She’s the One

Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston and Edward Burns star in this 1996 romantic comedy about marriage and love, not necessarily with the same people.  Going into this movie, I admit, I had really low expectations.  Cameron Diaz + Jennifer Aniston + romantic comedy?  That sounds like a recipe for disaster.  However, I was pleasantly surprised and attribute that all to Edward Burns’ writing.

Cameron Diaz plays the role of bitch well, surprising considering her typical girl-next-door character, and it is amazing how beautiful and fresh both Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston look.  Granted this was filmed about 16 years ago, I looked much more fresh back then too <sigh>.

Anyhow, not a great movie by any means, an really rather predictable but better than general cursory, superficial glance would initially judge…$2

If you heart She’s the One:

Recommendations from …:

The Break-Up
Along Came Polly
Something’s Gotta Give

Recommendations from The Mug:

Beautiful Girls
The Brothers McMullen
Goodwill Hunting

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

gives a whole new meaning to the word bad-ass. This movie is a long movie, two and a half hours, and at midnight, that seems even longer. This movie drew me in and then drew me in some more, when I was debating on dozing off, a well-told, scripted, and acted tale of a mysterious disappearance, forty years in the past, involving sketchy family members and nazis! in sweden.

Now, Evelyn Salt, you could learn a thing or two from the girl with a dragon tattoo. Now that is some serious ass-kicking, even without any martial arts or special CIA training. Apparently you just need a photographic memory, a lethal sense of righteousness and a penchant for destruction (also some practice with hefty golf clubs could be handy). Noomi Rapace did a superb job as Lisbeth, the girl with the dragon tattoo, and she is another person I would gladly invite to my dinner table. I think she would be an absolutely fascinating dinner guest.

Though the acting and general script was engaging and believable, the divergent and seemingly incongruent storylines did have me confused and thinking a bit “WTF is going on here…is this story going somewhere?!”  during the first part of the movie. Then at the end, it seemed to drag on for about 30 minutes longer than it had to. But altogether, a thoroughly enjoyable movie, filled with a subtle sense of suspense and intrigue that seems to be missing from a lot of current Hollywood movies….$6

If you heart The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:

Recommendations from …:

The DaVinci Code
Blood: The Last Vampire

The Men Who Stare at Goats

What a phenomenal cast!  What high expectations I had going into the movie!  Such an interesting piece of cover art!  George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan MacGregor, Kevin Spacey and a goat: even the cover art made me chuckle out loud when I first saw it.  Granted, I had absolutely no clue what the movie was about when I first started watching it, but after watching the first 10 minutes, premise seemed promising and absolutely hilarious: Special psi-ops team who used mental powers to help the US army, in an exploratory attempt to try and engage through semi-non-violent means.

The movie itself was enjoyable, passed the time, but I felt in many times, it tried too hard to be weird, and quirky (Clooney: SICK ops? Spacey: It’s PSYCH ops) in a lot of obvious ways.  I mean, I should have known that going into the movie, after all the cover art is these guys with a goat.  It passes with a series of vignettes and flashbacks, about the beginnings of the New Earth Army after the Vietnam War and current operations in the Iraq war (apparently, according to wikipedia, at least partly based on true story).

I have to say I thought Jeff Bridges was hilarious as a military sergeant turned hippie/burn-out that tries to revolutionize the US army with flowers and yoga.  Clooney plays his loony, over the top character (see Burn After Reading, O Brother Where Art Thou?) as opposed to his traditional debonair self (see Oceans Eleven, Out of Sight) well enough, though the entire movie seemed a bit too contrived, a bit over-the-top Coen-wanna be (read Raising Arizona/Big Lebowski rather than Barton Fink/No Country for Old Men) for me to really appreciate and get into it.

That said I appreciate the effort and still had an ok time…$4

If you heart The Men Who Stare at Goats:

Recommendations from …:

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Burn After Reading
Pulp Fiction

The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right is a powerful and delightfully humorous film directed by Lisa Cholodenko (“High Art”, “Laurel Canyon”) and screenplay written by Stuart Blumberg.  The movie is simply strong writing fortified by brilliant acting.  Relationships and family drive the film – there isn’t much of a story.  But who cares!  The interactions and dialogue between the delicate relationships of lovers, parents and children, and surrogate fathers were written to perfection with all the necessary elements of awkwardness, humor, and tenderness.  There was a feeling of actual sincerity and connection with each of the characters that we rarely find in movies these days.

I haven’t seen Annette Bening in a worthwhile performance since American Beauty.  Although it’s not quite the same (simply because her role as Carolyn is one of the best female performances ever) – it is up there.  It was deeply satisfying to see her talent put to good use.  Mark Ruffalo… what a sexy motherfucker.  Normally the open-shirt-to-the-navel to bear beefy chest-hair elicits gag reflex.  But Mr. Ruffalo, you reek of sex, even with your exposed mat of hair.  Julianne Moore is as engaging and beautiful as ever.  The more I see of her, the more I realize that she just might be one of the most talented actresses of our time.

