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Hidalgo (2004)
Excellent story about endurance
8 March 2004
Where are critics coming from, saying this is an Indy Jones or Mummy wannabe? Where is the temple-robbing, the undead-fighting, the Nazi-fighting? Did I watch a different movie?

I loved this film. The chemistry between Mortensen and Hidalgo was amazing and touching. That was the true love story of the film and it was nice that the screenwriters didn't bow to convention and pair Hopkins up with Jazira for a final clinch.

The scenery and cinematography was beautiful. The script had only a few lapses (notably the "western justice" part), and the supporting cast, devoid of big-name stars apart from Omar Sharif, all did extremely good jobs to make the movie flow. Mortensen seemed comfortable without all the Jackson paraphenalia around him, playing a more low-profile hero than the over-burdened Aragorn. Will definitely be getting the DVD.

10/10 - and yes, I know the real Hopkins was an inveterate liar and the movie wasn't fact-based. I watched it as an adventure film and totally loved it.
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A 6/10, missing alot even as a film
6 January 2004
This movie could really use an EE -- BADLY. Characters are just picked up and discarded (Eomer, in particular), Eowyn's battle with the Witch King will, with luck, be expanded. It was over before I knew it and the editing was shabby. Too many oliphaunts and CGI, atrocious battle tactics on the part of the Rohirrim (sure, charge into a head of 10 story beasts even though we have bows and arrows and can shoot from a distance - sounds good!), meaningless inventions (Arwen's life tied to Ring, the Arwen "to leave or not to leave" flip flop, the Lembas Conspiracy, and that stupid Legolas-Oliphaunt trick), a limp confrontation scene with the king of the dead, no resolution to Saruman (the main bad guy of the first two films, if you've forgotten), and the worst hatchet job on an established fictional character (Denethor, Denethor, Denethor). Horrible, horrible. Plus a cheesy bed-jumping scene and coronation where the cheddar flowed in abundance. It was a mess that I hope the EE will mend somewhat, but there's a lot to fix. A LOT. A disappointing end to a trilogy that began with a masterpiece in FOTR.

On the plus side, David Wenham, Billy Boyd and Sean Astin. They were brilliant and made it worth spending the money to see it once. Their performances were true and heartfelt, though Faramir sadly dropped out of the picture because PJ unwisely cut the Houses of Healing sequence.

It's not worth the hype and I didn't think this once in a lifetime film event would end so sadly.
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Horrid sequel
22 October 2003
It took me two viewings to appreciate The Matrix, but that was because the first time I saw it, I was confused as to what the story was. The first time (and only, as far as I'm concerned) I saw this sequel, I was bored, amused and disgusted by turns.

What was an interesting kernel of an idea in the first film has been extended way beyond what it should be in Reloaded. Drawing the story out (what there is of it) over 3 films is only making apparent just how slim the plot is - lots of poofery around a good idea and meandering around, taking its own sweet time to conclude. Even though the story lines are very different, I can't help but compare it to Lord of the Rings. LOTR is taut with an objective in mind, whereas Neo just keeps kicking (and now flying *snort*) his way around with new story threads coming up all the time to explain this or that, or just to muddy the comprehension waters for the hell of it. From what I understood, he's really the sum total of program anomalies that has a cyclical life. If I cared, I would go to the theater is a few weeks to see how it is all wrapped up, but Reloaded had me rolling my eyes so much that I doubt I'll even part with the $5.25 matinee fee. If there is even a scintilla of repeats of the Zion bongo fest and the interminable and repetitive fight choreography, I'll never watch it.

As a fanfic writer (in the LOTR fandom), I am so tempted to send a Mary Sue Litmus Test to the Wachowski Brothers, asking them to run Neo through it. It'd be interesting to see what score they come up with. (I got a 37, with 35+ being a hopeless Sue). Odd that I didn't notice Neo's Sue-ish qualities in the first movie, but after seeing Reloaded, they are so apparent. Bringing Trinity to life (with the 'ole heart squeeze trick *snicker*), flying, having all those other uber-superpowers, being "the One" in a prophecy, etc. etc. etc ad nauseum. So perfect and powerful it's ridiculous. He's an embodiment of what people wish they could be. I.E., a perfect Mary Sue.

