the john carpenter classic.  a fog is drifting into a seaport town, and killing off the descendents of the town founders, because of a secret that they took to their graves.  enjoyable horror flick, but nothing special.

- friday, 3/17/06
rented, gore verbinski's "the weatherman" (nic cage, michael caine).  yes, this was directed by the same gore verbinski that made "pirates of the caribbean" and "the ring".  he is in a totally different mode here.  although very well made, this is a difficult movie to recommend.  for the first hour, I was ready to declare that it sucked.  but the last half hour or so redeemed it.  it was about a local weatherman in chicago who was up for a national gig.  his professional life was kicking ass, but his personal life (failed marriage, poor rapport with his kids, etc.) sucked.  eventually, he learns an important lesson: that you are who you are, not who you wish to be, and you might as well learn to enjoy it.  if you thrill to the prospect of sir michael caine discussing "camel toe", you might enjoy this flick.

- thursday, 3/9/06
kurt wimmer's "ultraviolet" (milla jovovich, cameron bright, nick chinlund, and william "perfect storm" fichtner).  this was pretty bad, although there was lots of violence and blowing shit up. I also liked the "look" of the sets and people, as computer-generated landscapes blended with real-life ones. but, it was badly written, acted, and plotted, and made very little sense. basically, a virus had turned a large percentage of the world's population into "hemophages" (aka vampires), which made them super strong and fast. the rest of the world, especially an evil government overlord, wants them all dead. violet, the vampire heroine, rides a fast bike and swings a fast sword and has guns growing out of her hands. unless you like dissecting bad movies, skip it.  they should have stripped milla down to some skimpier outfits (like she had in "the fifth element") and gotten themselves an R rating, then at least there would have been some reason to see it.  by the by, cameron bright was the creepy little kid from "birth" and he was just as creepy in this one!!