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Bruce Almighty (Widescreen Edition)
Bruce Almighty (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Jim Carrey
Offered by Jenson Online Inc
Price: $5.27
416 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars High concept, well-played, March 8, 2004
Not really being a big Jim Carrey fan (his performance in The Truman Show aside), I wasn't really relishing watching another one of his clownish performances. However, the twist here is that the concept behind this is so good that you wonder why it hasn't been done before. Carrey plays Bruce, a put-upon news reporter who doesn't get the anchor position he'd coveted and defies God to make his life any worse than it already is. Enter Morgan Freeman as God, handing over the reigns to Bruce while he takes a well-earned vacation.
The first half of this movie is the most fun, with Bruce parting his tomato soup, creating the perfect romantic evening with girlfriend Grace (Aniston) and facing off with a group of thugs. Carrey's rubber-faced antics work very well in these scenes and there are some very good jokes along the way - God's last break was apparently the Dark Ages. Unfortunately it all unravels a bit when the inevitable occurs and Bruce realises that being God isn't as easy as it might first appear. Unfortunately, rather than discussing more pertinent issues, the only result of Bruce answering 'yes' to all his incoming prayers is a lottery debacle and a power cut. Strangely enough, a tsunami he caused by lassoing the moon and bringing it to his balcony, is only giving a fleeting reference. This is all coupled with a hokey resolution where Bruce realises the humility in small deeds and, literally, that all you need is love. This attempted 'serious' ending not only tries to spoon-feed its audience with simplistic morals, but really lets down the first half of the movie, which really is very funny. You can't help but feel that the movie should've gone all out simply for fun, or attempted to discuss the wider repurcussions of Bruce's actions as God. But I guess that might not have packed them into the multiplexes as much as this.
Still, the movie (clearly Carrey's longed-for middle ground between the critical acclaim he received for Man In The Moon and the audience-friendly Ace Ventura) did well at the box office and is very funny a lot of the time. Even so, compare this to other blockbusters of last year - Pirates Of The Caribbean, Finding Nemo, Lord Of The Rings - and there's a very big gap. Not a failure perhaps, but a brilliant concept a little bit wasted.

Intolerable Cruelty (Widescreen Edition)
Intolerable Cruelty (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ George Clooney
Price: $6.15
381 used & new from $0.01

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A really nice surprise, February 21, 2004
I went into Intolerable Cruelty expecting something dull anf fluffy. Should've known better from a Coen brothers' movie I suppose, because Intolerable Cruelty is actually a lot better than its reception at the box office would have you believe. The story pits man-eater Catherine Zeta Jones alongside George Clooney, the lawyer who on behalf of her husband, ensured she got nothing from her last divorce settlement.
Clooney is perfect for this kind of role, clearly relishing the opportunity to play the egotistical poser with a hidden soul, delivering lines such as 'That woman fascinates me' with the kind of personality that only he can deliver. I've never been a fan of Catherine Zeta Jones, but she really sparkles here, particularly with the verbal put-downs and snappy dialogue.
Of course, this being a Coen brothers' film there are a few manic characters along the sidelines, most noticeably Wheezy the assassin, the crazy old man who runs the law firm and most hilariously, Billy Bob Thornton as the second husband. He alone is worth the admission. Whilst it seems all too easy to state that this isn't as good as previous Coens' movies such Fargo or The Big Lewbowski, it's still a whole lot better than the majority of romantic fluff out there. Indeed, even if some of the Coens' crazier elements don't really come off for such a clearly mainstream affair, it's still a very enjoyable ride, and there are a few good laugh-out-loud moments. Not brilliant perhaps, but filled with enough enthusiasm and sparkle to make you not care.

