December 21st, 2005

On November 14, 1959 two men broke into a country home in a small Kansas town. If they were in search of something, that was vastly overshadowed by what they did. On that night so many years ago, the two men brutally murdered the family living there. Details of the four people murdered made their way into the New York Times and I am sure caught the attention of many. One man in particular was moved enough to want to write about it. He wanted to learn everything he could and write an article on how the town was reacting to this tragedy. After arriving in Kansas and talking to a few people, he realized there was too much material for an article. He would have to write a book. This movie tells Truman Capote's story as he researches and writes his novel In Cold Blood.

Capote used the fame acquired from best-selling fiction novels, the name popularized from them, and his publisher's deep pockets to obtain unrestricted access to information and to the two men charged with the crime. From there he used his manipulative personality and his supercharged drive to write this book to pry into the lives of Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith; the convicted.

At first glance, I had decided not to see Capote. My movie watcher-actor relationship with Philip Seymour Hoffman has never been strong. He has been in good movies (Almost Famous, Patch Adams), but I have never had much respect for his work in them. I have never seen any archive footage of Truman Capote, so I cannot speak to how well Hoffman played Capote. Trueness to the character aside, I was very impressed with Hoffman's performance. Too often I find his characters devoid of emotion. That may be the way they are written, but it comes across to me as attributed to Hoffman. As Truman Capote he felt, and he felt deeply. You may not like it, but you will feel along with him as you watch Capote.

Clifton Collins Jr. is a name that I wish more people knew. In Capote Collins has a very important role; he was cast as Perry Smith, the convicted young man to which Truman Capote devotes the most time. Based on the amount of on screen time he had, I hate to say that I thought it unfortunate that he had such a small role. When I say that, I mean that I am disappointed by how few speaking parts he had, but that was the nature of his character and the will of the makers of the movie. I think he has talent and decent potential. He has worked with big names earlier in his career, Samuel L. Jackson in 187 and Robert Redford in The Last Castle, but I think landing the role in Capote was his biggest step forward. Maybe after seeing Capote you will finally remember the name Clifton Collins, Jr.

Catherine Keener plays Capote's long time friend and research assistant Nell Harper Lee. That name may ring familiar, if it does it will be most likely from the book she wrote while she helped Truman Capote work on his. Her book was titled To Kill A Mockingbird. If you have seen Keener in other movies, you may know her as a strong willed, patient woman. This holds true in Capote as well.

The movie really makes you want to like Truman Capote, it his Truman himself that fights to make you dislike him. As the protagonist watchers struggle with him to get information, but it is his choices of what to do with that information that causes conflict. What I learned from the movie Capote is that Truman Capote was a very self-absorbed man. Each and everything he did in his adult life appeared to be self-serving or not worth his time. You see the relationships he has developed. We get to know two the two people closest in his life, yet even their friendship is at his convenience. They see the good in him and wish to share it with him, but more often than not it seems to be buried beneath his own motives.

This book was not a part of his life, rather it was his life as he wrote it and it left irreparable damage once this chapter in his life was closed. It consumed him and you may take solace as it seems he does see the error in his ways at the end. Hindsight is 20/20, so they say. We are led to believe he could not forgive himself; it will be on a case by case basis whether we as viewers, now privy to the details, can forgive him.

The movie was very graphic, so I do warn you about that, but if it is actually possible, I must say the graphic nature of Capote was done tastefully and it did serve a purpose. There was nothing gratuitous about it.

I liked Capote very much. I love profound movies, and Capote certainly was that. I recommend you see this in the theater if you have the chance. If not, on DVD will have to suffice.

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Movie of the Month - January, 2006

December 20th, 2005

Wet Hot American Summer

Wet Hot American SummerCamp Firewood. 1981. It's the last day of camp and everyone is busy. Camp director Beth (Janeane Garofalo) is trying to keep order while falling in love with astrophysicist Henry (David Hyde Pierce). Henry is trying to save the camp from being hit by a piece of SKYLAB hurtling toward Earth. Camp counselor Coop is in love with Katie, who is in love with lifeguard Andy. If that's not enough, there's a waterfall rescue, talking vegetable cans, the misfits, the cool kids...and more!

