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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.

Friday, August 31, 2007 :::

Nacho Libre

Why I saw it: Cuz.

What I think about it: High on style, way too low on substance. Or laughs. It follows a Mexican monk's comedic journey into competitive wrestling. Jack Black is okay, and his sidekick gets some genuine laughs, but in the end it just wasn't really worth it.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 5:01 PM :: #

Art School Confidential

Why I saw it: Terry Zwigoff

What I think about it: It's pretty accurate about the idiocy of art school, but it's not very entertaining. And the serial killer subplot is pointless. It's as if they wanted to make fun of art school students but then realized that they needed a plot to string together the insults.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 4:58 PM :: #

The Devil Wears Prada

Why I saw it: Meryl.

What I think about it: It's cute, and I like looking at well-dressed people, but it relies way too heavily on formula (you could snore out the story arc in your sleep), and although you are clearly supposed to side with the Anne Hathaway's friends by thinking that she was indeed getting too involved in a shallow, thankless, spiteful industry that was making her lose touch with her friends and forget her upbringing, I couldn't help but want her to stay in the business (where she was so obviously excelling) and ditch her old boring mates who obviously didn't care a whit about her career or her future, and go out on the town with all her fabulous new industry buddies. Down-to-earthedness can be soooo overrated.

Meryl was awesome though.

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::: posted by dan at 4:49 PM :: #

The Aristocrats, Wordplay, and Jesus Camp

Why I saw it: I like documentaries.

What I think about it: Documentaries get more and more appealing as I get older and more reactive to the abundant cinematic cliches of narrative film. These three movies were all entertaining in subject matter and execution, so the three star rating is an average. Jesus Camp is probably the best of the three, mostly due to its incendiary subject matter (children are brainwashed at a camp for narrow minded Bible beaters - and no, that is not an unfair judgement). The Aristocrats is a little repetitive, since it is entirely about different comedians telling the same joke over and over with their own unique spins, and it's a little annoying that the joke is not that funny to begin with, but there is something charming in the participants letting us in on their inside joke. Word Play, which is about crossword puzzles and the people who do them, some for fun, some competitively, is surprisingly interesting. Anyway, they are all worth your while.

Learn more about them.

::: posted by dan at 4:37 PM :: #


Why I saw it: The reviews were rapturous.

What I think about it: It was definitely funny, and that guy's commitment to the character (not to mention is willingness to push every boundary imaginable) is impressive, but I had a hard time watching Borat. It was so in my face that is was practically punching a bloody hole into my forehead, and it made me so incredibly uncomfortable to watch that I had to hold my hands in front of my face. It's amazing that they could elicit such a reaction out of callous old me, so I definitely give them credit for over achievement, but I can't possibly recommend it and risk putting others through the same agony I went through.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 4:32 PM :: #

The Prestige

Why I saw it: I heard it was twisty turny.

What I think about it: Some movies rely so heavily on their plot twists that there is nothing else left to the structure, so if you happen to predict the twists and turns in advance, then the movie collapses into utter void. That's what happened with me and The Prestige. I figure out what was going on WAY before the filmmakers wanted me to, the resulting "reveal" was a major disappointment. On the plus side, the production values and the acting were both top notch.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 4:28 PM :: #

Superman Returns

Why I saw it: Why not.

What I think about it: It's gotta be hard to make Superman boring, but they managed quite well. Did anyone actually like sitting through this? I can't even remember the plot, and when I try my brain shuts down. Even the special effects were lackluster. Meh. The biggest Meh ever. Supermeh.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 4:26 PM :: #

Clerks 2

Why I saw it: I actually kinda liked Clerks 1.

What I think about it: I like Kevin Smith the person. He's interesting on talk shows and he has interesting ideas. But he is a terrible filmmaker. The worst. Everything since the first Clerks movie has been embarassingly bad. Almost infuriatingly bad. It doesn't help that he is a hack with a camera either, with no sense of pacing or visual style to be found. The main problem with Clerks 2 is that the jokes are bad. Unfunny. Lame. And the relationships are totally unrealistic. And MAN did those actors get ugly in the last decade. Please just go on a lecture circuit or start reviewing movies professionally and stop actually making them, Kevin. Please.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 4:21 PM :: #

A Prairie Home Companion

Why I saw it: I like Lily Tomlin quite a bit.

