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Clever's Movie Reviews: T-Z

The Hits!

Temple Grandin ****
Thank You for Smoking ***
Thelma and Louise ****
Theory of Everything ****
Thirteen Conversations about One Thing ***
Thomas Crown Affair ***
Titanic ***
Tortilla Soup ***
The Tourist ***
Tower Heist ***
Traffic ****
Truman Show ***
Unfaithful ***
Unfinished Life ***
Up at the Villa ***
Urbania ***
Valkryie ***
You Can Count on Me ****
Young at Heart ***
Walk the Line ***
The White Ribbon ***
Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill ****
Winged Migration ****
Winter's Bone ***
Woman in Gold ****
Wonder Boys ***
Word Play ***
The Young Victoria ***

Zero Dark Thirty ****
 

The Duds!

Tea With Mussolini **
This is 40 **
Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy *
To Rome with Love **
Tomb Raider
**
Topsy Turvy **
True Crimes
*
Two Days in Paris **
Two Family House **
Unbreakable
*
You've Got Mail
**
Waking Ned Devine
**
Wedding Crashers *
What Dreams may Come **
What Women Want **
Woman on Top
**
The Words **
World's End *
Zoolander
**

Zodiac *


Temple Grandin ****
reviewed by The Phantom
It’s a TV biopic, an entity that I rarely review, but I’ve made an exception this time to get the word out, in case you haven’t seen this made-for-TV-movie yet (even though it has been nominated for a slew of Emmy’s this year – 2010). Temple is autistic, a condition we hear lots about, but seldom do we watch movies about people who are coping with it, and leading the amazing life that Temple has led. She has become one of the leading authorities on the humane treatment of cattle. This is her movie and every frame is worth watching.

Thank You for Smoking ***
reviewed by the Phantom
A satire about the perils of smoking. It's a loosely constructed story about a cigarette salesman who doesn't want his son to smoke, so it's kind of a morality play in addition to being darkly and dryly amusing. It's funny but is so forgettable that after just a week, I've absolutely forgotten the entire movie. So this is probably one of those films that you can see over and over again and still find something to laugh about.

Thelma and Louise****
reviewed by the Phantom
Two redneck women, tired of their mundane lives, meet up with a low-life cowboy, who pushes them into blowing his ass away, whereupon realizing they have no believable defense, they hit the road with no destination in mind, and while the authorities scour the countryside trying to arrest them, they decide to see if their convertible can jump the Grand Canyon.

Theory of Everything ****
Reviewed by the Phantom
It's the long awaited Stephen Hawking biography. At first I wasn't sure I wanted to see this movie. I thought it might be a little dull. Not so. It's a wonderful story, well told, about our most famous living science genius, a person that very few of us understand. His expertise is time, in the Einsteinian sense, he is trying to answer all those questions about how the universe began, and where we are headed.

Sometimes I wonder if it's necessary to learn about the personal lives of famous people. Shouldn't their work stand alone? Does knowing their personal story help us understand their work -- well, maybe a little. Shouldn't they have some privacy? Apparently not. The actor who plays Stephen as a young adult is brilliant. He should absolutely receive an Oscar nomination. The story is well developed so we learn about his illness and how he copes with it, and his personal relationships, as well as his work. He had a life expectancy of two years when he was diagnosed with Lou Gerig's disease as a young man, but now Stephen is in his 70s, and still has plans and aspirations. Gotta love that. This is a must-see movie. You won't be disappointed.

Thirteen Conversations About One Thing ***
reviewed by Karen Dale
An investigation of the state of happiness: where it is, how to get there, and what to do when you get thrown out. Some of the characters get it, some don’t, and some “really” don’t. This is a film intent on exploring people’s processes, their search for fulfillment, and their reactions to the crap life throws their way just when they think they’re on the right track. The characters are interconnected in that nouveau, time-warp, back-up-a-second style that gained popularity with “Pulp Fiction”. It’s a good movie that can be analyzed as deeply or shallowly as you’re willing to go. As it’s summer and I’ve got things to do in the sun, this is it for me today. Check it out.
June 2002

Thomas Crown Affair (1999) *** 
reviewed by the Phantom
I don't remember the old Steve McQueen version so I can't compare these two movies, like all the other reviews, but Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo are clearly having a good time with this sexy piece-of-fluff remake. The plot is easy enough to follow: Pierce, a zillionaire art-collector steals a painting, and Rene, an insurance investigator, must recover it. The plot twists are interesting, even if they are sort of unbelievable. I couldn't help but thinking, "Yeah, right!" the whole time, but nevertheless, I was entertained.