It's a star-filled, laugh-a-minute, crazy comedy. Summer camp was never this much fun!

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December 17th, 2005
Almost FamousLester Bangs: The only true currency in this bankrupt world... is what you share with someone else when you're uncool.

December 13th, 2005
Airplane!Rumack: Captain, how soon can you land?
Captain Oveur: I can't tell.
Rumack: You can tell me. I'm a doctor.
Captain Oveur: No. I mean I'm just not sure.
Rumack: Well, can't you take a guess?
Captain Oveur: Well, not for another two hours.
Rumack: You can't take a guess for another two hours?

One ticket, please.

December 13th, 2005

At the risk of bragging about my awe-inspiring social calendar, I will divulge just one juicy tidbit. When I go to the movies, more often than not I go alone. You are jealous, I am flattered and no, you cannot touch me.

It has become second nature to me and I do not think twice anymore about going alone. For a long time I had my reservations about going stag to the movies, but then I realized that it is no big deal. It is not like we are going to talk during the movie anyway, right? So what is the point of having to have someone next to you? All it would really mean is that I have to share my popcorn. Not cool. There are certain movies and genres of movies where it makes more or less sense to see them alone as opposed to in a group.

It is legitimate to request company to a horror movie; you will get no arguments from me if you need an arm to squeeze at the scary parts.

Some people feel that in the scenario of a good knee-slapping comedy it is best to have an escort. I will agree that it may be better, but I have become comfortable enough on my own to still belt out with laughter even though I am alone. I did use to struggle with that and would sit tight lipped. I found myself not enjoying movies as much as I felt they deserved. I saw one funny movie on my own, then again with friends. The difference was amazing. The movie hadn't changed, but I laughed out loud much more the second time. With that experience, my inhibitions about laughing by myself went out the window. You may say that the solution to my problem was to find friends with which to go to the movies, I chose to teach myself to laugh on my own. So I'm a touch anti-social. Moving on...

There are also movies where I am glad to see them alone. There is less distraction when the seats on either side of you are empty. You are able to feel isolated. When you lose yourself in the story, you needn't worry about leaving someone behind. A movie with a more profound story, I like to be alone with my thoughts. I want to let all of it soak in.

And you cannot deny the convenience factor of a dateless movie. I have no plans tonight. I want to see a movie. I pick out a movie. I pick out a time. The spontaneity is a luxury of which I take full advantage (even if it angers someone...).

It really isn't as bad as some people make it out to be. You might not feel comfortable walking into a romantic movie...ok fine, chick flick on your own. That might not be baby steps towards being able to go to the movies solo.

Try it. You never know. You might like it.

Poolhall Junkies

December 7th, 2005

Poolhall JunkiesJohnny was a pool hustler, one of the best, until he discovered how his manager Joe had ruined his life. He left Joe in the hands of some heavy-duty drug dealers and split the scene. Now he's trying to go legit, save his relationship with his girlfriend Tara, and maybe even save his life.

Johnny's younger brother Danny is eager to follow in his footsteps -- eager enough to find himself deep in debt to Joe, who has returned with a new poolhall protege. When Danny robs a store to pay back Joe, it's time for his big brother to take his cue. The final game has a payoff that's bigger than money, bigger than life, bigger than either player can imagine. Because somewhere on the edge of the 8-ball waits a man's soul.

Think Rounders and The Color of Money. Though recommended, I kept my expectations relatively low. Had I been expecting a smash hit, I would have been let down. Since I wasn't, I was able to enjoy the movie.

The acting was...a little rough around the edges, but I do not think it was meant to earn nominations for any awards. The key was the suspense it built around the final showdown and the antics of Johnny's brother and his friends.

I hate to say that I thought we could expect a little more out of Chazz Palminteri, but how often do you get to see Rick Schroder hustle pool?

I wouldn't implore you to rush out and see this right away, but if someone has a copy and wants to watch it you needn't run and/or hide.

Hey, it has Christopher Walken, how bad could it be?
Don't answer that.

