Welcome to my website!
Have you ever wondered why some critics review films? They don't even seem to like movies that much from what they write. I LOVE movies, and think about them long after the last credits roll across the screen. My reviews are meant to inform, entertain and never have a spoiler.
Enjoy my reviews and please comment and come back frequently! Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Big Fish

(Recommended by Julia)
Big Fish is a Tim Burton movie and is as surreal as the other films he's directed, which include Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood and Beetlejuice to name a few I am fond of.

An all-star cast includes Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney portraying the young and old Edward Bloom, Billy Crudup as Edward's son Will, and Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Robert Guillaume, Steve Buscemi, and Danny DeVito in supporting roles.

Will has long been embarrassed and frustrated by his father’s tall tales, and doesn’t speak to his father for three years following his marriage and subsequent move to Paris with his new wife. The estrangement ends when Will receives a phone call from his mother to tell him that Edward is dying. Will longs to reconcile with his father and wants to know who he really is. Edward continues to weave elaborate stories of his life, fantastic tales that appear to be lies to Will.

Will however, learns that within every story his father tells, lies an element of the truth of Edward's life. I think that Will is not unlike most young men, and women for that matter, who grow up not really knowing much about their father. This may be changing in our society today, but for fathers who grew up anytime before the 60’s, I’d say they were hard to understand and didn’t reveal much.

One interesting story Edward relates is about his childhood when he went up to a witch’s house on a dare. This witch had one glass eye in which the viewer could see his/her own death. This knowledge of his ultimate passing, or so the storyteller says, helped Edward to act fearlessly when confronted with danger, because he knew he wouldn’t be dying just yet.

Big Fish is rated PG-13 for a fight scene, some images of nudity, and a suggestive reference, but I think this film is just plain weird and would prove difficult for children to understand, although the images would be interesting for them. It is beautifully filmed, with some very special effects, and I’m not talking car chases here. If you like modern art, or other Tim Burton films, you might really enjoy Big Fish,.

Response to question about "The Butterfly Effect"

A reader asked if The Butterfly Effect had a happy ending. In a way, yes. Be forewarned that this is a dark movie about troubling and bad things that happen to people. The ending was satisfying, but I wouldn't exactly call it happy in a traditional sense. It's definitely a drama with few really comedic elements to it. But I found it quite interesting. Hope that helps. I don't like to give away too many details about a film; I'd rather you be surprised!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

(Recommended by Julia)

Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey star in this romantic comedy. I couldn’t help but think of Kate’s mother every time she smiled, but Kate is not Goldie, and I also think Kate is a fine actress in her own right. I enjoyed her portrayal of Andie, a writer for a magazine along the lines of Cosmo, who is assigned to write “How To” articles.

After a friend suffers a bad breakup ostensibly due to doing every thing wrong with her man, Andie is assigned the task of writing an article called “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” a sort of cautionary tale to readers about what not to do in a new relationship. Andie’s task is to find a guy, reel him in, and then proceed to do everything wrong so he breaks up with her in less than 10 days.

Ben (Matthew McConaughey) works in an ad agency and desperately wants a choice marketing account selling diamonds. He is put up to a bet that he can get a woman to fall in love with him in 10 days, with the prize being the diamond account. Two scheming co-workers who know about Andie’s quest steer Ben in the direction of Andie, and the comedy takes off.

Andie does such outrageous things to Ben, and yet he doesn’t dump her! Anyone else would. He of course is intent on having Andie fall in love with him to get the diamond account. In the process of their game playing, they do fall in love. When it’s a romantic comedy, we know the ending will be sweet and happy, just not how they will get there.

I recommend this film as it moves along very quickly, and is laugh-out-loud funny. I found myself shaking my head at all the horrible things Andie was doing to Ben, and thought about how if all couples could ignore the weird things their mate does to annoy them, and focus on the things they can do to make themselves worthy of love from the other, there might be many fewer divorces.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is rated PG-13 for some sex-related material.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Butterfly Effect

(Recommended by Julia)

It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world. Chaos theory

This quote attributed to Chaos Theory begins the movie The Butterfly Effect. The film stars Ashton Kutcher as a young man named Evan who is mysteriously afflicted with the same type of mental illness as his father. The illness affects memories and the young Evan has many bad memories to repress, particularly certain things that happened with three playmates from his youth. He begins keeping a journal, and as an adult, discovers he can go back in time to change the events he has experienced.

Evan’s ability to change the past results in a very different present each time he does this sort of time travel. The film is thoughtful, scary, and made me think about the "if onlys" in my life. How many of us have thought “if only”. If only I had chosen that other path, my life would be different today. Evan’s experience reminds me that changing the past could have resulted in a future not nearly as good as the one I’m currently in. It also reminds me that every choice I make, no matter how small it seems, has repercussions in my life and in the lives of those around me.

