Sunday, December 23, 2007

What was good in 2007?

I will probably, insha'allah, see one more movie this year - I think my family will see National Treasure 2 next weekend.

I have seen a lot of movies as mom and I go most weekends, but still missed some I would've like to have seen and of course saw some I wish I hadn't.

I believe this is a complete list of what I've seen, in no particular order:

I Am Legend - saw this last weekend. It was well-acted, but the whole zombie thing just isn't my favorite.

Golden Compass - This movie was totally lame, and the agenda of the text author shows.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium - I actually really liked this movie, but didn't think I would up front. Very charming, clean.

Enchanted - I liked this, but not quite as much as I wanted to like it.

Fred Claus - Completely forgettable.

Bee Movie - Another forgettable movie.

Dan in Real Life - I liked this much more than I expected to. Most of it is quite awkward but somehow appealing.

Disturbia - Not bad at all for the type of movie it is.

1408 - If you want to see a thriller, this is a great one.

The Simpson's Movie - I didn't have high expectations, but I laughed more at this movie than any I can remember.

Shooter - I liked it.

Spiderman 3 - I thought it was kind of over done, but I still have to like Spidey.

Freedom Writers - I disliked this movie, the teacher made me quite angry from a teacher's perspective. Good idea, but didn't come out well in my eyes.

Stomp the Yard - Okay, not so great.

Ocean's Thirteen - Fine.

The Astronaut Farmer - I really liked this movie.

Wild Hogs - This was enjoyable overall.

Premonition - I hardly remember it, it wasn't that great.

Reign Over Me - This was pretty good.

TMNT - Okay, my nephew wanted to see it. Not easy for an adult to stay awake, but okay.

Blades of Glory - Not bad, totally stupid.

Firehouse Dog - Charming. No great plot, forgettable, but nice.

The Invisible - Okay, kind've hard to remember now.

Georgia Rule - The topic of this movie was unexpected and totally shocking, awful.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer - I like superhero movies, but of course it isn't one of the best.

Michael Clayton - Well made movie, but soooooooo slow.

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising - Ummmm, plot anyone? Totally a waste of film - too bad because I really wanted to like this.

The Game Plan - Very cute, fun.

Sydney White - I liked the allegory with Snow White, better than I thought but totally typical teen/college movie lame.

The Brave One - My mom really liked this. It is well-made, but honestly I just hated the whole story, it made me too uncomfortable.

Superbad - Embarrassed I saw this one, it was sooooooo raunchy and bad, we didn't realize how bad it was. I did laugh sometimes but mostly I was just ashamed to be there and keeping my eyes and ears closed.

Transformers - A little light on plot but very cool.

The 300 - Much better than I thought, I kind of liked this.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - I think most of these trilogies become a bit too big by the end, compromising some of the fun and charm. True here, but still not bad.

Norbit - One of the worst, most mean-spirited movies I have ever seen. Nothing that was supposed to be funny was funny, it was just sick!

Ghost Rider - Okay.

Music and Lyrics - Better than expected, it was a good girl's evening out movie.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Pretty good, but completely flat compared to the books.

Hairspray - Not bad.

The Bourne Ultimatum - For a third of three, it came off well. I love the whole trilogy even though it deviated much from the books.

Rush Hour 3 - We love Jackie Chan, we loved the first Rush Hour. This just should not have been made.

Because I Said So - mediocre, annoying, but moderately satisfying on the chick flick level - only if you don't think too much.

National Treasure 2 - very implausible, but totally fun

The Great Debaters - wonderful and important

The Lookout - very good story, well-written and well-acted, beautiful too

Here are the year's favorites from my perspective:

Bourne Ultimatum
Astronaut Farmer
The Great Debaters
The Lookout

And the least favorite:

Georgia Rule

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Golden Compass

So I went with mom and nephew this weekend to see The Golden Compass. As with most fantasy, I don't think the movie is as good as the books it is based on.

But for me, there was a bigger problem. This fantasy series by Pullman has some not-so-hidden-agenda to it, but done in a way to apparently attempt to sugar-coat and influence the minds of children who read the books. verifies my perceptions.
Pullman is an atheist who cannot understand or believe in God and has problems with organized religion.

