movies! (updated 3/5/08)

This page is an ongoing list of movies I’ve seen (beginning September 2006), with the most recent at the top. I’ve ranked each film on a scale from 1 to 5 cookies. The list also includes a few TV shows that I’ve watched on DVD. I love Netflix!

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/5/5a/Spiderwick_chronicles_poster.jpg/200px-Spiderwick_chronicles_poster.jpgThe Spiderwick Chronicles (2008). Yet another excellent recommendation from my son. He and I were the only ones home last evening, and when I asked if there was anything in particular he’d like to do, he suggested going to see this movie. I knew next to nothing about it, and had no real desire to go (I would have preferred to see Penelope), but I’m very glad we went. This is on its face a children’s fantasy-adventure movie about the magic world all around us that we can’t see, and a troubled family whose children get mixed up with goblins, fairies, and a very large, very unpleasant ogre. But many of the outstanding special effects would be far too intense and scary for small children; and the movie has plenty to keep adults engaged. It’s a visually beautiful film, and I loved the music. Plus the actors are all wonderful — for example, I haven’t seen the boy, Freddie Highmore, in his other movies (and he’s made plenty, including the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), so I didn’t realize that the two boys in this film weren’t twins until the end; Highmore is entirely convincing as two different brothers.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/9/9f/American_Gangster_poster.jpg/200px-American_Gangster_poster.jpgAmerican Gangster (2007). Marvelous. Intense. Dark. Long. (We watched the unrated extended version, and it was nearly 3 hours.) Both leads are fantastic, as are all the supporting actors. This movie should have been nominated for Oscars in all sorts of categories. After watching this, I went and did some reading to see how much of a true story it’s based on, and — surprise, surprise — Hollywood took rather a lot of liberties with the story. Actually, Frank Lucas took a lot of liberties with his own story, making himself seem much more important and central to the drug trade in Harlem than he actually was. But hey, who cares, when the story is so strong and the movie is so good? I never dreamed Denzel Washington could be so baaaad.

cookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/1/18/Spawnmovieposter.jpg/200px-Spawnmovieposter.jpgSpawn: The Movie (1997). Umm. Parts of this superhero-comic-made-into-a-movie are pretty good (Spawn’s CGI cape; Martin Sheen chewing scenery as a villain). Unfortunately, much of it is awful (an incredibly offensive demon who looks like a clown; the CGI Hell and Devil, both of whom look like someone’s kid drew them in Paint and threw them into a primitive animation program). I got this based on a Netflix recommendation, and my son liked it, but I was greatly disappointed.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/9/95/Interstella5555.jpg/200px-Interstella5555.jpgInterstella 5555 (2003). My 12-year-old son strikes again. He watched this Japanese anime film in pieces on YouTube and then asked me to get it on Netflix. We watched it with him and started out skeptical, but it turned out to be enjoyable. The movie has no dialogue; it’s basically a full-length video for the album Discovery by the band Daft Punk. Their music is sort of funky electronica, and it’s quite listenable. The movie tells the story of an alien rock band who are kidnapped, brought to earth, brainwashed, and made into superstars in pursuit of an evil cult’s aim to conquer the universe. Yes, really. Your kids will love it.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/8/83/1189139127101.jpg/200px-1189139127101.jpgNaked Boys Singing (2007). My mom saw the theatrical version of this show in Key West and loved it. A friend saw the movie and loved it. It is exactly as advertised: naked boys (well, young men — muscley young men in an assortment of heights and colors) singing. And dancing. And, umm, bouncing. Based on what I’d been told, I expected all comedy, with a variety of mild sexual innuendo. So, I was unprepared for the fact that all the boys are gay, some of the songs are far from funny, and some of the sexuality gets pretty warm. I have no problem with any of those things — I just wasn’t prepared, so they weren’t necessarily what I was in the mood to watch at the time. (It’s like when my mom told us that Fargo was a comedy, and we sat watching murder after murder, waiting for a part that would be funny instead of horrifying.) It’s possible that I would have liked this better if I’d known better what I was going to be watching. But all in all I think shows like this are much better seen live on stage; film doesn’t capture the interaction of cast and audience.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/76/The_Fisher_King_Poster.jpg/200px-The_Fisher_King_Poster.jpgThe Fisher King (1991). I’m not sure I can describe this marvelous film. Perhaps saying that it was directed by Terry Gilliam tells you everything you need to know. And, of course, the movie’s tagline: “A modern day tale about the search for love, sanity, Ethel Merman and the Holy Grail.” Here’s a great critic’s quote from Rolling Stone: “sweeps you up on waves of humor, heartbreak and ravishing romance.” Indeed.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/2/26/KeepingMumPoster2.jpg/200px-KeepingMumPoster2.jpgKeeping Mum (2005). My 12-year-old son continues to be a source of excellent movie recommendations. He watched this comedy on cable at his grandmother’s and then asked that I get it from Netflix. Maggie Smith plays a sweetly murderous old lady who assists a disfunctional family in sorting out all kinds of difficulties. Kristin Scott Thomas is marvelous, as always. And you won’t want to miss Patrick Swayze as Lance, the incredibly icky American golf pro; who knew that mister Dirty Dancing could be such a slimeball?

