Capote (2005)

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In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.

I must confess at the start of this review that I went into this viewing expecting the best. I think that Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the best actors working right now, and find his performances enjoyable even in less than stellar movies. I also, generally, enjoy Catherine Keener, and I had heard that this movie was a knockout.
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United 93 (2006)

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United 93

United 93

A real time account of the events on United Flight 93, one of the planes hijacked on 9/11 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania when passengers foiled the terrorist plot.

If you have not yet seen this movie – go.

If you have already seen this movie – go again.

United 93 posterIf you are afraid to see this movie, don’t be. It is very respectfully done, very moving, and very palatable. This is not an action movie interpretation, it isn’t presenting any specific viewpoint, yet you do get a sense of all the things that went wrong and just how complacent we were. Just how complacent we are becoming again, BTW.

This isn’t a good movie for children, not because of the subject matter but because of the pacing. There isn’t a lot of overt violence to scare them and bad language is minimal. The movie, however, is presented more or less in real time and so young viewers, with no idea of what is unfolding, will be squirmy. For teens, it is a good movie to see, though their level of interest will be directly proportional, I imagine, to their knowledge of the events of 9/11.

For those of us who remember that day, the violence will be mostly in your memories – not on the screen. He does show us the towers burning, and we hear about the Pentagon being hit, but the focus is really on what is happening on flight 93 and with the military, ATC and FAA workers trying to deal with the unfolding tragedy. I found myself tearing up at times that I wouldn’t have expected – and not tearing up during the scenes you would expect to elicit the most emotion.

Really, truly – no matter where you stand politically, you should see this film.

When I say to GO see this, that is exactly what I mean – in a theater with a crowd of people. The experience is compelling. I have never been in a theater that was so quiet through an entire movie – not even candy wrappers crinkling. When the film ended and the lights came up, you could see in the faces of the other patrons the fear and the sorrow and the pride and the questions…

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 91%; Users 89%

Spencer’s Food & Wine

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5626 W Bell Rd, Glendale, AZ

I went to this club expecting it to be something else, La Grocerie to be exact. And I thought it was… until I got home and looked at my receipt for their address. New owners or just a new name? I’m not sure, but it was a similar experience to my last visit.

I get the impression that they thought I was a food critic of some sort (I guess, since I am writing a review, I am) – I was dining alone, I asked some very specific questions about their menu, I solicited my servers opinion on two of the dishes, I let her know I planned on having dessert, and asked her to leave the wine list so I could pick the perfect wine to go with something chocolate. Then I took pictures of my food and was writing notes on my MDA. All in all, pretty suspicious looking. Sorry the pics are dark and blurry, but the restaurant is dark – go figure.

I started with the Crunchy Apple and Gorgonzola Quesadilla with prosciutto and candied walnuts.

Really interesting mix of flavors, great presentation. This may have been a bit better for me with just a slight tweak, however. Most of the flavors were so mild that the gorgonzola was a bit much. I think this might have been even better with a more subtle cheese, something with just slightly less bite/tanginess.

On to dessert. I had tried the Flourless Chocolate Cake on my previous visit and was seriously disappointed, so I skipped it this time. Had I realized it was a different restaurant (and so possibly a different cake) I may have tried that again. Instead, I went with the Chocolate Covered Strawberries – how could you possibly go wrong?

This was a good-sized serving, six large berries for $5.00. The berries were perfectly ripe and juicy. The chocolate, however, was too thick (did I just say that?) There is a balance to be achieved and the chocolate should not be that heavy. They were served covered in whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup – yummy but messy. My one suggestion there would be to keep the chocolate syrup off of the stems – easy to do and much less messy for your customers who are trying to navigate their way through eating giant hunks of solid strawberry flavored chocolate 🙂

The servers were friendly and attentive, not to mention adorable, and the atmosphere was pleasant. On the Friday and Saturday nights they have live music. Their line-up rotates through NuGruv (not familiar with them), Subterranean Jazz (a bit too contemporary for me), Royce Murray (B-3 blues), and the John Shea Trio (no idea).

King Kong

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King Kong

Caught an early showing of King Kong Friday night, and I went in with seriously low expectations. I am sick of Hollywood’s insistence on remaking movies rather than showing a smidgen of creativity and perhaps giving us something original.

Peter Jackson has given us a most excellent film. This is the movie they will use as justification for all the crappy remakes, past and future. This movie will make other directors think they, too, have what it takes to furbish a classic.

Beautiful. Stimulating. Heartbreaking….Outstanding. And what an amazing job they did with Kong – I can’t imagine there was anything else this year that will come close for the effects Oscar®. They really need to come up with an award for Andy Serkis whose work here as the giant ape, and as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, is integral to the success of our experience – and outside the scope of traditional Academy categories.

