Archive for December, 2005

One-word review

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

You have those movies, that are pushed back somehow, or shoved into the back room. Or maybe I didn’t have time to get around to it till it got on DVD, or maybe it was released directly to DVD. Usually there’s a reason for that, so I won’t spend the usual 1000 words on it, instead opting for just one word. This way, you won’t think I didn’t see all the movies that are out there. So here goes (what I’ve in the past mandatory vacation week off):

Seven Swords: Mediocre.
The Longest Yard: Medium.
Saw: Sharp.
Saw II: Sharptoo.
Wolf Creek: Riiihiiiiight.
The Aristocrats: Hmmm…
Into the Blue: Shallow. (Got to see Jessica Alba’s right nipple exposed though, or rather, her body double, as the producers wants us to believe)
Tom yum goong: Haha. (And that’s not meant in a good way)

Wow, these one-word reviews are harder than I thought it would be, keeping it to just one word and all.

US Box Office

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

King Kong still roars at the top of the box office, but the roar isn’t that loud. With $31.4 million, it’s only a fraction more than the number 2, as Narnia takes in $30.1 million.
New openers at 3 and 4, Jim Carrey starrer Fun with Dick & Jane with $23.5 million and Steve Martin starrer (with the rest of the original cast) Cheaper by the Dozen 2 with $14.8 million. The Family Stone rounds out the top five with $10.9 million in its second week.

Review: Stealth

Monday, December 26th, 2005

Stealth it was indeed, but in a whole other way. Having bombed everywhere in the world, some countries didn’t even dare release it, and put it on DVD straight away. Why watch it then ?
Well, even though the critics were unified in bashing this movie, I’d have to disagree with this one. Sure, the script is simple. It’s pretentious and predicatable. Some might call it stupendous. And I’ll have to agree with the generic hero/villain characters too. But with $130 million for a direct-to-DVD, you DO get one hell of a deal. And that’s what this movie is all about, brainless entertainment. And I’ve bashed other movies for this very same thing, but this one somehow manages to keep the fun alive without irritating you at all.
Credit for that goes to Rob Cohen, even though he delivered good movies a decade ago, his career change to the brainless side was obvious a few years ago (The Fast and the Furious (one of those movies I bashed), xXx etc). But the upside of it all is that he can truly grasp all of the technical aspects of today’s way of filming. The use of special and visual effects, combined with the budget, really delivers top notch onscreen spectacle. Combined with good actors, even if the scripts is lousy, makes up for the rest. This one is really a “just eat the popcorn and keep your mouth shut” movie. Or wait, that’s not physically possible. But you know what I mean.7-.

Review: An Unfinished Life

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

Solid drama from the (late) Miramax line, very much in line with Lasse Hallstrom’s previous dealings with the Weinstein Brothers (Chocolat and The Cider House Rules). While it’s not a spectacular script, at it’s core it’s what you expect from it, and who doesn’t like a feel-good drama now and then.
Acting is strong as usual, with Robert Redford taking lead, and the always trustworthy sidekick role comes from Morgan Freeman. Then we have Jennifer Lopez (who actually did pretty good on screen before the singing gig started rising to her head), and it seems Hallstrom has things under control (or a lot of time to do re-takes), as even that is pretty good (then again, maybe it’s because the shots were all upper body shots).7½.

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

That Pathe Unlimited card I have is a gift AND a curse. Responsible for the last category, iss movies like Narnia. I should’ve known. The trailer had capital letters CHILDREN MOVIE, AVOID AT ALL COST plastered all over it. And even the high IMDB grade didn’t fool me (with Catholic madmen keep voting 10’s). So going to see it for “free” must count for _something_ ? Well, no. Not by a long shot.
Talking about long. How long can you drag out a simplistic story with one, pardon me, QUARTER dimensional characters ? Apparently for about 140 minutes, but it’s during the first 20 where you start to wonder if C.S. Lewis’s original was a novel, or a 4-page comic.
So it’s obvious it’s meant for kids. But then, what about the educational value ? It’s tries to be there, but for a preachy Catholic dude, that Lewis guy is actually teaching kids that good and evil is just there, and to be a hero you don’t have to work your ass off.
Off to the technical merits then. With double the budget of a single LotR chapter, it looks like only a tenth was really used. Obvious green screens, undetailed CGI and sloppy tracking. It’s all too obvious. Speaking of LotR, how about copying a few scenes while you’re at it ?
Then the acting. If you think the first Harry Potter was bad (but at least there was a funny story behind it), this one is pretty much unbearable.
So that leaves just the grade, a few points for some unintended funny parts (Biggest brother going on to lead a massive battle after being 2 days in Narnia, asks a guy he just met, in a dead serious tone “Are you with me ?”, to which the guy replies just as serious “To the death”).3½.


Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

Christmas is a cheerful time, and laughter should be one of the main ingredients. But since I’m not quite the joke producer, I have to do an awful copy & paste action, something that goes into my very core of staying original. But for the greater good, here it is (from

A New Twist on an Old Tradition

One particular Christmas season a long time ago, Santa was getting ready for his annual trip … but there were problems everywhere. Four of his elves got sick, and the trainee elves did not produce the toys as fast as the regular ones so Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of being behind schedule. Then Mrs. Claus told Santa that her mom was coming to visit. This stressed Santa even more. When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were out, heaven knows where. More stress. Then when he began to load the sleigh one of the boards cracked and the toy bag fell to the ground and scattered the toys. Needless to say Santa wasn’t in the best mood.
Just then the doorbell rang and Santa went to the door expecting another problem. He opened the door and there was a little angel with a great big Christmas tree there just to cheer Santa up.
The angel said, very cheerfully, “Merry Christmas Santa. Isn’t it just a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Isn’t it just a lovely tree? Where would you like me to stick it?”
Thus began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.

Review: A Good Woman

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

_Another_ movie with Scarlett Johansson ? Well, yeah, it’s only the seventh in 2 years. And even if the movie isn’t all that, luckily it’s still no overkill. This tiny movie is set in Italy, and it thrives on the typical suburban gossip machine. You’ve seen it before. Quite predictable, but luckily not all the way till the end. In the end, there’s even some true feelings flying off the screen. Other things balancing out the somewhat slowy pace it Helen Hunt in an unusual role (which are always the best in her case), but that’s where the good things end.6½.


Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Is there a masseuse in the house ? Somehow, without actually physically straining myself, somehow, a tendon or muscle got rewired (or at least, it feels like that) somewhere between my spine and right shoulder blade. Now I can only turn my head in excruciating pain, and right arm functionality is also highly limited. If your job is an emergency masseuse, please call me. Before lunch time. (I’ve had this before to a lesser extend, and it always goes away in one or two days, so if you’re in a helping mood, help fast)

US Box Office

Monday, December 19th, 2005

It’s 25 feet tall, growls a lot, climbs the Empire State Building and is on top of the box office. With $50.1 million, it’s far from the Lord of the Rings openings, but with no kids free from school, and a blizzard here and there, the next few weeks will have to prove if Kong is really the King for this year (Currently SWIII, HP4 and WotW).
Second spot is for last week’s topper, Narnia and the way too long title, with $31.2 million, an expected 52% drop. At three we have The Family Stone, the umpteenth movie with Dermot Mulroney as the fiancee, with $12.7 million. Left-overs round out the top five, with Harry Potter taking $5,9 million and Syriana $5.4 million.

Review: The Triangle

Monday, December 19th, 2005

Whoppa, 6 hours down the drain. That Bermuda thing is really evil.
Who would’ve thought with Bryan Singer’s and Dean Devlin’s name on top of it (both exec producers), such a disaster could be the result. Granted, for a 6 hour mini-series on the SciFi chan, a lower budget must be maintained, so a bit of fuzzy special effect shots isn’t something to frown upon. The story, script and overall quality however, is totally below par. Give this mini-series as an unlabeled and uncredited DVD to any random person, and when you ask for it back, he will throw it in your face, if not, make you eat it whole without any organic lubricant.
Character design and interaction, overall acting (with Lou Diamond Phillips as the only exception), outline and design of the story, it’s all puke-quality (and that’s besides the fact that most scifi fans have already seen the conclusion featured in many episodes of several series).