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/myfilmo.com/pictures/albums/Blade-Runner-wallpapers/bladerunner_harrison_ford.jpgBlade Runner: The Final Cut (2007). Still the same amazing film, with some helpful differences from earlier versions that improve the movie’s overall quality. Personally, I don’t get the part about Deckard being a replicant, although Ridley Scott has confirmed that he intended for this version to make that clear. It doesn’t, although it is sort of a cool idea.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/c/c3/Chronicles_of_riddick_ver2.jpg/200px-Chronicles_of_riddick_ver2.jpgThe Chronicles of Riddick (2004). This is the second time I’ve seen this action/adventure/sci-fi movie. It stars Vin Diesel — who, as it turns out, is a good actor, and a lot of fun to watch as a big ol’ bad boy who does good stuff despite himself. Beautiful, elegant, grey villains; And hey — Dame Judi Dench as a sort of floaty, see-through alien! Much fun.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/0/04/StrictlyBallroom.jpg/200px-StrictlyBallroom.jpgStrictly Ballroom (1992). This is one of the very first movies I wrote about, way at the bottom of this page, but I like it even better now than I did then. This time the music got to me — in particular, a very romantic cover of “Time after Time” (by Mark Williams and Tara Morice ) and “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” by Doris Day. The movie, set in Australia, is filmed like a pseudo-documentary, with extremely funny acting mixed with dramatic and marvelous ballroom dancing. Love conquers all, as the hero overcomes adversity and avoids living his life in fear. Watching it makes me feel all happy and mushy and like I wish I’d taken dancing lessons.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5a/Mystery_Men.jpgMystery Men (1999). I’ve seen this movie many times. We watched it again because we were looking for something that would make me, both kids, and my daughter’s boyfriend happy. It’s a lot of fun: ” William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, and Hank Azaria as a trio of lesser superheroes with fairly unimpressive superpowers who need to save the day” (Wikipedia). And don’t forget Greg Kinnear as Captain Amazing, and Geoffrey Rush as the supervillain, Casanova Frankenstein! No bad language or bloody violence; incredible costumes, settings, and other elements of art drection; and a talented cast having a great time. Watch for young Dane Cook in a brief appearance at the superhero tryouts (we spotted him for the first time during this viewing).
cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51u7wXrfY3L._SS500_.jpgThe Ritz (1976). A marvelous sex farce, featuring a threatened mafia hit, a guy named Guy hiding out in a gay bathhouse (pre-AIDS), mistaken identities, mistaken rooms, and Rita Moreno reprising her Tony-award-winning role as wonderfully dreadful cabaret singer Googie Gomez. For years I’ve been stuck watching the grainy version that my mom videotaped from commercial TV; now the film is finally out on DVD, and I got to see the uncut movie for the first time. If you want an evening of laughter, give it a watch.