In all fairness, however, I did give it a 3 - but only for Hugo Weaving. But even you couldn't save it, Hugo baby.
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Taken (2002)
What a waste of time...
15 October 2003
I watched this entire series, hoping beyond hope that it would get better, but it never did. The "evil" govt. agents were so hilariously awful that it was a form of entertainment in itself. Joel Gretsch as Owen Crawford had so many "bwahahaha!" moments I had to remind myself that this was not a comedy. Heather Donahue, looking perpetually constipated, compounded the whole MST3K experience. Top that off with the annoying Dakota Fanning's "deep" observations in that scratchy little waif-whisper of hers and Max Headroom's bizarre-for-the-sake-of-bizarreness scientist, and you have prime MST material. Since Mike and the bots weren't there, I did my best. But it wasn't enough to make the pain stay away.

A wretched waste of film, time, and money. I don't know if this was an attempt to take Close Encounters of the Third Kind to an expanded level, but Steve, you failed MISERABLY. All of your last half dozen or so flicks have stunk. You're getting too serious and preachy. Give me Indy 4 and I'll watch it gladly.


To be fair, however, I thought Desmond Harrington was the sole redeeming feature of this and afterwards I realized he was the same guy in Luc Besson's The Messenger. He impressed me there as well. The only thing is, The Messenger is an excellent movie for the most part whereas this one just sucked on alien toast.
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From Hell (2001)
Fine, up until the end
29 July 2003
I much prefer the TV movie with Michael Caine. That one was more based in fact. This film just went winging off into the ozone near the finale with messianic Freemasons and a convoluted "solution" that had me shaking my head and wishing for a more straightforward mystery, which is what The Ripper is. The Hughes Brothers were in love with the freaky dream sequences and imagery (which were interesting visually), but left the plot hanging. The gore was a bit overdone and almost became a fetish, in fact a bit comical in places. Having the Ripper speak was a bad move because anyone with half an ear would know who it was.

The best thing about this movie was the ultra-real atmosphere of Victorian skid rows and Johnny Depp.
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I was amazed
21 July 2003
I did not expect to be as blown away by this movie as I was, considering the source material. It was a surprise to see this goofball adventure yarn become quite extraordinary cinema. There are some healthy doses of Errol Flynn-Basil Rathbone derring-do (Bloom and Depp buckling swash in the smithy shop) along with great comedic moments and memorable characters -- I need not mention that being Depp's manic and hilarious Jack Sparrow. A manlier, gayer pirate has never lived. He would have walked away with the movie completely if Orlando Bloom had not been well nigh perfect as the earnest love interest, looking pretty damn good in those nice-fitting duds and delivering his lines seriously to counterbalance Depp's utter insanity. Geoffrey Rush looked like he was having a fun time snarling "arrr! me buckos!" around the deck and the whole ride was worth my money. The only negative is Keira Knightly's bizarre way of holding her lips. Must be an affectation, because I have seen the same maneuver on Renee Zellweger and Michelle Pfeiffer (in years past). Irritating little mannerism, that.

Anyway, can't wait for the DVD!

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Cleopatra (1999– )
Where is Margaret George's book in this mess?
8 July 2003
Having read George's "The Memoirs of Cleopatra" in record time and enjoyed every page, I was psyched to realize that they'd made a movie of it. Then I watched it and wondered if they'd have done better to bury the money out in the sand somewhere. This movie was a cheesy mess that might as well have had George's name struck off the opening credits, for all the faithfullness it had.

The movie unfolded as more of a connect-the-dots kindergarten primer to the life of Egypt's queen, with a bit of sex thrown in for the adults. It was pedantic and boring, and the performances were either too flat or overblown. Varela was a Cleopatra straight off the covers of paperback romances and her line delivery in many scenes was laughable. Timothy Dalton tried to make the most of Caesar, but he was too grand for his made-for-TV surroundings. He did look like he was having fun, though, camping it up in pools and beds. Billy Zane was acceptable in parts, but his oratory sadly lacked grandeur. Rather he came off as a snarling pitbull with all clarity lost. Rupert Graves, though I admire him in other roles, looked ridiculous as Octavian and was less menacing than a Powerpuff girl. There was no hard edge to him, which is what Octavian/Augustus possessed in spades.

The sets, especially the Star Trek sky shades of red and purple, as well as the obvious sound stages covered in sand and plastic palms, was risible. Only when they got outdoors did it start to look a bit believable.