One especially satisfying experience in watching the movie is that the trailer didn’t ruin the movie one bit.  The trailer was captivating, but seemed to complete the movie without having to watch it.  Yet the scenes from the trailer were even better in the movie itself.  Since the movie was more character-driven, the trailer did nothing to disrupt the film itself.  Lastly – two more important elements that made the movie complete.  One: excellent soundtrack.  Two: Joaquin Garrido as Luis, the landscaper.  I can’t end this review without a tip of my hat to you . . . $8

If you heart The Kids Are All Right:

Recommendations from The Mug:

High Art
The Squid and the Whale

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

“Enron should not be viewed as an aberration; something that can’t happen anywhere else because it’s all about the rationalization that you’re not doing anything wrong…there (was) the diffusion of responsibility, everyone was on the bandwagon and it can happen again”

Sherron Watkins’ words of wisdom seem oddly prophetic in this time of recession, the recent financial collapse of some of the world’s most reputable firms, and wave of corporate ethics scandals and made me think, did people pay attention to why Enron collapsed?  Sure, you can always blame corporate greed, but what exactly does that mean, when there were so many smart, rational people who to this day disavow anything illicit or illegal was done?  What is about this particular company that elicited this type of response, where it became synonymous with evil, duplicity, and scandal?

I was initially inspired to watch Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, adapted from the book of the same name, because Freakonomics, another movie by Alex Gibney comes out this fall.  Although this movie was not as engaging, moving or life-changing as “Taxi to the Dark Side,” it is a good movie but I struggled with what I should rate it.  Did I like it? It was alright. Was it incredibly engaging? Not really, I mean I had read a lot about the company beforehand. Is it a movie I think everyone should watch? Absolutely, especially in this day and age.

Gibney experts weaves in personal interviews, historical footage, and a few small pieces of re-enacted material to portray a company who’s tragic flaw appears to be the pride of its leaders, in refusing to admit that the ship was sinking.  The allusions to the Titanic were wide and numerous, perhaps a little too numerous honestly, but apt.   The style of story-telling was dry and factual, yet visual (e.g., lots of pictures) and easy to follow.   It was also interesting to note the implied effect on the deregulation of California’s energy market as the guinea pig, so to speak, to Gray Davis’ gubernatorial recall and the election of the Governator, and how that conveniently played into Enron’s profits.

It took me a while to watch this movie, but in the end, still a fan of Alex Gibney.  It’s definitely more a dense film, but an important one…$8

If you heart Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room:

Recommendations from …
Capturing the Friedmans
Wall Street
Food Inc

Restless (중천)

I have to say, I love a good fantasy fu clip.  Even if the plot makes no sense, dialog is terrible, and characters are pretty unlikeable, there’s something about fantasy fu, maybe the magic, the suspension of disbelief, that inevitably draws me into it, unless the special effects are just completely terrible.  Restless, fortunately, had great special effects and the cinematography, art direction, costumes, were splendid, just an incredibly explosive visual orgasm.  It basically was your typical fantasy fu, with religious undertones of taoism and buddhism folded into the mix: light versus dark, good versus evil, rose petals versus….chains that shoot out of one’s back?  and of course one warrior to protect them all.

So, it’s totally predictable, don’t go if you’re looking to be moved, experience some sort of life-changing event, or see a good movie, but go if you want to see pretty colors and pretty people, and  cool special effects.  Also some pretty cool fight scenes… this made me remember how I wanted to be in a kung-fu fantasy flick, and that dream has still not yet died….though I figure learning some martial arts might be handy.

Kim Tae Hee plays the same type of role I have seen her in other movies and she does a passable job here as the heavenly being.

That said, she looks very pretty in each scene.  In fact, she looks a bit too young, since her husband looks close to 40.  Hard to believe she’s actually 30 in real life since most of the movie she, looks 12.  In conclusion, it’s a movie worth passing the time if you’re bored on a Sunday afternoon and have nothing else to watch, but worth for the special effects…$3

If you heart Restless:

Recommendations from …
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
House of Flying Daggers


Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Putting an exclamation mark inside the title of a movie may seem a bit presumptuous, like, oh! this movie is so good! we have an exclamation mark! Nothwithstanding, this movie deserves that exclamation mark.  What a heartwarming, uplifting movie about never letting go of one’s dreams.

This documentary/rockumentary revolves around the lives of two 50+ year old rockers, who were semi-huge back in the 80s and never gave up, a great movie to watch if you’re down and out.  There is a movie every so often that leaves you inspired.  This is such a movie.  The producers did a great job of getting famous rock artists, slash from gnr, lars ulrich from metallica, scott from anthrax to talk about how anvil was a huge influence on their music and legitmatize their right to fame.

Mr. Anvil squared, I want to meet you and invite you to my dinner table.   Will you come?  I’d like to sit and be inspired by you because you just seem like really good, goofy, nice guys.  I’ll cook good food I promise!

Even if you weren’t a fan of metal back in the day, I  still recommend this to anyone who has had a dream and wished they had the guts to follow it until the end…$9

If you heart Anvil! The Story of Anvil:

Recommendations from …
This is Spinal Tap
Billy Elliot

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