So, his whole book series is a fantasy about a universe in which organized religion is evil, witches and demons are good, and religion is against reason and free-will. The culmination of the series is when the children destroy the fake God created by the church to control people. In this installment, the church (called the Magisterium) is kidnapping children and torturing them, trying to separate them from their animal-soul-demons so they can be good adults, free from the influences of dust, which connects all the universe together.

I wouldn't mind so much if this were just a genuine fantasy without an agenda. But as blue as Daniel Craig's eyes are and as cool as computer-generated warrior polar bears are, I find myself totally turned off by the veiled promotion of personal anti-religious agendas to the youth through fiction literature.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Well, I've seen lots of movies with my mom but just haven't felt like posting a review, and I see others haven't also. I guess I won't delete the blog for now, because maybe it will be active again. Did anyone see The Kingdom? I'm really not interested in any of those kind of movies.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Alpha Dog

This movie is split down the middle in terms of critical reviews but I really liked it.  Firstly, the story is true and dramatised a bit, but it shows the mindset of "kids" today.  I say this because of the current culture of instant gratification and getting things NOW and getting a lot of it.  What I kept needing to remind myself during the movie was that these guys were acting all big and mob-like, but they were just kids.

The movie does tend to get a tense toward the end, and I mean really tense if you get involved in it.  But the point is made clearly as to where the mindset and the lifestyle may lead, and people can screw up the rest of their lives even if this movie portrays only one example and consequence of it.  If you see the movie at the ned you can think of a million other things that could go wrong just from the lifestyle these kids lead.

It is definitely not for kids, but the message is important especially for the 16-30 year old crowd.  It is one of the important stories to tell of how modern culture can poison a society.



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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

A Wonderful Fairytale intertwined with harsh reality.  This is not the light-hearted Tinkerbell fairytale you might hink it is... It's dark, Tim Burtonish type stuff, and it's beautiful.  It isa bit scary at times, defitniely not for children, might scare the hell out of them, but it has really interesting characters and a really interesting story, like a much darker "Chronicles of Narnia".

The fairytale is intertwined with a story of the Spanish Resistance in Red Spain during WWII.  The themes in the story cover resistance, rebellion, Trust, Ethics of warfare, Parent-Child Relationships, Imagination.

I highly recommend it, it is VERY Cool. A sort of Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups.  It is very captivating and I was enthralled for the entire time I watched it.  A Search for something greater amongst the obstacles of Darkness and Evil... and standing for something greater than yourself.  I loved the juxtaposition of the evils of torture and war set against the imagination of a child.

The movie is Spanish with English Subtitles and it got a 96% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

I highly recommend it. :)



Friday, March 23, 2007

Reign on Me

This movie stars Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle.

Don Cheadle's character runs into his old college roommate, played by Adam Sandler. Adam Sandler's character had lost his wife and daughters in the 9/11 tragedy and has suffered mental illness ever since. He has no family left, and has cut himself off from everyone. But, he welcomes Don's character back into his life because he had known him before the tragedy, not after.

We find in this movie that everyone has issues, not just the "mentally ill". It is a beautiful movie, one of Adam Sandler's best roles to date, and another great job by Don Cheadle. Don Cheadle plays one of the nicest characters in movie history in this story, I think.

Even though this is a beautiful and good movie, I doubt I would want to see it again, because some movies are too "real" for me, even if they're not exactly real.

As a whole, the movie did not dwell on the terrorism of 9/11. However, there was one tiny scene that bugged me. When Adam's character is finally starting to talk about his family again for the first time in years, he turns on the news and they elevating the terror alert for something, and then he turns the channel and they are showing young girls in hijab cheering while people burn the American flag. I know that stuff can really happen but I found it so cliche and giving the same stereotype of Islam and Muslims all over again. I forgave it however because the rest of the movie did not disparage Muslims or bring them up in anyway.

This is not a comedy and not for kids due to the serious nature of the content and some foul language.


I liked this movie simply because it showed the dynamics of humanity, regardless of how far apart we are, we are all fundamentally the same. The movie covers a Moroccan family, focusing on the actions of the two sons who have just learnt to use a rifle for the purposes of shooting jackal which attack their sheep; An American husband and wife touring Morocco trying to overcome a family tragedy; A South American nanny who needs to get to her sons wedding; and a Japanese father and he's deaf daughter who's finding it hard living life deaf.