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https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/a/a0/Simpsons_final_poster.png/200px-Simpsons_final_poster.pngThe Simpsons Movie (2007). I gotta tell you, I’m not a big Simpsons fan. For me, a little Homer goes a loooong way. However, my kids saw the movie when it came out, and came home talking about the “Spider-Pig” sequence; and that was enough to get me to watch it. It’s OK; most of it is too much of Homer being stupid, but a few scenes about made me fall off the couch laughing: the aforementioned Spider-Pig, a scene where Disneyesque animals help Marge and Homer prepare for a little quality alone time and are then horrified by the results, and the “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” short in the Special Features. (Actually, it made me laugh harder than anything in the movie.)

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https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/77/Mirrormask.jpg/200px-Mirrormask.jpgMirrorMask (2005). We don’t have cable, but my mother, who lives next door, does — including “in demand” movie channels that my son occasionally uses to find new films from about a zillion that are available. Recently he happened on this slightly surrealistic, visual gem of a movie, which had only a very limited release in the U.S. when it came out. It’s a Jim Henson production, which tells you right away that there are interesting non-human characters. Much of the movie was green-screened; the world built around the characters during those portions is created from the lead character’s stunning pen-and-ink drawings. It’s a little difficult to describe; suffice to say that if you enjoy Legend, Labyrinth, and The Dark Crystal (all of which share fantasy/quest thematic elements with this movie), you’ll like it. It also features a marvelously odd soundtrack and the most interesting title sequence I’ve ever seen.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgBad Boys (1995). My son just Could Not Bear to Wait for Netflix to deliver Resident Evil, so we drove first to Blockbuster and then to Hollywood Video in search of a copy. Hollywood had a 2-for-$2 deal, so I looked over the Action shelves and picked this movie, which I’ve never seen. (It was partly to make up to Will Smith the fact that I did not and will not see I Am Legend.) Smith and Martin Lawrence have good comic chemistry, and I enjoyed Tea Leoni as the damsel in distress (although I was annoyed by her I’m-not-a-prostitute-but-I-dress-like-one wardrobe). The movie is, you know, OK, but I don’t need to see Bad Boys II.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpg Resident Evil (2002). OK, so my 12-year-old son is on a zombie-movie kick right now. (He gets his love of super-scary and horror movies from my mom.) He watched 28 Days Later (I did not) and then announced that he wanted to see Resident Evil. I’ve been seeing previews for the third installment in the series (Resident Evil: Extinction), so I read the reviews on Netflix and watched the trailers, and got him the first two films. They didn’t look too over-the-top, and I thought I might like them too. Well, no such luck. This movie instead reinforced my dislike of zombie movies and my lack of any need to see another one. I like Milla Jovovich very much from her role in The Fifth Element, and I also like her here, but the whole munching-zombie thing is just too gross for me. (My son, by the way, gives the movie 4 cookies and also enjoyed the second film, although not as much. The third one is on the way for him to watch.)

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpgNational Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007). The original National Treasure is tremendous fun, watching Nicolas Cage et al follow cryptic clues that lead from one historical site to another. This film follows the same basic pattern, so it’s somewhat less original and mind-blowing when Nic discovers each new piece of the puzzle. However, the ensemble cast is once again outstanding (including Helen Mirren, who is always worth the price of admission), some humor is thrown in, and overall the movie is enjoyable. I bought the first one; I probably don’t need to see this one again.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpgShoot ‘Em Up (2007). Have I mentioned in the last few seconds that I love action movies? We saw this film in a theater and I came home and ordered it on Amazon, so it arrived the day of release. This run-and-gun fest is just too much fun, with Clive Owen as the carrot-chewing hero and Paul Giamatti as the scenery-chewing villain. There’s never any doubt that good will prevail and the baby in the bulletproof vest will survive, so you’re free to enjoy two hours of innovative gunfights — including one that gives an entirely new meaning to coitus interruptus.