Review: Grey’s Anatomy 201 – 212

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

With previous season cut short, and moved over to this season, you really start to wonder. But it was just a strategic move, one that actually made sense. ABC’s hit series has been growing since the very beginning. Continuously evolving relationships, and developing the characters make every new episode stronger and better, despite you liking or disliking certain characters. Being the total opposite of Fox’s House (which is episodic, has only one-dimensional characters _and_ is highly formulaic), these two shows split the audience in perfect halves (since both shows are hits), and I wholeheartedly stand at ABC’s side.

Cutting the fat

Saturday, December 17th, 2005

It’s almost taboo, and I haven’t done it since the internet was invented. But it’s really that time. I’m actually deleting downloaded TV eps without watching them. When a 20 GB backlog to work my way through, there just doesn’t seem enough time to decrease that pile of unimportantness (for the must-see TV eps, I _make_ time, of course). So what am I deleting (and scratching off my TV schedule ?):

Ghost Whisperer
Sleeper Cell

The reason is obvious, what they all share is too repetitive story telling with no real depth to be seen or expected.
With dozens of episodes each, I at least halved my backlog. If I don’t clear that before January network TV restart (with a few new shows premiering), I’m really cooked.

Review: King Kong

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Probably one of the most anticipated movie this year, and you can breathe now, as the movie confidently delivers. The key is, obviously, doing it BIG. And there’s no denying in the fact that it works. Big budget leads to big sets, big special effects extravaganza and of course a big King Kong. Just like the whole Lord of the Rings series worked so well, so does this movie. Although with a few minor differences.
The script breaks about after the first half of the movie. Changing it from personal story telling to full speed chase mode (leaving no time for real depth of characters) doesn’t go unnoticed. But then again, what a ride it is. With a running time of almost 3 hours, it not boring at any time.
Another difference is that there’s is no real clear-cut hero/villain type, and without the hero to root for, it might subdue the exciment a bit. But just a bit.
So, what earns it enough points to make it DVD (Special Edition, of course) worthy ? Great acting and great casting. Casting Jack Black in a non-comedy movie got me scared, but luckily, it worked quite well. Casting Naomi Watts is of course a non-brainer. Mixing the less serious and very serious actors/characters gives it a nice contrast.
Then there’s King Kong, sending Andy Serkis to Africa to study gorillas really pays off. The uncanny mannerisms integrated in the motion capture is a joy to watch. Money to make him look life-like does the rest. The finishing touch, money does well for atmosphere, the whole 1933 look and feel it nicely recreated (not spoiling the fact of the majestic landscapes during the second half of the movie).
The conclusion is clear, with so much money well spent (including certain shots paid for by Peter Jackson himself, to finish the 3 hour cut he wanted), I’d recommend you spend money to see it.8½.

US Box Office

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

Disney can let out a deep breath now, as Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe takes in $67 million, a second best December opening (behind Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). With 6 more C.S. Lewis novels in the bag, the future for Disney might look just as bright as WB’s (home of Harry Potter).
Syriana, teaming Clooney and Damon again, climbs to the second spot in its first week in wide release, with $12 million. At 3, the magic spell is losing power, as Harry takes in $10.3 million (only $5 million ahead of the first chapter’s earnings at the same week). At 4, Walk the Line has long legs, with $5.75 million (and a $70 million cume). Rounding out the top 5 is Yours, Mine and Ours with $5.15 million.

Review: Broken Flowers

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

Bill Murray as a one man show had his ups and downs. With Lost in Translations is was all the way up, which was the main reason I went to see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (slightly disappointed). So Broken Flowers is another indie picture (Focus Features), and it looks like another one of those long stretched silent movies. Most of that time could be filled with story advancement or character development, but instead we get to see a detailed (but not so exciting) solo road trip. Here and there are some funny bits, but mostly it’s just pointless stuff leading to an unfinished story.6½.