Sunday, January 26, 2003

40 Days and 40 Nights

Movie: 40 Days and 40 Nights

What should have been (and in places certainly is) a silly tale about a young man who decides to abstain from sex for the 40 days of Lent, turns out to be a fairly decent love story as the guy figures out that once sex isn't in the equation, he can see a woman for who she really is. Predictable, and in places crass, but it doesn't degenerate like most wild premise stories. Not bad.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Movie: The 40-Year-Old Virgin

I missed this in theatres (can't imagine why), but was curious about it when it was a huge hit. I expected silly dreck and I did get some of that, with a lot (a lot) of pointless bad language and crude jokes, but to my surprise the gimmicky premise is treated seriously as the main character finds romance later in life but is afraid to reveal his secret. I liked that aspect of the story; I could have done without a lot of the crude humor that served no purpose (like the one character who swore constantly).


Monday, February 23, 2004

50 First Dates

Movie: 50 First Dates

Ocasionally sacchrine, sometimes childish, usually predictable romantic comedy. It's by-the-numbers for the most part, but decent. It tries to get a little too serious at times. The plot reveals everything: a guy falls for a girl who has no short-term memory, so he has to get her to fall in love with him anew each day. One thing they did do well is not give us a cheap "She's cured!" ending. Not excrutiating.


Friday, March 16, 2001

FA Cup: Arsenal vs. Blackburn Rovers

Soccer: FA Cup: Arsenal vs. Blackburn Rovers

Another boring match, but for a different reason: the goals came too easy. Arsenal had two goals in five minutes, pretty much sealing the game before it started. Wiltord scored just two minutes in, and Tony Adams of all people, got a header three minutes later. Pires added one in the 36th minute, and that was more than enough. Final: 3-0 Arsenal.


Monday, April 9, 2001

FA Cup: Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Soccer: FA Cup: Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Fair but disappointing game. Spurs started things off brilliantly, with a great goal by Doherty. The first shot was impressively saved by David Seaman, but the rebound shot/cross went wide to Doherty who headed it in for the triangle goal. Seemed like things were looking up for Spurs, but sadly it was not to be. Vieira (who probably should have had two yellow cards by this time) scored in the 33rd minute on a header to equalize, and Pires gave Arsenal the victory halfway through the second half. The two goals disheartened Tottenham, who seemed lost and never really got going after that, though they made a few game efforts. Arsenal once again stumble forward. Final: 2-1 Arsenal.


Monday, March 12, 2001

FA Cup: Liverpool at Tranmere

Soccer: FA Cup: Liverpool at Tranmere

In the first half it looked like Liverpool had this game wrapped up. Michael Owen and Danny Murphy took turns helping each other out to each score, Murphy in the 11th minute on Owen's cross, and Owen in the 27th on Murphy's pass. But in the second half Yates scored just two minutes in to bring Tranmere just a goal away. Gerrard put in a header to restore Liverpool's two goal lead, but then Allison, just on as a substitute for Paul Rideout (who used to play for the Kansas City Wizards of MLS), scored on his first touch! It was a overeager blunder on the part of Robbie Fowler, who's defensive back-pass was too hard and therefore was fumbled, allowing Allison to grab it and slip it through Vesterveld's legs. But Tranmere's luck finally ran out. They gave up a penalty with nine minutes to go and Fowler converted, and Tranmere couldn't get back after that. Final: 4-2 Liverpool. Great game!


Thursday, April 12, 2001

FA Cup: Liverpool vs. Wycombe

Soccer: FA Cup: Liverpool vs. Wycombe

This game started off like the Sunderland-Middlesbrough game: no goals until the last twelve minutes. Some good play, but mostly defense for Wycombe, and boring to watch. I knew the game needed a goal, and once Heskey nailed a header from a few yards out to put Liverpool in front, the game indeed changed for the better, with both sides trying. But Fowler added to Liverpool's lead with a great free kick goal in the 83rd minute, and it looked like Wycombe was done. Then they snuck in a goal on their own with one minute left. Their keep put in a long ball right into Liverpool's penalty box. The ball was headed down by a Wycombe player to Ryan, who was open, and he finished it. But it wasn't enough. Liverpool deservedly win. Final: 2-1 Liverpool.


Tuesday, March 13, 2001

FA Cup: Tottenham vs. West Ham United

Soccer: FA Cup: Tottenham vs. West Ham United

Frantic pace to this game -- both sides really wanted to win. But Tottenham struck first, on an amazing volley by the Ukrainian Rebrov. The took it right from the throw-in and blasted it into the upper part of the net. But just before the end of the half West Ham answered, on a great free kick by Stuart Pierce, who curled the ball through a crowd and beat Neil Sullivan at the far post. In second half, however, Tottenham went on a roll. First Rebrov got his second goal when Ferdinand's header found him even with the last defenders, and Rebrov received the ball, turned, and beat the keeper with his shot. West Ham countered on several occasions, forcing Sullivan to make a couple terrific saves. But it looked like it was all over for West Ham when Tottenham's Doherty scored for a two goal lead. Then Torodov finished to bring West Ham back within one. As the clock ran down, Tottenham defending valiantly and West Ham attacking relentlessly, keeper Sullivan kept Tottenham in the game, including a one-handed save off the line two and a half minutes into stoppage time. That turned out to be West Ham's last chance, and Tottenham's manager, George Graham, gets to keep his job. Final: 3-2 Tottenham.


Saturday, February 5, 2000

Fahrenheit 451

Movie: Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
Writer(s): Ray Bradbury (novel), Jean-Louis Richard, and Francois Truffaut
Director(s): Francois Truffaut

Interesting, if a little odd, adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic novel. Odd because the lead speaks with a heavy foreign accent which bothered me throughout the film, yet there's no inference that his character is supposed to be a foreigner. Good overall, though a touch overly dramatic in places, and slow in others. It felt dated, and the "futuristic" sets were incredibly corny.


Saturday, August 9, 2008


Movie: Fallen

This is an older Denzel Washington picture I liked and hadn't seen in years. It still holds up fairly well, though it's too gimmicky to be a great film and the "trick" ending isn't much of a trick. The basic premise is that an evil demon is responsible for a series of killings which get blamed on his host. A cop (Denzel) has put away the man, but after the man is executed, the demon takes a new host and begins killing again... and it's the same M.O., which causes the cop to investigate as people are wondering if the original killer was wrongly convicted and executed. It's a neat idea, because the demon can switch from host to host at will, so we have a cop seemingly going after random people and his bosses can't figure out what he's doing. Unfortunately, beyond that central gimmick, the film doesn't offer much, and the ending, while it tries to be clever, isn't -- and it's a bit too grim to be satisfying. Still, a fun psychological thriller.


Friday, May 4, 2007

Falling Angels

Book: Falling Angels
Writer(s): Tracy Chevalier

Interesting historical novel set a hundred years ago in London around the death of Queen Victoria and involving the overlapping history of several families. The novel takes the unusual approach that each chapter is voiced by different characters. At first I found this off-putting and confusing, since it was hard to keep the characters straight, let alone follow the story, but I soon learned to like it. A lot of fascinating information is passed between the lines via this technique, as we see the same events from different perspectives. The story is primarily about two girls whose families have neighboring grave sites at the cemetary and the girls become best friends. Women's sufferage is a big part of the story as the mother of one becomes highly political and active in the cause despite the harm to herself and her family. I found that interesting, since I recently saw another film that dealt with the topic, as well as a recent episode of Cold Case on TV that made me realize just how controversial and even dangerous the cause was. This book isn't quite up to the class of Girl With A Pearl Earring, but it is well-written and interesting -- in the end I think the various voices break things up too much and the resulting story feels too choppy for genuine drama.


Tuesday, October 16, 2001

The Family Man

Movie: The Family Man

Predictable but pleasant film about a man presented with the experience of an alternate path of his life. In real life went for career over love and had terrific financial success and no personal life. Once he's presented with the way his life could have gone had he pursued family over wealth, he realizes what his life is missing. Well done, but certainly not deep. Strongly reminencent of 1950's films like It's a Wonderful Life (but not as good).


Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Family Stone

Movie: The Family Stone

This film seemed like a natural family hit and I was surprised it didn't do better at the box office. After all, it's got a great cast and a heart-warming premise (the oldest son coming home for Christmas with his new fiance) -- what could go wrong? Unfortunately, the script has to force every family cliche upon us (a gay son with his partner, a mom with terminal cancer, and a few others) and there's a mean-spiritedness to family's resistance to the fiance that's not pleasant to watch -- even if you assume things will work out in the end. To top things off there's a bizarre switch in the plot that's almost incomprehensible [Spoiler alert!] when the son falls for his fiance's sister and realizes he and the fiance are incompatible. Huh? Why were they together in the first place if they were so wrong for each other? We never see them, ever, have much of a relationship, so we can't figure out why they were together at all, which, while it makes the ending more plausible, pretty much makes 80% of the film pointless. The final nail in the film's coffin is the fact that most of the conflict in the film feels forced. Why is the daughter so angry and mean to the fiance? That is never explained and feels dirty and wrong. Why is the mother so set against the fiance? Again, never explained, and makes us dislike the mom. And of course the fiance herself isn't exactly tarnish free, setting herself up as a target and making bizarre decisions -- like coming out anti-gay at dinner with the family. (It's believable she might have those opinions, but she's supposed to be a brilliant businesswoman who would be intelligent enough to know not to say such things in front of others, especially potential family you're trying to impress and who already don't like you.) Very odd characterization and in the end, nothing quite works. There's some real potential here, some of the basic concepts are fine, and the casting is terrific, but as a whole the thing flops miserably. Really disappointing.