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Angel Heart (1987). Oh, Mickey, Mickey, how could you submit yourself to all that plastic surgery when you were so perfectly rugged? Mickey Rourke was an incredible actor, before he went off on a tangent to become a boxer and win the award for Most Plasticized Male. This is an incredibly creepy, bloody movie that I have adored for 20 years; I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s Robert De Niro’s perfect turn in a small but pivotal role, in addition to the always stellar work of Mr. Rourke. Anyway, I love it, even if my kids now think I’m nuts.

*** 1-year break in my movie-watching history, resulting from sad neglect of this page. The list picks up at the start of 2008. ***

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpgThe Covenant (2006). Another movie that I saw only because my daughter’s boyfriend brought it over. It reminded me a great deal of The Lost Boys, except that in this movie, the beautiful young men are sorcerers rather than vampires, and only one of them is evil. There are some really well-done magic special effects, some extremely creepy moments involving spiders, an enjoyable if predictable plot, and a wonderful line, spoken by a modern-day wizard: “Harry Potter can kiss my ass!”

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgLucky Number Slevin (2006). My daughter’s boyfriend rented some movies and brought them over, which is a good way for me to end up watching something I wouldn’t otherwise. This is an interesting film with lots of good plot twists, some very cool filming techniques, the chance to see Morgan Freeman as a bad guy, Ben Kingsley being great as usual, Lucy Liu in a kind of goofy role, and Bruce Willis doing the kind of ice-cold part that he does better than anyone. Unfortunately, the violence was a little over the top for me.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpgMy Cousin Vinny (1992). This is a good film with spots of greatness, such as Marisa Tomei’s performance (particularly her testimony as a car expert). Joe Pesci is a lot of fun, and I love the way he turns out to be so much smarter and skilled than we expect. Also, as a lover of good grits, I consider it a classic moment when he asks the Southern short-order cook, “What exactly is a grit?”

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Noises Off (1992). In my opinion, one of the funniest movies ever made, about a second-rate theater troupe trying to get to Broadway without killing each other first. Another of my very, very favorite films. I have no clue how many times I’ve watched it: 30? 50? My daughter and I have it essentially memorized, and bits of the dialog regularly appear in our conversations. This is an example of the type of film that makes me wish the Oscars gave a “Best Ensemble Cast” award: Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, John Ritter, Christopher Reeve, Denholm Elliott, Marilu Henner, Julie Hagerty, Mark Linn-Baker, and Nicollete Sheridan (way, way before her days as a desperate housewife), all spot-on perfect. It’s based on the play by the same name, which I’ve seen three times (including on Broadway); if it’s ever performed near you, I highly recommend it.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpgMiami Vice (2006). Michael Mann films have a very particular and unusual effect on me. They’re always gorgeously filmed, and he approaches certain predictable situations from entirely new angles; so, I come away thinking a lot about what happened, and the characters’ lives, and why things happened the way they did. However, Mann doesn’t often give his characters happy endings — almost never, in fact. Take Heat, for example, or Manhunter: dismal endings all ’round. People rarely smile or have a good time, but there’s a lot of very visceral violence carried out by sexy people in beautiful settings. In the case of Miami Vice, I think he gave a partial happy ending only because he knew he couldn’t kill off either of the main characters. My daughter asked me if I enjoyed the movie. My son asked me if it was good. I didn’t know how to answer either of them. Did I enjoy it? Well, I enjoyed moments of it, but in a stylistic sense; I was aware of and impressed by the filmcraft used to create a particular mood or express a given idea. I liked the actors and the settings. I was highly annoyed by the ending, as I am any time a happy ending seems perfectly feasible and yet is denied without explanation. Was it good? It was, as I said, gorgeously filmed. The story was interesting, although parts of it were difficult to follow (the plot involved complicated drug deals carried out on multiple continents, and many of the explanations took place between people with thick Spanish and/or Chinese accents). So, would I see it again? No. But it was very intense, and I keep thinking about it — as is true each time a Michael Mann film comes my way.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgSnakes on a Plane (2006). My husband didn’t watch this one, but my son and I did, and we liked it. It’s not Shakespeare — but hey, it’s Mr. Cool, Samuel L. Jackson, kicking snakes’ butts (well, I guess they don’t have butts, but still…) 30,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean. We fast-forwarded during the two very intense sequences with snakes everywhere and a little too much icky gore, but the rest was exciting and enjoyable. We also liked the DVD extras showing how they managed all the live nonpoisonous snakes on the set and how they animated the poisonous ones into the film.

