The Triplets of Belleville

January 31st, 2005

The Triplets of BellevilleYou've never seen anything like THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE, a wildly inventive and highly original animated feature crowded with colorful characters and fantastic imagery.

Kidnapped by mysterious, square-shouldered henchmen, a Tour de France cyclist named Champion is spirited across the ocean to the teeming metropolis of Belleville. His grandmother and faithful dog follow his trail and are taken in by a trio of eccentric jazz-era divas. The motley sleuths follow the clues to an underground betting parlor and now the chase is on!

If you do decide to watch this one, I am afraid it would only be on a "to satisfy my own curiosity" basis. Would I say the movie was bad? No. Would I say the movie was good? No. The fact is that for being such a long film The Triplets of Belleville was difficult to get through. The animation which is clearly the selling point of the movie needs to grab and hold your attention for the duration as there is no dialogue. There is hardly a word spoken after the first scene (not including song lyrics). My initial reaction as the credits began to roll was that I did not like this movie because I am not on drugs. I am guessing that the creators were hoping for a different feeling when the movie is over.

Am I glad I have finally seen The Triplets of Belleville, a movie I had been waiting to see for some time? Yes. I feel better being able to say I've seen it but I do not expect to see it a second time.


Buy The Triplets of Belleville $18.72

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High Fidelity

January 31st, 2005

High FidelityFrom the guys who brought you Grosse Point Blank comes the absolutely hilarious High Fidelity. John Cusack (Being John Malkovich) stars as Rob Gordon, the owner of a semi-failing record store located on one of the back streets of Chicago. He sells music the old-fashioned way, on vinyl, with his two wacky clerks--the hysterically funny rock snob Barry (Jack Black) and the more quietly opinionated underachiever Dick (Todd Louiso). But Rob's business isn't the only thing in his life that's floundering--his needle skips the love grove when his longtime girlfriend Laura (newcomer Iben Hjejle) walks out on him. And this forces him to examine his past failed attempts at romance the only way he knows how! For a rocking fun time, give High Fidelity a spin. It's sure to make your all-time top-five list for comedies--with a bullet!

I was looking for a movie to put on and fall asleep to for a pre-going out Friday afternoon nap. I decided upon High Fidelity. The only bad thing is that I made the mistake of thinking I would opt for the nap instead of watching this movie. I'll spare you the details of how good John Cusack is and say that if you are one of the many who feel that he is so good as I am, I put High Fidelity at the top of my list of Cusack movies.

As Rob Gordon, Cusack plays a very eccentric record store owner who is having a difficult time with his girlfriend. The lessons he learns along the way in regards to the current and all past relationships are universal ones. The movie gives you the option to think deeply about certain life issues or block them out and laugh at the intelligent and witty dialogue. I happen to enjoy both parts. I am, however, a person who pretends to take some huge life altering tenet away from everything I see/read. Feel free to take a stab at what you'd think I would walk away from this movie having gained, just understand I'll neither confirm nor deny.

It is pretty neat that a movie that you talk about with your friends who appreciate suggestions is set around a record store with employees that sit around discussion small bands who are worth trying. If that made as little sense as it appears to, I am saying that the soundtrack is strong on bands you may not have heard of, but might actually enjoy. Overall this is easily a movie you can watch over and over, I recommend High Fidelity as a staple of your DVD collection.

Buy High Fidelity $14.99
Buy the soundtrack $13.98

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The Commitments

January 24th, 2005
The CommitmentsA group of working-class Irish youths assemble a soul band in this infectious comedy. The cast, made up mostly of non-actors, performed their own music.

The recommendations finally broke me down. Couple them with my newfound access to DVDs through the mail and consider The Commitments knocked off my list of movies to see.

The Commitments is a unique film. Based on a Roddy Doyle novel, the characters performed most of the music for the movie. The vision is to bring soul to the lower and middle classes in Dublin. A group of misfits is assembled and polished into a surprisingly talented band.

This really was a fun movie. I liked it a lot. The music was great, the story moved along well, the ending was just how I could have imagined it. Thank you for the recommendations, but don't let them go to your heads. I think you'll like it.

Buy The Commitments $21.58
Buy the Soundtrack $13.99
Buy the Soundtrack Vol. 2 $10.99

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In Good Company

January 22nd, 2005

I will admit that for In Good Company my expectations were high. There has not been a movie out in a while that I have anticipated as I did this. My cards are now all on the table. You can accuse me of no bias. That said, let's begin. The movie started off as I would expect a movie which I had tauted as my favorite movie 2005 (to date) before even having seen it would.

I had my doubts about Topher Grace's ability to play a more serious role. I think it is a safe assumption that you will never catch me sneakily watching the Butterfly Effect, not all characters from "That 70's Show" can deviate from the Comedy realm. He did however do a great job.

Scarlett Johannson is not my favorite actress. She often times comes across as cold towards other characters, even in times when she is trying to warm to them. In In Good Company she took this to a new level. Her family is shown as highly functional. Despite the loving nature of their family bonds, she seems to shy away from her father (Dennis Quaid) on more than one occassion. I cannot say that this detracted from the overall feel of the movie, but it certainly did not help; it just happened to be something that I noticed.