The Pianist
The Pianist
DVD ~ Adrien Brody
Offered by gdyer49359
Price: $6.85
196 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular in its innocence, January 29, 2004
This review is from: The Pianist (DVD)
After it was garlanded with awards and so much critical acclaim I decided I had to watch The Pianist, even though with war movies you never know whether you'll get something honest and affecting or trite and clichéd. Polanski's movie definitely belongs to the former. Charting the life of the Jewish pianist Szpilman (Brody) against the backdrop of war in Poland it's a powerfully emotional piece that, once you've seen the end especially, makes it well worth sitting down for two and a half hours to watch. Interestingly, rather than show us a view of the Polish resistance or an inside view of the harrowing concentration camps, this is all about one man, and all the better for it. The Pianist achieves a kind of intimacy with its subject that other similar films cannot boast.
Beginning with the bombing of the radio station where Szpilman plays to Polish listeners, his family are rapidly dispatched to the Jewish ghetto. I've heard a few reviews stating that the parts of the movie involving Szpilman's family life are clichéd. In a way this is easy to see, with stereotypes being made of various figures such as the brother who refuses to be put down, the valiant sister and the elderly father being used for the sympathy vote. However, the movie is told in such a brilliant manner that you forget all of these clichés (especially since it's based on a true story). There are some scenes that are very difficult to watch - people being shot point blank or tossed from windows - but it's this kind of emotional intensity that make it all the more worthwhile. It was certainly a wise choice to stay out of the concentration camps, in part because the looks on the faces of the Jews being herded into cattle trucks to be sent to their deaths is enough to affect any viewer, and also because it might have been too harrowing for the viewers. Significantly, it is when Szpilman is alone in the bombed down city streets of Warsaw that the movie really scales down to the intimate and where Brody's performance stands alone as one of true excellence. Admitedly these parts can get a little slow, but they're worthwhile for the conclusion, which couldn't have come about without these parts and it's certainly brave of Polanski (and typical) for him not to flinch at any part of Szpilman's memoirs.
The final moments though, are just sublime. Starving in an abandoned house Szpilman is finally discovered by a sympathetic German officer, and these scenes really burn a deep impression into your memory. Acted with humiliation and sense of what's lost, culminating (inevitably) in Szpilman's uplifting/depressing performance of Chopin, it's the emotional core of the movie. Put simpy, this deserved every award it won, and then some.

Dude, Where's My Car?
Dude, Where's My Car?
DVD ~ Ashton Kutcher
Price: $5.23
141 used & new from $0.01

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dude, where's the script more like, January 21, 2004
This review is from: Dude, Where's My Car? (DVD)
Riding high on the tide of American Pie's success came a truckload of stoner, gross-out comedies that never manages to be halfway as good as the sort of movies they were trying to imitate. Dude, Where's My Car? is one such example. Starring Ashton Kucher and Sean William Scott as two losers who set out to find their car after a heavy night of drinking the night before. The big problem is though, not that they've lost their car, but their anniversary presents for their girlfriends were in the car too.
Of course, sitting down to watch a film like this you don't really expect anything other than entertainment. Unfortunately, this is anything but. Each dead gag is laid as quickly on top of the last one as possible to try and avoid the fact that there's really nothing here at all. Sexy alien women, an absurb cult, an angry transexual and a pot-smoking dog are just some of the bizarre plot elements that are thrown at the stars, but you just couldn't care less. It's a shame really, because this kind of movie can be a lot of fun, but unfortunately this just reeks of a half-baked effort. It's even more shameful that the film-makers have managed to enlist two obviously talented comedy actors in Kucher and Scott. Though Kucher may now be simply known as Demi Moore's new beau, and as soon as you see Scott you think of Stifler, their vacant expressions and key-on delivery would've worked perfectly for a better film.
Finally, you can't help comparing Dude, Where's My Car? to other's of its ilk. It lacks the inherent charm of American Pie (and it's nowhere near as funny), the off-kilter comedy of Detroit Rock City and is certainly nowhere near as good as the Farrelly's There's Something About Mary. I'd recommend those movies above this one any day.

Lost in Translation
Lost in Translation
DVD ~ Bill Murray
Offered by Sunday River
Price: $5.61
317 used & new from $0.01

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best movie I've seen this year, January 20, 2004
This review is from: Lost in Translation (DVD)
In the UK Lost In Translation has only been on release a couple of weeks, and when I finally got round to seeing it last night I was blown away. The movie's about two people who find each other at a time in their lives where nothing seems to fit, where they're desperate, bored and lonely. Bob Harris (Murray) used to be a famous movie star but now he's sold out, travelling to Japan to film a set of whisky commercials. Staying at the same hotel is Charlotte (Johannsson), who is the centre of the realisation that she doesn't know her husband of two years (Ribisi) and feels unable to explain it to anyone. The two people eventually meet, finding solace in the amazing backdrop of Tokyo arcades, temples and karaoke bars. Many may accuse the film of being boring, and it's true, nothing really happens. But that's the point. The characters don't need any plot contrivances to push their relationship forward. This is a movie about the kind of meeting of someone you know you're in love with from moment one, your soul-mate, but knowing that it can never work out. In a lot of ways this sounds clichéd, but LIT is anything but. It's focus on the blossoming relationship of the couple is inspiring.
I've never seen Murray in a better role, his kind of world-weary character hidden behind a comic defense is nothing short of brilliant. Johannsson is a genuine star in the making, and deserves the highest kind of praise for her performance. Holding herself confidently with a hidden vulnerability, it's a multi-faceted performance which complements Murray's one perfectly. There are also some nice supporting turns and characters hidden here as well. Ribisi (narrator of Coppola's previous movie The Virgin Suicides) is just the kind of person you meet in real life who's primarily concerned with image, with having the perfect wife and the perfect job, rather than whether this is what he really wants. There's also a hilarious character in a young actress starring in a kung-fu movie. If Bob and Charlotte are the emotional centrepiece of the movie, then she is the laughs. Pretentious, self-abosorbed but totally believable, she's a great comic actress.
Crucially, Coppola proves with Lost In Translation that she's a dab hand at creating dreamy landscapes, believable relationships and subtly complicated characters. It's particularly impressive that she not only directed but also wrote the movie and shows her to be one of the most promising new directors in Hollywood (alongside Christopher Nolan). Just like The Virgin Suicides, there are a lot of silent shots of landscape, of characters staring into the distance. With Lost In Translation, much of these shots are of Johannsson visiting temples or watching flower arranging. These provide a nice counterpoint to the humour the film makes of Japan in the director of Bob's commercials and a hilarious Japanese talk show. LIT is an achievement of the best sort: gently humorous, beautiful, and genuinely touching.