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The Thomas Crowne Affair (1999). This is one of the movies I love best in the world. I’ve probably watched it 15 times, and I know it by heart, but I’m always ready to see it again. Renee Russo, Pierce Brosnan, Denis Leary, clever and beautifully filmed heists, and steamy-hot sex scenes that will, um, get your undivided attention. We watched it on New Year’s Eve.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpgThe Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). This is my favorite of the Muppet films (although Muppet Treasure Island is right up there). Gonzo and Rizzo are inspired choices to narrate the film, and Michael Caine is a perfect Scrooge. The movie keeps all the elements of the Dickens tale but adds typical muppety touches and plenty of humor. No holiday season should be complete without watching this movie, A Christmas Story, and Holiday Inn — although this year I didn’t get to the latter two. I’ll have to make up for that soon…

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpgOffice Space (1999). Sitting beside my computer monitor is my bright red Swingline stapler. This movie is extremely funny, and I enjoy being able to look back at cubicle work life and know that, although I was there once, I never will be again. (I’d give it at least another half a cookie if it wasn’t for the obnoxious rap music that forms a large part of the soundtrack.)

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1776 (1972). I hadn’t seen this movie in forever. Then, one day I was talking about some aspect of American history with my son, and I thought of a scene from the film. I ordered it from Netflix, not knowing what my kids would think, and they both loved it and watched it multiple times. 1776 was a Pulitzer-prize-winning Broadway show, and much of the original cast appears in the movie. The songs are excellent, and there are moments of humor, grief, and stirring patriotism as the first Continental Congress struggles to formulate the Declaration of Independence. Interestingly, the version from Netflix, although not labeled “Director’s Cut,” includes multiple scenes and snippets that were cut from the theatrical version — a very nice bonus. If you enjoy musicals with a strong story, I highly recommend this film.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpgClerks II (2006). I love this movie. My whole family loves this movie. And yes, go ahead and think of me as a dreadful parent, because both of my kids have watched it multiple times, complete with rampant obscenity and a guy in leather having sex with a donkey (no, you don’t see it onscreen). It’s worth any amount of gross humor to watch Randall’s rendition of the three Lord of the Rings movies; or to hear his analysis of the characters’ lives and future at the end of the film; or to see Jay and Silent Bob, period. And the first time sweet, innocent Elias started talking about Pillowpants, the troll who lives inside his girlfriend’s vagina, just waiting to bite off any lurking male member that tries to get inside, I thought I was going to fall off my chair laughing. We saw it originally in a theater, got it from Netflix, and now own a copy. Kevin Smith is the man.

cookie-bite.jpgYellowbeard (1983). This film is absolutely dreadful. Netflix predicted that I’d like it. And the cast is an amalgamation of Monty Python alums, people from Mel Brooks movies, and Cheech and Chong, which sounds like a mix made in comedy movie heaven. Instead, the jokes are worthless, the acting is lame, and the story is ridiculous. The only reason we left it on until the end was that we kept thinking that surely — surely — any film with Madeline Kahn and John Cleese must have some redeeming qualities. Alas, we were wrong.

