January 18, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

Wow. I was not expecting this. There is a plot twist here that knocked the wind out of me. This is a "small" movie, low budget, pure story, no flash or special effects, and it really shows how all the flash just tries to hide the fact that there isn't much of a story. With this movie it was all story and character and Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood and Hillary Swank were a flawless team. This is one of those movies for which the impact grows on you over the next couple of days. I was so glad that Hillary Swank won the Golden Globes, so incredibly well deserved.

Posted by npaul at 8:17 PM

The Aviator

I was prepared to like this ok....how could they really do Kate Hepburn without making it a horrible caricature, and I'm so over Leonardo DiCaprio. But I was seduced. It was like being in a time machine, you were there - watching this guy soar and then totally crash. The art direction was flawless, the story was engaging and Cate Blanchett nails Kate... it was remarkable. I still am not crazy about Leonardo, but I do have to say he did a spectacular job with a very complicated character. See this one on the big screen.

Posted by npaul at 8:07 PM

In Good Company

Spencer and I went to see this on a frosty Saturday afternoon. It is fun, easy to watch, matinee material. Nothing particularly challenging to it, the characters are charming and true and I liked that the did not tie up everything in a pretty pink bow.

This could wait to be seen on netflix...unless you can get a cheap seat. It's not a big enough movie to really require that it be seen on the big screen.

Posted by npaul at 7:53 PM

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Last Thursday IFC local had a benefit... a showing of the Sean Penn movie "The Assassination of Richard Nixon" with a Q&A afterward with the director and writer Niels Mueller. Sean Penn has got to be one of the top three best actors living today. He nails every performance - although they all seem to be pretty dark ones, and this one is no exception. The story is based on Sam Bicke, the man who plotted to assassinate Richard Nixon but the dramatic part is not watching the assassination plot unfold but to see Bicke world, and sanity, unravel through the amazingly subtle acting by Penn.

It was fun to hear the director tell about the travails of getting funding for the movie (which features a plot to fly a hijacked plane into the White House) after 9/11 - even with the commitment of Penn (who agreed to play the part within two days of reading the script.)

Definitely don't miss this one.

Posted by npaul at 7:50 PM

Hotel Rwanda

In many ways this was a film like Schnidler's List - a very powerful and personal story of a person who was able to find inner resources to meet a horrific situation. The entire cast did an amazing job but Don Cheadle was the standout. There is a scene where, wordlessly, he expresses all the horror he has been experiencing and seeing and trying to keep from those who are under his protection.
I went with Linus, who is from Ghana, and Anne who spent most of her childhood in Africa with her father - a French engineer - who married a Tutsi woman after his wife died. Their perspective about it was interesting. Linus appreciated that it was different than a documentary, that it was the focus on the humanity of true heroes. I talked to someone else who said he was concerned that people wouldn't know more about the situation that happened there after seeing the movie - but I said that that wasn't the intention. It was not a documentary - it was a powerful human interest story that should generate interest in at least some of the moviegoers to learn more. I certainly did. Don't miss it.

Posted by npaul at 7:35 PM

December 30, 2004

Meet the Fockers

The movie got a terrible review - so it was really more fun than I expected it to be. Ben Stiller and Robert Deniro are such good foils for each other. But you can definitely wait til it is out on video.

Posted by npaul at 8:38 PM

Life Aquatic

I go to the "alternative" movie theater a lot. They had been showing the preview for Life Aquatic for the past three months - I was sick of it, but intrigued by the movie and really looked forward to seeing it. Turns out the preview was pretty much the movie - certainly the best parts of the movie. The whole thing felt very flat - everyone played it so deadpan. If you didn't like Royal Tennenbaums you won't like this either.

Posted by npaul at 8:31 PM

Beyond the Sea

I see a lot of movies. This is the first one I've been to in years that people applauded at the end. It was a beautifully done bio-pic - even if you didn't know or care who Bobby Darin is / was - it was a great storytelling. While Ray was good because Jamie Foxx did a great job of acting / being Ray Charles, the movie was a pretty standard biopic. Beyond was an interesting looping recollection / retelling of a life that made for a compelling couple of hours in the theater.

Posted by npaul at 8:27 PM

Phantom of the Opera

You know how you usually say, "The book was better." In this case "the play was better." This Phantom dragged and you really realized how boring the music is. Plus, the Phantom was way too sexy and not at all menacing. If you really loved the play, might be fun for you to see this.