What I think about it: Basically just an onscreen version of the stage and radio play, which itself is basically just an excuse for some people to stand onstage singing old songs and telling old stories. It's entertaining enough, and the music is charming, but the attempt to inject plot into the proceedings doesn't go off so well, and the resulting movie ends up feeling a little unsatisfying and slightly boring. I loved all the characters, though.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 4:18 PM :: #


Why I saw it: I love Hedwig.

What I think about it: It's a far cry from the brilliance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but it's still a well-thought-out character study about sex and relationships that is told with enthusiasm about its subject and unusual candor. There is actual onscreen sex between some not-so-fun-to-look-at people, but the hardcore aspect is underplayed and overshadowed by the attention to character and the humor in the sitations. Plus, it has some great music, too. It's a tad scatterbrained, and doesn't really inspire any epiphanies about its subject matter, but it's smart and entertaining and always feels good-natured. No matter what, it's definitely unlike anything you've ever seen.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 4:14 PM :: #

Basic Instinct 2

Why I saw it: I dunno. I got no excuse. Nude bodies?

What I think about it: I actually think the first Basic Instinct is a classic of its genre. Not that it's a very respectable genre, but still. The performances were tight, the plotting was ridiculously twisty, and the ride was fun. Basic Instinct 2 is none of those things. It's not clever, it's not well-acted, it's plodding and boring, and it's not even sexy. Avoid.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 4:11 PM :: #


Why I saw it: I like Office Space a lot.

What I think about it: Although it's occasionally funny and the basic concept is quite clever, its awkwardly cast due to the fact that Luke Wilson has absolutely zero on-screen charisma. The production values are so tacky that it looks like someone vomited on the screen, but I suppose that is the point and very true to the concept. It just doesn't really promote repeated viewings is all. Besides all that, it was an adequate comedy.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 4:01 PM :: #

The Departed

Why I saw it: It won best picture.

What I think about it: Grizzly and sadistic, but entertaining nonetheless. Good performances all around, a sharp story that surprises, but really it's not much more than your average mob/crime drama. People always say that Scorsese should have won the oscar for Goodfellas, but I think this is by far the better picture. Goodfellas was flashy, but LONG and pointless. The Departed is focused and know exactly what story it needs to tell. Not really the best movie of the year by any means, but definitely one of the better ones.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 3:58 PM :: #

Everything is Illuminated

Why I saw it: I loved the book.

What I think about it: Everything is Illuminated is one of my favorite novels of all time, mostly due to Foer's inventive writing style and vivid characterizations, but also because of the powerful storyline that is echoed across multiple timelines. But this movie is a travesty of arrogance run amok.

Don't get me wrong, I'm usually fine with directors changing their source material to better suit the big screen, but there is a huge difference between tweaking a story line for the sake of efficiency and completely changing the plot, characters and meaning.

I agree that the book, as is, would be practically unfilmable by most filmmakers. I even agree that removing the historical passages of the book might be a good idea to make the storyline more manageable for the film medium. It's a sad loss of some great material, to be sure, but maybe a necessary one. Unfortunately, Liev Schrieber takes so many other liberties with the source material that the movie no longer has the same plot, the same characters, the same resolution, or the same meaning. The entire POINT of the book is completely discarded and essentially inverted. Even the characters are changed in such essential ways and with such utter disregard for everything that made them special in the first place that they are almost unrecognizable. It's as if Liev read the book and completely misunderstood it. Either that, or he is so arrogant and infatuated with himself that he actually believed he could improve it by altering its essence. I'm not sure which one is worse, but regardless, the only thing left that connects this movie to the book is the title, which is a huge disservice to the author's numerous fans.

I actually believe that this movie is so different from the book in tone, vision, character, and meaning, that had Liev Schreiber made and released the movie under a different title and changed the characters names, no one would have ever made the connection to the original "source" material.

But is it a good movie?

Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible for me to separate the book from the movie, or review the movie on its own merits. I can only imagine that if I had not read the book beforehand that I would find the movie to be watchable but underwhelming and incohesive. It has an enjoyable sense of quirkiness and some nice cinematography but no heart or pulse. And in comparison to the book, the movie lacks character, credibility, emotional resonance, and originality. It lacks everything that made the book great.

I honestly felt like I'd been sucker-punched while watching this "adaptation". It's the first time I've ever taken personal offense to a filmmaker's treatment and lack of respect for the source material. I wish I could will this movie into nonexistence.

What makes me the most angry is that this watching this movie might dissuade people from eventually reading the book, which to me is unforgiveable. It's inarguably an important, essential work of fiction for everyone and anyone.

So if it's not too late, skip this movie and read the book. You'll thank me later.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 3:53 PM :: #


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