Titanic***
reviewed by the Phantom
It sinks, again.

Tortilla Soup ***
reviewed by the Phantom
I really loved this movie. We are invited to feast our eyes upon the most wonderful looking Mexican food while three Mexican-American daughters come of age in this delightful comedy set in LA. Their father is a chef, who has lost his sense of taste, but not his ability to prepare wonderful Sunday dinners, which he expects his daughters to attend. They do, reluctantly, and while they are at the table just beginning to eat the sumptuous food, they make announcements, which usually spoil everybody's appetite, I guess, because they never eat anything. The daughters all have problems in the romance department, but lo and behold, so does the father, who is a widower. Each problem is unique, but not uncommon, and the solutions run from amusing to delightful as everybody's life changes for the better. It's a charming feel-good movie, just what the doctor ordered. Warning: eat first or plan on a meal at an up-scale Mexican restaurant afterwards.

The Tourist ***
reviewed by the Phantom
I think this one bombed at the box office, but I really don't understand why. (Rotten Tomatoes only gave it one star.) I loved it. It's the innocent by-stander story, a guy (Johnny Depp) is caught up in a beautiful woman's life. He meets her on the train to Venice. How romantic (taken out of a Hitchcock handbook of great plot openers). Right off the bat we know that he is being played, but who cares, he falls for her story, and so do we. Venice is gorgeous as always and so is Angelina Jolie, in her overly dramatic way. The plot is just on the edge of being over the top but I think it works as our hero gets into more and more trouble. Well worth your while to watch this movie if you haven't seen it yet.

Tower Heist ***
reviewed by the Phantom
I liked this movie, sort of a comedy-thriller, starring Eddie Murphy (yeah!). Good story set up for the "heist". Loved the Bernie Madoff references. So timely. Of course, because it's an Eddie Murphy bit, the film eventually goes over the cliff, but we expect that, so it's okay. If you'd like to have some fun watching a movie that really doesn't insult your intelligence, see this one.

Traffic ****
reviewed by Karen Dale
Traffic is a less gratuitously violent but far more assaulting testament to the dangers of living on the edge. It shows us how the illegal drug trade affects lives at all levels, not just on street corners in the slums. This movie looks at the choices made by people within three different scenarios, and teaches us that the dishonest schemers get theirs in the end. It also describes clearly how insidious a problem it is, and how lies and violence beget more of the same until it’s all flailing out of control with no hope for a cure. We all know this is Oscar-caliber stuff, with great performances and a deft interlacing of plotlines and characters. Moral of the story: money buys more problems than happiness.

Up at the Villa ***
reviewed by the Phantom
This film is a real hidden gem. (There was only one copy of it at my blockbusters and it was on the bottom shelf, but I was thrilled to find it.) Sean Penn and Kristen Scott Thomas star in this beautiful-looking movie, which is set in World War II Florence. The story starts out slowly as we get to know the characters.  It's a Summerset Maughm novella, so it begins as a character-driven novel of manners but then it becomes a suspenseful mystery. Both actors are superb and quiet believable as two not-so-innocent bystanders n this intriguing morality play.

Unfaithful ***
reviewed by Karen Dale
The acting is good and the little kid (“Dewey” to “Malcolm in the Middle” fans) is the only young actor I’ve seen in years whose performance I really enjoyed. His character is real and he brings talent to the film, even though the writers don’t really know what to do with him. The mom and dad are so caught up in their own lives that their son is generally an afterthought or just an extra appendage waving in the breeze. 

The adult characters are embroiled in the secrecy of an extramarital affair which begins and ends inexplicably. The film comes off as a study of the array of emotions present in the course of an affair. We see inside all of the characters’ feelings and interpretations of the situation, and the powerful acting allows us to experience it with them. It is well done, on an emotional level, but the subject is one we’ve seen many, many times. 

Unfinished Life***
reviewed by the Phantom
Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Lopez make a modern-day cowboy movie together and it works. It's really a relationship movie and a morality play rolled up together so women will probably like it better than men, but the scenery's lovely and the story rings true.