Dennis Quaid did well. I was glad to see him get a decent role. I am not not saying anything bad about Day After Tomorrow...

There were a few times that I was afraid the movie was going to turn predictible. I thought for sure a couple of things were going to happen at certain times that would have immediately ruined my opinion of the film. My fears never became reality, however, and I was able to go on enjoying the movie.

As the movie started to wind down, a few things happened that as they occurred I noted that I disagreed with how they were done. I am not sure if I just needed to disagree with each piece in turn to realize that there was no other way to do it or maybe there was some other reason. As the movie ended I enjoyed a quick introverted moment where I smiled to myself and thought that the way the movie ended was the right way. The only way.

One thing that I almost never pay any attention to is the soundtrack as it plays over the movie. Often times I am asked to help identify a movie in one a particular song played and I am forced to apologize for being no help. Very rarely are the songs that play throughout the movie of any consequence to me. That being said, the soundtrack to In Good Company was very good. The soundtrack features bands such as Iron & Wine and The Soundtrack of Our Lives.

I did not love this movie with every inch of my soul as I had expected to do. I cannot say that I was disappointed with it though. The more I think about the movie, the more satisfied I am with it. I stand by my decision to see In Good Company and recommend it to you.

Buy the soundtrack $13.99

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Swimming Pool

January 20th, 2005
Swimming PoolThe life of a mystery writer begins to resemble one of her novels after she meets a provocative young woman with a dangerous past.

For the longest time I have debated whether or not to see this movie. Amazon.com has recommended the movie to me for awhile now, yet I have never been sure upon what those recommendations are based. I finally broke down when the movie was recommended by my barber of all people. Next thing you know, it's queued on my Blockbuster.com account and off we go.

I had nothing more to go on than the blurb above (if I had more, you'd have more; trust me). With nothing known about the film, I had no expectations going in to watching it. What I discovered was a good movie, do not get me wrong. I have it listed as a "Don't Watch" due to the fact that I am still waiting for something to happen. The movie ended two hours ago and I keep thinking the action is right around the corner. What little happened was entertaining enough, but the movie was slow. I may or may not have had the unrated version, so keep in mind that Swimming Pool was not pure torture.

If it was on purpose that there was so much left unfinished in the film then maybe I have missed the artistic point. I will not go into too much more for fear of ruining the movie if any of you care to see it, but this one left something to be desired. Was I entertained? Yes. Will I see Swimming Pool again? Probably not.

Buy Swimming Pool $9.74

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House of Flying Daggers

January 17th, 2005

Another Asian dynasty piece; this one set in Japan. The government is corrupt and weak, there exists a group, in this Japanese tale of Robin Hood that robs from the rich and gives to the poor. Yes, they actually use those words.

Nick and I saw this on Saturday and as we got out, the first words out of his mouth were, "I liked Hero better." It was a rather difficult realization for him to learn that he prefers Communist propaganda to a good love story with crazy special effects. My comment to him was simply that House of Flying Daggers had what Hero did not: over the top fight scenes. Take out the use of the daggers themselves and you may have a toss up. To me the story is secondary in the live action anime flicks. In Hero the story was everything. In House of Flying Daggers the story was important, but was well supported with crazy moves of which no one is actually capable.

The House of Flying Daggers was the poetic, yet literal, name for this adaptation of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Each member of the seemingly large group was trained to use a small pouch of daggers with deadly accuracy. This on top of the fact that apparently every single person in Japan knows several forms of martial arts makes for some deadly company.

There were some exciting plot twists...and some I could have done without. The movie did drag on a little too long, but it could have been worse. If nothing else it allowed for a few last minute special effects. If you like martial arts movies and can put up with subtitles, check out House of Flying Daggers.

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The Maltese Falcon

January 13th, 2005
The Maltese FalconJohn Huston's first film as director features [Humphrey] Bogart as detective Sam Spade, who's trying to figure out why so many people are after an elusive falcon statue.

I learned a few different things while watching The Maltese Falcon.
1) I'm a sucker for a Humphrey Bogart flick.
2) I want to read Dashiell Hammett's novel ($8.51); the basis for the movie.
3) I really liked this movie.

A black and white film from 1941, The Maltese Falcon is classic film noir. In case you're curious, "Film Noir (literally 'black film or cinema') was coined by French film critics who noticed the trend of how 'dark' and black the looks and themes were of many American crime and detective films released in France following the war. It was a style of black and white American films that first evolved in the 1940s, became prominent in the post-war era, and lasted in a classic 'Golden Age' period until about 1960. Strictly speaking, however, film noir is not a genre, but rather the mood, style, point-of-view, or tone of a film." -Filmsite.org

The cast is incredible, the story is classic. I own two other Bogart films (Casablanca & The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) and we may have found a new addition. If you like mysteries, I really can't think of any reasons you wouldn't like The Maltese Falcon.


Buy The Maltese Falcon $14.98

Buy The Maltese Falcon/Casablanca Two Pack $24.59

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Blockbuster.com

January 12th, 2005

The debate is finally over. After (minimal) research into competing Online DVD Rental Services, I have made my decision.