Posted by npaul at 8:23 PM

December 20, 2004

A Long Engagement

Anne invited me to a preview of the new movie with whatshername from Amalie. I'd seen the previews and presumed, from the selected scenes shown, that this would be a standard sort of "romance split apart by war" and that the romance part would be the most of it. But I was wrong. It was really one of the most graphic war movies I'd ever seen and it was more a mystery than a romance. It was sometimes a little confusing, following the characters and their importance to the plot, but ultimately it all comes out. I would recommend this, but if you don't like graphic war violence be prepared to do a lot of squinting.

Posted by npaul at 10:31 PM

Lemony Snicket's ....

I think the best parts of this movie are Jim Carrey and the art direction. The story was clever, but dragged in some parts. But it was very fun to watch - you couldn't really tell a time period. I liked this a lot more than the Harry Potter movies.

Posted by npaul at 10:26 PM

Finding Neverland

Johnny Depp is by far my favorite actor. He transforms himself for every role. In this movie he is James Barrie and he has become Scottish, impish, and totally adorable. While there are certainly some liberties taken with the record, this is a delightful movie of imagination, loss, connection, and acceptance. I loved it. I cried and I hadn't cried at a movie in years!

Posted by npaul at 10:24 PM

December 17, 2004

The Machinist

wow. this was a really seductive movie - I had no idea what the movie was about except it was this guy that hadn't slept in a year and it appears someone is out to get him. I won't say anymore because not knowing anything made this such a compelling movie experience - you were with it the whole way. The ending is completely satisfying which isn't always the case with this kind of movie. And the filming and the music were perfect for the mood of the film. It was one of those movies that feels like it is filmed in black and white but then there is some flash of color. Very moody, very very intriguing. I really liked this film.

Posted by npaul at 7:03 PM

Callas Forever

Franco Zefferelli's love letter to Maria Callas is a wonderful movie experience for opera lovers and those who just admire interesting women. While this is by no means any kind of accurate biography, and doesn't claim to be, the portrait has some really true feeling moments. I think the sidebar story of Jeremy Irons and his boyfriend is pointless, but other than that flaw it is an interesting re-creation (re-imagining) of the diva's final days.

Posted by npaul at 6:58 PM

December 15, 2004

Seducing Dr. Lewis

This year's Waking Ned Levine - cute village with quaint people doing clever things to pull something over on someone. In this case it was trying to get a doctor to come to this remote maritime village so they can get a factory to relocate there. Salty characters and that sense of community that makes for a fun little movie with a happy ending that has you still smiling all the way to the car. In french.

Posted by npaul at 9:51 PM

National Treasure

A one word review will suffice. Horrible.

It was no fun to watch - no spark at all - and it was clear that the actors felt the same way. Hope Nicholas Cage has fun spending the money he got for it, because it was clear he wasn't having any fun on the film.

Save your money.

Posted by npaul at 9:48 PM

The Woodsman

I went to the Edina Theater's Saturday morning Cinema Talk with Jisu. It is an interesting event because you go not knowing what movie will be playing - just that it is one that is pre-release. The show was "The Woodsman" with Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. It was so interesting to see a movie you knew nothing about - had never seen a trailer or an ad. It was a powerful story spectaularly acted about a man trying to get past his past as a convicted child molester. It is a morality tale, with an uncertain ending, that rang true through out. Highly recommended.

Posted by npaul at 9:45 PM

December 5, 2004

Red Lights

I tried to get a couple of people to go to the movies with me on Friday night, late - thank god none of them went because I would have been so embarrased with my choice... Red Lights. What a lot of hype about this "Hitchcockian" French thriller... it was boring and stupid and one of those movies where you're really mad at yourself for wasting that time.

Posted by npaul at 2:03 PM

Bridget Jones and Closer

Did a double feature on Saturday...first, Bridget Jones. It was a very cute, feel good ending, predictable sequel to the first. Not much to say about it, good cloudy day Saturday matinee movie.

Closer was one of those movies of a play that was so careful in its dialog that you could see the play constuct. That's not a criticism - it was a really good play about relationships between damaged people who seem to want to inflict more damage on each other. Natalie Portman continues to be one of the most magnetic presences on the screen and Clive Owen walks all over Jude Law as ultimate hunk...why would Julia Robert's character ever want wimpy Jude over man and a half Clive? While you ultimately don't care much about any of the characters, the raveling and unraveling of their relationships is told compellingly.

