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I watch movies. On DVD, at the theater, via cable TV. Sometimes I want people to know what I think about the movies I watch, regardless of whether or not they care. I promise I will make my reviews short, but I won't be ashamed to throw around cliches like "beautiful cinematography" and "post-modern irony," so be warned.

Saturday, June 18, 2005 :::

The Machinist

Why I saw it: It looked intriguing and I was on a Christian Bale kick after Batman Begins.

What I think about it: This is a very bad movie. It's a dark thriller about an anorexic, insomniac factory worker who starts having hallucinatory visions and finding strange inexplicable notes that may or may not have something to do with an accident that he was responsible for in his machine shop. The movie torments the viewer by never providing enough information and by allowing its main character to act irrationally without explanation (Oh, your fridge is oozing blood? Do you think maybe you should open it and see why? No? Okay...). Plus it cheats unforgivably before building to the biggest plot-twist cliche ending in the history of cinema. It's embarrassing that filmmakers still think they can get away with this stuff. Add to that the utterly boring production values and the derivative Hitchcockian Vertigo vibe, and you got one of the worst thrillers of recent memory. Plus, poor Christian Bale poured himself into the role valiantly, losing so much weight that he looks like a holocaust victim (I'm not even slightly exaggerating) and it's actually uncomfortable to look at him on screen. I bet after seeing the premiere, all he could think was "I took on anorexia for that?" Poor Christian Bale. What a waste.

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::: posted by dan at 11:19 AM :: #

Thursday, June 16, 2005 :::

Batman Begins

Why I saw it: why not.

What I think about it: What surprises me most about Batman Begins is that Warner Brothers actually greenlighted its production. The studio allowed one of its most successful summer blockbuster franchises to be reinvented as a dense, dark, complicated character drama with very little action and a lot of heady cerebral concepts about the fine line between good and evil and the value of human idealism. The first half of the movie is spent rationalizing the motivation of a man who would dress up in a costume and attack bad guys with crazy gadgets and almost superhuman abilities. They go the extra mile to make everything seem plausible and realistic, including how Batman can "fly" and how one would even go about manufacturing such a fancy high-tech uniform. The last half of the movie is a slow-building crime drama as he tests his powers as well as his resolve. The villians are also represented realistically, with genuine human motivations. It's kind of daring, and a complete 180 from all previous Batman movies, which could only be considered a very good thing. Once upon a time, Tim Burton's first two Batman movies were considered dark and brooding, but Batman Begins piles on the dark emotions and gritty realism to the extreme, with some pretty effective and downright creepy results. It's a deep, dark, adult, mature, psychologically complex action drama that will alienate anyone under the age of twenty and confuse your average summertime theater goer looking for escapist entertainment. I was quite impressed.

I can't stand Michael Caine and I don't understand why people are impressed with him. He always seems like the same person, no matter what role he's in. Is it just his accent that hypnotizes people? Everyone else in the movie does a fine job. No one overplays their role. The writing and direction are top notch. Even considering all this, it's probably not a movie I could watch repeatedly.

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::: posted by dan at 12:26 PM :: #

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Why I saw it: I like the director (I think 'Go' is still an underappreciated masterpiece) and it got good reviews.

What I think about it: Even though you know exactly where this movie is going every step of the way and there are really no surprises to be found (I won't even bother summarizing the plot), it's still entertaining all the way through. It may get a little repetitive toward the end and it may go over the top with the implausabilities, but that's half its charm. The other half is the great dialogue and chemistry between the two main characters. I've decided that Angelina Jolie (even though she's never been in a movie I've liked up until now) has got more on-screen charisma than almost any other living actress today. Sure, in real life she's a nutjob with a few loose bolts, but I don't give a crap. Brad Pitt, on the other hand, has been in a lot of movies I like but he always tends to underwhelm me. Together in this movie they make the most of what they have, and the result is a semi-charming movie with a hip style and tone and some better-than-average humor. It's what Oceans 12 should have been. And it's probably about as macho of a movie as I'm ever going to like.

Why this movie is PG-13 is beyond me, though. Apparently you can have a bloody brawl with a hundred hired gunmen and a couple dozen butcher knives and still be suitable for children as long as you never show any boobies.

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::: posted by dan at 9:23 AM :: #

Sunday, June 12, 2005 :::

Meet the Fockers

Why I saw it: Because I actually liked Meet the Parents and I was simultaneously curious and dubious.

What I think about it: This is the most successful comedy of all time? Really? Every single second of this movie, from the awful opening Randy Newman song to the anti-climactic forced ending, seems manufactured to be disappointing. It's a half-assed hackjob that cannibalizes all the best parts of the of the original movie until nothing is funny anymore. The original movie was good because a) it had subtle nuances that were funny, b) it was entirely plausible and didn't set up any forced situations, and c) Ben Stiller wasn't over-exposed yet. I still laugh at Meet the Parents during the water volleyball scene or when Owen Wilson talks about Jesus being a Jew. Meet the Fockers, on the other hand, is bad because a) all the subtle nuances are gone and replaced by uninspired grandiose sight gags like dogs getting flushed and geriatric sex ed classes, b) plausibility is gone and the characters take their personas way too far into the realm of cartoonish stereotypes, and c) I'm getting tired of Ben Stiller's schtick. We've seen all these jokes before, in the first movie, and they were funnier then. Scenes like when Robert DeNiro teaches his toddler nephew his "I'm Watching You" routine from the first movie are embarrassing and the endless jokes about vuglarizing the Focker name are uninspired. On the plus side, Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand make good additions to the cast, even if their characters are too over the top. But this movie is still unforgivable because it almost ruins the first movie for me. It's comedy poison.