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Unleashed (2005). This film popped up as a recommendation on Netflix, and I’m very glad I ordered it. It was written by Luc Besson, who also wrote and directed one of my favorite movies of all time, The Fifth Element. It stars Jet Li, so naturally it includes some amazing martial arts; but it’s also a fascinating and beautifully acted story of a man who has been raised as an animal, and who escapes his situation and learns to be human. Morgan Freeman is marvelous, as always, and Bob Hoskins is a vicious villain (I’d only ever seen him as a goofy good guy in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? — but hoo, boy, look out for him in this movie!).

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Casino Royale (2006). Yummy. See my post here. The only reason it doesn’t get 5 cookies is because I didn’t like the lack of clear explanation for Vesper’s death at the end.

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Mission: Impossible III (2006). Philip Seymour Hoffman rocks as a villain. I got the same feeling that I do watching Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves — I want a lot more villain and a less of the good guy. It’s also extremely cool to get to see the machine that makes the MI team their false faces. Plus I love it at the end when Tom Cruise is desperately trying to save his wife and himself, and he’s giving her the 30-second lesson in how to shoot, and he compares the action of slapping in a new clip to putting new batteries in their kitchen flashlight; someone clever wrote that. Definitely my favorite of the MI franchise.

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Robin Williams: Live on Broadway (2002). Ewww. I was expecting greatness and didn’t get it. We turned this off after about half an hour. I didn’t know he could not be funny; but except for occasional flashes, the Robin Williams I know didn’t show up for this performance.

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Inside Man (2006). I love this movie. It’s the best film I’ve ever seen that I’d never heard of. For some reason I can’t recall, I was searching the Netflix list of Spike Lee’s movies, and this was on the list. I was surprised, because I had no recollection of Jody Foster making a movie with Denzel Washington (plus Willem Dafoe and Clive Owen!) or of any word about this movie in the press. In any case, it is excellent. Perhaps the public overlooked it because even though it’s about a bank robbery, it isn’t an “action movie” — no car chases, no big shoot-outs. Not a single person dies. The plot is tight and perfect; the pacing is deliberate but not slow; the music is outstanding. I was literally sitting up on the edge of the sofa during the tense moments and trying hard to guess what was coming next. I went to bed sorting through story elements and lines, and I woke up still working on the movie in my head. I’ve ordered it from Amazon so I can watch it another few times and connect all the dots as they appear, now that I know the whole story.

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The Sting (1973). The classic con film. I hadn’t watched it in ages and decided it was time after seeing the homage paid to it in Hustle. It’s marvelous to watch all the little pieces of the plot fall into place; to enjoy the Scott Joplin soundtrack; to remember how wonderful Robert Shaw was and how sad it is that he died before his time; and, of course, to see Redford and Newman in their glory days.

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Hustle (TV; 2006, season 1, DVD 1). Now that’s what I’m talking about. “The con is on”—is it ever. This BBC program about a group of London grifters is well-nigh perfect: It looks incredibly cool, the acting is impeccable, the music is incredible, and the plots are marvelous. Each episode has an unexpected twist, and the director has done some very nifty stylistic work. We all love it, and we can’t wait for Netflix to bring the next DVD!

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The Tick (TV; 1994, season 1, DVD 1). This animated show about a very strong but not terribly bright superhero came highly recommended for clever, adult-level humor and a mix of subtle and hit-over-the-head jokes. However, when my son and I watched the first few episodes, we were decidedly underwhelmed. There are a few clever moments, a couple of things made me laugh out loud, and we both liked the Tick’s sidekick, Arthur the moth. But other than that—well, we didn’t even finish the DVD.