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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

December 6th, 2005

Sky Captain and the World of TomorrowScientists begin to go missing. One who fears he is next tries to enlist the help of a reporter (Gwyneth Paltrow), but fearing the danger is too great he leaves her with little. In this futuristic 1930s (40s?) setting she decides to team up with ace fighter pilot Joe Sullivan (Jude Law) better known as the Sky Captain. With his help, and that of Joe's inventive sidekick (Giovanni Ribisi) they attempt to find out where the scientists are disappearing to and who is launching these disastrous attacks on cities around the world...using giant robots.

The movie was styled after sci-fi movies from days gone by. It was interesting to see how they made the movie look, but that was the movie's only redeeming factor. The creators gave the movie characteristics of science fiction films your father or even granfather would have watched. What they didn't give the movie were characteristics of a good movie. I don't feel all that badly telling you that I thought this movie was pretty awful.

You look at the cast and maybe just maybe the movie would be good. The acting was forced, the plot could not have been more predictable and the writing was weak. Jude Law was fine; my expectations of him are never high. Give me a casting veto in Hollywood and Gwyneth Paltrow would never get another job. My expectations for her are even lower than those for Law, though in this movie she still somehow managed to not meet them. And my saving grace, Mr. Ribisi. I thought for sure he was going to do what he does so well and thus make me forget the male and female leads, but he had too small of a part.

I am admittedly stubborn and that partly manifests itself through my unwillingness to turn off a movie when I am not enjoying it. This movie almost changed that. Within almost the first five minutes I had my first knee jerk reaction to turn it off. I suppressed the urge and finished the movie...maybe turning it off wouldn't have been such a bad idea.

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December 3rd, 2005
The Princess BrideMiracle Max: Sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world . . . except for a nice M.L.T., mutton lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean, and the tomatoes are ripe, they're so perky, I love that.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

November 28th, 2005

After a few days displeasure at not having been in attendance at the midnight showing as the movie opened, I finally got the chance to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

This is the movie based upon the fourth installment of J.K. Rowling's ever-popular series. In this volume we see Harry Potter compete in the Tri-Wizard Tournament and in the movie we see little else.

I will not launch into my usual diatribe about the slaughter of innocent literary beauty for the betterment of cinema. For once I will spare you. I am trying to get better. Happy now?

With more than 700 pages of text to tackle, it is just not feasible to bring it all to the screen. It is a fact of life, one that I am trying to come to terms with. I tried not to focus on things that were different between the two versions but one thing that I cannot get past is simply how some scenes are stretched out and I blame Peter Jackson and George Lucas for giving us this new trend towards panoramic views and hard dramatic pauses. My only question is why can't you eliminate one or sixteen of those and add just one of the details you left out of the book?

With the movie being so directed towards the Tri-Wizard Tournament, there is little time for the furtherance of any characters or relationships between them. Regarding characters, here are my feelings on the movie:

1) Just take out the scene with Sirius in the fire. You never once talked about who he was, nor the relationship he has with Harry. You rely solely on the viewers having seen the previous movie(s). Odds are they have seen them, I understand that. Not only was he not brought up later, but the only thing of note that he tells Harry during their talk is to keep his friends close. The irony of this comment was lost on Harry as he was feuding with Ron and it seemed lost on the audience as well. This scene was essentially worthless.

2) What a great job this movie did in really letting the two young men who play the twins shine! The boys who play Fred and George Weasley were very well used in this, the fourth movie. They are practically the only two characters who are allowed to blossom. These two have really done an outstanding job as Fred and George in all of the movies, but in number 4 more than in the others you see how charming they can be; a trait very central to the characters they portray.

3) What a dweeb Cedric Diggory was. He makes a huge splash at the beginning of the movie as our heroes head to the portkey on the hill. He drops out of the tree because...well I guess because that is what big men on campus do. His character is what I feel is best equated to the star high school quarterback. Athletic, good looking, charismatic... When introduced, you have the impression he is each of those things and more. As the movie progresses he bears more and more resemblance to Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Longshanks, King of England in the movie Braveheart. No, that is not a positive comparison.

