June 6th, 2005
CroupierJack: Hang on tightly, let go lightly.

Mystic River

June 1st, 2005
Mystic RiverWith Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Friends torn apart by tragedy are reunited after one loses a daughter to murder. Oscar winner for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.

After my review of the book Mystic River, one friend said he would be curious what I would think about the movie once I had finally seen it. I have now seen it. Please, read on.

Here you have an incredible cast working together to portray a story based upon a book that received relatively high praise. Take those two pieces and mash them together. What results is a movie that falls short on plot and even shorter on acting.

First allow me to clarify how short it fell on acting. EVERYONE in this film with the exception of Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn did an absolutely terrible job. The dialogue was forced and raw. Nothing seemed natural from them, any of them; especially the Savage brothers. Kevin Bacon is generally solid in any role he is given. Sean Penn absolutely blew me away. The passion he brought to this role absolutely sold me on his being Jimmy, not him playing Jimmy. Maybe to the chagrin of the rest of the cast his performance made them all look like amateurs.

The casting of Laura Linney (of whom I'm a huge fan. who knew?) and Tim Robbins in the roles they played was poor in the eyes of someone who read the book. I understand now more than ever why authors say that they do not want to option their novels to production studios. They have an idea of the characters in their head that cannot be translated into the best available big name actor. I had a picture of Dave Boyle in my head, Tim Robbins was far from it.

It fell short on plot as any movie will in regards to the book upon which it is based. There is so much detail in a book, detail that as a reader you consider important to the story. Director Clint Eastwood and I do not see eye to eye on which details should have made the movie and which should have not.

The movie was good. The book was better. Yes the disproportionate majority of the time, that will be the case. I was challenged to consider Mystic River as one that may fit in the minority, or at least do the book justice. I will say it did that. I recommend this movie anyway, but more so if you have not read the book.

P.S. There was a question regarding the ending of the movie in the forum thread linked below that was not given enough attention in the movie. The book does a much better job of explaining it, though they do elude to its explanation throughout the movie. You just have to dig a little deeper to find it. I will reply to that question there to avoid leaving any spoiler information in plane view.

P.P.S. Another complaint about the movie is regarding Sean Devine's (Bacon) wife. In the book he receives the same voiceless phone calls yet you are never sure it is his wife calling as he speculates to his partner. In the movie, the possibility that he is simply living too much in the past is destroyed as there are cut scenes to a woman on the other end of the phone apparently trying to gather the courage to speak to the husband on whom she walked out.

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Kiki's Delivery Service

May 23rd, 2005
Kiki's Delivery ServiceWith voices of Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Matthew Lawrence and Debbie Reynolds. A young witch must learn to survive on her own in a new town. Created by acclaimed animator Hayao Miyazaki.

Kiki being thirteen years old is of the age when young witches leave home. It is customary for them to leave home for a year and find a city where there are no other witches to focus on their training. On a date unexpected by her parents she sets off to find a city by the ocean.

Kiki, off on her own, struggles with her self-confidence. This being a universal conflict for children around this age, and not just witches, I think it would be a good movie for younger children. The movie is rated G, so it was not exactly a movie for which I would be considered the target audience. That does not mean that I could not enjoy it. That does not mean more specifically that I did not enjoy it. By no means was this the best movie I have seen, but it was cute. What I took most out of it was the animation. Miyazaki continues to impress. I have liked other movies he has directed and plan to see as many as I can.

Miyazaki has wowed audiences with many films, including Spirited Away. You can learn more about this film and others from Hayao Miyazaki at MiyazakiMovies.com.

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May 22nd, 2005

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She's the One

May 12th, 2005
She's the OneWith Cameron Diaz, Edward Burns, Jennifer Aniston, John Mahoney, Mike McGlone and Maxine Bahns. Two New York brothers, one blue collar, one white collar, finally come to blows over their lives, their wives, and their mistresses.

I began my appreciation for Edward Burns with his work in Confidence, which has quickly become one of my favorite movies. In digging through his resume a bit I came across a few movies which he wrote and directed. Those titles include The Brothers McMullen, She's the One, No Looking Back, Sidewalks of New York, Ash Wednesday, Looking for Kitty and The Groomsmen. As an Ed Burns fan, you can see I have my hands full. But you have to start somewhere. I started with She's the One.

Three men, two brothers and their father, learn valuable lessons about themselves and each other thanks to a few women in their lives. The two brothers are now in their mid-20s, one is married and the other had one foot on the altar before finding his beloved sprawled on the floor of their apartment with another man. What can come between two brothers? A woman? The three men, the "Fighting Fitzpatricks", find out they do not have women figured out as they once had thought.