Saturday, April 29, 2000

Fantasia 2000

Movie: Fantasia 2000

The movie itself had great animation, but ran a bit long at 80 minutes. I loved the IMAX theatre, however. A screen five stories tall and 70 feet wide combined with a 12,000 watt sound system gets my attention every time.


Friday, July 8, 2005

Fantastic Four

Movie: Fantastic Four

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie. It's a popcorn flick, and the science in the story was a joke, but I liked the way the focus of the story was on the characters and their relationships and personalities, not on a plot about saving the world or whatever. The characters, as they discover their superpowers and learn to live together, are much more interesting than stopping some bad guy (where you know the Four will win). The special effects are excellent, and the cast is awesome. Just a great popcorn movie. Don't take it seriously, just go and have fun.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Movie: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

This is a very strange film. I think you can only enjoy it if you have inside knowledge. Apparently the "Silver Surfer" character is famous from the comics but the way the film is written and promoted assumes you know about this character and eagerly want to see it. I found the character absurd to the point of silliness and utterly uncompelling. The film gives us minimal information about the Surfer's story and treats the whole thing like it's an inside joke only the "in" people will understand. For someone like me, who has never heard of the Silver Surfer, the whole movie is confusing and pointless. There a giant logic holes in the plot that Surfer fans probably overlook or miss because they already understand the back story, but I found it impossible to get into the movie because of the way it was presented. It was being a stranger at a party where everyone is laughing at something and no one will explain the joke to you. When the "mystery" of the Silver Surfer is finally revealed in the film my reaction was like, "Huh? Is that it? All the fuss was over that???" Keep in mind I love superhero films and I didn't hate the first Fantastic Four, though the series is decidedly low-brow entertainment, so my not liking this was a surprise to me. This movie takes "slight" to new levels and has such abrupt shifts between scenes and characters and quick resolutions to deep conflicts that it makes a sitcom feel profound. It feels as trite as a Saturday morning cartoon -- except with a worse script. Other than a handful of mildly entertaining relationship humor between the Four, there's just not enough depth here to sustain a movie, let alone a 30 minute cartoon. Sad. Very sad.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Movie: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Writer(s): Roald Dahl (book)
Director(s): Wes Anderson

Though Dahl's one of my favorite authors, I somehow missed this book and never read it. That changes my perception of the film as I have no idea how they compare. Judging just this film, however, I thought it was fantastic. The stop-motion animation is retro hip, and I just loved the film's miniature world. The characters and story are wonderful, about a fox being urged by his wife to go straight and stop poaching chickens, and the mean farmers who try and hunt down the fox, his family, and his friends. Toward the end things get convoluted plotwise and I'm not convinced all the hubbub was necessary: I would have been happier with a simpler plot. (Again, since I haven't read the book, I'm not sure if some plot aspects were "enhanced" for the film or were part of the original book.) But the film is note perfect in terms of style and the way characters are portrayed: deadpan humor abounds and I thought all the performances were terrific. It's a wonderful film, very different from anything you've seen, charming and fun, and heart-warming. Two thumbs up.


Sunday, April 29, 2001

Farewell, My Concubine

Movie: Farewell, My Concubine

Very strange and amazing film. It's Chinese, and tells the tale of a two opera performers from childhood through adulthood, before and during the Communist revolution. I can say right out I don't understand traditional Chinese opera: it's an inflexible medium of rigid tradition. (For instance, in one scene, a man is criticising a performance because the actor playing the concubine didn't take the right number of steps on his way to the king.) The film is complex, rich, and brutal. Worth seeing, but be prepared for a strange adventure.


Saturday, March 24, 2001


Movie: Farinelli (1994)

Fascinating film about Carlo Boschi, a.k.a. Farinelli, a castrato -- a castrated choir boy -- who becomes the world's greatest singer in the 1730's, a contemporary of Handel. The film is mainly about the relationship between him and his brother, and I found it fascinating. His brother's a composer who gains fame through his brother's voice yet there are questions about his talent. Overall the film's flawed: it has some rough spots, is confusing with its excessive use of flashbacks, and a touch long. But it is incredibly interesting, with excellent performances, and tells an unusual tale. I really liked the debates about creativity, inspiration, and talent. Worth seeing. Best line: After Carlo proposes to a woman who rejects him with laughter, he apologizes by saying, "I have played God so many times on stage I thought I could be a Man off stage."


Sunday, May 5, 2002

The Fast and the Furious

Movie: The Fast and the Furious

Relatively plottless film about illegal street car racing. This is where ordinary guys supercharge ordinary cars and race them on city streets at night (often outrunning cops in the process). I know nothing about racing and even less about cars, and thus I found parts of the film confusing and/or meaningless. For instance, I don't at all understand the challenge in who can drive a straight quarter mile faster. With a curved track, I can see some driver skill involved (the risk/reward of how tight you take the turn), but on a straight track, a monkey could be driving for all I can tell. It's all about the car. (I understood a little more after going through some of the extras on the DVD.) Still, this was an interesting film with some decent action. The "plot" deals with a young hot rodder trying to fit in with the top group of racers, who turns out to be an undercover cop looking for a gang of thieves. Rather silly plot and amateurishly executed, but that's not why we watch this kind of movie anyway. We watch this for the action, style, and colorful visuals. And it's fun in that respect -- just don't take the film seriously.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fast Five

Movie: Fast Five

Another movie I expected to be terrible and had little interest in seeing. I thought the original film was okay, but the first sequel was so bad I never watched any after that. I wasn't into this one but the early reviews were highly positive (over 70% on Rotten Tomatoes) and since there was nothing else I wanted to see, I gave it a go. You know what? It's pretty fun. It builds on the previous films so I was confused as to who was who (I barely remember the first except it had fast cars in it and Paul Walker's unquestionably the worst actor on the planet), but you don't really need to worry that much about the plot. Whether people are good guys or bad guys hardly matters -- just enjoy the action and humor. The story ultimately is the gang are going to rob a drug dealer of his millions, so this really becomes a heist movie. It's pretty fun and the climax is so absurdly ridiculous that it's actually good. I won't spoil it by revealing details, but I will say that I was pleased that the producers went whole hog on the premise. I can envision a film with this type of the plot element where they just hint at what's going on and don't actually show it. Here they really show what's going on with nice long-range shots of what really appears to be main streets in Rio, and they must destroy -- and I mean destroy -- at least 500 cars in this film. Speaking of Rio, that was the other thing I really liked about this: the exotic location (almost the whole film is in Rio) really adds to the atmosphere. Ultimately this is a formula film, done very Hollywood, but if you aren't too much of a curmudgeon, you can enjoy this carnival ride. I liked it better than the first one.


Monday, April 2, 2007

Fast Food Nation

Movie: Fast Food Nation

I didn't know much about this except it was based on the non-fiction best-seller. I thought it might be a little like Super Size Me with some drama thrown in. It turned out the whole film is fiction, with overlapping tales of various characters involved in the fast food industry. We meet a corporate executive who's trying to find the truth about the meat his restaurants serve. We follow several Mexicans as they cross the border and get jobs at the dangerous meat packing plant. There's a girl working at the fast food place who gets involved with environmentalists protesting the company's practices. It's an interesting ride, and much of it is very well done. I liked the way many controversial topics were brought up in the course of the film without making it seem like preaching or point-raising. Most of the time it felt natural and just part of the stories. Unfortunately, there isn't much balance in the film. There are occasional comments from characters who are pro-fast food, but the film portrays them as crazy nuts or paid whores of the industry. But mostly the film is simply depressing: it's just scene after scene of horror. For instance, the sympathetic Mexican worker is injured on the job and the corporate bosses claim his blood tested positive for drugs so they won't pay medical claims, his wife has to prostitute herself to the Mexican manager to get a better-paying job at the plant, etc. There's just no hope shown, not an inkling of light anywhere, and that not only makes it a frustrating movie to watch, it makes the film's points seem more like propaganda. Our minds basically just go, "It can't really be this bad!" It could very well be that bad or worse -- I have no idea. But by presenting only one radical perspective, the film invites doubt. In the end, while I found the story entertaining and a few of the points important, I didn't appreciate the film's overt political nature.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Movie: Faster

I was mildly interested in this until I heard the revenge plot, which sounded like stuff I'd already seen. But I went anyway and was surprised: it's actually a decent film. Not great, with plenty of flaws, but it's above average for an action movie. There's not actually that much action -- it's more about the plot, which is a little heavy-handed, but it's got some interesting (though predictable) twists.


Thursday, July 24, 2003


Movie: Feardotcom

This is a really cheap takeoff on the same concept used in the much better film, The Ring. In this case it's not watching a video that kills you, it's going to a particular website. Unfortunately, here the explanation is needlessly convoluted, involving both a ghost and serial killer, and neither is particularly compelling. The Ring was done in style and we followed the clues in the investigation with enthusiasm. Here we don't really care about anything. It's dark, dreary, and there's no logic to anything. Tiresome and pointless.


