New Two Sentence Movie Reviews (not necessarily new movies, just new reviews)
A.I. - several bold and visionary concepts, but ultimately infuriating. Just when you're absorbed by the narrative and ideas, it abandons them for another story entirely. And then it does it again. And again.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire - animated action adventure. Plenty of funny bits; no songs or talking animal sidekicks. The stunning visuals are a mix of traditional Disney character animation, Japanese-style anime, and digital animation techniques, all informed by a stark comic book high contrast look. Great sound design, too.
The Dish - Science Comedy. Based on the true story of the critical role an Australian satellite dish crew played in televising the Apollo 11 moon landing. Honest storytelling mixed with quirky, silly, funny characters.
Fantasia 2000 - imaginative DVD demo material, far better than the original.
The Godfather - sure, you know what it's about. But if you've only seen parodies and take-offs, go rent the original. Now. Powerful filmmaking.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - the book bored me, but aside from an unforgivably juvenile ending, the movie succeeds. Wonderfully integrated special effects, atmosphere, and pacing pull the viewer into Harry's world, while the plot (thankfully) takes a back seat.
Logan's Run - cheesy 1970's high concept science fiction that really works up to a point. Unfortunately, that point comes an hour before the movie ends.
Lord of the Rings - If you're aren't already a fan of the books, here's 3+ hours of phenomenal production design, a lot of kvetching about a ring, and a fight or two. But nothing happens - it's the longest teaser trailer (for movies 2 & 3) ever made.
Magnolia - Explores the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated lives. The acting and ambition is impressive; the length and pacing might have been forgivable if it wasn't so horribly depressing, and ultimately, just plain weird.
Monsters, Inc. - other than the obvious plot resolution, an insanely creative concept expertly executed and topped off in the third act by the most imaginative chase scene ever animated. (Or filmed.)
Moulin Rouge - a re-imagining of the big budget Hollywood musical as a two hour melodramatic MTV video on speed. Gave me a headache.
Orange County - light, funny, comedy that's surprisingly sweet for something so immature.
Say Anything - a rare movie about teenagers where the characters, dialogue, acting, and situations are all completely believable. The wardrobes are dated; nothing else is.
Shrek - Genuinely funny fairytale / fairytale parody, though it doesn't hold up as well to repeated viewings as equivalent Pixar fare. Stunning animation.
The Sixth Day - high concept science fiction movie that could have been a Gattica with different casting (i.e., without Schwarzenegger). Instead, it's more like a Total Recall where the plot makes sense.
Spiderman - involving, emotional story and great acting occasionally interrupted by fake-looking computer-generated Spiderman special effects sequences.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones - involving, fast-paced special effects sequences occasionally interrupted by wooden dialogue and acting.
Startup.com - another Hollywood rags-to-riches-to-rags tale, this time about the dotcom era? Nope. It's a documentary. No actors, just the real people, in real time, with cameras rolling while the "story" unfolds. Amazing luck for the filmmakers, and absolutely spellbinding for us.
Looking for something really good that you might not have even heard of? Try:
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle - Leah didn't want to watch this, but was glad she did. Funny, self-aware silliness. Appropriate for children of all ages.
All About Eve: a Citizen Kane-type look into ruthless ambition and the fall and rise of stars of the stage. Marilyn Monroe absolutely eats up the screen in a bit part as - what else? a dumb blonde.
Almost Famous - coming of age rock and roll homage with incredibly good casting and acting.
American Beauty - black comedy about dysfunctional suburbia, broken marriages, and lost teenagers. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes difficult to watch, but deserving of the critical acclaim it received. Not for children.
An American In Paris this is one of the most beloved musicals of all time, but we couldnt figure out why. Slow, with few musical numbers. If you want the score, buy the CD.
Analyze This! - hysterically funny mob send up with Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro. Lots of mob-appropriate language, though.
Anastasia animated musical from Fox in the Disney tradition. Gorgeous animation and some nice songs ruined by the plot, which claims that the Russian revolution was caused by a ridiculous supernatural villain who then chases the heroine throughout the film. If you can focus on the art and pretend that the movie is just a fairytale, its pretty good. We couldnt.
Annie Get Your Gun - Rootin' tootin' gun totin' musical fun. We're buying this one for the permanent collection.
Annie Hall - Someone who was an adult during the 70's is going to have to explain the appeal of this one to me. Considered Woody Allen's finest work, we found it only occasionally funny while the characters, the plot, and the first person construction were extremely annoying throughout.
Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me - A patchwork of funny scenes with Dr. Evil and his son, several not-funny scenes in *extremely* poor taste, several could-be-funny scenes that dont work, and a few that do.