Once you get over how slimy Mike McGlone's character (as the younger brother) is, the movie is quite enjoyable. I think it can be described as a good natured comedy from which you may even be able to learn a thing or two. The movie was a little raw, but as this was Ed Burns' second movie, he probably did not have a huge budget. Understand also that this movie would probably have not been as good had much more money been put into it. As-is, the movie had a certain "real" edge to it that made the characters seem a little more sincere.

I did have a little trouble separating Burns as Mickey Fitzpatrick from Jake Vig (Confidence), but I got over that too.

Having an older brother, movies where there is a focus on some competition between brothers are ones to which I can relate. It is always interesting to see how those relationships compare to the one between my brother and I. I guess I just hope he doesn't seen any of Francis Fitzpatrick in me...

I liked She's the One. I think it's one you might want to check out.

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Raising Arizona

May 9th, 2005
Raising ArizonaWith Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter and John Goodman. He's an ex-con who used to rob convenience stores. She was the cop who used to take his mug shots. Now they're married, and all they want is a child so he kidnaps one! Soon, everyone, from the police to the mysterious Lone Biker of the Apocalypse are on their trail.

This movie has played on Comedy Central for years and I had never caught it from the beginning so I never watched. Finally I have seen it start to finish and boy can I say it was a disappointment. This movie was bad..., nay this movie was awful.

For the first five minutes or so of the movie, it was pretty funny. Eventually Nic Cage stops robbing convenience stores, as a result he stops going back to jail. At about this point even the novelty wears off from looking at Cage's wild hair; that stops being funny, too.

Once Hi (Cage) falls for Ed (Hunter), the movie is no longer worth watching. Holly Hunter brings nothing to the film. John Goodman, who plays almost exactly the same character he did in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (less the Bible talk), offers little contribution.

All I could do was sit and wish for the ending of the movie to come sooner and I remember feeling let down when my wishes did not come true. The end of this movie was absolute torture. Yes, I am being very hard on this movie, but I disliked it that much. It started out so promisingly. What a shame.

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interMission

May 4th, 2005

interMission Intermission, starring Shirley Henderson, Kelly Macdonald, Colm Meaney, Cillian Murphy and Colin Farrell, is a raucous story of the interweaving lives and loves of small-town delinquents, shady cops, pretty good girls and very (very) bad boys. With Irish guts and grit, lives collide, preconceptions shatter and romance is tested to the extreme.

An ill-timed and poorly executed break-up sets off a chain of events affecting everyone in town. There's the hapless romantic and his sex-starved best friend, the hotshot detective and the crook he's after, a young girl on the rebound with an older married man (not to mention his deserted wife), an ambitious TV producer, abandoned fiancée, preteen trouble-maker -- all unaware of how their choices are profoundly intertwined.

Add a botched robbery, some brown sauce, a woman's moustache, flying rocks and dancing single seniors and you have Intermission.

Colin Farrell heads a "top-drawer cast" (New York Post) in this "fast-paced, hilarious" (BBCi) dark comedy involving a hilarious heist, a comical kidnapping and eleven intersecting story lines.

The power of recommendation is so strong. Sure you have the option of browsing lists of movies on the internet or even looking shelf to shelf at the movie rental location, but they cannot top someone saying, "Hey, you should check [insert movie title here] out."

I am telling you now as a friend told me, "Hey, you should check Intermission out."

You will have to pay attention to this movie, and for two reasons. One, the story is one that requires you follow or you may be lost. Two, the Irish accents are thick enough so that for my American ears it took some getting used to before I understood what they were saying.

Intermission is a funny movie that follows around different characters as they go about their lives. The story is set at a time where the breakup of man and woman has some indirect ripple effect.

I like Colin Farrell in movies when he is allowed to play roles that I figure are more natural for him; roles in which he is more obnoxious and often worse. The character he plays here certainly meets that criteria. (My favorite being his role in Tigerland.)

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The Reckoning

May 2nd, 2005
The ReckoningA priest on the run finds refuge by joining up with a band of traveling actors. When the troupe comes across an innocent girl imprisoned for murder, they attempt to solve the crime by acting it out on stage.

A young priest is run out of his village and forced to find his own way. He meets up with a band of traveling actors and persuades them to let him join. In England in the 1300s, as the movie is set, actors would only play out stories from the Bible. When the troupe realizes their performances lack attendance they decide to try telling a story that is not in the Bible. There is a young woman in town who will be hanged for the murder of a boy. The story they will play is hers.