All these different families, having their own problems unfurl, and all of them inextricably linked together by a single action. The dynamics of humanity are covered both intimately and explored from a larger social perspective as well.

It does contain some bad language and nudity, not for kids, but very interesting in subject matter for adults.


Notes on a Scandal

This movie stars Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. The acting is the best I have ever seen with both of these stars giving really really good performances. In terms of the story line, it's about an average woman who decides to become a school teacher and becomes sexually involved with one of her students. Another teacher, whom she has befriended finds out about this and uses it to her advantage.

Judi Dench plays a great part here as the social parasite posing as a friend. The subject matter is definitely not for kids though, but explores adult themes of friendship and boundaries in our lives.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Wild Hogs

This movie stars a set of popular actors including John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy as men who are life-long friends having simultaneous mid-life crises. They've always rode motorcycles together as a hobby and decide to go on a road trip to the Pacific coast and back.

Along the way, they run into troubles with a hoodlum motorcycle gang, become heroes of a small town, and work out some of their mid-life issues.

There are several hijinx jokes throughout the story.

This movie is pretty funny, but it would've been a lot funnier if I hadn't already seen at least half of the good jokes in previews. It is not very memorable or important and I would recommend it as a DVD more so than a night at the theater.

Content - there are some foul language scenes, fighting scenes, and some sexual situations in the movie.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ghost Rider

This is a Marvel Comics movie on the character The Ghost Rider, starring Nicolas Cage.

It has a very Catholic view of good vs. evil in the same vein as movies like The Order: The Sin Eater (with Heath Ledger).

It is also very much a comic book movie - totally implausible, silly-but-taking-itself-seriously and over the top in animation of the evil faces, etc.

Aside from the fact that he never really willingly sold his soul to the Devil and that the Devil does not seem to be as evil as his son, Mephestopheles (a bit blasphemous there!), the story is about a boy who makes a deal to try to save his father's life and ends up being the Devil's Bounty Hunter. He behaves very recklessly as a stunt motorcycle rider, trying to find out if he has any control over his own fate or if the Devil keeps him alive. Then, the Devil calls on him to get rid of his son and his son's buddies, apparently a challenge to his power - or something like that - it didn't make complete sense.

From a religious stand point, I think there is some objection to the personification of Satan and these ridiculous notions of how evil works, etc. But it is after all, a ridiculous comic book fantasy. 10-year-old boys like my nephew will like it, but is it good for them? Harmless? I don't know.

At least Nicolas Cage showed that his character was wanting to find the right path and regretted any past 'mistakes'.

The Astronaut Farmer

Last weekend we saw The Astronaut Farmer. The basic premise is an ex-astronaut-contender rancher builds a rocket in his shed and decides to launch himself into space with the help of his loyal and charming family but against the wishes of the government.

The story runs a bit slow at time but is overall a very nice tale and the movie contains nothing particularly objectionable in content aside from seeing people drink beer. Billy Bob Thornton does a very good job deadpanning this role. And the two little girls playing his very young daughters are cute as buttons.

A few thoughts that ran through my mind while watching this movie, aside from the implausibility of this fantasy (but that's okay), were thoughts about how his family worked together. Here was a man who was quite possibly insane and on the verge of destroying his family over an obsession to go into space. Yet his family loved him very much and supported him in his obsession/dream because they believed in him when no one else did.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Music and Lyrics

This movie stars Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore.

It is a non-memorable but cute romantic comedy. Hugh Grant is a has-been 80's band pop-star (think Wham!) doing gigs like state fairs. Drew Barrymore is a lady hired to water his plants. Hugh Grant gets an offer to write a duet with a Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears type, and while he is working on it Drew shows up and shows an aptitude for creating lyrics. So, the two end up writing the song together and falling in love, so on and so forth.

I did laugh at the 80's pop song video done VH1 pop-up video style. My 4th grade nephew, who had had his heart set on watching Ghost Rider (which was sold out), apparently liked this movie well enough anyway because in the car ride on the way home he was overheard singing and humming the two main songs from the movie.