Blast from the Past Good clean fun. Three thumbs up (my sister Batya saw it with us).
Boiler Room - brutal, intense portrayal of the world of hard sell securities sales, the money they make, lives they lead, and lives they ruin. Focused on a corrupt brokerage, but much of the criticism applies to more reputable firms as well. Terrific writing and acting, terrible (but accurate) language.
Bowfinger Hysterical comedy about trying to make it big on no budget in Hollywood. Steve Martin as the hustling producer and Eddie Murphy in a wonderful double role as a paranoid big budget action star and his naive look-alike. Note to the parents: more a Steve Martin film than Eddie Murphy. Enjoy.
Bulworth White politician gets jiggy wit it. Liberal movie critics liked it a lot, we couldnt even watch the whole way through.
Cabaret: Is it about a messed up wannabe-star ignorant of the world around her, the shift to Nazism in 1930s Berlin, or a reflection of the era when the film was made (early 1970s)? All of the above plus some showcase musical numbers/burlesque; adults only.
Chicken Run - Very "human" prison escape movie... about chickens inmates of an English chicken farm, hoping a wayward circus rooster can teach them to fly. Inventive use of claymation gives a real 3D look - because, unlike other animation forms, it's really 3D. Recommended.
Creature Comforts - a collection of old Nick Park (claymation) shorts... that show just how much his art and story telling have improved since then. Rent the Wallace and Gromit collection or Chicken Run instead.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Take Sense and Sensibility's repressed emotional romance, add some serious martial arts from The Matrix, lose the Mandarin Chinese, and add some aliens... and you'd have the Star Wars prequels George Lucas should be making.
Dave Matthews Band: Listener Supported DMBs live concert at the Continental arena. They play extended versions of many of their hits, but wont convert anyone who isnt already a fan (unlike the James Taylor DVD, which is spectacular). The Dolby Digital sound mix makes use of the rear surrounds to really extend channel separation into the room, and on three songs you can use DVDs multi-angle feature to zoom in on different members of the band.
Dogma an inventive, funny, and extremely profane in language and theology tale of two fallen angels trying to get back into heaven. Writer/director Kevin Smith probably got whacked with a ruler by nuns in Catholic school when growing up, but it was likely for profanity, not inattentiveness.
Dudley Do-Right: There were some funny moments, but overall, see "George of the Jungle" for a better take on similar material. Fans of Rocky and Bullwinkle will enjoy the Fractured Fairy Tale (cartoon) that precedes the (live action) movie.
Elizabeth how Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth. Intense drama worthy of the critical acclaim it received.
The Emperor's New Groove - clean, silly, wonderful fun. More like a full length Warner Brothers cartoon than a typical Disney animated film. If you hated Pocahontas, you'll LOVE this flick.
End of Days - Arnold takes on Satan. Lots of stuff blows up. Despite the fact that Arnold actually acts - convincingly - and there are some cool f/x sequences... it's not a particularly good movie.
Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain, The Hugh Grant enters quirky British town where he finds lots of quirky people plus a little romance. Leah thought it was nice, Avi thought it was slow, and Avi usually likes romantic comedies. Note: everyone supposedly speaks English in this town, but keep your finger on the subtitle button to understand what theyre saying.
Erin Brockovitch - you could sum this up as, "good single mom vs. bad giant corporation;" you could also sum it up as, "good acting and absorbing story."
Galaxy Quest Delightful fish-out-of-water comedy with great ensemble cast. When a 60s cheesy sci-fi show is mistaken for historical documents by real aliens, the actors (now on the convention circuit) Its funny for just about anyone you dont need to know a thing about Star Trek (but if you do, there are plenty of in-jokes to spot).
Gigi Delightful musical about a teenager coming of age and a rich playboy who still sees her as a child. No dancing, but good acting, humor, and several famous songs youll be humming for weeks.
Going My Way - sweet movie with young pastor breathing life into an old church and its old pastor. A classic, which explains the songs but doesn't excuse the slow pacing.
The Green Mile - long, slow, intense supernatural prison drama is worth watching if the pacing doesn't put you to sleep. Cool ending.
Grosse Point Blanke - the plot in this black comedy pretty much says it all: John Cusack as a "morally ambiguous" professional killer with a high strung secretary (Joan Cusack), in therapy with a reluctant (terrified) psychologist, who goes to his 10 year high school reunion, and tries to get back together with his high school girlfriend, while avoiding being killed, or joining a union being organized by Dan Ackroyd (a rival hit man). Avi loves this movie.
Evita quite good, if you like Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals about controversial people. Madonna did an excellent job acting/portraying herself.