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Frankie and Johnny (1991). This is a romantic comedy (with dramatic moments) starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino, and featuring Nathan Lane in one of his earlier roles. It’s a lovely film about a short-order cook and a waitress, and his efforts to help her overcome past pain and fear and find happiness with him.

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Doctor Who (TV; 2005-06 version, DVD 1). I was never much of a fan of the earlier incarnations of Doctor Who. However, this new BBC series is excellent — great special effects, interesting plots, and an enjoyable cast. We’ve watched the first three episodes. The next 11 also feature Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor; after that the role switches (as it often does), and then we’ll see if I still like the show as much…
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What’s Cooking? What a great movie. I’d never heard of it until it was recommended to me by Bruno, a fellow film buff, and I’m so glad to have seen it — not only is it a wonderful story, portrayed by some of my favorite actors (Mercedes Ruehl! Alfre Woodard!), but the scenes of Thanksgiving meals being prepared in four different houses using four different cultures’ recipes are mouthwatering and beautiful. This movie is a perfect example of why I think there should be an Academy Award given for Best Ensemble Cast: Four extended families, a couple of dozen actors of all ages, and not a false note in the bunch.
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Jackass: Number Two. This is the first film I’ve ever attended that caused me to be embarrassed to walk into the theater. I didn’t look at the other people; I didn’t want to see who was there, and I didn’t want anyone to see me. So why was I there? Because my son and I had a rainy afternoon on our own, and when I asked him what he wanted to do, he replied that he wanted to see this movie. (His sister had gone to it the night before and pronounced it very funny.) And I said … yes. It gets one cookie because a few (very few) of the segments were really funny. Also, all the guys in the movie have lots of cool tattoos. But don’t even get me started on the negatives about this film. It was made by people whose motives, motivation, morals, mentality, and more, I don’t understand.
My 11-year-old son’s rating = cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpg: “That was great! It was really funny!”
My 15-year-old daughter’s rating = cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpg: “I liked it a lot, except for the gross parts.” Thank goodness I called her before I went, and she warned me to cover my eyes whenever they said they were going to eat or drink anything…

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgCharlie Chan in Paris. Watching Charlie Chan movies from the 1930s is like watching a time capsule of life in a very different age. These films are 100% and escapism, with simple plots, predictable mysteries, and clues left prominently for Mr. Chan to find (although the police always overlook them). Charlie Chan in Egypt featured a villain running around in a cat-god costume with glowing eyes, which reminded me vividly of a Scooby-Doo mystery. There are stereotypical depictions of women and minorities, which seem incredible to the modern eye; however, we’ve used them as teaching moments for our children: “Yes, these groups really were portrayed and treated that way at the time. How are things different now — or not?” These movies were made back in the days of actors working on contract for a studio production line. Incredibly, Warner Oland starred in 15 Charlie Chan movies between 1931 and 1937 — and he was also in 13 other films during those years! Because movies at the time were part of a larger bill of fare at theaters, including a newsreel, cartoons, and more, the films are short — about 75 minutes. Perfect for times like last night, when I was folding laundry and just wanted something fun to help pass the time.

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The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Four words: Hugo Weaving in drag. Well, OK, a few more words: phenomenal, unexpected performances by Terence Stamp and Guy Pearce. You think you’ve seen these Men’s Men? Think again.

cookie-bite.jpgThe Original Kings of Comedy. We got this from NetFlix based on the fact that we loved the redneck comedians (see below) and that we’ve enjoyed Bernic Mac and Cedric the Entertainer in other movies. Unfortunately, it’s 90% profanity; and, we decided we’re apparently too white to get most of the humor.

cookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie3.jpgcookie-bite.jpgBlade Runner: The Director’s Cut. I’d forgotten how amazing this movie is. Be sure to see the director’s cut, without the unnecessary background narration. Some of the special effects look a little dated, but for their time they were incredible. Plus Ridley Scott’s dark and hazy cinematography. Wow.