Urbania ***
reviewed by Karen Dale
A dark and swirling hallucination of a film, Urbania uses a complex storytelling method to relate a compelling tale. It initially assaults the senses, but once the action begins to flow and the main character’s quest evolves, the truth then reveals itself slowly and violently. The heart-wrenching quality of the drama is enough to send the viewer to bed early for an anxious and fitful sleep. Rush right out and see it!

Valkyrie ***
reviewed by the Phantom
Tom Cruise and Kenneth Branagh star in this WWII historical drama about one of the plots to kill Hitler. We know how it ends before it begins so it's not terribly suspenseful. It's probably important to remember that not all German soldiers were Nazis, and all were not so extremely loyal to the madman Hitler as we remember them. Cruise does a credible job as the brave staff officer who has had it with Hitler and the war, and so does Branagh (as usual). The movie brings the WWII era back to life yet again in a capable manner. We are spared having to watch the typically awful war scenes, except for the opening scenes in Northern Africa. The transition from the German language is a bit awkward, since most speakers, except Cruise, have British accents, but if you don't think too much about such details, the story plays out in its predictable manner. Another history lesson.

You Can Count on Me   ****  
reviewed by Karen Dale

This movie, though not trying nearly as hard, was much funnier than Saving Silverman. Not that it wants to be a comedy. It’s one of those great amalgamations of different styles that comes off feeling so real and warm that you feel like you’ve just shared something important. You Can Count on Me is story of a single mom without all the answers who balances her confused love-life with mothering her young son and emotionally-young brother. The movie is a snippet of their lives and their attempts at figuring stuff out. What’s great is that they don’t get it all figured out by the end of the film. But at the same time, the audience isn’t left hanging, thinking “That’s it?”.  I’m in agreement with the Academy’s nomination of Laura Linney for Best Actress, but I would also have nominated Mark Ruffalo for Best Actor. I’m also willing to admit that Rory Culkin wasn’t half-bad or even partially annoying in his role. Highly recommended.

Young@Heart ***
reviewed by the Phantom
This is a documentary about a chorus made up of REALLY old people, maybe about 20 of them, we're talking 70s, 80s and even 90 year olds. They sing rock music, not old church music, and not old standards from the 1930s either, which is what you might think they'd be singing. Actually, when you first see them, you'd be surprised if they could sing anything at all. You might wonder if they could even stand up unaided. They have a dedicated director, who is convinced that they can learn just about anything, even songs with difficult rhythms, like push beats (which are very difficult to learn). (That's the beat between the down beat and the back beat.) They don't read music, they just memorize the lyrics (they really love the lyrics, which is important if you want to sell the song), and then they memorize the "tune", if that's what you call some of the stuff that's coming along these day. They don't just sing for the fun of it, they actually go on tour. This is a seriously entertaining movie, a real heart warmer, plus the music is good. Loved it.

Walk the Line ***
reviewed by the Phantom
Johnny's Cash's story seems to parallel Ray Charles in most ways. There's the drinking and the pills and the womanizing. Of course most of that stops when he finally marries his one true love, Reese Witherspoon -- err June Carter. It's sort of old fashioned like many of the bio films we're seeing these days but the music is good and Reese's performance is first rate.

The White Ribbon ***
Reviewed by Josh Goller

The town doctor breaks his shoulder when his horse trips over a wire strung across the path. A laborer falls through a rotten barn floor and is killed by machinery. Someone tortures the young son of the Baron, employer of half the village. In German import The White Ribbon, these tragic events appear unrelated at first, but a sense of dread looms over the town as suspicion of a common thread swells.

The story never settles on any one villager, but alternates amongst them, focusing primarily on the teacher and the families of the Baron, doctor, pastor, and widower of the dead laborer. They live in the sort of place where children are beaten with switches when they misbehave or are tied to beds to prevent them from tending to adolescent urges, where formality is so emphasized that a woman will call her own fiancé “sir” out of habit, where the entire village packs into a single church on Sundays. And something dark is buried underneath.

With strong performances, and true artistry from behind the camera, The White Ribbon is a mystery you’ll want to unravel.

Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill ****
reviewed by the Phantom
This movie is a feature-length documentary about the 200+ wild parrots that live free and thrive on San Francisco's telegraph hill. For many years one of San Francisco's odder Bohemians was the unofficial caretaker of the birds, feeding them daily and caring for them when they got sick. The film was shot during his last year of duty. He assured everybody that the birds are wild and would make it on their own once he moved away, and it appears he was correct. They survived a very cold snap during the winter of 2007, Channel 7 filmed them just last week (Mar of '07) and they are indeed fine. They live in two cedar trees on the hill. The trees are in jeopardy now that the hillside is sliding down, but the City has guaranteed to watch over the trees so that the parrots will continue to do well. Whew!

Winters Bone ***
reviewed by The Phantom
This is a hard scrabble desperation movie. A young, maybe 17 year old, Ozark mountain girl faces off with lots of ornery mountain men and women while trying to find her father. Apparently he’s a crumb, drunken bum, meth cooker, and all around bad guy, who put the family house up as bail and then didn’t appear for his court date. Daughter has to find him or the family, two small kids and a mentally ill mother, will all get put out, with nowhere to go and nobody else to turn to. It’s an eye opener, seemed so real to me. I could just imagine that there are people in Arkansas who really live like this.

Woman in Gold ****
reviewed by The Phantom
True story about a WWII survivor, an Austrian lady now living in the US, played brilliantly by Helen Miren. Her wealthy Jewish family didn't survive the camps. She made it out of Austria just in time and emigrated to the US. The nazis had confiscated a painting from her family, a very valuable Klimt painting, The Woman in Gold. It was hanging in an Austrian museum, and loved by the Austrian people, who apparently didn't know who actually owned it. This is the story of how she got her painting back. Great story, well told, very interesting. Helen Miren at her best.

Wonder Boys ***
reviewed by The Phantom
It's Michael Douglas doing dope in this day-in the-life-of-an-English professor meander. Highly watchable.

Word Play ***
reviewed by the Phantom
Another movie especially for NPR nutsos like me, who also like to do crossword puzzles every morning (which I freely admit to -- very addictive, I must say). It's a documentary about Will Shortz, the editor of the NYT crossword puzzle, AND the weekend game player on NPR. We all know him and think as much of him as we do about Garrison Keillor -- and Click and Clack for that matter. But I digress -- the movie is about crossword puzzles, how they are constructed, who plays them (Bill Clinton and John Stewart, for example), and thousands of other sort of nerdy, pointy-headed people all across America. There is even a crossword puzzle tournament featured that has been held annually since sometime in the 1970s. All the crossword puzzle secrets are revealed. Cheers for NPR for hiring such interesting people and another cheer for the movie makers who are thinking about entertainment for the rest of us occasionally. My grateful blessings on your collective heads.

The Young Victoria ***
Reviewed by Josh Goller

Queen Victoria ruled Britain for over six decades, a reign so enduring her name has become synonymous with the 19th century. But her ascension to power was a rocky one, as she took the throne at the tender age of 18 amidst staunch opposition and skepticism about her competency. Victoria’s steadfast will saw her through these times, and allowed her to marry a man of her choosing, something not altogether common in the regal set.

Director Jean-Marc Vallee chose to feature this turbulent time in the Queen’s life in the biopic The Young Victoria. Emily Blunt takes on the title role with a blend of grace and panache. And with ornate Victorian costumes and picturesque backdrops of actual British palaces and gardens, the cinematography shines. But the film lacks sufficient tension, partly due to a historical picture’s inherent incapability of unexpected twists, but also because each conflict is glossed over too quickly and without sufficient resolution.

What it lacks in effective narrative, it makes up for with brilliant imagery. While The Young Victoria could stand to learn a thing or two, its vitality charms.

Zero Dark Thirty ***
reviewed by the Phantom
Somebody once said that if you want to know about the CIA, read the novels, or in this case, go to the movies. I thought this movie about the killing of OBL was totally credible. It takes a while to get moving, it took ten years of work done trying to figure out where the guy was, and it was a woman who doggedly tracked him through piles of clues and other evidence. There's a big flap about torture in this movie that I think is totally over-blown. It does nothing to sway folks one way or the other about the use of torture, but the politicians are trying to make a little hay. Sorry, guys, there are no horses or cows, and definitely no hay.



The Duds!