This film is visually very interesting whenever the time travel occurs, and Ashton Kutcher does a good job acting as the young man tormented by psychological demons. The film is rated R for violence, sexual content, language, and brief drug use. If you liked films such as 12 Monkeys, and Jacob's Ladder, you may enjoy The Butterfly Effect.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Orange County

I have rented five of the movies my 18-year old niece suggested I watch (henceforth to be recognized as "recommended by Julia"), so here is a review of the first one.

Orange County refers to the affluent county on the ocean directly south of Los Angeles, recently made famous by the television series The O.C., which takes place in and around Newport Beach. Orange County is about Shaun, a senior in high school who loves surfing, and yet keeps up with his school studies. He decides he wants to be a writer after finding and reading a book half buried in the sand on the beach.

When the school guidance counselor sends the wrong transcript to Stanford with his application, he is denied admission. Shaun's quest to get into Stanford becomes an obsession, one which involves his older brother Lance, played by Jack Black. Lance spends most of the film in his underwear, has a parole officer, and is stoned most of the time. He also provides for most of the laughter in this film. Shaun's family is dysfunctional and dramatic, with an alcoholic mother (Catherine O'Hara), and estranged father (John Lithgow). Shaun is embarrassed of them, and yet by the end of the film, he realizes that though flawed, they truly support him and his dreams.

Shaun eventually comes to the conclusion that he can achieve his dream of becoming a writer no matter where he attends school, but not until a series of escapades on the Stanford campus lead him to meet the author who has so inspired him.

This film was written by Mike White who also wrote The Good Girl, an excellent movie about a woman (Jennifer Aniston) who feels trapped in her life. I personally liked The Good Girl better. It's more an adult movie, and Orange County with it's PG-13 rating, appeals more to the teenage/college age group.

Which brings me to why this film would appeal to teens. Shaun's finding a book that propels him into a productive future is the sign that teens are also looking for; something that will help them answer the questions: What am I here for? What am I to do with my life? How do I find my way? These questions are answered for Shaun by the end of the movie, and I think teens would find this a hopeful film with lots of comedy and characters that mirror the crazy people we all know in real life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


My 18-year-old niece recommended I see this film. In fact she made a list of 14 movies available for rental these days, and I look forward to reporting on all of them.

Will Smith plays Alex Hitchens, "Hitch", a man who makes his living by helping men get a date with the woman of their dreams. His big challenge is to help an accountant played by Kevin James, win the affections of an heiress, sweetly named Allegra.

While involved in this project, Hitch falls for Sarah (Eva Mendes), a woman who has grown to shun relationships. Between these two romances, the fun begins. Hitch and his pupil have great chemistry, and it is believable that the beautiful Allegra would find her accountant charming.

You know how some movies look good in the trailers, but then when you get to the theater, all the funny scenes were in the trailer, and there isn’t anything good left in the film? Well, this does not happen with Hitch. There are laughing out loud scenes, and a good conclusion to the story. As Hitch explains, he just creates an opportunity for the unlikely man to be noticed by the object of his affection, and the rest just happens on its own. If you like romantic comedies, this is a sure winner.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Winged Migration

Whether you’re a bird watcher or not, I predict you will find this film fascinating. Winged Migration follows the annual flight of different flocks of birds migrating to their nesting grounds in the Arctic regions. It took four years to collect the footage of their migration, and our perspective is a birds-eye view, as the film was shot mainly from ultra-light aircraft flying neck and neck with the birds.

I was impressed by the landscapes, which cover every continent. Many species of birds were featured, and I particularly enjoyed seeing a single American bald eagle in its beauty and strength. It is no wonder this majestic bird is sacred to the Native Americans, and that it was chosen as our nation’s symbol.

As these birds flew to the same nesting grounds they have for millions of years, I found myself transported to another place on earth where birds are the dominant life force. We rarely see a human being in this film and I didn’t miss us! The birds have their own rituals, attachments, and struggles for life and death, seemingly separate from humans.

But we know we humans affect the survival of these complex creatures and their unique society, and every oil spill (and there have been many since the Exxon Valdez) threatens the species very existence (this comment is mine; the film has little to no narration and allows the viewer to make their own conclusions from what is witnessed).

I hope you watch this film for the beauty inherent in the bird’s flight, or to learn about another species that I for one, could learn more about. It left me with yet one more reason why the Arctic regions need to remain free of oilrigs and development. I’d love to hear your comments about the film once you see it.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Independence Day

I like to watch certain movies around the holidays we celebrate: Home Alone at Christmas, Planes, Trains and Automobiles at Thanksgiving, Ed Wood for Halloween.