Angel - Season Three
Angel - Season Three
DVD ~ David Boreanaz
Offered by Anchor*Media
Price: $19.99
26 used & new from $3.03

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Standing on its own two feet, January 18, 2004
This review is from: Angel - Season Three (DVD)
It's all too easy to state of Angel that it's not as good or as innovative as Buffy. Whilst this is true in many respects, Angel Season 3 really sees things pick up pace, with the show no longer standing in the shadow of its sister show and creating a compelling, interesting story arc. The opener, Heart-throb, sees the reappearance of Darla, pregnant with Angel's child no less. The main storyline concerns the birth of Angel's son, followed by his loss and return as a 15 year-old! However, just like on Buffy, Angel makes us care for its supporting players as well and it's notable that the story involving a renegade Wesley forced out of the group is still the show's best.
Many fans disapproved of Connor as a teenager, and it's easy to see why. Vincent Kartheiser, though a good actor, doesn't imbue his character with anything that makes you really feel sorry for him and never did for me until his final episode in the Season 4 finale. This comes coupled with Angel's weakest villain yet, Holtz. An old enemy of Angelus, who slaughtered his family years since, had himself brought into the future to wreak the ultimate revenge on Angel by attempting to first kidnap his son, and subsequently to turn him against him. Put simply, he's boring, and we care far less what's going on when he's on-screen than when Lindsey was, or when Lilah's around. However, this season sees some of the stand-out episodes that Buffy was so good at, with Billy and Waiting In The Wings. Billy details Cordelia's increasingly painful visions and a guy who can turn any man into a homicidal mysogynist. Simultaneously fleshing out Cordy's character whilst making a statement about abuse against women is done so assuredly that it comes across as one of the show's most impressive episode. Waiting In The Wings was, of course, written by the master himself - Joss Whedon. The gang take a visit to the ballet together and find themselves in a time flux that they can't get out of. All of this is done with the kind of attention to detail (a classic ghost story, corrupted love versus true love, brilliant dancing) that marks it out as a Whedon episode. Much more so than Buffy, Angel has a lot of surprise endings that really make you hunger for the next episode. In particular, check out Angel's discovery of Wesley's plot to take his son, Wesley's realisation of what he has to do or the finale. If you've never really thought of the character dynamics on Angel, you will after seeing Season 3 and the cast really spark off each other. Above them all comes Alexis Denisof, who invests Wesley with such an interesting character that you completely forget the bookish Watcher from Buffy. This season really gives him a chance to grow though, and for many he's become a favourite character.
After a haphazard second season, season 3 really gives Angel a chance to grow as a show and sets things up perfectly for the spectacular season 4. Significantly, Angel's got better with every season, much more confident about its own assets and began to get recognised in its own right rather than just as a spin-off. And it deserves to, after 5 seasons and still going strong, Angel's one of the best TV shows around at the moment.