The only redeeming part of this awful film was Daragh O'Malley as Ahenobarbus. He was as understated and effective as he was in the entire Sharpe series and it is a shame that actors such as he are constantly stuffed in small character roles in films of "importance." He would have been more suited than Zane as Antony. The real Antony was burly, brawny and a drinker and O'Malley could have pulled off that role. He has the physique, the personality, and the lungs. I wouldn't even have minded an Irish brogue - anything other than the wispy wastrel playboy that Zane offered.

As an adaptation of George's book, it fails. Even as entertaining pseudo-historical fare, it fails. I think I'll stick to the Burton-Taylor version or even DeMille's version with Claudette Colbert. One thing I am thankful for: at least these producers didn't butcher Colleen McCullough's novels. I shudder to think who they would have chosen to play Sulla.

2/10 - for Daragh O'Malley
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Vendetta (1999 TV Movie)
Really enjoyed it
12 May 2003
Although it has one of the more depressing endings ever filmed (and I normally don't like that kind of thing), I was unable to stop watching it. The story, no doubt simplified for the screen, was engaging and has me interested in seeking out Gambino's book to get the broader picture as well as the facts. :) Christopher Walken's accent was a tad iffy, but he wasn't the main attraction of the film. The collection of players were extremely well-balanced so that everyone had a chance to do their stuff and be memorable and they were! Darragh O'Malley as the Irish investigator was a pleasure to see after the days of Sharpe's Rifles and Joaquim de Almeida likewise captured interest with his diginified performance. Bruce Davison and Edward Herrmann as the warring attornies were also solid and interesting. I completely enjoyed this film.

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A great melodrama
30 April 2003
Yes, the plot is a bit cliche but the performances certainly make up for it! Garbo, only in the early years of her career, gives an incredibly smoldering performance as the unredeemable temptress Felicitas, who snags the hapless Leo (John Gilbert) into a web of sex and lies. Look at that sly smile as she's trying on her widow's weeds -- very effective. John Gilbert, the heir of Valentino's mantle, proves that he surpassed the master lover with a believable portrayal of a man who realizes that he's way over his head but can't help himself. He does indulge in a bit of histrionics, but is very restrained compared to other silent lovers of the era. Only his performances in "The Big Parade" and "Downstairs" better this one. As Felicitas' second husband, Lars Hanson has the looks and talent to hold his own on the screen with his two incredibly dynamic co-stars. He amazed me opposite Lillian Gish in "The Wind" and "The Scarlet Letter" and it's a shame that he made so few movies in Hollywood before returning to Sweden.

Clarence Brown keeps the narrative flowing with a healthy balance of humor, drama, romance and action. MGM's stock company of character actors (William Orlamond, Polly Moran, George Fawcett and Eugenie Besserer) make an appearance and provide excellent supporting players to the three stars.

I found the Carl Davis score to be absolutely perfect for the images up on the screen, and the music when Garbo and Gilbert dance and two necking sessions reflect the raw passion. It's just stunning and I can't come up with enough words to describe it. After Buster Keaton's entire body of work, this movie ranks as my #2 favorite, tied with The Wind.

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Red Dragon (2002)
OK, but not spectacular
7 April 2003
Maybe the whole Hannibal Lecter franchise is wearing itself out -- or that no other installment can even approach the original chills and thrills of Silence of the Lambs -- but Red Dragon left me lukewarm. I don't think enough explanation was give to Dolarhyde's character and his obsession with transformation. That's what tripped me up the most.

Dolarhyde was a sympathetic character and naturally I didn't want him to die, but the ploy he used to spring up again was the same Lecter used in Lambs and for this viewer, it was a case of "seen it." I have not read the book, but I assume that a blind woman is in that as well. It's a horrible cliche to have a blind girl bring out the human side of a monster -- the Poverty Row flick, The Brute Man with Rondo Hatton, did the same thing 50 years ago and it still stunk.

I am becoming increasingly disenchanted with Edward Norton. In Primal Fear, he was a stunner, and in American History X as well. However, in most of his movies since, I am seeing the same type of performance over and over. You could pretty much switch his roles in The Score and Red Dragon and not know the difference. His delivery is the same, his mannerisms are the same... Is he becoming a one-note actor already? A shame, since he showed so much promise.