Friday, December 22, 2006


Movie: Feast

Mildly interesting blood film (literally) about a strange creature attacking people trapped in a bar in remote area. I guess this was a "Project Greenlight" project, so it was by a first-time director. It had some style but was uneven and ultimately a meaningless splatterfest.


Sunday, December 23, 2001

Fellowship of the Ring

Book: Fellowship of the Ring
Writer(s): J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the first book in the Lord of the Rings series, a classic tale of an epic journey set in a fictional period of ancient history in a place called Middle-Earth. This book involves a lot of journeying, as various characters begin a quest to take the Ring of power to Mount Doom, where it can be destroyed. I've read the series a number of times -- I believe this is my fourth -- but this time I was most conscious of what an excellent writer Tolkien was. His turns of phrase, vivid descriptions, careful pacing, and dramatic story-telling are all unmatched. He isn't a legend by accident. I agree with Tolkien that LOTR isn't really a trilogy but a long book -- the story doesn't end at a particularly convenient spot (there's obviously plenty to come) -- so it's difficult to judge just this one book on it's own.


Saturday, November 30, 2002

The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition)

Movie: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition)
Director(s): Peter Jackson

What can I say? This version is far superior to the one that aired in theatres a year ago. It doesn't really feel that much longer (it's 3.5 hours) -- instead of feeling rushed and cutting scenes off before they're done, this version gives us the full epic story. There's still missing stuff: no Bombadil or giant spiders, and there's still the silly bit with the troll in the Mines of Moria, but it's still a better movie.


Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Femme Fatale

Movie: Femme Fatale
Writer(s): Brian DePalma
Director(s): Brian DePalma

The problem with this film is it tries too hard. It tries too hard to be clever, too hard to be erotic, too hard to be complicated. It's not terrible or unwatchable, it's just not remarkable. There are also a number of elementary errors that are downright silly. We begin with a complicated jewelry-robbery during which a woman double-crosses her accomplices and runs away with the diamonds, leaving them to take the fall. Then we have an absurd coincidence when she just happens to find a woman who looks exactly like her who commits suicide and she takes over that woman's identity. Seven years later, she's back in Paris, now married to the U.S. Ambassador to France, and a photograph of her leads her former partners to discover her. So then she blackmails the photographer by framing him for her kidnapping in order to scam $10 million from her new husband. Then, suddenly, right as things start getting dark, the film takes a sudden turn into philosophy by examining the question of "What if?" and takes down an alternate path of events. While interesting, this is not the kind of film where you expect that. It's actually one of the better things about the film, but it comes across as an awkward surprise. There's not enough foreshadowing to make it feel natural. Then there are the strangely obvious mistakes. For instance, the diamonds are worth $10 million and we later hear the woman's share is $4 million (naturally you don't get full price on the black market). Yet when the bad guys catch up with the woman they ignore the $10 million in cash her husband brought for the ransom and go on about the diamonds! (Even dumber, they throw her off a bridge before she can tell them anything.) Another dumb mistake: when the bad guy gets out of prison he's wearing the same blood-soaked tuxedo he wore during the robbery when he got shot. Come on, hospitals always cut clothes off, they don't preserve them. Even if that wasn't the case, the cops surely would have washed them. And even if they didn't, the blood stains wouldn't be bright red after seven years waiting for the guy to get out of jail! There are plenty more mistakes like that, but those are a sample. They don't ruin the movie, but with a director of DePalma's reputation, you'd expect more. Still, the film is stylish, a contemporary film noir, and ultimately plot and characters are sacrificed for that goal. For some that might be okay, since style is fun (this is certainly fun), but those looking for more depth won't like this film. Finally, I guess I must say something about Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. Her acting was paned, but she was surprisingly good at times, just inconsistent. She was also strangely non-charismatic and though beautiful, there was something artless about her. With this kind of film, though, it's tough to tell if it's her or the script.


Monday, September 3, 2001

Fever Pitch

Movie: Fever Pitch

This British film is based on the book written by the same author as High Fidelity and once again deals with obsession. This time it isn't music, but soccer (football, in world parlance). The main guy's a huge soccer fan and his new girlfriend isn't, and that's the core conflict of the film. Nothing too much happens, but basically the guy learns to put sports in perspective in his life. Overall, pretty good, but a little light in substance. The one thing I found strange was that the girl was interested in the guy since she ostensibly hates everything about him. There wasn't much explanation of why she liked him. The soccer fan in me appreciated all the football references, but even there the film seemed to try to be a bit mainstream and didn't include enough soccer. Not outstanding, but interesting. The book's supposed to be better and funnier; the film's a bit too serious.


Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The Fifth Angel

Book: The Fifth Angel
Writer(s): Tim Green

I've never read a Tim Green book before (what's up with all the color-oriented authors I've been reading lately?) but I'm impressed. I think he's a lawyer or had lawyer training or something, since that seems to be thematic to his writing, but this book is from an unusual perspective. Our "hero" is a tragic one: Jack's a successful attorney but his daughter's in a mental institution after being raped and tortured by a sex fiend for 10 days. The rapist gets off with 8 months on a technicallity. The lawyer vows revenge and sets off on a murderous spree across the country, killing freed sex perverts who prey on children. As a lawyer he knows about evidence so he makes sure he leaves none. Meanwhile, we also follow the story of Amanda, a beautiful FBI agent. She's on Jack's trail. Slowly the two stories lead toward each other as we wait for Jack to make a mistake and Amanda to catch him. Who do we root for? It's pretty cool stuff and the ending is both plausible and pleasing, a difficult combination. An excellent read.


Saturday, September 30, 2000

Fight Club

Movie: Fight Club

Like most people, I had the impression this was a story about an underground fight club. I'd put off renting a number of times, simply because I wasn't sure I wanted to see that, though I'd heard it was a good film. Surprisingly, it's barely about fighting at all. I mean, yes, there's fighting and lots of blood, but the film is really about existential angst. The main character (the narrator, played by Edward Norton), is caught in the rat race and hates it, and then he meets a guy named Tyler who's everything he's not. Tyler's an anarchist, preaching against the ownership of anything, the kind of guy who'd tell his boss to jump in a lake (or something like that ;-). Together they form something called Fight Club: a secret club where ordinary people can bash each other's brains out. There's no money in it -- it's just for the experience, and the pain makes you feel alive. Good so far, right? But then, gradually, the story goes a different direction as Tyler forms his own army, Fight Clubs spring up all over the country, and soon Tyler is the head of a terrorist organization ready to spread anarchy across the country. The strange ending doesn't take away the power of this film, but brings up more questions than it answers. A bit uneven, and the surprise "twist" isn't that much a surprise, and though it makes sense, it feels gimmicky, like the movie-makers are toying with us. Fascinating, surprisingly deep. I'll have to watch it again sometime to see what I really think -- I wasn't expecting anything intelligent and it caught me off guard.


Friday, October 27, 2000

Final Destination

Movie: Final Destination

Not a bad film. A horror flick about a kid on a class trip to Europe, with a premonition that the plane he's on is going to explode. He panics, and in the ruckus that ensues, he and a few friends are kicked off the plane. Seconds after take-off, the plane does explode, killing everyone. But it seems that Death doesn't like being cheated: one by one, the survivors are dying. What's cool are the Rube Goldberg-like death traps the victims experience. You're never quite sure when or how death is going to happen. For instance, in one sequence, the surviving teacher fills a cracked mug with an alcoholic drink. The liquids drips across the floor as she moves around the house, then into the back of a computer monitor, where it causes a fire. Suddenly the monitor explodes, and a shard of glass catches the woman in the throat. She's staggers around bleeding profusely, and slips on the spilled liquid. You assume she'd dead. But no, not yet. She crawls to the kitchen and reaches for a towel she earlier threw on the counter. As she pulls the towel, she knocks over a wooden knife rack and a butcher knife falls and stabs her right in the mid-section. She's dead, right? Oh no, not yet! First we have to have a fire (from the exploded monitor) that streaks across the floor, following the trail of alcoholic liquid. That fire goes to the gas stove, and yes, eventually the entire house explodes. She's dead. Finally. Hilarious, if you're into that sort of thing. Not a profound movie by any means, but still somewhat suspenseful and interesting. Lots of macabre humor and quirky twists.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Final Destination

Movie: The Final Destination

These movies are basically death-porn. You watch merely to see people die in various bizarre accidents, which is pretty sick. (The film even alludes to that in the car race opening where a couple characters berate another for watching the race hoping for a crash.) That said, these films are oddly compelling. There's an adventure and funness to the deaths -- many well-deserved -- that makes for intriguing viewing. It's certainly not intellectually straining, and this entry in the series is way low on the logic quotient, but there's a charm to the black humor and stereotypical characters that makes it watchable. The deaths are amusingly done, like the girl being caught in a car wash with her head trapped in the sunroof opening -- a ridiculously hilarious gruesome image. The film is grim and bloody, yet there's such delight in the brutality and awfulness of the deaths that they feel cartoon-like. It's the overly elaborate Rube Goldberg setups for the deaths that make the film tick, especially since many turn out to be red herrings. When pens and paperclips can be deadly weapons, it feels like death can come from anywhere and anything. Everything on screen screams danger; there is nothing mundane left. (After leaving the theatre, you'll start notice everything dangerous around you in real life, as well!) The actually dangerous stuff -- cranes lifting giant air conditioning units, trucks on hydraulic lifts, welding torches, escalators, nail guns, knives -- are usually too obvious and half the fun comes from trying to predict exactly how the next person will die. Much depends on the capriciousness of nature, like the wind. There are many amusing touches, such as the photograph of the main couple that blows off a table onto the floor, followed by a rolling X-Acto knife that follows it and happens to stab the girl perfectly in the eye.