In The Zone
In The Zone
Offered by Customer Direct
Price: $7.94
252 used & new from $0.01

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Britney goes from strength to strength, January 15, 2004
This review is from: In The Zone (Audio CD)
When Britney first came on the music scene she seemed like your sensation who'd create an album with a few fantastic singles on it, a lot of filler and then disappear off the face of the earth. Now on her fourth album Britney's laughing her critics in the face, because each album moved from strength to strength and she really came into her own on her third self-titled CD. In The Zone takes the move towards more adult-orientated music that started with Slave 4U and Boys and transplants it to the whole of the CD. Max Martin is gone, and so are much of the hook-laden bubblegum pop that made Britney famous.
The album starts off with the Madonna duet, Me Against The Music, an over-hyped slightly mediocre effort that seemed more of a publicity stunt than anything else, and doesn't really give a good impression of the album as a whole. As demonstrated on bonus tracks Before The Goodbye and Run Away (both collaborations with BT), Britney can do a dancebeat well, and suits it too. The tracks Breathe On Me and Showdown are the best examples of this, although it's to Britney's credit that she doesn't just go down one avenue. Just as her last album displayed her ability to move into different musical genres that you'd never have thought possible in her early days, In The Zone takes her even further. Toxic uses violins, dance beats and a pop sensibility to create a single that stands out as one of Britney's best (and probably the pinnacle of the album); Touch Of My Hand has an almost Bollywood feel to it, but not to any extent that makes the song seem incongrous on what is essentially a pop album; Moby works wonders on the slow burner Early Morning, and Brave New Girl has a mildly electronic vibe whilst remaining Britney's most 'pop' song on the album. Of course, just as there were the bland ballads beforehand (That's Where You Take Me and When I Found You spring to mind), there are the obligatory slow songs here, Shadow and Everytime. However, whilst her earlier ballads were mostly boring filler tracks, the ballads here are a lot more interesting. Even though the lyrics of Shadow are clichéd at best, it's catchy enough to make you listen to it rather than just skip along. Everytime uses what sounds like a glockenspiel to evoke a kind of simplistic instrumentation and production hitherto unheard of in a Britney song. The obligatory R&B contribution by R. Kelley, Outrageous, is passable, but Britney's made such great songs by working with unexpected artists such as N.E.R.D, BT and Moby, that it's almost like Kelley was used purely for the name.
Those that compare Britney to Christina Aguilera, saying that Britney doesn't have her voice, are true, but her music is of a much higher standard and In The Zone outstrips Stripped in almost every sector. Whilst Christina's raunchy new image didn't carry over into her music very well, leading to the train wreck that is Dirrty, Britney's change in image works in unison with her album and shows that she can do other musical genres other than pop, something that Christina cannot. Significantly, whilst In The Zone might not have as many killer tracks as her last album, it's the first album where you can start to view Britney as an artist in her own right rather than another pop puppet. This album proves she's got staying power.

No Title Available

2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but over-saccharined romantic comedy, January 13, 2004
When you go into a Richard Curtis movie (and this time he's director as well) you know exactly what to expect, just as you do when you enter a Hugh Grant movie, and seen as the two names have become somewhat synonymous Love Actually has come under a lot of criticism for predictability. Attempting a Robert Altman-type tapestry of stories is a brave move, but unfortunately Curtis doesn't pull it off as well as PT Anderson did with Magnolia.
This time Grant is (unconvincingly) playing a newly elected Prime Minister who falls in love with his tea-lady Martine McCutcheon, who's perky enthusiasm is past its sell-by-date. There's also Liam Neesom, trying to teach his 10 year-old to play the drums to catch the eye of his first love, a young girl with the voice of Mariah Carey. The story is sickly enough, and you can't help but feel Curtis felt this to be prime area for 'hilarous' banter about a 10 year-old in love and the confused but hip step-fater overcoming the death of his wife. Keira Knightly again proves that she's a rising star in the movies after her stint in Pirate of the Caribbean, an undeniably beautiful screen presence despite her rather wooden acting abilities. It's a shame then that her story feels like it was lifted straight out of any number of Curtis movies when her husband's best friend decides to tell her he loves her with a set of picture cards on her front doorstep on Christmas Eve. How perfect is that? Given the fact that there are such monotonous and sickly moments in the film, it's a big plus that Curtis can still pull off a cracker of a story in other sectors. Most impressive of the bunch, predictably, is old hand Emma Thompson. The moment when she realised her husband is having an affair, crying in her room and listening to Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides Now' is the real heart of the movie, and Alan Rickman is clearly having a ball as the man wanting to relive his youth with his secretary. Laura Linney gives a fantastically memorable supporting turn as the woman in love with her handsome co-worker but bound to her mentally disabled brother. The fact that she can turn the comedy (her dance of triumph when she invites her crush inside) and the sadness of her situation proves that she deserves a big movie of her own. There's also a hilarious subplot involving a geeky lad travelling across to the States convinced that American girls will be crawling over him because of his 'sexy' accent is brilliant. And of course, Firth is playing Firth only as he knows how in the only truly touching love story of the lot with his hesitant affection for his Portuguese cleaning lady.
The fact that Love Actually has so many brilliant sections to it only goes to make the bad parts all the more unfortunate. Nothing could ever really come close to Four Weddings and a Funeral, but overall this is probably better than Notting Hill and on a par with Bridget Jones's Diary. Curtis has made the quirky sense of British humour his trademark, and Love Actually was a brave move, which he pulls off in part, and that part's immensely enjoyable. It's just a shame that there's a fair share of dross to sift through to get to it.