Anthony Hopkins managed to recreate Lecter, but again, it just doesn't have the zing and chills from Lambs. In Red Dragon, I laughed at his witticisms like they were one-liners, instead of the nervous and uncertain feeling I got when we first were introduced to him. His jokes were macabre then, now they're just funny. The eerie edge has been worn away.

Still, I give this 7/10 because it wasn't the wretched "Hannibal" and it had the bonus of a buff, naked Ralph Fiennes. That's worth the price of a rental alone.
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Sharpe's Regiment (1996 TV Movie)
Among my favorites of the series
7 April 2003
This is one of the best episodes of a brilliant series of films. It's a brief departure from the usual battle hackenslash of the other films and instead shows another side to Sharpe's personality, including his terrible intuition when it comes to the pathetic and deceptively fragile Jane.

But Sharpe isn't the main highlight of this installment. For me, the head attraction is Harper, played by the impressive and easy-on-the-eyes Daragh O'Malley. His revenge on a brutal sargeant with the simple words, "God Save Ireland" is a moment to be cherished and rewatched over and over. Just delicious.

There are few TV movies that I simply adore, and the Sharpe series is right at the top. It was a grand discovery.
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Chicago (2002)
OK, but nothing special, just RAZZLE DAZZLE
26 February 2003
The songs were catchy, but I would prefer to just listen to the CD rather than sitting through the entire film again. The format of introducing the numbers quickly grew tedious and added little to the plot, just what the characters were like (which could have been summed up in a couple lines). It dragged on too long and I checked my watch at least 5 times. I don't hate musicals, but I'm not overly fond of them either. However, I much prefer Singin' in the Rain where the dialogue sparkled and there was more meat to the story. This movie was just all style and no substance, which was my opinion of Moulin Rouge. If this is the way musicals are heading, I think the genre should just retire gracefully.

The only high points of this film were Catherine Zeta-Jones, who was a knockout in the looks, singing and dancing departments, and Queen Latifah, for all that we saw of her (and only one number! What's up with that?). Richard Gere surprised me pleasantly, but I fail to see the appeal of Renee Zellweger. I don't think she or John C. Reilly did well enough to earn their nominations. From what I have seen of Reilly in other films, he's just playing the same role over and over. And Zellweger just didn't have the talent -- or lipsynching skills! -- to hold her own against Zeta-Jones.

6/10 -- it was fun for one viewing, but a 2nd one would serve no purpose. All that it contains is right there to see, unlike The Two Towers where even after seeing it 6 times, I am catching subtleties and underlying images and themes. I think all the "razzle dazzle" Richard Gere sings about has fooled audiences big time.
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Played entirely for laughs and there are lots
20 January 2003
I've only seen the first and last installments of this series and tho I approached them with some trepidation as to the quality and if I'd get my rent money's worth, I have to say that I have. I've rarely laughed during a movie as much as I did for this one. Brad Dourif is back with his wacked-out laugh and the script is a gem, poking fun at itself and the horror genre and pop culture like Martha Stewart. Now I just have to go out and buy a copy for myself so I can enjoy it over and over. The doll FX are pretty good and cheesy all at the same time, which was the intention. Jennifer Tilly and Dourif make such a bizarrely charming couple.

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Worse than I expected
17 January 2003
I'd heard this was a great movie but I still rented it with reservation. The plot lost me, not being a cloning geek, and seemed to drift around aimlessly. The movie appeared to hang more on the spooky behavior of Sigourney Weaver Dr. Doolittling with the aliens. Winona Ryder was out of place, Brad Dourif was his usual creepy self (not a bad thing, but he still couldn't salvage it), and I don't know what was going on with Ron Perlman and his "extreme" moments of yelling. It was pretty shoddy all around. The only standouts for me were the scene with Ripley and the basketball and Michael Wincott's all-too-brief role. He of the magnificent voice should have been given more to do.

It seemed a lot longer than the 108 minutes listed on the box. Aliens seems shorter than that. I'm not a shoot-em-up type of movie watcher, but I do like the stories to have a point and engaging characters. The Marines of Aliens are pretty eye-grabbing whereas the space trash in Alien 4 had no charisma (except Michael "The Voice" Wincott of course).