Free Enterprise: Very funny semi-autobiographical film about two 29 year olds in LA and how their intense preoccupation with home theater, action figures, and Star Trek trivia impacts their love lives. William Shatner parodies himself, and DVD extras prove that the main characters arent made up. Note to the parents: deserving of its R rating.
High Fidelity - the third and best of our "aimless young men comic dating" movies (the other two are Free Enterprise and Swingers); great off-beat writing, great angst-ridden acting, believable character development, and wonderful cameos (the DVD includes a hysterical deleted scene with Harold Ramis).
Holiday Inn - Bing Crosby sings holiday songs, Fred Astaire dances to holiday songs, there's a loose plot... you get the idea.
In & Out politically correct light comedy about a man who is or isnt gay. Wonderful comic acting, reasonably funny.
Iron Giant, The outstanding drama about friendship, violence, and human nature. Its animated and features a giant robot, but think E.T., not Godzilla. Highly recommended.
Liberty Heights - superb funny, bittersweet drama about growing up Jewish in 1950's Baltimore; characters talk and act like real people, not plot devices.
Little Princess, The: Rich girl loses everything and survives on her imagination and knack for making friends. Sad story, happy ending, beautiful sets.
Love and Basketball - some Hollywood type probably green-lighted this thinking, "sports for men, romance for women - this has it all!" Thankfully, it has a thoughtful plot and believable characters, too. Recommended.
Man on the Moon - Jim Carrey BECOMES Andy Kaufman in this - very good - bio of the first performance artist / comedian. Asks a lot of questions it cant answer (was he sane? Is he dead?).
The Man Who Would Be King - epic comedy with too much epic and not enough comedy. We know it's a classic, but we found it tedious.
Matrix, The sci-fi extravaganza with no third act, but good story in acts 1 & 2, and way cool FX. Great special edition features on DVD show how the effects were done.
Meet the Parents - Avi saw this on a plane, and is convinced they edited out half the movie. However, he thought the half they left in was pretty darn funny.
Mighty Joe Young movie weve rented twice but never watched. Who knows? Maybe its good.
Mummy, The: Big budget action-adventure-horror-comedy with outrageously good F/X. Lots of scary, stupid fun. DVD offers extensive insight into making the movie, the F/X, and Egyptian avoda zara.
Muppets From Space Great opening scene. After that, Muppet fans will find this dull. Everyone else will find it excruciatingly dull.
Notting Hill light romantic comedy with Julia Roberts that mostly works. Pleasant, with some moments of genuine hilarity.
October Sky Outstanding drama about family, science and rocketry, and life in a mining town. Based on a true story, it has no foul language or sex, but despite that J we cant recommend this highly enough.
Pajama Game, The: 50's musical with a bit too much belt-it-out exuberance. Lots of memorable, catchy songs you'll be singing in the shower the next morning
Payback: Mel Gibson as the anti-hero, a thief trying to recover $70,000 the mob stole from him - no more no less. Lots of shooting, stuff blowing up. An edited version is sure to air on TNT's "Movies for Guys Who Like Movies".
Prince of Egypt, The fantastic animation and nice songs. Great movie, doesnt always adhere literally to the biblical version of Exodus, so may not meet all parents' approval. Thought provoking for adults.
Princess Mononoke - highly stylized epic anime includes stunning landscapes and f/x, but limited character animation (by design - this ain't Disney). Plot is a bit hard to follow, and ending is confusing, or at least somewhat ambiguous. Realistic violence, intellectual themes, NOT for children.
Raising Arizona we found the premise (couple that cant have children steals quintuplet because "they have more than they need and theyll never notice") funnier than the actual movie, which was funny, but too heavy on the slapstick and just too weird.
Ronin DeNiro thriller about mercenaries. Good acting and atmosphere, weak plot you never care about the characters. Not really recommended, but contains the best car chase ever filmed. DVD has lots of good info on how they filmed it - by driving through narrow Paris streets at over 100 mph with the actors in the cars.
Runaway Bride light romantic comedy with Julia Roberts that mostly works. Pleasant, but not especially funny.
Rushmore extremely strange black comedy about an overachieving student. Got great critical reviews, but we found it difficult to watch it the whole way through. Not recommended.
Seven Samurai - Japanese classic influenced everything from westerns to Star Wars to A Bug's Life (which shamelessly plays off the basic plot). Intelligent and eventually compelling, but very long to sit through. The western remake (The Magnificent Seven) may have snappier pacing, and it's in English, too!
Shanghai Noon - a Jackie Chan western buddy comedy. Funny stuff; highly enjoyable even if you don't particularly like martial arts.
Simply Irresistible - Combine the central conceit - magic cooking - from "Like Water for Chocolate," add an unexplained magic crab, and you've got a pleasant, highly crafted romantic comedy. Ingredients: heavy on the romance, heavy on style, light on comedy, and dangerously low on substance. Simply resist.