The bottom line: these films are not for everyone. The plot is the same for every movie (premonition of disaster saves lives followed by the sequential deaths of the survivors), the characters are mere sketches, the actors pretty but unknown, so the only thing really going for this is the black humor and tongue-in-cheek tone. If that's enough for you, enjoy it. If not, skip it. I found it fun and on par with the rest of the series.


Monday, February 3, 2003

Final Destination 2

Movie: Final Destination 2

This is an educational film: I had no idea there were so many ways one could die! This film reveals the dangers of spaghetti, gasoline, barbed wire, and vehicle airbags, to name a few ways people die in this movie. It's very fun, but rather graphic. If you're not familiar with the first movie, this one does a good job continuing the concept. Basically, via a premonition people escape death, so Death comes after them later, killing them in freak accidents one by one. Death occurs in many surprising ways. I loved the way the film sets up red herrings -- like the guy who puts his hand in the garbage disposal to get out the ring he dropped in there. His watch catches on the lip of the drain and he can't get it out. We're watching with hands over our face, dreading and yet expecting the worst. Sometimes the red herrings get to be a bit much, but they are effective in making the actual method of death a surprise. Very cool and well done... for this type of film.


Thursday, May 9, 2002

Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within

Movie: Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within

I'd been curious about this movie, as it made great break-throughs in computer animation, but it was horrendously expensive and flopped at the box office. It's easy to see why. I know nothing about the video game the film's based on -- perhaps the movie's plot comes from the game. Regardless, it was a mistake as it's a bizarre and incomprehensible plot. I watched completely bewildered for the first hour. Eventually, things made some sense, but without knowing where the film was going, it was an uncomfortable time. The Japanese love to fill a plot with "spiritual" overtones, but to Americans it comes across as weird, New Age, Eastern, and preaching. For example, a big part of this film involves the mysticism of "Gaia," which is apparently the "spirit" (soul) of the planet Earth. Perhaps that's a common philosophic theory in Japan, but here it's new, a bit absurd, and since it's never explained, but assumed it's true by the characters in the film, it makes for uncomfortable watching. The other thing I didn't like about the spiritual element of the film was the biased way the screenplay handled any controversy. Apparently some characters disagreed with the spiritual theories, but they were treated with dirision by the screenwriters, with it painfully obvious that all the heroic characters believed in Gaia and as viewers, we're idiots if we don't go along with it. Frankly, that condescending attitude pissed me off. I wanted to like the film, but that tone made that difficult.

As to the plot of the film, it goes like this: years earlier a fragment of an alien planet crashes on earth. On the metor were "phantoms," ghosts of alien creatures. When these phantoms come in contact with humans, they destroy the human's "spirit" (soul) and the human dies. Apparently, these phantoms are invisible without special viewing equipment, so humans seem to randomly collapse and die without a cause, but since we can see the phantoms in the film (as translucent flying snakes and dragons and other monsters), that point is fuzzy and unclear. So the story of the film is about a quest to stop these phantoms who have taken over almost all of earth (except for a few places protected by frorce shields) and destroyed all life they come in contact with. How to stop the phantoms? Well, a scientist has the idea that we need to find the "eight spirits" -- special spirits which apparently have some sort of default immunity to the phantoms, and when combined, will defeat the phantoms. For instance, one spirit turns out to be a tiny green plant growing in the ruins of New York City. Of course, there's no explanation of how these spirits work, how the scientist figured out there are eight of them (!), or what happens when all eight are found -- we're just supposed to assume that all this is correct and root for the good guys as they search for the spirits. As you can see, pretty hokey stuff. No wonder American audiences were turned off.

The animation in this film is spectactular -- the human characters are impressive, with occasions of fantastic detail, especially on the characters with more character, like the old man scientist, versus the smooth-skinned young girl who is the lead. The old man has marks and lines on his face that are incredibly realistic, while the girl looks as artifical as a model. There is one critical mistake regarding the animation, however: for several characters they used big Hollywood stars for the voices. I found it terribly distracting and confusing. For instance, the evil general is voiced by James Woods, a brilliant actor, of course, and this isn't a knock on him, but his animated character is physically completely different from him in real life. The general is a squat, muscle-bound jerk with a mustache and twenty years younger than Woods. It was just weird hearing Woods' voice coming out of this other body. If they couldn't pick more appropriate voices or draw the characters to match the actors portraying them, they should have used unknowns. Disney does an excellent job of picking voices that match characters -- this film did it badly. I also wasn't impressed with the girl who did Aki, the female lead. Sometimes she sounded American, sometimes British, and occasionally Japanese. It was very confusing: I kept changing my mind as to her nationality, and at one time I wondered if they'd replaced her with a different actress!

In retrospect, this isn't that bad of a film. The plot is different, but it does make sense after you've watched the film. Unfortunately, the way the plot is presented, the film's incomprehensible until the end. No doubt it would be better on a second viewing. In some ways, I'd say this film is worth watching just because it is so different, but it's unfortunately so foreign and difficult to get into, I can't really recommend it, especially when there are great films like Ghost in the Shell and Princess Mononoke. Those have similar spiritual overtones and message but are much better written.


Friday, March 21, 2003

Final Flight of the Osiris

Movie: Final Flight of the Osiris

This was a short that preceded Dreamcatcher, but it's such a different thing I thought I'd comment it on separately. I'm not a big The Matrix fan, though I am looking forward to the sequels. This short was pretty cool, though the story's slight. The most interesting part is the virtual swordfight-striptease between a guy and girl which is interrupted by an emergency. Robots are attacking the ship -- in the end they take over, but not before the girl escapes into the Matrix (briefly) to deliver a warning to the rest of the revolutionaries. What was most impressive, however, was the incredible quality of the digital animation. The realistic humans were amazing -- we're definitely approaching virtual actors. Pretty cool and getting this free short takes some of the sting out the weak Dreamcatcher.


Thursday, March 27, 2003

Final Target

Book: Final Target
Writer(s): Iris Johansen

I was expecting a "mere" action thriller, and instead I got a fascinating character study blended with action. The story is about the President's seven-year-old daughter who has retreated inside her mind since a kidnapping attempt. She has spoken or responded to anyone. The President has hired a radical psychiatrist who has experience with such cases: her own sister was incomunicado for six years following the car accident that killed their parents. The other main character is a mysterious man named Michael. He's an international rogue, making his living in various underhanded ways, but he showed up at the President's mansion in France to stop the kidnapping, and the daughter responds to him, he being the only one who can calm her violent nightmares. To help save the daughter from permanently being lost, the trio "kidnap" the President's daughter. What follows is a wild chase through Europe as Michael has to evade several parties seeking his head, plus evade the CIA and Secret Service and European police that are trying to find them. Oh yeah, and there's the original kidnapper who now wants Michael dead. It's a race against time. There's much more, but that's the gist of the plot. Then there's one key Stephen King-like twist: the sister of the psychiatrist has a psychic connection with the little girl. She can go into the girl's mind. Very cool and unusual in a spy-type thriller. I really liked the characters and the way they interacted, and the whole concept of the little girl lost in her nightmares was excellent. A good read. There are a few criticisms. The beginning of the book introduces too many characters too quickly, which is confusing, and in places the novel gets distracted and slows a bit from the main plot. I also thought the aspect of the "Wind Dancer" (a priceless statue) was odd: Iris seemed to assume we knew the history of the statue and writes about it a vague, mysterious manner that implies a lot but doesn't explain much about it (it took me a while to realize it was an important character and by then it was too late). At the back of the book she reveals she wrote three previous books about the Wind Dancer, so that explains some of that (she obviously doesn't want to retread old stuff), but she should have handled that aspect of the story better (the way it is in this novel I would have preferred to have left it out entirely rather than leave it in the incomplete way). Still, those are minor gripes. It's an excellent book and I'll definitely be looking for more novels by Iris Johansen.


Saturday, July 14, 2001

Finding Forrester

Movie: Finding Forrester

I really wanted to like this movie about a brilliant 16-year-old writer growing up in the Bronx who finds out the strange old man watching him is really the eccentric and elusive writer William Forrester who wrote one Pulitzer-winning novel and disappeared from public view. The film had some good stuff, but was far too long and slow. I didn't understand the basketball stuff: the director assumed I'd understand the game, but I couldn't even tell which team was which. (I am the opposite of a basketball fan. I don't even consider basketball a sport: it's just a semi-athletic endeavor for tall people.) I didn't understand the significance of things like the silly game-winning free throw at the end of the film -- it just felt contrived to me. Perhaps I was missing something, or perhaps it really was dumb. I don't know. I did like some of the writing-related material, but even there the film was on the weak side, not really explaining anything, not going into much depth. Basically the film tries to keep Sean Connery's character (Forrester) mysterious and assumes that mystery equals profundity, but instead we get trite platitudes and boredom. Not a great film. Interesting, but could have been much, much better. I think I was more disappointed by the film's waste of potential than disappointed by anything in the movie itself; on it's own the film isn't bad, but it saddens me to think how good it could have been.


