Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Movie: Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Surprisingly complex and interesting sequel. I wasn't expecting much and I'd heard that this wasn't as good, but I liked it. It's different -- lots of philosophical talk about humanity versus machine, machines having souls, etc. In the end the story's not quite as compelling as the first (there's a little too much exposition and obscurity seems to be a substitute for actual complexity), but overall it's much better than most American films and has a lot of incredible animation.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Miami Vice

Movie: Miami Vice

I wasn't too excited about this. The casting seemed uninspired and I didn't really care much about the film's plot (incomprehensible in the trailers), though I liked the TV series. Unfortunately, this turned out to be nothing like the TV series. I kept waiting of the great Miami Vice theme song to get me addrenalized and in the mood and it never happened -- not even during the closing credits! Basically, other than the names of the two lead characters and the Miami setting, this film is nothing like the TV series. Gone are the distinctive visuals, replaced by gritty, out-of-focus hand-held camerawork that's just nausiating. The plot's a convoluted dark mess of confusion -- Crocket and Tubbs go undercover to sting a drug lord -- and the ending shootout is strangely cold and uninspiring. I read later the film cost $140 million to make, which shocked me: I would have guessed maybe $50 million tops, most of that going to the leads. There just isn't much action or stuff happening. On it's own the film would rate an average. It's not terrible but there's nothing special about it. But comparing it to the TV series, there's just not enough flair and 80s over-the-top drama, and it rates lower than an episode of the TV show.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Monster House

Movie: Monster House

Not quite what I expected. At first some of the death references and gory plot bits seemed out of character for a children's animated film, but in the end most of these are resolved (I won't spoil it by explaining but just trust that things aren't quite as dark as they seem initially). The animation is pretty good, varying from astonishingly realistic (landscapes and the house) to surprisingly poor (the kids' hair isn't drawn as individual hairs but a simple lump on the head which doesn't change with wind or events). The characters are interesting, though other than DJ, the main child, we don't get too deep, and the character of the house is strangely non-sympathetic. But overall I liked it. I wouldn't give it two thumbs up, but at least a solid one.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Howl's Moving Castle

Movie: Howl's Moving Castle

Terrific anime film. I didn't know anything about the story and it was quite unusual and interesting, and kept taking shifts I didn't expect. The main character's a little girl who's transformed by a spell into an old woman. At first she's depressed and angry, but then she learns to live with herself and becomes a hero. It's a complex story, wonderfully inventive, in a land where magic is common, and the animation is gorgeous. Definitely a keeper.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Lady in the Water

Movie: Lady in the Water
Writer(s): M. Night Shyamalan
Director(s): M. Night Shyamalan

Disappointing film. It's interesting and has a few neat moments, but overall it's much ado about nothing. I was expecting the revolation about the characters to be something profound or unusual, but there's nothing like that. The story's simply about a water nymph that must be returned home, that's it. That could have been enough, if the film didn't build our expectations so much higher. But there are so many mysterious things -- strangely named characters, odd non-sensical behaviors, etc. -- that you expect the resolution to explain all of that and it doesn't. My theory -- which I came up with based on a misunderstanding of an article I read about the film -- was that the characters were all part of a story and trying to get back into it. That made all the weird people make sense, as they were not complete people but characters escaped from a book. That was not the case, of course, but I unfortunately liked my version better than the one in the movie!


Friday, July 21, 2006

My Super Ex-girlfriend

Movie: My Super Ex-girlfriend

Fun silly movie that's a little too dark and serious at times. None of the characters are fleshed out and the neurotic super-heroine is just crazy -- her romantic appeal is implausible. But that's nitpicky stuff in such a silly film: you watch this for the comic bits and just enjoy the fluff.


Friday, July 14, 2006


Movie: Mirrormask
Writer(s): Neil Gaiman

I knew nothing about this film and wasn't sure what it was or if I was interested. It turns out it's an amazing fantasy film about a girl who goes into a dreamland inspired by her own drawings where she becomes trapped and has to solve a mystery in order to escape. The visuals are amazing and the story is delightful. The film is obviously targeted toward children, but it's not childish. I enjoyed the film a lot and will be buying my own copy (this was a rental).


Sunday, July 9, 2006

World Cup Is Done

Soccer: World Cup Is Done

Well, that's it. The World Cup is finally over! After a month of 64 soccer matches, I'm pretty happy and exhausted. Despite the U.S.'s failure and France's foul-up in the final, it was an excellent Cup. I'm disappointed that France couldn't win -- Italy played a dry, defensive game, despite all the talk about their new offensive style -- but that's the way it goes. Shameful of Zidane to lose his temper like that and get the red card; not a good note on which to end your career. But Germany, the hosts, were excellent, and the competition itself was wonderful, with lots of first-time teams competing well, some great goals. This Cup was more about parity than one team standing head and shoulders above the rest, but that's just a sign of how well soccer is progressing around the world.


Friday, July 7, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Pretty much a by-the-book sequel, with all the familiar characters back, inside jokes, horrifically goulish creations, fun, mayhem, humor, and wild adventure. Unfortunately, while this is decently done and entertaining, the film ends in mid-plot as we're supposed to wait for the third part next summer to discover what happens! Back to the Future II did that and annoyed me greatly and I never quite forgave it; I can't believe I fell for the same trick again (I'd heard they were filming the two sequels at the same time but I didn't expect the story to not be concluded). Arrrgh!


Monday, July 3, 2006


Movie: Click

Adam Sandler films tend to be gimmicky things that somehow work; yet every time I don't think it will until I see it. This one seemed gimmickier than usual -- a guy gets a magic remote that lets him pause and fast forward his life -- but somehow Sandler makes it work, not just well, but extremely well. Sandler's a workaholic trying to get ahead in business and somehow he ignores his gorgeous wife (quite improbable as Kate Beckinsale lights up the room in every scene she's in) and his two kids. With the remote's help he skips past the "boring bits" of life and suddenly discovers he's missed most of his life (I didn't understand why he couldn't rewind but I suppose I'm being to analytical). The ending is nicely done and suprisingly emotional -- Sandler is always over-the-top, even with happy emotions, and while you can resist his charm for a while, eventually you just have to give in and love the goofball. Certainly a brain strain movie, it was a lot of fun and had a surprisingly amount of depth to it.