Natural Born Killers
Natural Born Killers
DVD ~ Woody Harrelson
Offered by insomniacsonline
Price: $9.99
252 used & new from $0.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intense but flawed, January 11, 2004
This review is from: Natural Born Killers (DVD)
Before seeing Natural Born Killers everyone's heard the hype behind the violence of the movie, so going into it you've already got your preconceptions. Stone sets up a nightmarish blurring between the world of the media and reality, using various images such as black and white, colour, cartoon and sitcom pastiches to tell the story of killers on the run and in love Mickey (Harrelson) and Mallory (Lewis). NBK charts their ascent into celebrity which reaches fever pitch once they're captured thanks to Robert Downey Jnr's TV presenter whipping up a media frenzy.
You'd think that the movie had a lot to say given the ambitions it sets, but in fact it seems to just stage a hate campaign against the media. Admitedly, the visuals with which it does so are impressive and interesting but, especially in the early stages, can distract from the overall film. One thing I did like in particular though was the 'I Love Mallory' show, a satire depicting Mallory's abusive childhood and her subsequent rescue by Mickey. This, and Downey Jnr. dressed as the devil dripping with blood, are some of things to truly savour from the movie. The performances too, are all well-judged. Harrelson and Lewis play the oddball, murderous love birds to perfection and Downey Jnr. continues to impress in every role he's in.
Unfortunately, it's all too easy to compare NBK to any number of other movies, most of which make it seem a pale imitator. It fails to evoke the sympathy for its protagonists that Bonnie and Clyde did and compared to the more masterful Man Bites Dog, its satirisation of how media encourages violence comes across as amateurish rather than astute. Quentin Tarantino apparently disowned the movie after Stone's reworking, and it's not hard to see why. Whilst it's certainly memorable, it seems to strive for the kinetic energy that made Pulp Fiction, True Romance (and latterly Kill Bill Vol. 1) tick and fall flat on its face. Interestingly, it's actually not as violent as it has been reputed and shouldn't be condemned on those grounds. Certainly, NBK has its moments and it's an enjoable film as a whole, but it's far from perfect and one of the least distinguished movie to bear Tarantino's stamp on it.

The People vs. Larry Flynt (Special Edition)
The People vs. Larry Flynt (Special Edition)
DVD ~ Courtney Love
Offered by JudieBlue
Price: $15.50
38 used & new from $1.67

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb biography with an edge to it, January 10, 2004
Telling the story of Larry Flynt, the unsympathetic character behind Hustler magazine, was always going to be a hard job. However, Foreman's movie manages to pull it off thanks to great jobs from all round. It starts with a brief clip of Flynt's early life as a boy, peddling booze to redneck farmers and throwing a jug at his father, who's drunk all his wares. Fastforward to his strip joints where he meets feisty, unpredictable but undeniably sexy Althea (Love). Before long they've set up Hustler magazine and not long after that they find themselves in a series of court cases concerning the decency of Flynt's publication. The story really switches gears though when Flynt is gunned down by a sniper's bullet, leading to his Althea's drug addiction and Flynt's increasing eccentricity.
The fact that not only is the direction good, but the acting and script are also brilliant. Woody Harrellson gives the best performance of his career as Flynt, evoking sympathy in a character that's bravely rarely played for the sympathy vote. Courtney Love was born to play the role of grungy white trash glamourous drug addict Althea and pulls it off so convincing that it's surprising that she was nominated for an Oscar as well as a Golden Globe. Edward Norton turns in another great performance in the supporting role of Flynt's lawyer and anyone who's seen his performances in American History X or Primal Fear won't need to hear any more convincing about his abilities as an actor.
The best part of the story is the pathetic nature that it draws out in its protagonists. Love in particular enters her character so much that when she wraps her arms around her husband after just using his drugs it's close to heartbreaking. Whilst the argument for Flynt as a liberator of free speech may seem a bit over the top (despite some very funny scenes in the courtroom), the film gently suggests the intense melancholy behind the larger than life character. The last scene especially evokes this superbly, with Larry watching videos of his wife telling him that he'll grow old and ugly as she's playfully dancing naked for him. As the camera shows us Larry's face we know that he realises this to be true as he's sat alone in his luxurious bedroom despite his greatest victory against the Supreme Court.

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