Posted by npaul at 2:00 PM

December 3, 2004


This movie felt like watching a train wreck on acid. Incredible visuals shot by the son of a woman who was subjected to shock treatment in her teens by her parents and went on to a series of in and out of hospitals existence. This documentary, shot by the son, was one of the most visually heartrending movies I have ever seen and the selection of background music and the narrative style of the scroll of script made for a sensory experience until most movie experiences. Very difficult to watch but a final scene which is hopeful and somehow courageous.
Very much recommended

Posted by npaul at 12:17 PM

Vera Drake

This small story about the people you usually pass on the street without looking at was rich in atmosphere and great acting. It is set in 1950s England and the cinematography makes it look like a movie from that era. Domestic worker, Vera Drake, has a sideline in "helping out girls in trouble" and the vignettes of her life, her family, her work, and her smiling gracious way of being makes the ultimate outcome of the story so harsh. Recommended.

Posted by npaul at 12:13 PM

November 22, 2004

Being Julia

I had read "Theater" - Somerset Maugham's novella about a aging actress and a young lover and a very satisfying revenge. I didn't realize at first that that was what Being Julia was based on. I'm so glad I caught it before it ended. Annette Bening is a treasure that is not put on display nearly enough and I could watch Jeremy Irons, well, iron and not be bored. They were wonderful foils in this richly set, perfectly acted adaptation of a really fun story. And Annette made those of us slipping into our later middle age proud - she wore her smile lines and squint marks regally. It is a wonderful movie!

Posted by npaul at 10:35 PM

November 21, 2004

Kinsey and What the #@$%...

Liam Neeson, who I haven't seen in much lately, will surely be able to revive his career after "Kinsey." He nails the character of a monomaniacal professor. And Laura Linney is always great. While I'm sure some things were whitewashed / glossed over (and there wasn't enough about the dangerous puritanism in the country that kept him from getting funding for his work...a topic that is timely given the lack of tolerance today with our moral majority) it was a very effective story about an important character. And watching it with Spencer made for an even more interesting experience! In fact, the fact that it wasn't really uncomfortable for either of us attests either to the openness of our relationship or the sensitivity used in filiming on the topic.

Then we made the mistake of going to see "What the Bleep Do We Know." I had been hearing about this film for so long and had tried to go several times and so I dragged Spencer to it ("A film about quantum physics, on a Sunday - that sounds like school.") I don't get what the, well, bleep the big deal about it was! First of all, as a quasi documentary, it was really annoying that the "experts" being interviewed weren't even identified - was this a quantum scientist or the mailman, who knew? And the Marlee Maitland little narrative was just completely lame (and the "Discover Me! Discover Me! award goes to the flit that played her roommate.)

Maybe I'm too steeped in a solid new-agey background from years past that it all seemed pretty much "Duh!" to me. We left. Don't go.

Posted by npaul at 3:56 PM

November 19, 2004

The Incredibles - are

Of the three movies I've recently seen, Alfie, Ray, and The Incredibles, the characters in the Incredibles are the most engaging and well-rounded. Weird. The Incredibles is a really fun movie, went with Spencer on Tuesday to see it. It is a great story and the animation style blends comic book style with photorealism in really new ways. Go see it!

Posted by npaul at 9:51 PM

Finally - Angels in America

In a crazy cost saving fit I canceled my premium cable so never saw Angels in America on HBO. But I rented it tonight - finally. It is a stunning piece of work, the cast is perfect, the story is personal but universal.

Posted by npaul at 9:45 PM

November 16, 2004

Catching up

The Reel People movie discussion club I belong to picked three movies for this month's meeting: Alfie, Ray, and Sideways. I was traveling all weekend and hadn't gone to any movies the weekend before either, so I was seriously behind in my moviegoing. So when I got back from LA on Sunday afternoon I went to Southdale and did a twofer.

Saw Alfie first. It was pretty bloodless I thought - all the emotions in the film were so lukewarm and pretty - I didn't much engage with anyone in it. Jude Law is well cast and I guess it is just that his character is so shallow (why is he so emotionally wounded that he won't get, or stay, close to anyone - or is it just that he's an Aries?) that it is really hard to care. And I'm sorry, but I'm so over Mick Jagger - I had to leave before he did the whole final song thing.

Then I went into Ray. Maybe I was tired, I was really looking forward to seeing this - Jamie Foxx is amazing - but I found it to be a pretty standard biopic (great music, of course) - drugs, women, struggle, success...yattayatta.
I did have to leave it early because Spencer was going to be getting home from his trip to Chicago. But I know how it ends - more music and then he dies.

Tonight Spencer and I went to see The Incredibles - now that was fun! It is a great story, the characters are all so well developed, and the special effects - well, I guess it's all special effects - were spectacular. It was really fun. And the little cartoon before the movie was really sweet. It is sort of sad that the animated movie had much richer characters than the f&b movies did.

Still have to hit Sideways before Movie Club on Thursday - might have to catch it tomorrow.

Posted by npaul at 11:10 PM