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Stunning, gorgeous, and impossible to look away from -- and I'm not just talking about Viggo Mortensen
23 December 2002
There is nothing I can add that hasn't been said by many others, but I'll just say that this movie blew me away like the first one did, yet in a different way. The first movie introduced the sweeping scenery, the grandeur and majesty that will be the tone of the entire trilogy, but this movie introduced the brutal and desperate fight to save Middle Earth -- the raw emotions of the players to defend what is theirs and insure their survival. I can only imagine what the final movie is going to be like as the tension is only going to get greater as Mount Doom gets closer and the final battle for Middle Earth takes place. Wow. It takes the breath away.

I was most awestruck by Gollum and the realism of this little creature, as well as the way in which he wrapped you up with his struggle to split away from his evil side. The whole Smeagol/Gollum scene made me cry like a baby even though I was trying to block out the laughs of the ignoramuses around me who thought he was some kind of comedic spastic muppet. However, *I* had *my* laugh when the oodles of fangirls gasped and squealed over Orlando's (face it, Legolas doesn't enter into it at all) two shining moments of derring-do. Which were cool, I won't deny, but there's more to the movies than a butt like granite, however delectable it might be.

Viggo Mortensen was amazing as Aragorn and his character is unfolding more and more. I loved the scene where he screamed in frustration at the pile of burnt orcs. I imagine he was wondering what type of king he would be if he couldn't even save 2 hobbits. And the subsequent intercutting between Merry and Pip's escape and him tracing their steps was very thrilling.

I was pleased that Arwen wasn't in it more than she was. There was just enough, but not too much. The scenes with her and Elrond was very poignant and I'm glad that they were put in rather than just have her pop in and out to suck face with Aragorn.

I've heard complaints about the abundance of Gimli humor, but I didn't think it demeaning in the least. It was great and the banter between Legolas and Gimli was great. I was so psyched to see their number competition at Helm's Deep retained. The Elf-Dwarf friendship is one of the most beautiful things in the books.

Finally, I was really taken with Brad Dourif's performance as Grima. I've only seen him in a Babylon 5 episode (where he was awesome) and in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, so this was completely different from anything else I'd seen and I was amazed that he imbued so many facets in a character that we sadly saw so little of. I've read an interview with him saying that Grima won't be in the third movie and I hope that is wrong! It would be a bummer to not have my second favorite character make his rightful appearance at the end!

10/10 and the rating for the extended DVD will go through the roof
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Jesus Tapdancing Christ...where to begin?
26 November 2002
When you watch a movie and the only thoughts running through your mind are "Am I really seeing this?" and "Did I really hear that?" you have a stinker. From the oh-so-full-of-convenient-coincidences of the car race through the city to the horrendously clunky dialogue between two actors deserving of the Golden Raspberry (Christiansen and Portman -- ye gods!), this movie was a groanfest from start to finish. No one looked comfortable or sounded at ease having to mouth such inanities. There was MAYBE 25 minutes of actual coherent plot that was necessary to the story. Other than that, it was just whiplash from one end of the galaxy to the other with people doing things for no real reason. Why was Jango Feet introduced at all? Just to give motive for Bobba's personality later on? I dunno. It was a screwed-up mess and by the time the first hour was over, I really didn't care. I just watched it to the end hoping that Christopher Lee could salvage it from total mediocrity and he did to a small degree. Although fighting a pinwheeling muppet (OK, CGI he may be, but I liked the old Yoda better) isn't exactly a diginifed use of celluloid, or for a veteran actor like Lee for that matter. Peter Jackson used Lee's talents to greater distinction as Saruman.

This movie still has my brain scrambled so I can't think straight. It made my eyes bleed and my mind reject all that I heard and saw. In short, I can't believe that this ever made it to the theaters. It's not even a passable action movie, let alone an entry into the Star Wars series. Phantom Menace was lame, but this one is a crime again humanity. I wish someone would pry the writer's pen out of George's hands and shoo him out of the picture. Tell him to continue to harrass fanfic sites or something. But atrocities like this have to stop or else the luster of the Star Wars legacy will fade and go out with a resounding splat. I certainly am in no rush to watch the third one. I'll stick with the REAL Star Wars -- the Kasdan Star Wars, not this Lucas-scripted dreck. Even so, the best Star Wars pales in comparison to the rich texture of Lord of the Rings.