Tea With Mussolini ** 
reviewed by the Phantom
Florence, Italy, is really the star of this World War II Franco Zeffirelli film, in which a handful of English ex-patriot ladies steadfastly stick their collective heads in their teapot, believing that nothing unpleasant can interfere with their lives, despite the fact that fascism, Naziism, the deportation and murder of Jews, and all of the rest of the horrors of war are heading their way.  It sort of reminded me of Life is Beautiful in that it trivialized the war, all the while showering us with beautiful images and weak acting performances. It's a pleasant story, sort of old-fashioned and charming, with a little social history blended into it. Worth watching, especially if you'd like to idle awhile in Firenze.

This is 40 **
reviewed by the Phantom
A romantic comedy about middle marriage. Not too funny and some of the set pieces could happen to anybody at any age. It tries too hard, but isn't horrible.

Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy *
reviewed by the Phantom
Maybe I'm the only one who thought this movie was dreadful, but to me it was almost unwatchable, a terrible waste of time. It was impossible to follow the storyline, there was very little story and all characters moved in slow motion. Even the camera was bored and kept drifting around the set looking for something to film, because the actors sure weren't moving. We spent what seems like hours watching actors looking out of windows, staring at nothing. The camera followed an elevator that moved documents from floor to floor several times, even though that elevator had nothing whatever to do with the story. The sets were lovely though, M16 (British Intelligence) must be the dustiest, dreariest, and most untidy spy shop in the world. And of course, like most spy stories, the story is about a mole. Spies spend most of their time trying to figure out which spy is disloyal. Governments are spending our precious tax dollars on spies who are dithering around trying to find the disloyal spy among the spies. What rot!

To Rome with Love **
reviewed by the Phantom
Patooy! Woody couldn't follow up on his brilliant Paris movie of last year (2011), but of course we hoped against hope that he would at least entertain us. Sigh. Not to be. This one takes place in Roma and is a tangle of farcical love stories of the slapstick variety. And then there's the Woody Allen segment. (Didn't he promise us that he was going to stop acting in his own films?) His piece was so over the top and stupid, it wasn't even worth a groan. It was a crowded opening day at my local cinema with mostly little old ladies on hand, who probably slept through most of it, or talked to each other about something else. It was that kind of movie. Skip this one too.

Tomb Raider **
reviewed by Karen Dale
An obvious and unabashed homage to the persona of Lara Croft and the miracles she performs with her excellently conditioned pectoral muscles. The movie stays true to it’s video-game progenitor, in that it has no need for a complex plot or closely-rendered characters. The plot goes something like this: So, there’s this chick, and she kicks alotta ass…and there’re all these guys that wanna kill her, but she  totally destroys ‘em all! Suitable for horny boys of all ages. (July 2001)  

Topsy Turvy **
reviewed by Karen Dale
I did not understand the comparison made between the title concept and the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. This movie focused on the working styles of the renowned Light Opera producers as it follows them through the production of one of their best-known works "The Mikado". The film is filled with scenes from the show, all fabulously sung and performed. This is a long movie which moves at a slow pace, giving it the feeling of running approximately twice its actual time. It began with the suggestion of a plot and some possible drama or intrigue, but failed to stick with that goal and rather merely told the story of these two men. In the process, we did get to know the characters quite well and were encouraged to feel compassion for their aims and desires. There were one or two brilliantly profound and moving scenes. Overall, I would recommend it to Gilbert and Sullivan fans, but I’m not sure that anyone else would really care.

True Crimes *
reviewed by the Phantom 
In this Clint Eastwood drama, this time taking another page from the Dead Man Walking file, we find Clint portraying a lady's man, married, "seeing" his boss' wife, and wooing a 24-year-old, all at the same time (dream on, Clint). In an opening scene, the 24-year old, in rebuffing a kiss from Clint, says: "No, we can't do this, you're...married."  I was shouting to her: No, you're...tooooo old." The film has very little story to tell (after all, we've seen this plot many times before), so the writers (Clint?) padded the script with way too many silly, unbelievable scenes where Clint tries to convince us that he can drink, play sex games, baby-sit his little daughter, and save an innocent man from a lethal injection all in a matter of minutes. Skip this one.