What they do not plan for is winding down a path of truth to uncover lies that may affect the lives of the entire town.

The main character is Paul Bettany (Wimbledon and A Knight's Tale). He does a fine job, but this places Willem DaFoe in a support role. There is nothing wrong with DaFoe playing a lesser role when there is a strong lead, but Bettany is not that. And overall I was very disappointed with Dafoe. I was constantly wondering when he was going to do something. I hate to say that he mailed in this performance.

The movie ended weakly. It is never good to be left with a feeling of "That's it?" as the credits roll. Feel free to skip this one.

I expected so much from this film. I got none of it.

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Millions

April 25th, 2005

The story of two young boys who try to make their way through life with their father. Their mother has passed rather recently and the family tries to make a new life in a new home.

One of the two boys has an extremely active imagination and through which is often visited by dead Saints. He has studied documentation for any Saint he can get his hands on. He realizes that he often times sees things that are not there which is why he goes to get his older brother when a duffel bag full of money lands next to the fort he built by the train tracks.

The question arises of how to spend it all without telling their dad about it and while ensuring that none of the money (British pounds) becomes useless as the conversion to Euros is only days away.

The younger boy wants to use all of it to help those in need while his brother begins to research an investment portfolio.

I cannot say that I was not disappointed. Throughout the movie I just thought they could have done more with the story. Aside from the two boys, character development was a little weak. While I understand that the movie was centered around the two of them, I was hoping for a little more involvement from their father. It is not until the very end of the movie that we finally learn anything about it and at that point, why bother?

The ending overall was good. In previews I had a good idea what to expect and from that I was left touched. The very very end of the movie though, while symbolic, was probably unnecessary.

I liked the movie, sure. I do not think it was nearly as good as I had expected, though. I feel bad putting a "Don't Watch" on this movie, but I feel it's most appropriate.

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Sin City

April 21st, 2005

Sin City is based on Frank Miller's graphic novels by the same name. I have never read any of the books, but I like many others have now seen the movie.

An important point: Remember, you're watching an adaptation of a comic book. The things you see are not intended to be an accurate portrayal of things as we experience them in real life. Use your imagination and have fun watching Sin City.

I will try to give you a quick timeline of my thoughts throughout the movie, that should be the best approach to understanding this film a little more.

The opening credits roll and names flash on screen and all I can think is that this cast is amazing. Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Rutger Hauer, Elijah Wood, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Jaime King, Brittany Murphy, Michael Clarke Duncan, Michael Madsen and Josh Hartnett are all cast members in Sin City.

The first scene flashes a woman in a brilliant, red dress with red lipstick set in a black and white film. Throughout the movie, this black and white film, creators highlighted certain objects in their full color. The effect was a stark contrast against the background which created for stunning aesthetics. The style is similar to that used in Chinatown.

The dialogue was cheesy and over-acted. I am pointing that out as a movie strength. It bothered me at first, then I realized what I was watching. Take a comic book in your hands and bend the tips of the pages with your hand and release them in rapid succession the way you would as a kid to see a series of pictures in animation. That is essentially what Sin City is, a moving comic book. If you have ever read one, you know the writing is often corny and overly dramatic, but it makes sense on paper. When read aloud it seems odd as it is not colloquial. This was not a difficult point to get past, and only added to the uniqueness of the film. Only a few times did I get flashbacks to years ago when I watched Dick Tracy.

The action was fun. Does that sound weird? It was though. Sure when guys would get hit they would fly further than humanly possible, but remember it is a comic book.

The story, for lack of a better term, revolves around your usual scenario of following a series of characters and showing important intersection points between their existence. The effect is four separate vignettes that comprise one story; they are different, though the same.

My favorite was the second, the one involving Marv (Rourke) in his search to find the man who killed Goldy (King), his beloved hooker.

My least favorite was the last, it seemed to serve only in making the movie longer. It was so slow and nearly made me fall asleep. In this one Hartigan (Willis) must confront the Yellow Bastard in his attempt to find Nancy, the young girl from his past.

The movie is over the top in gratuitous nudity and excessive blood and gore. The sound effects as bodies are dismembered, coupled with the rest may be a reason not to take your children to see Sin City. In no way was it too much for me. I rather enjoyed it.

The movie as a whole was good, not great. I think the experience of seeing a movie made in a mold not used often was more entertaining than the movie itself. See it to see it, nothing more. I do not anticipate seeing this movie again. I do not see any "rewatchability" potential in Sin City. Having seen it once is enough.

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