This movie has replaced Titanic as my pet hate movie of all time. Congrats, George! -10/10
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Gross manipulation and a trial to watch
31 October 2002
I have lost my enthusiasm for any Steven Spielberg movies over the past several years, ever since he made the switch from good entertainment to preachy message movies showing people all angsty and heartfelt and noble, emotions which he approaches with all the subtlety of Gallagher and his Sledge-o-matic. Spielberg's films are now more like the corny ramblings of grandpa in his dotage where good people are really good and bad people are bad and even people who are in that grey zone are given a black or white role in the end. It's all quite tedious to watch.

It took me a long time to finally get through Schindler's List, as it did Saving Private Ryan, because I was all too aware the entire time that I was being manipulated -- what to feel and when to feel it. Some reviewer put it best when he likened Spielberg to the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind a curtain and pushing buttons and pulling switches on people's emotions. Then he is hailed as an artist and a genius when it's all gross manipulation.

Liam Neeson did give a good performance. His character had more depth to explore than Ralph Fiennes. Excellent actor Fiennes may be, but he was saddled with a pitifully cardboard character. Still, I rooted for him until the end.

If I want to learn about the Holocaust, I'll watch a documentary and see the facts and have genuine emotions, not be told what to feel. Jaws, Jurassic Park, and the Indiana Jones movies are plain fun and have the true Spielberg touch, doing what he does best.

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Compounded cliches and rampant cheesiness = boredom
25 October 2002
I gave this a 3 because it was OK if I turned a blind eye to the flaws (Braveheart got a 2 from me for the same reasons). However, I had to keep my blind eye turned most of the time. The violence was interesting (the napalm injuries almost made me hurl), but the gods! Actually, it read like Braveheart in so many ways in that you can almost utter the lines before the actor does because each situation which can provide a stock, boring and predictable piece of dialogue DOES. Randall Wallace is a one-note screenwriter, and it's a very flat note at that. I mean, "Tell my wife I love her?" and "How can I forgive myself that my boys died and I didn't?" Haven't we heard these lines scads of times before? They're simplistic and truthful, but they have been done over and over and it's a cop out to hear actors say them anymore.

The weepy scenes with Madeleine Stowe tried the patience as well because they were also so damn familiar that I knew what was coming up and could even predict the expressions on her face and the montages. Speaking of montages, the one with the journalist snapping the pictures was out and out cheesy. That's a word that sums up this movie: cheesy.

I felt no attachment to the characters at all. It was just bullets and blood and dead bodies. Another movie that has this same receipe is Black Hawk Down, but BHD was an excellent movie with an amazing central peformance by Josh Hartnett and solid supporting performances that made the movie memorable in every respect. This movie, because it was basically a Mel Gibson vehicle, gave him the only meat to work with and short-shrifted the others. But since the script stunk to high heaven, it doesn't make a bit of difference. I'd recommend BHD over this one anyday.
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It's South Park...of course it's great!
7 October 2002
There's not much else to add to this movie, just that it's one of the funniest things to ever hit the screens. Naturally it's offensive and abuses the human ears, but that's the South Park charm. Highlights include Cartman's song about Kyle's mum and Mr. Mackey's song about cuss word alternatives. And you'll never think about Satan and Saddam Hussein in the same way again -- guaranteed.
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Fluffy and entertaining, but lose the haircut, Meg!
30 September 2002
I thought it was an amiable way to spend 2 hours. I ignored the historical inaccuracies (didn't the writers look anything up??) and settled back to enjoy the handsome Hugh Jackman looking spiffy in his Victorian duds. I'm not a huge fan of Meg Ryan or her unfortunate weed-whacker haircuts, but she wasn't that bad in this movie. However, I do wish that she would try to stretch her acting muscles in other roles and leave the winsome romantic stuff to others. She has had her time as America's sweetheart, but what went over well when she was 30 is a bit harder to take from someone hitting 40. The ditzy charm of Innerspace and French Kiss has given way to the self-absorbed, solipsistic Kate. I suppose she needed to be uptight and career-driven to make her transformation under Leopold's Old World charm more apparent. (Wait, but isn't that what usually happens in her movies????) Anywhoo, it was extremely hard to like her before that happened. Luckily there was Hugh Jackman and the funny Breckin Meyer (I'm still laughing at his Apu spin) to give the movie what it needed to make it work.
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Standard biopic, but with excellent performances
15 July 2002
I was surprised by Chuck Heston in this movie because I've mainly seen his post-Moses/God complex performances and thought he was a big bag of wind, but he was pretty good here. Susan Hayward was excellent as Rachel and gave this pretty standard biopic some heart. The performances were sincere and the black and white photography seemed at home with the subject matter. I would have found it dull in color. I'm a bit foggy on my Jacksonian history, but I don't think Rachel died before he set foot in the White House, but this is a movie, so why else can I expect? :D
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Often hilarious look at an atypical gay love life
17 May 2002
OK, I don't kid myself that this is the typical gay love life but since when are straight romances in real life as they are on the screen? This movie is well-balanced with comedy and drama and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was a riot to see Hugo Weaving play a sex-obsessed gay real estate salesman who uses his clients' houses for his trysts with the flaming Darren (Tom Hollander). And having seen him in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert only the day before, he is probably one of the most secure-in-their-masculinity actors around. :) Anyway, the plot flowed smoothly and the male-bonding scenes were a hoot. Thumbs up! 8/10
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JFK (1991)
Powerful film of emotions, not facts
4 February 2002
This movie has been trashed by so many people that I wonder whether they hold the opinion that historical dramas have to be rigidly accurate. I know little about the assassination and this movie has given me the desire to read about it. To me that is the measure of an excellent movie: that it is told in such a fascinating way that the viewer wants to discover more about it.