Friday, May 30, 2003

Finding Nemo

Movie: Finding Nemo

I sure wish the people at Pixar would give screenwriting lessons to Hollywood. Why can't most films be as excellent as everything Pixar does? This movie is awesome. I wasn't really convinced Pixar could do it again, but they did. They created a wonderful character-based story. I'd heard that it was about a fish looking for his lost son, but that doesn't tell the whole story. What makes the story work is this: the father's overprotective of his only son, Nemo, and thus won't let him live life, and that creates conflict as the son gets older. When Nemo is captured by a human and put into a fish tank, it's up to the dad to find and rescue his son. The journey has many adventures (for each of them), and through the process both learn to compromise. Nemo grows up, realizing that he's not invincible, and the dad realizes he must let Nemo go in order to keep him. Great moral, great story, and terrific humor. The fish animation is wonderful, but the above water stuff is truly spectacular -- the Syndey, Australia bay looks like a photograph. Pixar just packs in so much stuff there's never a dull moment: it's just wonderful. It has a different feel from the Toy Story movies and Monsters, Inc., which is great. Highly recommended. Brilliant writing. A must see for all ages.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Finding Neverland

Movie: Finding Neverland

Surprisingly interesting film about playwright J.M. Barrie, who created Peter Pan. It's about how things in his personal life inspired his play. He really was a kid at heart and his wife was more of a social climber who looked down on childish things, and thus he found a relationship with a widow with three active boys to be much more to his liking.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Finished Second Novel

Today I finished my second novel. That's two this year, which is a huge accomplishment. I should write more about writing because I'm understanding things in a different way. Writing a novel isn't about the words, but the story, and I'm learning more about how to master that. No idea if my novels are any good, but that's not the point: the point is I'm learning to walk so I can learn to run. I'm sure my work will get better. This second one is very different from the first and I think it's a deeper novel and I can't wait to see what my writing will be like three or four novels from now. I feel like a novelist, which is amazing. (Next I want to feel like a paid, successful novelist, but that will come.)


Friday, February 10, 2006


Movie: Firewall

What's the point of this? It's not badly done, and even mildly interesting at times, but we've seen it all before dozens of times. The trailer gives away 99% of the plot and that's pretty much all this movies has. Disappointing.


Friday, July 4, 2003


Dave and Diane had a Fourth of July party at their new house, right up the street from me up on the hill. Everyone was on their long deck and we got a great view of the city's annual firework show. It was an impressive show -- probably about 20 minutes long with a lot of neat fireworks. Made me wonder how they design those things to do the tricks they do.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

First Blood

Movie: First Blood

I liked the new Rambo so much that I decided to watch the DVD of the original this evening. It's been many years since I've seen it and I had recently purchased the DVD on sale. This is a really cool film. Definitely a classic. It's got horrible acting (Stallone seems to bring down even some of the good actors involved) and the script's a bit over-the-top in trying to deliver zingers, but the story is excellent -- a drifter, abused by a small-town sherrif for no reason, ends up being the target of a manhunt -- and the action is superb (the drifter single-handedly, with only a knife, survives and hides from hundreds of attackers). It really is like a schoolyard fight with both boys crying out, "He started it!" but of course since the consequences this time are deadly, it really makes you think. Terrific and holds up surprisingly well.


Sunday, April 22, 2001

First to Die

Book: First to Die (2001)
Writer(s): James Patterson

A surprisingly good book. I've grown cautious with Patterson's books: they are uneven in quality, but this one is very good. It deals with a serial killer who kills couples on their wedding night. But what makes the story interesting is Patterson's protagonists: a group of females in various positions of authority (an assistant D.A., a Medical Examiner, a reporter, and a police inspector) who form their own unofficial "murder club" in pursuit of the killer. They all are intelligent, driven women, bonded by their sex, and feeling discriminated against by their male-dominated careers. The leader of the group is Lindsay Boxer, the police inspector in charge of the case, and as the book opens and the case begins, she learns she has a fatal disease. Unusual and interesting. Nice twists as far as the plot goes, though occasionally a little obvious. The reader's given a little too much extra information about the crime at times, making the slower police investigation seem a little tedious, but overall the writing is decent, the pace breakneck, and the characters mostly three dimensional. The ending's pretty good, but the epilogue -- which changes everything -- feels tacked on and tacky, like some editor told Patterson to include it. It's way too short for the information it conveys and trivializes the rest of the novel. Patterson does leave the door open for a sequel with the murder club gals leading the charge: it will be interesting to see what he comes up with next. Good quick read.


Friday, January 12, 2001

Fist of Legend

Movie: Fist of Legend

Stupid title, but by far the best Jet Li film I've seen. The fighting is amazing: unless I'm mistaken, the fight choreographer is the same guy who did The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. While most films make the fighting look like camera tricks, this one actually has Jet Li doing the stunts: he is quite an amazing athlete. The plot's interesting as well, set in the past, and dealing with China-Japan racism (Chinese Li has a Japanese girlfriend, which ostracizes him) and the threat of war between the two countries.


Wednesday, December 29, 1999


Movie: Fitzcarraldo (1982)
Writer(s): Werner Herzog
Director(s): Werner Herzog

An unusual movie about a man in the Amazon who tries to establish an opera house in the middle of the jungle. He goes through incredible feats to achieve this; you really have to see the film to understand. Lushly photographed; excellent acting. Fascinating look at a man's pursuit of a dream and what it will take to achieve it.


Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Five Easy Pieces

Movie: Five Easy Pieces

I wasn't at all sure what to expect from this film. All I knew was that it was supposed to be good. Since it had Jack Nicholson in it, I figured it was probably a crime drama like Chinatown. Instead it turned out to be a character study of a bizarre, temperamental ex-musician-turned-odd-jobber who seduces women he treats like crap. Mostly I found it distasteful, though Jack, of course, radiates appeal even when he's at his worst. The film is similar to As Good As It Gets, in that respect. But there's no redemption for Jack's character in this one: he's a jerk to the end. I did sympathize with his character a bit, and I liked the ending. But I didn't see anything that great about the film. I give it a firm "okay."


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Flags of Our Fathers

Movie: Flags of Our Fathers

Extremely well-done tale about the raising of the American flag at the battle of Iwo Jima and the politics and manipulations surrounding the event, but despite all the technical excellence, this came across flat for me. I wasn't too interested in the story to begin with and it didn't succeed in engaging me and lost me toward the end. There's nothing wrong with it -- the topic just didn't appeal to me and there wasn't a lot going on. From a historical perspective I'm sure it's fascinating, but if you're not a history or WWII buff, you'll find it dry.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Flash of Genius

Movie: Flash of Genius

I read some critics dissing this because of the subject -- the invention of the intermittent windshield wiper -- but that's exactly what made me want to watch it! First, I love inventions, and even something so inoccuous as the intermittent wiper still requires genius. Second, I remember hearing about this case on the news when the guy one the lawsuit against Ford. I didn't remember the details, but I remember at the time thinking that it sounded like a cool story. The film overdramatizes things a bit, having the loving-but-exasperated wife leaving the husband because he's so obsessed with winning his lawsuit against Ford, and of course the story's somewhat predictable and tries too hard to make up for that with style and drama, which just weakens the content that is there. The film's 30 minutes too long and tends to feel more like a TV movie than a big screen feature. All that said, however, it has some compelling characters, excellent acting, a good story, and a happy ending. I liked it, though I wouldn't call it a classic.


Friday, June 30, 2000


Movie: Fletch

Funnier and more serious than I remembered, this movie actually had a decent plot/mystery. Very cool. Chevy Chase at his best.


Saturday, June 9, 2007


Movie: Flicka

I don't usually like horse stories, especially one as predictable as this (rebellious girl finds wild horse and wants to keep it against her father's wishes), but this was extremely well done (except for occasional wooden acting by the dad) and I liked it. Go figure.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith

Book: Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith
Writer(s): Shane Hipps

This is a remarkable book. The author is a former advertising executive who examines media at an unusual level, exploring how it shapes society and religious faith. As a technologist and a Christian (and amateur sociologist), I found this fascinating. The basic premise is the concept of "the medium is the message," a phrase you've heard but probably not understood. Shane breaks it down to reveal things like how printing (and phonetic language) change the way people think. For example, printed material by its nature encourages linear thinking, and it creates a different culture than an oral society. Today we're awash with new communication methods, from radio to TV to the Internet, email, blogs, podcasts, cell phones, instant messaging, Twitter, and who knows what to come. If the medium is the message, what is the message? And how does technology influence your faith? Great questions.

For answers, Shane shows how technology has influenced things in the past. For instance, the telegraph dramatically changed the speed of information, but that itself changed the value of it: instead of information's value coming from its quality or depth, its timeliness became the most important thing. (You can see similar things happening today with blogs being valued over well-researched books.) There are profound lessons there.

I want to point out that while this is a book about the religious aspects of media, it's not overly religious: I really appreciate that the author doesn't come across as preachy. Instead he merely tells great stories and provides examples and information about his perspective. I would recommend this to anyone, even skeptics, because it's all about how the medium influences your thinking and the lessons learned can be applied to anything in life.