So this July 4th, I decided to watch Independence Day. This film was released in 1996, a time when threats to America were seen as coming from space. The film’s stellar cast portrays the heroes whose collective strengths save the planet’s residents from certain extermination.

Will Smith plays the fighter pilot stationed near Los Angeles, who has a dream of working for NASA.

Bill Pullman is the President, a man with integrity, who doesn’t disappear when the nation is gripped by fear and uncertainty.

Jeff Goldblum has made his character endearing as the computer whiz with a passion for saving the planet, always recycling aluminum cans and commenting on the unwise use of Styrofoam cups.

Randy Quaid is a Vietnam vet now crop dusting in California. He is not ashamed to admit that aliens abducted him a few years ago, and his three children, no mother in sight, love him despite this story that brings ridicule to their family.

The cast of characters around these four are so fully developed, the story is less about battles as it is about seeing how they react in times of stress and danger. Their lives come together to find a solution to successfully vanquish the aliens. The alien species attacking major cities around the globe has been traveling from one Earth-like planet to the next, consuming all their natural resources and moving on.

This film is a drama, an action adventure, and science fiction all rolled into one, with doses of levity and humor to ease the intensity. It is also a patriotic movie. We see the Earth floating like a fragile ornament in our Milky Way in the opening scene, and the planet comes together in a unified effort to save it. This is just the action we need now in order to sustain the Earth and its inhabitants, and not just the human ones. We don’t have the option to go to some other planet like Earth, if one even exists, when we’ve used up all our natural resources.

In 1776 the American colonies formally declared themselves free and independent of Britain. Independent means to not be dependent on or controlled by another person or thing, to not be influenced by others in one’s ideas or conduct, and to be unwilling to be under an obligation to others. On this Independence Day, I’m reflecting on how myself personally, and our nation as a whole, lives up to that definition. Perhaps Independence Day will inspire you to do the same, and you'll have a whole lot of fun in the process.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Back in the 1980's, I read a trilogy written by Douglas Adams: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 25th Anniversary Edition
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
. I remember it as a very funny series of books, right up there with the writings of Tom Robbins and Rob Brezsny.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a British film and the distinctive brand of British humor shines. The film begins with dolphins (the most intelligent species on earth) attempting to tell humans that the world is coming to an end. The earth is being demolished in the same way houses are torn down to make way for freeways in the name of progress. The character Arthur Dent is saved by his best friend who turns out to be an alien (played by Mos Def). They hitch a ride on a passing spacecraft, and thus begins the adventure for which the Guide is necessary.

The space creatures are grotesque, but in more of an amusing way than anything scary. The animated Guide illustrates what you need in space (a towel for one thing). The whole film is very funny, and the ending sweet and sentimental. It all works and I don't want to give away what happens. Just believe me when I say rent it; you won't be disappointed if you want a good laugh. I saw it at my local dollar theater, but it will probably be available to rent soon.

"So long, and thanks for all the fish!"

Friday, July 01, 2005

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Just the other day, right here on earth, I watched the sixth film in the Star Wars saga. Can it really be nearly 30 years ago I was swept into the world of Jedi warriors, Wookies, light sabers, and Darth Vader?

I am now satisfied. I know how Darth Vader came to be who he is. If you haven't seen the other five Star Wars movies, a good way to see them would be to go to Netflix.com, a service over the Internet where you can select DVDs you'd like to see, get them mailed to you, keep them for as long as you'd like, then return them in a postage paid envelope, and the next selection is on its way into your mailbox (thanks for asking about this, Marianne!) All at a reasonable price. No wasting gas driving to the video store yet again.

If you haven't been following the Star Wars tales, this installment is not the place to start. It is darker than all the other films. There are heroes on both sides, and evil is everywhere. Kind of like our world.

We see Anakin succumb to his fears and desire for power. Whereas in the previous films, George Lucas has his characters acquiring wisdom and using it (trust your feelings), this time we see someone utterly fail. It's a cautionary tale about the dark side.

Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith completed the story for me, and I liked it for that, but on another level, I didn't like it. The film had way too many stark, industrial landscapes, if you can even call it a landscape. The earth that is supposedly sustaining these humans and other creatures is nowhere to be seen. They must eat sometime, but we never see anything growing.

The outrageous creatures have grown tiresome as well. The world Lucas has created here is definitely a male world, none of the fecundity of nature anywhere. I am weary of battle scenes. Men, males of different species, fighting other males: Boring. Chases whether in spacecraft or in cars: boring. At least the light saber fights are more interesting than gunfights, as well as more honorable.

If you have been a faithful fan of Star Wars, you will be glad to see the final installment of the saga, as was I. But now I'm ready to see other genres of movies. I'm hoping we can get back to earth in the movies because there's a lot to be said about life down here.

I welcome comments about this or any film. And may the Force be with you.