4) While the argument can be made that Richard Harris was just better suited for the role than Michael Gambon, I think that is not the point. The point is that the character of Albus Dumbledore just does not translate well. Take him off the page and he is a fish out of water flopping around on screen. The Headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has such a presence. Without having read the books you may not understand that there is no better word for it, and to use presence I find is rather perfect.

5) Though I cannot think of anything that could have been better, I thought the makeup done for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was pretty weak. He is the most powerful wizard ever, right? Can't we make him look a little more intimidating and less like a slimy version of Beast in the old Beauty & The Beast TV series.

6) Was it me or did the students from Durmslang (Viktor Krum and his classmates) dress more like Klingons than Wizards?

Anyway, I did like the movie. I know after reading above you doubt that somewhat, but believe me. For at last the first five-sixths of it, the makers of the movie had me on the edge of my seat as the author does with each page of her books. For the remaining one-sixth...the movie just ended too abruptly. The tournament is over and all of a sudden so is the movie.

Overall: good film. The question was posed to me after seeing it was which of the four movies is my favorite. My answer is as non-committal as I always am. The movies are just too hard to compare. The first two really do such an excellent job of setting the mood of the fun and magic that is not just Harry Potter, but the fun and magic of the stories created by J.K. Rowling as well. Meaning that the stories are fun, but so is the feeling generated by them. I felt the need to separate the two for emphasis, get over it. The third movie (other than being not good) begins to really set the tone. The story moves much more quickly after the first two books. That was evident in the third movie and would have been if they had incorporated more of the story from the book in the fourth (ok ok, that was a cheap shot, I am sorry).

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Kicking & Screaming

November 22nd, 2005

Kicking & ScreamingWill Ferrell's trademark off-the-wall lunacy kicks in for a comedy sure to score big with the whole family! Phil Weston (Ferrell) is a mild-mannered suburban dad - who's suddenly transformed into a caffeine-fueled sports maniac when he becomes the coach of his son's unruly soccer team. But when the championship pits Phil's underdog team against the squad coached by his own domineering dad (Oscar winner Robert Duvall), it's game on for the most uproarious mismatch of the season! Suit up for fun, Ferrell-style, with the comedy Ebert & Roeper give "Two Thumbs Up!"

Recipe to make Kicking & Screaming:
Take 3 parts Mighty Ducks add equal parts of Bad News Bears and Little Giants. Mix well in a bowl and add a splash of soccer. Let sit overnight.

They even did the Flying V! Why wasn't Emelio Estevez cast in this movie? At least give the guy a cameo...

I am sorry, but I was not entertained by this movie. My expectations were low, and even they were not met. I laughed at two, maybe three parts, but that was all. More than anything, the feeling that came over me was one of anxious anticipation of the end credits. I guess if you have little kids this could be a fun movie but even in that vein I think it was still too shallow.

Will Ferrell takes over as head coach of his son's soccer team when the regular coach leaves his post. With no qualifications except being the son of a good soccer coach, he starts from square one. The lesson is not to get too competitive in sports and to always remember to have fun on the field, but they really did a poor job of relaying this message. To help teach the boys how to play well and together Ferrell enlists the aid of his father's neighbor (an NFL hall of fame coach) who brings little more to the picture than his name, but he does help Ferrell pick up a nasty addiction to coffee.

The caffeine habit Ferrell develops was absolutely pointless to the story. Not only did it not add humor, but I think it only was in the story as filler. How do you make a short movie a little longer? Why not add a few scenes in a coffee shop? I know I am reaching a bit here, but if this was an attempt to make kids not want to drink coffee I would wonder how they received funding to make this movie.

Overall the movie was not horrible. I watched it with my sister and she enjoyed it. She said she was entertained the whole time. I was not, but we can't win them all.

What kind of favor do you owe someone when you, as Robert Duvall, agree to make a movie like this? "Hi, I'm Robert Duvall, maybe you have seen one of the movies I was in. Godfather? Apocalypse Now? Kicking & Screaming?" Here is how that is acceptable: "Grandpa, will you make a movie with Will Ferrell?" Done.

Don't see Kicking & Screaming. Just let it fade into the annals of cinematic history as it if never happened. And yes, I do realize that I was far too critical of a kids movie.

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