My great-uncle sent this book to me and I started reading it the moment I got home from the post office this afternoon -- I couldn't put it down. I read it cover to cover in one sitting! I can't remember the last time I've done that with a book (not since childhood, that's for sure).


Friday, September 23, 2005


Movie: Flightplan

The premise of this reminded of the weak The Forgotten, but sounded better. A woman gets on an airplane (a huge new double-decker airliner) with her five-year-old daughter, but wakes later to find the daughter missing. She upsets the crew and passengers with her insistence that her daughter was on board, while they counter that she wasn't, and that her daughter is actually dead. The woman's husband recently died, so we start wondering is she's suffering from psychological delusions. All that I got from the previews and it intrigued me, but I expected whatever resolution to be weak and I wasn't disappointed. As always in this kind of thing, the reality feels cheap. It's like when you learn how a magician does his trick -- the wonder is gone and you feel cheated. Fortunately, the resolution in this movie isn't as bad as most -- it's actually marginally plausible. Jodie Foster's convincing performance as the mother helps a lot to ground this, as well. It's not a bad film, just not great either. It has some really cool moments and the plight of the mother searching for her child is so heart-wrenching you have to distance yourself, but the ending is so ordinary it's a bit of a disappointment.


Thursday, November 9, 2006

Flushed Away

Movie: Flushed Away

I was pleasantly surprised and delighted by this gem: I didn't know much about it going in, but it was quite fun with unique characters and humor, and an excellent story. Two thumbs way up!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Fly Me to the Moon

Movie: Fly Me to the Moon

Uninspired animated film about young houseflies that stowaway on the original Apollo moon mission. While there are occasional -- and rare -- moments of decency, for the most part this is dull and witless, with really tired jokes and fly puns. It seems aimed at really young kids (i.e. five and under) but some of the jokes are tasteless and above such an audience. Very strange. It's almost saved by the art, which is mostly well done (love the historical NASA footage), but I found the fly characters to be absurdly human-looking; they didn't look like anything like flies (a warning I should have taken right from the first scene where one of the flies tells the audience that they are flies). While I liked the premise, it was so badly executed (complete with silly Russian spy flies), you definitely won't be missing anything if you miss this one.


Monday, June 9, 2003

The Fog

Movie: The Fog
Director(s): John Carpenter

Hilarious really bad B-movie. The story takes place at a small coastal town and as the fog rolls in one night, people die. It turns out that the fog is the revenge of a leper colony wiped out a hundred years earlier by the ancestors of the town's current residents, and every hundred years the fog returns to claim six more victims. Completely ridiculous, with incredibly bad acting by people who seem to take the script seriously, and smoke machines as the major special effect, this is a cult classic of bad movies. It's full of unintentionally hilarious lines like "Watch out! The fog's coming! The fog's coming!" Oooh, the fog, I'm so scared! I could go on and on, but it's best you see the film yourself. It's a great laugh, especially late at night in a small coastal town as the fog settles in....


Thursday, March 27, 2003


Movie: Following (1998)
Writer(s): Christopher Nolan
Director(s): Christopher Nolan

Terrific low-budget thriller from the director of Memento. A lonely writer begins following strangers to appease his boredom, then gets caught by one of the people he's tailing. The guy turns out to be a thief, and he takes the writer under his wing, showing him how to burgle. The writer is fascinated at being inside someone else's home, trying to learn about them from the contents. But gradually the game grows dangerous as the writer is set up as the fall guy for murder by the con-man thief. Excellent. Great black-and-white photography, excellent acting by an unknown cast, and a terrific story. I wasn't quite as intrigued as with Memento, which just captured your attention by its weirdness, but this film is very cool and impressive in being only 70 minutes and yet feeling complex enough for a 90 minute feature.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Food of the Gods

Book: The Food of the Gods
Writer(s): H. G. Wells

I saw this book at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle and later bought a copy at Powell's in Portland; I'd never heard of it and it sounded interesting. Wells' idea is to wonder what would happen if growth would continue unabated instead of in fits and starts? He postulates a formula of food that causes this continuous growth, with the result of giant people, chickens, rats, wasps, and more. That's exciting and all, but Wells' real focus is on how Bigness changes society, and the discrimination and inevitable conflicts between giant and small people. Fascinating. It's a little hard to read because of some of the obscure language issues, and obviously much of the science and setting is dated. It made me realize how much the world has changed since Wells' time: even something as simple as 24-hour television news networks makes a huge difference in how quickly news spreads -- surely today giant wasps or babies would make headlines overnight! Once again, Wells' story peters out with a wimpy non-ending, but then story-telling was different back in those days and perhaps people didn't expect action-oriented endings. This one basically ends implying there will be war between the species (giant and small) but doesn't get into the details of such an event (which would have been interesting). The book takes a rather distant, scientific view which can be dry and uninteresting at times. Still, I liked the book better than much of Wells' other stuff.


Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Football Confederation Champions Cup: Pachuca at San Jose

Soccer: Football Confederation Champions Cup: Pachuca at San Jose

Okay game, but I knew from the start that San Jose wasn't going for it. They lost the away leg 3-0, so that meant they had to win the home leg 4-0 to advance. But Coach Yallop rested several of San Jose's best players (which was fair, since they'd been playing non-stop for weeks) and I knew he'd given up. If the Quakes could have scored in the first half there'd have been a chance, but the first half finished nil-nil. San Jose did score in the second, and very late received a penalty kick call that should have made the score 2-0, but Ramiro's penalty was blocked. So the Quakes won, 1-0, but are out of the tournament. Bummer, but good experience for their first champions cup.


Sunday, April 18, 2004

The Footprints of God

Book: The Footprints of God
Writer(s): Greg Iles

Greg's a much better author than Dan Brown (though that's not saying much), but he falls into some of the same traps. He's trying to do something difficult -- talk intelligently about some very complicated subjects in a popular novel -- and unfortunately it doesn't quite work. People who are intelligent will see the subject as dumbed-down and stripped of all rational thought, while people just wanting an entertaining read will find the topic ponderous. Greg tries to please both audiences and it just doesn't work.

The first half of the book is very exciting: our narrator is running for his life as his super-secret goverment colleagues in the NSA are out to kill him for the knowledge of the super-secret project he's been working on. The action doesn't let up until two-thirds of the book have elapsed, and it's compelling reading. Unfortunately, most of us readers are expecting a decent payoff: we want to know why he's being hunted and what this secret government project is all about. We're given clues in bits and pieces: we know it's the most advanced computer ever, so intelligent it rivals God. Even more unfortunately, that is not a metaphor: the author means it literally. So the last third of the book is a complex mess of philosophical and intellectual ponderings, which is interesting, but that's uncomfortably intermeshed with spy/action stuff from the main plot. The result is that the end of the book doesn't make much sense. We don't really buy the main character's delusions or bizarre explanations of who God is, and the whole computer thing just doesn't make much sense on any level. Worse of all, Iles makes the dreadful mistake of resorting to the typical cliche of "computer will blow up the earth" scenario for his central conflict. There are a lot of fascinating ideas here, but ineptly handled, and in an inappropriate forum. The bottom line: wasted potential.


Friday, November 24, 2006

For Your Consideration

Movie: For Your Consideration

Another pretty cool documentary parody from the people who did Best in Show, Spinal Tap, and other films. Like those others, this misses the mark in some areas, and it's never laugh-out-loud funny, but has a lot of in-jokes for those who know the entertainment industry (I'm sure I missed a lot). This film's about a low-budget family drama with young unknowns and older has-beens who suddenly get an Oscar buzz going which dramatically changes the way the film's made and the actors and writers see themselves. Unfortunately, there were some odd aspects I didn't understand: the buzz starting while the film was filming, the Oscar nominations coming out before the film's release in January (film eligible for Oscars are supposed to be released before the end of the year); that didn't make much sense. But I give it literary license and go along with the gag, but overall the film's too uneven for true brilliance, but it is a fun, decent movie.


Thursday, November 23, 2000

For Your Eyes Only

Movie: For Your Eyes Only

One of my favorite James Bond flicks: excellent, dramatic locations; awesome, involved chase sequences; terrific humor; and, of course, the incomparable Carole Bouquet (who has the most amazing long hair) as the Bond Girl. Great fun.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom

Movie: The Forbidden Kingdom

Fun little martial arts movie. Not up there with the level of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but not bad. It starts off with a geeky modern-day kid who's a Kung Fu movie nut getting beat up by bullies and he gets magically transported to a fantasy land of ancient China where he has a Task. Along the way he meets some friends and there are elaborate fights and such, culminating, of course, with him learning to defend himself, save the kingdom, and return home to beat the bullies. Yeah, the plot's predictable, but the events are not, and it's totally fun.


Monday, May 29, 2000

Forces of Nature

Movie: Forces of Nature

Light, mildly interesting. Unexpected ending I liked. Sandra Bullock's charm almost carries the movie but somehow it still falls flat.