Oliver Stone is an inspired filmmaker, no doubt. And I have to agree with Roger Ebert's conclusions about this film. It is not history, but a powerful movie about the emotions of the time, which is just as important as the actual fact that JFK was killed. Garrison's character is the collective 1960s American who was optimistic about the direction in which the country was being led and when JFK died, that vision vanished as well. The sense of loss and frustration is what Stone captured to perfection.

I was pleasantly surprised at Costner's performance. Given his latest streak of bombs, it's nice to see his brilliant earlier performances. Gary Oldman was believable as Oswald and with every film I see of his, I like him more and more.
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Fun in the old swashbuckling tradition
29 January 2002
This is no ground-breaking film and there is no need for it to be. This is escapist entertainment, pure and simple, but it (thankfully) lacks the common escapist elements of recent years of mind-numbing explosions, gunfire, and yelling. Monte Cristo harkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood where Errol Flynn crossed swords with Basil Rathbone and won Olivia de Havilland in the end. The plot is as old as time and was once the most popular play on the American stage. I was completely unfamiliar with the plot, but as I watched the movie, I knew exactly what was going to happen next. Far from being annoyed by this, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The old Errol Flynn movies had paper-thin plots as well, but it was the personalities that made it worth watching and in this version of Monte Cristo, the actors are eminently watchable. Jim Caviezel is the sympathetic hero, manipulated at first by his enemies, but ultimately becoming the architect of his destiny. Guy Pearce evokes memories of past villians who were badder than bad, their sarcasm as deadly as their motives or their sword. Richard Harris was a delight and, along with Luiz Gusman, contributed the right amount of levity to the dark drama. The only performer who could have improved their performance was Dagmara Dominczyk. She had very limited mobility of expression and was quite pale and forgettable. Her habit of barely moving her lips, resulting in a monotone voice quickly grew tiresome. But since the female characters in these dramas are in general uninteresting, I expected little more than what she gave. I thought the sets and costumes were extremely well-chosen and photographed and the action moved at a good pace. I sat in the theater with a big smile on my face and didn't feel cheated of my money. I hope this movie will jumpstart more entries in the swashbuckler genre. This and the Bandares Zorro are completely worthy of Errol Flynn's crown.

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The Matrix (1999)
What's the big deal?
14 January 2002
I honestly don't know why this movie is touted so much as being the ultimate scifi flick or whatever other tags it's gotten over the past 3 years. The story was hard to wrap my mind around, but that's perhaps because the explanation for The Matrix itself was done in the middle of the film in the cheesiest manner possible: sitting the hero down and explaining it to him. My mind just blanked it out. Not only is this device as old as time, but it doesn't involve the audience at all. It's like we're just listening in. It would have been better for Neo to actually experience it firsthand and find out exactly what the reality is around him and how it came to be. I found the FX to be pretty cheesy as well. I felt like I was watching someone play a video game rather than watching a movie. The whole concept of the story may be "deep" for the latest generation (I'm one step ahead of you folks), but it sounded like contrived dreck to me. 2/10 cuz Keanu's pretty cute, but cuteness does not a good movie make.
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