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Pinky and the Brain, season 1, DVD 1. For years I’ve been hearing about Pinky and Brain from a good friend, so I decided it was time for my family to give it a try. Funny, with plenty of in jokes for the adults; plus it’s a pleasure to see hand-drawn animation.

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Phat Girlz. I heard the star of this movie, Mo’Nique, on NPR, and I got it based on that interview and the clips they played. It’s funny, but it also has some unexpectedly moving moments; and it’s a great statement about America’s obsession with perfect, skinny female bodies. Plus it has what I call a Pretty Woman ending: Everything is wrapped up nicely, but they add some extra scoops of fairy tale for people like me who love a really happy ending!

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cookie-bite.jpg Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie. OK, let the person who doesn’t have rednecks in their family throw the first stone. While visiting my husband’s extremely redneck family, my kids watched a different show featuring these four comedians, and came home talking about how funny it was. Wow, were they right — these guys are hysterical. We particularly like Bill Engvall, but they’re all extremely funny; and because each of them has a different style, the humor doesn’t get stale.

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V for Vendetta. Weird. Annoying.What’s really annoying is that I can’t make WordPress break this line correctly, so I’m having to mess with white text!

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cookie-bite.jpgStrictly Ballroom. Think Flashdance, but with quirky Australian humor. Funny, moving, over-the-top costumes and hair, and some marvelous ballroom and flamenco dancing. I talked a little about it earlier.

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Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan, season 1, DVD 1. We read about Cesar Milan in The New Yorker, and his way with dogs sounded uncanny. His TV series, although produced in a slick, reality-show style, demonstrates his skill with dogs and his empathy for hapless owners. We learned some useful techniques from watching this DVD, including a greatly improved way of walking our large and lively dogs.

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9 responses to “movies! (updated 3/5/08)

  1. Great to see two Australian films in your list. If you get a chance, try a little Aussie gem called “Look both Ways.” My most recent film was “The Queen” which surprised me in its humour and even gentle pathos.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m looking forward to seeing “The Queen”; Helen Mirren is always marvelous.

  3. You have quite a few of my fave movies or movies i’ve seen. check out The Usual Suspects, which is a great movie both acting and plot wise.

  4. It is funny, you found V for Vendetta annoying and I LOVED it as did the group of people that I went to see it with a second time. I am also a Tick and a Pinkie and the Brain Fan. I’ve only seen 3 other of the films on your list. Anyway you say you don’t like Broadcast TV, but I think if you had them on DVD you might change your mind. I’m addicted to Desperate Housewives, The Simpsons, Smallville, and Gray’s Anatomy. My husband loved Lost’s first season, but I hated it. I’ve recently been watching Scrubs with my son. At first I thought it was stupid but it kind of grows on you, though I think they rip-off half their ideas from Gray’s Anatomy. I agree most of TV is a wasteland, but now and then you will find a gem.

  5. My comment is about ‘I Am Legend’ – I never got around to writing my review for that, but let me say this, you MUST see it.

    I went to see it, not expecting very much. I had never read the novel, though I had meant to. I knew the basis, and I’ve seen ‘The Last Man On Earth’, so I was curious about it. Plus, I had seen the featurettes with the dog, and that thought that was really cute.

    I was pleasantly surprised! It’s not your typical horror – in fact, it’s more sci-fi. It wasn’t really effects heavy, as I would have expected. The story is very good – though, from what I understand, not terribly true to the book.

    It’s a fantastic character study, and Will Smith acts his ass off in it. It was, however, one of the most depressing movies I’ve seen in a long time – don’t know if that’s a put-off or not, but it’s a fair warning.

    I highly recommend it.

  6. Pingback: movie miscellany « more than the sum of my parts

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  8. Pingback: movie update: Spiderwick Chronicles « more than the sum of my parts

  9. i highly recommend you to see “the curious case of benjamen button” , its really a great movie with a very new story, its really an excellent movie and you have to see it 🙂

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