Truman Show **
reviewed by the Phantom
After realizing that his life is a completely manufactured television docu-comedy drama, watched worldwide twenty-four hours a day, Truman scours the earth for the exit to his artificial existence and the entrance to an authentic life with his forbidden high school sweetheart who never stopped believing that he could escape, which he finally does, to the dismay of TV watchers everywhere.

Two Days in Paris **
I wanted to love this movie because it's a Julie Delphy film. You remember her from Before Sunset, right? That wonderful one-day Paris romance between her and Ethan Hawke? This time it's Julie with another boyfriend, Adam Goldberg. She must be desperate to put up with such a loser as him. I think this film is autobiographical, although it's not billed that way. Julie also wrote and directed it, which is usually a recipe for failure. This one was, her Parisian family and friends are way too over the top, and her antics with her boy friends made my skin crawl. Adam was a total jerk from beginning to end so who could blame her for coming unglued. Others in the audience seemed to enjoy the movie so perhaps it's just me. For some reason I do not understand the French sense of humor. (Don't forget, they love Jerry Lewis. I rest my case). She must talk Ethan into making one more film with her. We're waiting.

Two Family House ** 
reviewed by Karen Dale
This movie really tries to do it all. It’s marketed as a comedy--a period piece full of 1950s-style New York immigrant eccentricities. On closer review, one finds that the film spotlights some pretty controversial issues and attempts to address them with due seriousness. Then, there’s the whole Death of a Salesman, aging male dealing with his life crises and decisions motif. In it’s attempt to follow one great style or another, it sacrifices its potential to filmmakers’ schizophrenia. The movie could have been great if it had a more solid sense of identity. In the wake of it’s indecisiveness, the characterizations come out flat, the major issues fail to receive the respect they merit, and the comedy continually misses a beat. I think the actors probably have some real potential, but they were not allowed to shine in this hodgepodge production. Rent it if you identify with mid-century New York culture.

Unbreakable *
reviewed by Karen Dale
 I went into this movie with a completely open mind. I even enjoyed it for about the first hour, even in spite of its drudging pace and questionable direction. Unfortunately, those small issues turned into big irritations during the second hour. I don’t think it lost its track, I think it was on a defective track to begin with. The movie finally climaxed at its "shocking" ending, which turned out to be ridiculous and downright stupid. My friend and I actually got in an argument trying to figure out what the last little "stunner" was supposed to signify. Undoubtedly the writer/director/producer (Warning! Warning! Important information to have before buying the ticket! When one person does it all, it's usually because nobody else wanted to touch the project.)
gleaned great, deep, spiritual meaning from his contrivances (I was sure someone was going to die for our sins…). However, they were either too deep or too flawed to make the impact for which he was obviously going. To make matters even worse, there’s a very annoying kid in it…’nuff said.

You've Got Mail **
reviewed by the Phantom
 
Tom Hanks is supposed to be a big bad book tycoon, (but that's not a terribly believable character for him) and Meg Ryan is a small, (cute) independent, bookstore owner about to be swallowed up by his megastore, and they don't like each other in person, but they've both got email, and that's the setup of this very light and frothy love story, in which there are simply no calories at all, but it does no harm either to your brain or your sensibilities, so check it out the next time you can't find anything else worth renting.

Waking Ned Devine **
reviewed by the Phantom
 
This Irish ditty is not another Full Monte, by a long shot, but rather it could more easily be compared to an early rough draft of The Simple Plan, where a simple deception involving a dead man and a lot of money becomes a very complicated morality play with some disturbing plot twists, in Ned's case, seen as necessary to facilitate a happy ending for those strange but loveable wild Irish brogues, which Americans in general seem to think are quite charming.

Wedding Crashers *
Running time: 1 hr, 59 min. Feels like: I can’t wait for it to finish to sneak into the next movie (K), 
2 hrs. (P)
P—It’s all right. I don’t even remember it that much. I know it has a good ending. I was really happy when it ended.
K—There were definitely funny parts, but I know I was elbowed a few times for groaning too loudly at the numerous stupid parts. Probably the funniest movie of the summer (shame on you, movie industry).

What Dreams May Come **
reviewed by Tom Beall
This is another Robin Williams' movie that left me shaking my head as I left the theater, wondering if I really liked it or not.  But, like others, I have found that as it sinks in, I like it more and more.  Its life-after-death assumptions will not appeal to many, but the acting is outstanding (take tissues), and the special effects are awesome. 