The major moral downfalls of the movie are the Hollywood typical fall in love in one night and have sex right away stuff. But at least they spared showing all the details. And the Christina Aguilera type girl walks around half-naked. And then there is the whole Islamic take on music itself which there are lots of different opinions on. But compared to some of the fare I've seen recently, this movie comes off as mostly harmless albeit not very memorable.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


This story is about an innocent orphan who ends up married to a very large, mean woman whose brothers are crime thugs. They use him to try to take over the orphanage where he and his childhood sweetheart grew up, preventing her from taking it over and turning it into a strip joint/bar.

This is supposed to be a comedy, but mainly it is just disgusting. There is excessive bad language in this movie. Every gag is about sex or racism or a fat joke. It is isn't funny most of the time, just gross and sad, and it is too raunchy and mean to be rated PG-13.

Yes, Eddie Murphy is talented, but this movie is nasty.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Because I Said So

This movie starring Mandy Moore and Diane Keaton is about a single mother's attempt to set up her daughter with a intended-future-spouse without her knowing, to keep the daughter from becoming like the mother - alone in old age.

This is definitely a comedy, but it seemed to me it should've been rated R for highly suggestive sexual content. My nephew and nieces were at the movie with me and mom when we saw this and we were totally embarrassed that they were there, although we still laughed hysterically at times. There are references to private parts by name, simulated sex (with clothes on), and frank discussion about sexual topics like orgasms.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Freedom Writers

This movie is based on a true story. It is about students under forced integration living in desperate circumstances in a time and place of poverty and gang violence. Racism strongly divides the students and education is the least of their concerns. Teachers have given up on them and strive mainly to warehouse them.

A naive optimistic teacher finds ways to inspire the students and give them hope along with genuine opportunity for education through journaling and reading that they relate to, and building classroom community. She gives her whole life to the class at the expense of her marriage and two part time jobs to support her supply needs for her day job.

Union teachers are given a bad rap here as anti-reform and out of touch - not an accurate depiction as a generalization.

There is a strong anti-racism message. The movie has a good overall message but is a bit sappy and yes, I do think unrealistic in terms of mass application.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Departed

I've always loved Scorses flicks and why he still hasn't won an Oscar is beyond me, I wouldn't put it passed petty politics though.

The movie plays out in typical Scorsese style, but this time it's Boston, not his native New York where he bases most of this work. The movie is SO Gangster... and it has all the usual elements, love, betrayal, confrontation, deception all beautifully put together like an orchestral masterpiece and so reminiscent of a Shakesperean tragedy.

The acting is superb, all the players: Leonardo Di Caprio, Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon, work extremely well together as well as on their own. The direction is a brilliant mix of old and new, making it typically Scorsese but very refreshing, very different.

The movie isn't anything you would expect. The learnings however are interesting because the story line mostly revolves around deception and infiltration of the good guys by the bad guys and vice versa. Inevitably the entanglement and complex nature of all the characters makes you sometimes root for the bad guy and sometimes question the good guys... All in all it leaves you questioning around the nature of loyalty and how far a person would go to keep their loyalty to someone else.

It's something definitlely adult, not in the sense of nudity, but in the nature of the story, the violence, the language and the subject matter at hand. You have to note that all these elements, however, are only there to reflect the reality of the context the movie is set in.

Utter Brilliance.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Best and Worst of 2006

This site has a list of most of the movies released (not counting foreign films, some of the smaller Indys, etc.): MovieWeb

There were several movies I liked in 2006, several that were okay or mediocre and one that I hated. There are sure to be both better and worse movies in '06 that I just didn't see.

My #1 favorite movie of 2006 is

1. The Prestige

Runners up are, in order:

2. Invincible
3. Casino Royale
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
5. Akeelah and the Bee

And the worst movie I saw this year:
1. Little Miss Sunshine

I'll refrain from talking about each for now, aside from saying critics loved Little Miss Sunshine but I thought it was awful. I don't see a lot of movies that I pretty much have a miserable time watching because I usually can pick them out first and avoid them, but I went to see this one without having heard much about it except that critics liked it but yuck!

And The Prestige, it isn't perfect, but it was something different, dark, and thrilling, with a nod in it to my home town and my favorite insane scientist Nikola Tesla. Invincible is a Disney movie but tells a great true story, Pirates of the Carribean is exciting and fun, and Akeelah and the Bee is light but delightful.

Chime in - what are your favorites and least favorites?