Friday, September 24, 2004

The Forgotten

Movie: The Forgotten

Perhaps this film ought to be forgotten. Okay, it's not that bad; the performances and presentation are sincere and it has some good moments (including a couple jarring shocks), but the entire movie is built around a single mystery that when revealed, isn't at all compelling. (In case you wish to see the film, I'll refrain from revealing the ending.) The premise is intriguing: a woman who appears to be suffering from a mental breakdown after her son was killed in a plane crash suddenly finds that all trace of her son's existence is being wiped away. Picture albums are empty, people who knew her son suddenly don't remember him, etc. She's told she never had a son but imagined one after a miscarriage, including elaborate details. Even her husband agrees. So, has she lost her mind or did her son exist? It's an interesting conflict, but unfortunately the film soon deviates down a strange path of shady government agents, a mysterious man who can't be hurt, and more. Obviously some sort of conspiracy is at work, but who's behind it? The answer's a letdown. It's not illogical or even implausible, it's just too pat and not satisfying. The conclusion is also too easy. The film has some excellent scenes, but on the whole it's awkward. The initial half, where you're not sure what's going on is exciting but you're emotionally held at arms length from the characters since you aren't sure if the mother is crazy or not. Later, when you realize she was right all along, the silly resolution to the mystery keeps you at odds with her. Thus the mother's pain never truly resonates with the audience.


Thursday, October 31, 2002

Formula 51

Movie: Formula 51

This movie is just fun. It's totally dumb -- all of the characters are hilariously idiotic. For instance, one bad guy tells another to "take care of Larry," meaning to care for him, but the dumber associate thinks he means take care of him and kills him! The "plot" concerns a genius chemist (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who's invented a new drug 51 times more powerful than heroin. He's trying to sell it to drug dealers for $20 million. Of course, nothing goes right, and there's lots of explosions, shootings, and back-stabbings. The film's set in Liverpool, England, and part of the story is the big Liverpool vs. Manchester United soccer match (they're two of the biggest football clubs in England, if you don't know). I found that pretty cool, but unfortunately they don't show much soccer. All in all a completely silly film, but fun for a lark. A lot of pointless bad language though.


Friday, November 24, 2006

The Fountain

Movie: The Fountain

Odd movie. Difficult to explain. Definitely science fiction, perhaps too much so, so that it's a bit alienating. I liked it overall, but it felt like it missed the mark. The ending was anticlimactic and didn't satsify me completely, but it was more than just that -- the entire film felt like it didn't quite reach the heights it was aiming for. The mystery of the Tree (the tree that gives eternal life) was never explained, but that wouldn't have bothered if there weren't so many other loose ends left dangling. It's definitely a movie I want to see a second time before I really judge it.


Friday, April 20, 2007


Movie: Fracture

Nicely done. This is a twisty thriller about a seemingly clear-cut crime: a wealthy man shoots his affair-having wife in the head and admits to it when the police arrive. The prosecutor assigned to the case has just accepted a position at a prestigious law firm and isn't focused on the case with a mountain of evidence including a signed confession. But in court things go awry: the gun found on the man had never been fired, the arresting officer was having an affair with the victim, and that man was present during the man's confession. Suddenly the case is in jeopardy and the fiasco might be enough to derail the prosecutor's new job. The resolution is a bit predictable -- I figured it out in the first half -- but it's still a fun ride and the performances are excellent, especially the incomparable Anthony Hopkins as the murderer.


Friday, January 31, 2003


Movie: Frailty
Director(s): Bill Paxton

Was this ever in the theatres? I'd never heard of it until I saw it at the video store. It's a really good thriller. Matthew McConaughey is excellent in an understated but powerful performance. And the two kids (especially Fenton) are outstanding. The story opens with Matthew (Fenton) visiting an FBI agent and telling him that the notorious "Hand of God" killer was his brother. What unfolds is a bizarre and horrifying story: young Fenton and his little brother Adam live with their father in a small town in Texas. Their mother has died. One night their kindly father suddenly reveals that angels have told him his family has a new mission in life: to kill demons. Because their family is special, only they can see these demons. Everyone else sees them as regular people. The older brother Fenton slowly realizes his father means to murder people, but finds himself unable to stop him. He watches in horror as his father brings home strangers and chops them up with an axe. The poor kid is terrified, yet what can he do? The FBI agent listens to this story and slow begins to believe it. But he wants proof, so Fenton agrees to take him to the rose garden where the bodies are buried. What follows is a great twist (I saw it coming but it's still very well done) and the ending is truly chilling.

I usually don't like films that portray religious fanatics as killers. After all, who decides what's fanatical? If I go to a church and raise my hands when I pray, does that make me a fanatic? If I decide Gods wants me to become a missionary to India does that make me a fanatic? God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son and Abraham was going to do it. Was that fanatical? The line between faith and madness is narrow -- frail -- and this film raises lots of provocative questions. Fascinating. In many ways it's a simple thriller like so many Hitchcock films: McConaughey and the FBI agent (awesomely done by Powers Boothe) spend their time in just a handful of scenes talking, but every line of dialogue is loaded. The flashbacks are more dramatic, but even there there's not a lot of special effects. It's a very raw, realistic, and morbidly believable tale of murder and mayhem. Well done; an impressive directing debut by Paxton (who also plays the creepy-but-friendly murdering dad).


Thursday, September 4, 2003

Freaky Friday

Movie: Freaky Friday

A surprisingly excellent remake. I vaguely remember the original as being pretty decent, but this one is better. It's nicely modernized, but has the same basic plot of mother and daughter switching bodies and having to learn lessons about how the other lives. Nothing revolutionary, certainly, but enjoyable, and the performances by the leads (Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan) are superb. Great fun.


Friday, November 9, 2007

Fred Claus

Movie: Fred Claus

This film has obvious comparisons to Elf, which is a much, much better film. The big problem with this? It takes itself way too seriously. The whole build-up and back story behind the "brother" of Santa Claus was authentically done and not the least bit comical. There really isn't much funny here at all. Kids won't be able to follow Vince Vaughn's rapid-patter con-man chatter, and it's only mildly amusing to adults anyway. There's a scene or two of slapstick that kids might like but adults will find annoying. Kevin Spacey plays an over-the-top villain that seems totally out of place among the seriousness, but in reality he's the only one playing his character correctly, as the whole thing should have celebrated its ridiculousness the way Elf did. Pretty lame overall. It has a tiny bit of heart in the resolution, but it comes about 40 minutes too late. Disappointing and not worth the bother.


Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Freddy vs. Jason

Movie: Freddy vs. Jason

Suprisingly fun sequel. The film opens by "explaining" the history of the two horror villians, Freddy and Jason. Jason's the one in the hockey mask and was drowned as a child when camp counselors were too busy making out to notice him -- hence his passion for killing horny camp kids. His gift is that he can't die. Freddy Kruger's the one of the knife-fingers who was a child molester burned by angry parents, and now that's he dead, he can only hurt people in their dreams. But he's got a problem in that everyone's forgotten about him. So he recruits Jason to start killing, and the people assume Freddy's back, and of course, remember him, restoring his power to attack them in their dreams. But Freddy loses control of Jason, who goes on a killing spree, and the climax is set up as a conflict between the two villians. Who will win? Who cares: this just an excuse to merge two popular horror films. While I'm mildly amused by some of these (Jason X was fun), I'm not a huge fan: I just enjoy the humor. This one has plenty of that, along with gore, screaming, and violence. Entertaining if you're into that sort of thing. I'm impressed at how the creators keep reinventing this genre and keeping these characters going. They did a good job (for this kind of film).


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Freedom Writers

Movie: Freedom Writers

Another in-flight movie, most likely edited for content, but since it was not a film I was too excited about seeing, that was okay. The trailer had made this seem too predictable, a retread of Stand and Deliver, about a teacher who helps poor and disadvantaged kids succeed. It is predictable (it's based on a true story), but it's still pretty decent. I really liked that the thing that helped the teacher connect with the gang kids was the Holocaust, so much that she organized a museum trip for the students and culminating in the kids reading Anne Frank's diary and raising money to bring Miep Gies, Frank's house-keeper and protector, to the U.S. to speak at their school. The script tries way too hard to be meaningful and dramatic with obvious setups and "deep" one-liners, but in the end there is some heart and it's not terrible.


Saturday, January 29, 2000


Movie: Freeway (1996)
Writer(s): Matthew Bright
Director(s): Matthew Bright

I saw this a few years ago, but wanted to see it again after seeing lead Reese Witherspoon so recently in Pleasantville. She's really a terrific actress, and this role gives her plenty of opportunity to show off her range. She does a great job making us like her loser teen character. The film's a loose (very loose) adaptation of "Little Red Riding Hood" going off to Grandma's. In this story Reese's parents are hauled off to jail, and rather than be put back into foster care, she runs off to find her Grandma. On the way she's picked up by a serial killer (a wonderfully evil Kiefer Sutherland). This film is not a children's tale: it's ultra-realistic, with hardcore violence, prison fights, gunshots, and plenty of blood. (Don't watch it if seeing Brooke Shields' brains splattered on a bathroom wall squicks you). Still, it's funny in a twisted fashion, and the characters are realistic and believable.


Friday, January 24, 2003

The French Connection

Movie: The French Connection
Director(s): William Friedkin

One problem with older classic films is that your expectations are too high. I'd never seen this before, but of course heard it's supposed to be good. It was good, but the actual plot seems rather wimpy today. It's basically about a big drug deal with the drugs coming from France. Unfortunately, the deal is for a "whopping" half million dollars, which even in 1970 dollars seems like a small amount for all this fuss. It's well done, with interesting cop characters, but not all that much happens. Basically the cops figure out the drug deal is upcoming, track down the perps, and try to stop it from going down. A lot of the battle seems to be cop versus administration, cop versus cop, cop versus FBI, etc., which I found annoying (though it's probably realistic). Good flick, but not quite as good as I expected.