The Sixth Sense child psychiatrist helps a disturbed boy who sees dead people. Tight writing, a bold plot, and excellent acting elevate this Twilight Zone-esque movie beyond being just intensely creepy.
Sgt. Bilko: Much funnier than expected Steve Martin comedy about an Army sergeant/con man, his troops, his arch enemy, and his long suffering fiancée. Clean.
ShowBoat Great songs, if you can stay awake long enough during the movie to hear them.
Slums of Beverly Hills unique and absorbing dramedy about a dysfunctional family staying within Beverly Hills city limits for the school system.
Soldier Kurt Russell in a pretty stupid big budget guy movie. Violent, but not out-and-out stupid fun. Pretentious, but not intelligent. Not recommended.
South Park Movie: Vulgar, disgusting, and, often funny if you can stomach the truly disgusting vulgarity. Witty parodies of Disney animated musical numbers and songs from Les Miserables.
Starship Troopers Extremely violent fascist sci-fi/action/satire where extremely attractive cast battles and gets extremely killed by extremely large extraterrestrial bugs. If this sounds good to you, youll like it. Editors note: Leah chose not to see this movie.
Sunday In The Park with George - Avi hated this musical, and left after 20 minutes. Leah found it beautifully crafted with memorable music. Avi generally likes musicals and wants to reiterate how incredibly dull and boring this one is.
The Talented Mr. Ripley - a suspense thriller (think "Psycho" or "Silence of the Lambs"); well written and gripping. Momentum builds as Ripley tries to keep a step ahead of his lies, but getting there takes a long, long time.
Tarzan: One of Disney's best. Story focuses on family, fitting in, and definition of self (kind of a nature vs. nurture thing). Spectacular computer-assisted "deep canvas" animation brings you into the jungle, and terrific Phil Collins background songs set the emotional tone (the characters don't break out into song on their own). 2 disc "Collector's Edition" packed with how/why goodies.
Thomas Crown Affair Wannabe James Bond has great looking actors and locations. Not much of a movie, but everything looks great.
Three Kings - hyper-realistic war movie; Gulf War soldiers plot to steal Saddam Hussein's gold (which he stole from Kuwait), everything goes wrong. Intelligent and unsettling.
Titan A.E. spectacular computer animation mated with ho-hum cell animation tells the tale of mankind in the year 3000 after aliens blow up Earth. If you can avoid thinking deeply about the plot and characters, its enjoyable for the visuals and energy.
Truman Show, The - What if you grew up as the star of a TV show - literally - and didn't know it? Intensely thought provoking (nature vs. nurture, power of the media, more), entertaining, and suspenseful.
Toy Story 2: Dont miss this one. Fun but lightweight at the start, it clicks emotionally, philosophically, and hysterically about midway through. Appropriate for the whole family, especially the adults.
Unbreakable - Avi first saw this on a plane and LOVED this movie. Intelligent with comic book sensibilities. S l o w pacing, though.
West Side Story - is it a 90 minute GAP commercial, or a 90 minute music video? Either way, if MTV was like this, it would have much higher ratings. Great songs, great lyrics, serious themes, and incredible visuals - the dance numbers are jaw dropping.
The Whole Nine Yards - everyone in this movie is trying to kill someone else in this movie, except for a somewhat suicidal dentist (his receptionist, though is a hit-man groupie). Funny writing. Funny acting. Funny plotting. Funny slapstick. Funny crucial-to-the-plot nudity. Funny for audience (adults only).
Wing Commander for fans of the Wing Commander PC video games, this movie is sacrilegious. For everyone else, its just awful.
Woman On Top - The central conceit - magic cooking - made for a wonderful drama in "Like Water for Chocolate," and a weak romantic comedy in "Simply Irresistible." In this movie it's the basis for an odd romantic satire of those first two movies. Penelope Cruz is delicious eye candy, but the movie itself is really, really dumb.
Wonder Boys - comic drama detailing an English professor/novelist's bizarre weekend. The details (suicidal students, bisexual literary agents, marijuana induced seizures, etc., etc., etc.) are less important than the fully realized characters. A lot to absorb, it gets better with repeated viewings.
World Is Not Enough, The At some point during this Bond, James Bond flick, every known form of transportation explodes (paragliders, ski mobiles, cars, trucks, airplanes, helicopters, boats, hot air balloons, oil pipeline cars, and underground nuclear weapons lab elevators). Boom. Denise Richards Im a nuc-le-ar sci-en-tist deserves to blow up, but her character escapes harm.
X-men - Mutants. Special effects. Action. Not bad.