I have only a few small complaints:

  • Too long. I am not the first to say this, but I definitely agree. It didn’t really need to be 3 hours long; a full hour is gone before we even get a hint of Kong, a lot of time is spent on developing characters we don’t really need to know, and some of the loving homage to New York in the 30’s, though impressive, is not needed (can’t believe I am advocating taking that out).
  • Too scary for the little ones. There were several families in attendance with small children. People, this flick is rated PG-13 for a reason, in this case because of the violence and scary monsters. Think of the bits you know will be in the film, the giant ape, the dinosaurs, the screaming damsel – then realize they are being presented on the big screen with surround sound in a dark theater – NOT good for kidlings. Throw in the tribe of cannibals, the giant bugs…. You get the picture and should leave the little ones with a sitter. But, why should this movie be any different? To clarify, my complaint isn’t with the level of scary in the film, but with the parents who insist on bringing their children.
  • Jack Black. This surprised me, because I am a Jack Black fan. He just didn’t fit this part, and he was a bit distracting to me.
  • The effects. Most of the effects were so breathtaking you forget that what you are watching is computer generated. Because of the success of most of the CGI, when it stumbles even slightly (e.g. during the Brontosaurus chase), it becomes a glaring disappointment. Though far beyond what you’ve seen elsewhere, that sequence just seems sloppy here.

Small complaints, to be sure, and they don’t diminish my Word of Mouth rating at all.

BTW: I didn’t cry at the end, though I was fully expecting to – perhaps because of that expectation I was sufficiently braced for the trauma…

School Ties (1992)

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School Ties

School Ties

A Jewish boy goes to an elite prep school in the 1950’s and hides his religion until a jealous bigot forces it out in the open.

A while back I went through Blockbuster online and added a bunch of Brendan Fraser movies to my queue, every now and then one shows up. Some are throw aways (i.e. Airheads) some are surprisingly good. Like School Ties.

I didn’t watch it right away, once I saw that Ben Affleck was in it I was prepared for major suckage. I would have to say that this may well be Affleck’s best movie, in much the same way that The Outsiders was Tom Cruise’s best movie.

I was expecting just your standard prep school conflict type movie but, while there were certainly a lot of cliches, I was quite pleasantly surprised. Prejudice, traditions, friendship, conscience – and Brendan Fraser (oh, and Matt Damon, Chris O’Donnell….) My circle will love it.

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 68%; Audience 67%

Bewitched (2005)

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Thinking he can overshadow an unknown actress in the part, an egocentric actor unknowingly gets a witch cast in an upcoming television remake of the classic show “Bewitched”.

I just got done watching this crap, which I wanted to see since my friend worked on it and Lori & I visited the set.

Man did it suck!

I don’t think the casting was bad, though Steve Carrell was quite disappointing as Uncle Arthur (and I like Steve Carrell). Nicole Kidman is physically a great choice to play Samantha, Will Ferrell was fine, Michael Caine was charming – even Shirley MacClaine was tolerable.

Unfortunately the script was pathetic. Soooo, so bad. I had a feeling it might stink when I heard it was a Nora Ephron endeavor (in fact, I heard that when we were on set and let out an audible “Ech!” – oops) I figured she didn’t have the chops to pull it off and I was right. It was such a great show, with so many fun episodes to choose from – why they decided to try this tactic is beyond me. Movie in a movie is very tricky and rarely successful.

And the soundtrack – who picked these tunes? I mean, they were fine tunes and the CD may be great, but most were completely out of place and distracting in this movie.

Production budget – $80,000,000
Total US Gross – $62,252,415


UPDATE: Seems that Reilly agrees, though she is perhaps not quite as vehement as I was.

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 25%; Audience 34%

The Wedding Date (2005)

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The Wedding Date

The Wedding Date

Single-girl anxiety causes Kat Ellis (Messing) to hire a male escort (Mulroney) to pose as her boyfriend at her sister’s wedding. Her plan, an attempt to dupe her ex-fiancé, who dumped her a couple years prior, proves to be her undoing.

I am having a hermit sort of a weekend, which means chick flicks. On the suggestion of the clerks at Blockbuster, I picked up The Wedding Date.

Not bad, definitely good cinematherapy, I think my girlfriends would like it so it is higher on the Word of Mouth scale.

Some truly great lines from Dermot Mulroney’s character:

  • “The hardest thing is loving someone and then having the courage to let them love you back.”
  • “I think I’d miss you even if we’d never met”
  • “Here’s to the husbands who’ve won you, the losers who’ve lost you, and the lucky bastards who’ve yet to meet you”

Yeah, the flick was definitely written by a woman.

To be fair: Rotten Tomatoes liked this one even less than Bewitched, though there were some (slightly) positive reviews

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 10%; Audience 68%

“A bit like cheap champagne: It’s better if you revel in its bubbly fizz and don’t think about the finish.”

~ Sue Pierman


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