Blockbuster- Delivered to your door

I am currently in week 2 of my 2 Week Free Trial and I'm sold. I'm keeping the service at $14.99 per month. It's great. I get an e-mail saying that a movie in my queue has shipped and it includes an estimated date of arrival. I know when to expect each movie that comes. Though you cannot have more than 3 movies at one time, just space out your viewings so that you nearly always have a movie you want to watch on hand.

Why Blockbuster.com and not one of the competitors?

-At $14.99/mo the price is cheaper for Blockbuster.com than the $17.99 of biggest competitor.
-Blockbuster.com includes 2 free in-store rentals each month. If the movie you want to see is not immediately available online or you can't wait for some other reason, just stop in and use one of your coupons to rent it.

I already have nearly 70 DVDs queued and I know that list will grow. I look forward to your recommendations in the Movies forum.

My only complaint thus far is that there has been one movie that I want to see that is not in the inventory. I do expect the inventory to grow and my concern to disappear. If not, I can use one of my 2 free in store rentals this month and go pick it up.

I did want to edit this post and fill you in on my first DVD issue. For my rental of Swimming Pool, there was a point at about an hour into the movie when due to a scratch or some other malfunction the DVD would not work properly. It is only for 30-60 seconds of the movie, so nothing terribly serious, but enough that I wanted to let Blockbuster.com know. They have a simple form to fill out online just to notify them of an issue with the disc. They asked if I wanted that same movie sent to me again in case I was unable to watch it in it's current state. I declined and they simply sent out the next movie in my queue. I will just return this one as I do with all. It was an easier procedure than I had anticipated.

The Conversation

January 11th, 2005
The ConversationWith Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Frederic Forrest, Cindy Williams, Teri Garr, Robert Duvall and Harrison Ford. A professional surveillance expert gets too close to a case and finds himself entangled in murder and obsession.

This was a tough one. I think if there was a list of movies you need to be in the right mood for, this would qualify. Maybe it was just my desire to see it for so long that kept me going. I will have to say, however, that I do not think I was in the right mood for The Conversation when I watched it last night. And while we're in the business of honesty, I did not even know what the movie was about. I wanted to see this movie for so long because it was recommended from many sources. A recommendation from one place is great; a recommendation from multiple sources (though rare) is even better. That caused The Conversation to jump a few rungs on my "To Watch" Ladder.

That said, what I did not know to expect was a very creepy 1970s thriller. If you're familiar with this type of movie then these points will not surprise you: this movie freaked me out living alone as I do, and the movie took a long time to get rolling. Was it my desire to see this movie that kept me waiting for the action? Was it my stubborn nature to never walk away from a movie I've started that kept me waiting for the action? Maybe I wasn't as bored as I thought. Whatever the reason, eventually things began to happen and my boredom tapered off.

Gene Hackman plays the surveillance expert and for someone who exposes secrets for a living, he is a paranoid introvert. It was frustrating to watch him in his inability to open up to anyone. On top of making viewers uncomfortable watching him ruin relationships, this left many loose ends. I don't know what was more frustrating, Hackman lashing out at anyone who tried to get close or not having closure on a few things they never tied up at the end.

Overall, I walked away with a positive feeling towards this movie. That was partially due to the fact that I like scary movies, and The Conversation turned out to be pretty scary. I will tell you though, unless you have nearly two hours to devote to a movie that will only bother you at the end, watch something else. I put "Don't Watch" on this one, but I will not be opposed to seeing this again and as strange as it sounds, it might even end up in my collection, especially at that price.

Buy The Conversation $11.24

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Coffee and Cigarettes

January 7th, 2005
Coffee and Cigarettes Director/writer Jim Jarmusch presents a series of fascinating and diverse short stories that all center around two things: coffee and cigarettes.

This movie is comprised of 11 shorts; each with a different cast. Stars range from Bill Murray, RZA and GZA to Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan to Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright to Iggy Pop and Tom Waits amongst many others.

As the synopsis states, each of the 11 short films revolves around someone drinking coffee and someone smoking. Many factors make Coffee and Cigarettes a very artsy film; this may be a turnoff for most watchers. The movie is one with which some may find it hard to exercise patience. I will admit that I had a hard time getting through the first few films. When you feel uncomfortable watching, it is hard to enjoy it; I was uncomfortable watching some exchanges when clearly Jarmusch wanted me to be uncomfortable. In many of the films, one character was set aside to be neglected. This person was just trying to be nice, and for it he becomes alienated. As viewers, we then feel awkward for having witnessed the event(s) leading to this.

The last few films on the DVD were somewhat different. They were fantastic. Viewers witness a pre-established relationship and the dialogue flows more naturally. I loved how those stories borrowed dialogue from earlier ones; it seemed to lend continuity to the films.

I did have a hard time sitting through the early films, but was rewarded in the end. I do not feel as though I wasted my time in finally seeing a movie I'd wanted to see for awhile. Is Coffee and Cigarettes for everyone? No, unfortunately it is not.

Buy Coffee and Cigarettes $23.98
Buy the Coffee and Cigarettes Soundtrack $13.99

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