Tuesday, December 12, 2000


Movie: Frequency
Writer(s): Toby Emmerlich
Director(s): Gregory Hoblit

Where in the world did this movie come from? I'd never even heard of it, but saw the DVD at the rental store and it sounded interesting. It's an excellent movie. The premise is intriguing: during the aurora borealis (Northern lights) a cop begins playing with his dead father's old ham radio and picks up a transmission from a guy who turns out to be his father from 30 years earlier! It's time travel via radio waves. The two begin regular conversations and learn that the father's actions can change the present. The plot gets more complicated as they prevent the father's death, then try to stop a serial killer. What's cool about this is that there is no real time travel, just communication between time periods. Yet a lot can (and does) happen. It's very clever. The films runs out of gas slightly toward the very end when it descends into an action film, but in general it's a fascinating and exciting film, with nice special effects. I can't figure out why I never heard of it, nor why it didn't do better at the box office. Go rent it!


Wednesday, February 19, 2003


Movie: Frida

An absolutely amazing film. It's the biography of a remarkable Mexican artist of the early and mid 20th Century, Frida Kahlo. I'd never heard of her before this film, but one of the things I liked is they displayed a lot of her artwork in the film and it truly is excellent stuff, rather Dali-like (Dali's my favorite artist) with abstract and contradictory images mixed together. Frida's story is one of trouble and struggle: a bus accident leaves her severely injured and the doctors say she'll never walk again (but she does), and then she marries an unfaithful husband, and eventually her back and leg problems (which cause her pain all her life and lead her to an addiction to painkillers) mean she has to have her leg amputated. In every way Frida was controversial: she was an outspoken woman, an artist, politically she was a Communist, and she apparently was bisexual. Some of this stuff is celebrated in the film, some just presented, but it's always done artistically, and that lessons the effect of any preaching. Salma Hayak in the lead role is incredible: she actually pulls off the early teenage schoolgirl scenes with complete believability as well as the 47-year-old woman Frida eventually becomes. (I loved that, for a it always annoys me when films use a different actor for the young character and the young actor doesn't look anything like the real adult actor.) The movie is sad yet triumphant -- like Frida herself, it celebrates life and living. There's quite a bit of humor, from the infamous dance scene with Ashley Judd to great lines like the one near the end when Frida is caught drinking by her doctor and she says, "Let me drink this one tequila and I promise I won't drink at my funeral." Wonderful film.


Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Book: Friday
Writer(s): Robert Heinlein

I've read almost all of Heinlein's stuff, this one had eluded me, I'm not sure why. It's pretty cool. It's written first person female, about an "enhanced" woman's adventure's in the future. She's sort of a spy/assassin, very capable, and the story's about her getting in the middle of a planet-wide coup attempt and an elaborate plot against her life. It's a bit muddled, and the story's not all that compelling (it's more of a rambling tale than a structured plot), but what makes it work is hearing Friday's voice: she's a fascinating character with an interesting and unique personality, with a great sense of humor. It's a blast to read and worth it just for that experience; the plot doesn't really go anywhere and has some serious conceptual flaws. (For example, it was never made clear why she couldn't have been killed on the planet where she escaped to -- the explanation that the bad guys would just let her go at that point was not convincing.) But overall, this was fun and entertaining, if light.


Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Friendly: Bayern Leverkusen at D.C. United

Soccer: Friendly: Bayern Leverkusen at D.C. United

Now this was a fun game. The big German club, coming over the U.S., plays D.C. United. D.C. had the first chance, but Berbatov actually finished his in the 14th minute to put Leverkusen up by one. Their lead didn't last long, though, as fifteen minutes later teenager Bobby Convey scored for United. Then Brdaric brought Leverkusen back, but a Carey Talley penalty kick for D.C. tied the score again. In the second half, Chris Albright scored off a keeper rebound to put D.C. in front, but the lead only last five minutes because Barbatov got his second. Later, he got his third of the game and the game-winner. The Germans win, but not without a fight and some great U.S. play. Final: 4-3 Leverkusen.


Saturday, October 12, 2002

From Hell

Movie: From Hell
Writer(s): Allen Moore

Really good film about Jack the Ripper based on Moore's graphic novel. Fans of the novel weren't pleased with the film, and I'm not sure why, as I haven't read the comic yet (though I did recently buy it and will soon). The film projects a new theory as to the identity of the killer. At first this theory is excellent and understandable, but as the film continues, complications (such as the whole Free Mason conspiracy) convolute things to a degree that degrades the quality of the entire picture. My thinking is that probably this is better explained in the book, where there's room for the complexity, but in this film this doesn't work. Overall, the film's interesting, has excellent cinematography, and is worth seeing.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

From Noon to Three

Movie: From Noon to Three

Funny little western with Charles Bronson as an inept bank robber who takes a woman hostage, makes love to her, and then is caught and shot. Or so everyone thinks -- in reality he switched clothes with another man and ended up in prison for something that guy did, but he must keep his real identity secret. Meanwhile, the woman writes an international best-seller about the three hours she spent with a notorious villain, turning him into a legendary outlaw. The hilarious part is that when the man gets out of prison no one believes he is who he says he is -- everyone who once knew him has the dashing villain in the book in mind and thinks he's an imposter! Even the woman! Fun stuff.


Friday, February 5, 2010

From Paris with Love

Movie: From Paris with Love
Director(s): Pierre Morrel

This is an action buddy movie with a strong French influence with the story being written by one of my favorite directors Luc Besson ("The Professional") and directed by the guy who did last year's fun Taken. It's set in Paris, though other than the occasional snippet of French language and a brief scene at the Eiffel tower, the location's really irrelevant. Even the key car chase scenes could be on any freeway. Like most buddy films this pairs up two opposites: in this case, a wannabe spy who's an intellectual and an older pro who's more action-oriented. But one aspect of this pairing I found refreshing is that these two sort of like each other. Usually in films like this there's genuine animosity and anger, and sitting through two hours of such negative emotion is depressing. This was much more pleasant. There's still conflict, but it's more about the different ways these two think about a problem and they don't fight much. I liked that a lot. John Travolta's character as the veteran is hilarious and outrageous and he gives a fantastic performance. He keeps doing insane things, shooting people seemingly at random, but then reveals it's all part of his clever plan. Excellent. His partner's character in comparison is rather dull (which is the point, as he's a bureaucrat that wants to be a spy) and I didn't find him too engaging. Travolta's what makes the film work. In terms of story, there isn't much of one. Sure, the two are awkwardly paired together to stop a terrorist threat, but the "big twist" toward the end is so obvious I saw it in the first five minutes. Fortunately, though, the predictability of the plot doesn't ruin the film. It's still a fun action film (pretty much entirely due to Travolta's character). It's also only 90 minutes and like Taken, goes non-stop once things get going. It's not a deep film by any means, or even a great one, but it's definitely fun, silly, and outrageous, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.


Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Full Frontal

Movie: Full Frontal
Director(s): Steven Soderbergh

Supposedly this is Steven's "karmic" follow-up to his first, Sex, Lies, and Videotape. It's also famous for being shot digitally (and done for a mere $2 million). It's pretty good. The "plot" is difficult to describe -- it's a collection of relationships that eventually overlap at the birthday party of a movie producer. There's also a movie within a movie, a trick I always like. Soderbergh claims one of his goals was to use that and the digital video footage to explore why one method of filming seems more "real" than another (in this case they are equally fake), however that didn't come across as well on DVD since the film and digital video sequences look too much alike (I'm sure on a big screen the digital video would appear grainer). But I didn't really care about that aspect anyway. What interested me were the characters and situations, which were intriguing. It's definitely a low-key film, a "talky" without a lot of action, but it's worth seeing if you liked films like Slacker or Soderbergh's debut.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Fun with Dick and Jane

Movie: Fun with Dick and Jane

This is apparently a remake of a 70's film which I've never seen or heard of so I can't compare the two, but I really enjoyed this one. It's modernized, with Jim Carey's character the patsy in an Enron-like corporate meltdown. He and his wife lose everything and eventually take to robbery to make ends meet. This kind of film is an extremely difficult balancing act to maintain: the characters must be sympathetic and can't do anything too mean, yet we must believe they really do become successful bank robbers. Fortunately, the film does do this well and it works. There are many hilarious, classic scenes (like the family in swimsuits and soaped bodies running through the neighbor's lawn sprinkler for showers). The film is tongue-in-cheek and makes fun of corporations and 9-to-5ers, has a few serious points about the evils of "keeping up with the Joneses," and has a simple, elegant plot. The ending is great and satisfying, and the husband-and-wife team of Carey and Tea Leoni is wonderful and believable. This is not an especially deep film, but it's good fun, and quite entertaining. Enjoy it!


Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Funny Games

Movie: Funny Games

Strange Austrian suspense movie about a family on vacation terrorized by a couple loser-types. What's interesting is the polite way they do it: they pretend to be innocent but obnoxious guests. For instance, they initially come over to borrow some eggs, and a clumsy guy "accidentally" knocks the cell phone into the sink full of water (which cuts them off from the rest of the world). Slowly the family comes to realize these guys are horrible and evil, but by then it's too late. Directed with style and acted with surprising realism.