What Women Want **
reviewed by Karen Dale
Mel Gibson appears to be trying really hard in this movie, which noxiously juxtaposes Helen Hunt’s typically effortless performance. A man gaining the ability to hear inside women’s heads is not a bad premise, it’s just figuring out what to do with the before and after that gets tricky. This one could have used a little more time on the storyboards to come together better. I’m guessing that it was probably difficult to draw the line between enough and too-much of the ‘listening in on women’s thoughts’ gag. I think they actually could have gone a little further with the joke, as these bits proved to be some of the best of the movie. It has some funny moments, but Mel consistently lags a step behind everyone else, which throws off the timing and rhythm of a story which should really focus on being funny. It tries to go into sentimental territory and comes out whiplashed and timid. The ending is contrived and unsatisfying, and really doesn’t do justice to the groundwork painstakingly laid-out during the first nine-tenths of the film. There are so many movies to see, please don’t waste your time here.

Winged Migration ****
reviewed by the Phantom
You don’t have to be a bird watcher to enjoy this superb film. It took the photographers four years to film this movie. But it’s worth every minute of their time to experience this treat. The audience gets the thrill of their lives watching and learning about the dangers and pitfalls on this annual migratory event. Talk about a quest. These birds are determined and programmed to fly daunting distances. Their very survival depends on their reaching their destination. It’s beautifully, authentically filmed, with very little voice-over. Just watching it is enough. Children will enjoy this one too. Be sure to rent Fly Away Home as a companion piece – you remember the movie a few years back about the dad and the little girl who train a flock of Canada geese to fly and migrate. Great bird watching!

Woman on Top **
reviewed by Karen Dale
I had been impatiently awaiting the release of this film because I love Penelope Cruz, who was luminous in All About my Mother and Belle Epoche. As great as she was in this movie, I was disappointed by the premise (ridiculous), plot (slow), and the presentation as a whole. It is basically a fairy tale with Brazilian spice, inexplicably set in San Francisco. I think they set it here just to get in a few good (in their opinion) transvestite bits. The unimaginative plot focused on an estranged boyfriend trying to win back his woman. The writers tried to add some creativity by throwing in a whole lot of implausible and uncompelling story devices. 

There was enough realism introduced to make the fairy tale antics seem simplistic and ridiculous. Some plot twists tossed in for their zaniness-factor fell flat, as the creators underestimated the savviness of today’s audiences. Cruz was dependably effervescent but her contrived personality quirks gave her character a ditzy quality at best. The character of Monica lent the film most of its wit and flair but, impressed as the filmmakers were with their own outrageousness, they failed to develop her into a fuller character. The film was obviously influenced more than a little by the odd but beloved Like Water for Chocolate. It will certainly not be remembered in the same light, if it is to be remembered at all. Rent it for the bright colors and tropical music.

The Words **
reviewed by the Phantom
This could have been a good movie. It's about a writer, and plagiarism, something that sometimes goes with the territory. It's well acted and believable until we get to the crux of the story. Then for some strange reason, the whole thing takes a strange twist and falls apart. The ending should have been reworked. It could have been played straight. The moral dilemma at the story's center is strong enough not to need so much embellishing. Too bad.

Zoolander **
reviewed by Karen Dale
The idea of Ben Stiller as a male model had me laughing before I even entered the theater. Not that he’s ugly or anything, he just doesn’t really have that empty-headed, je ne se quais that comes to mind when someone says GQ or Calvin Klein. The movie has some pretty funny bits, but altogether doesn’t leave much to hang your hat on. Word of the year:  “eugoogly”. Intrigued? Rent it for free when you can get it from the library. (12/01)

Zodiac *
reviewed by the Phantom
In the 1970s or maybe the '80s San Francisco was visited by a serial killer that the police were never able to catch. I think his victims may still be cold cases. There were many of them attributed to this creepy killer. So somebody decided these unsolved cases would make a good movie. I disagree. The movie is not exactly a police procedural, but rather is an investigative reporter procedural, that goes on way too long without any satisfactory ending whatsoever. But the worst part of the film is the audio. Everybody mumbles, and that's really bad because it's a very talky film. I'd just skip this mess altogether if I were you.


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