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::: posted by dan at 10:02 AM :: #

Sunday, June 05, 2005 :::


Why I saw it: It got good reviews and had a good preview.

What I think about it: This is a quasi-documentary that basically consists of the filmmaker's old home videos and childhood memories edited together with a musical soundtrack that chronicles his difficult childhood and his psychologically damaged mother. It's rough around the edges, and occasionally over-sentimentalized (which results in certain moments feeling slightly forced), but it's honest and emotional and brutally realized. Plus, he's an interesting character that actually does have an interesting story to tell. It's amazing what you can accomplish on a Mac with some old home videos and good taste in music. I hope it doesn't spark a new revolution in solipsistic filmmaking, though, because listening to everyone's various sob stories edited MTV-style with maudlin music could get really old really quick, but as the first of its kind to really make a splash, this movie does deserve a lot of credit.

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::: posted by dan at 11:54 PM :: #

What The Bleep Do We Know?

Why I saw it: It got good reviews and had a long run in the arty theaters

What I think about it: New age hooey. This is a "documentary" about how little we know about quantum mechanics and the particles (and the spaces between the particles) that make up our biology, and how those particles and mechanics are connected to our spirituality. I'm surprised of this movie's popularity, because even if you can look past its hokey concept and creepy religious undertones, you still can't deny that it's poorly made and downright boring (and it also includes the worst Marley Matlin performance you will ever witness). In terms of its production values, my friend Brent was frighteningly accurate when he said "I feel like I'm on one of those educational movie rides at Epcot Center." Honestly, though, this is pretty irresponsible filmmaking. It actually claims that you can affect matter with your mind and alter the crime rate in Washington DC through the power of positive thought, and then never even bothers to back up its flimsy claims with any type of varifiable statistic or scientific study. I understand we know very little about what makes us who we are, and that there are a lot of possibilities about the human existence that we just aren't capable of understanding or realizing, but when one of the main experts in an interview claims to be channeling the dead soul of an 30,000 year old Atlantis inhabitant (named Ramtha), then all credibility starts to fly out the window. So yeah, I'm all for opening up your mind to other possibilities than what we can actually see and feel around us, but I don't need to hear it from some creepy voodoo priestess. The film does make a few good points about addiction and how people can actually become physiologically addicted to feeling different emotions (even bad ones) that definitely rang true when I started thinking about certain people's personalities, but beyond that this movie is just quasi-religious propaganda.

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::: posted by dan at 11:37 PM :: #


Why I saw it: It got good reviews and I like sci-fi, especially when it's tech-nerdy

What I think about it: I don't think it's even possible to understand this movie just by watching it. Even if you paid really close attention, you wouldn't be able to fully comprehend this movie, even after multiple viewings. It involves the accidental discovery of time travel and the paradoxical issues that such an invention would inevitably create, including multiple timelines, dopplegangers, and seemingly unexplainable non-sequitors. After watching it, I knew that what I had witnessed would probably make sense if I took the time to sit down and think it all through and map it all out, but as a regular viewer you just aren't given enough information to fully comprehend it. Which is my one real complaint: I don't mind difficult movies that require work to fully understand, and I don't need every little thing explained to me, but when a filmmaker knows that his audience could only really begin to comprehend his work and his intentions after multiple viewings (and in my case, help from the internet), then perhaps he isn't that proficient of a storyteller. I really do appreciate the attempt, though, especially since the filmmaker's interpretation of time travel is grounded in reality, and since this is the first movie to really tackle the conceptual complications of being able to go back in time realistically. Anyway, it's definitely worth watching if you take the time to research its meaning later. If you don't want to work at it, then don't bother.

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::: posted by dan at 11:22 PM :: #

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Why I saw it: I like dumb movies. Especially after watching all those lofty ones.

What I think about it: It is alternatingly the dumbest movie I have ever seen and the funniest, but Harold and Kumar are so undeniably likeable that it's all worthwhile in the end. When our two main heroes get high with an escaped Cheetah in the woods and then ride it back to civilization, I almost turned the movie off. How could anyone ever even think that could be considered funny. But then when Kumar has a fantasy sequence about meeting, wooing, courting, marrying, and verbally abusing a big bag of pot, it almost transcends its awfullness. And I usually don't even like pot humor. I find no solace in Cheech and Chong. So things start looking up. But then the college girls play "Battleshit" in the bathroom in what must surely be the lowest possible lowbrow comedy scene in celluloid history. I almost turned it off again. But then Neil Patrick Harris shows up in a pretty funny cameo and almost saves the day. Almost. I just don't know what to say. It's a horrible movie in the long run, but it made me laugh a lot. One problem though: even though I understand the concept of having "the munchies", I am totally disturbed by the fixation with White Castle. White Castle "burgers" have to be the single most disgusting thing I've ever eaten. I don't care how high you are, they still gotta taste like total ass. I wish it had been titled "Harold and Kumar Go to Taco Bell." That would've made more sense to me.

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::: posted by dan at 10:05 PM :: #


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