November's DVD Reviews, Part I
Quick reviews from my Netflix queue and/or the library.

Hooligans, 2005 (aka Green Street Hooligans)
Echoes of Fight Club.  It is in no way surprising plotwise, but it was still an original take on an old story.

Jarhead, 2005
This film seems to try being Full Metal Jacket for the Gulf War.  It was better than I had expected, but I don't know that anyone without a Y chromosome will care for it.

Arrested Development: Season 3: Disc 1, 2005
The writing in this show is so taut that it is difficult to imagine how it could even be improved.  If it weren't for the facts that the powers that be at Fox are idiots (Exhibit A: Bill O'Reilly) and that Battlestar Galactica is still on the air, then this would be the best show on television.  Instead, it's the best canceled show on dvd.

The Final Cut, 2004
What if all your memories were recorded in life and were only accessible upon your death?  It's an interesting premise that is under-explored because the film spends too much time trying to be moody and divides itself between two minor storylines that are overshadowed in their significance by the larger issues of this technology.

The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993
I hadn't seen this in years, but it was time for a revisit.  I'll swim against the current of current opinion and say it *should* have been a classic.  I think the music and art-direction aren't up to what they should have been, but I'm not going to go into a lengthy critique here.  The density of the film weighs it down (e.g., too many minor characters, cluttered sets, etc), so it takes several viewings to access everything.  In other words, it was too full of ideas instead of appropriately stocked with a few *good* ideas.  They threw a lot into it, none of it very good.  Everything about it is mediocre except the basic concept, so it's inevitable that you walk away feeling you should have enjoyed it more than you should have.

Doctor Who: Season 1: Disc 4, 2005
The writing on this show is starting to come into its own by this time in the revamped series.  The tongue-in-cheek style of the original series has given way to a faster-paced and wittier dialogue that is more in step with what modern audiences (i.e., I!) want to see.

Alias: Season 2: Disc 6, 2002
Goddamned end-of-the-season cliffhangers!  I'll give them credit though, they know how to keep these plot twists coming.

Breakin'2: Electric Boogaloo, 1984
If I could sum up this picture in one word, it would be CRINGE.  Unlike one of these movies about people with talent where they make you believe in the performers through the use of careful editing and the judicious use of body doubles (think Flashdance), these no-talent kids look like exactly that.  I wanted to crawl up into a ball on the floor, and it wasn't to do a backspin.

The Ringer, 2005
Real-life tard Johnny Knoxville plays a guy pretending to be a tard in order to win the Special Olympics.  If this sounds as retarded as it actually is, then you're as confused as I am as to why I even bothered with this predictable throwback to '80s comedies that can presently only be found re-run in the wee hours of the morning on the USA network.

Underworld: Evolution, 2006
I guess it would help if I really remembered the first one (The recap at the beginning of this one didn't jog my memory much), but this was exactly what you would expect, then you'll forget it five minutes later.  Rent Blade III instead.

BeoWulf & Grendel, 2005
I just took a chance on this one when I saw it at the library.  I turned out to be an interesting take on the Beowulf story.  It follows the original story very closely, but there are lots of modern touches where they have embelished the plot to give you insight into who this Grendel character is anyway and why's he so pissed.  There are interesting bits they've added to the dialogue as well.  I won't ruin it for you because you're either going to rent this or I'm going to cut your right arm off and hang it in my mead hall.

Galaxina, 1980
It tried to be a comedy, but that wasn't what I was laughing at.  This dated sci-fi junk is hilarious in ways that were never intended to be funny.

Friends with Money, 2006
I was first introduced to Catherine Keener years ago watching Walking and Talking on the Sundance channel.  Close to a decade later, Keener has re-teamed with the same director (Nicole Holofcener) to make another light comedy with enough though-provoking material to distract me from the irritating presence of Jennifer Aniston.

Girlfight, 2004
Wow.  I didn't expect this to be all that good.  Okay, this is not Million Dollar Baby.  This movie blows that one away.  The material should have been a cut and paste formula picture, but this was great.  I'd call it a knock-out, but you'd be right to hit me.

The New World, 2006
I knew what I was in for.  I mean, I had seen Terence Malick's other movies, so I knew it was going to be a meandering journey.  It is, but it's an interesting one.

Memoirs of a Geisha, 2006
I hate to admit this, but I would just as soon skip depressing historical pictures.  Sure, these stories need to be told, but I don't like being depressed that William Wallace was disemboweled or that Anne Frank spent her truncated childhood in an attic before dying of typhus in a concentration camp.  The tragic story of the life of a geisha is minor by comparison, but... still.  Even told well and couched in beautiful aesthetics (as is the case here), it still leaves me depressed.*
*I make an exception for Brokeback Mountain because that was just fucking beautiful.

PICK OF THE LITTER: Girlfight!  This one started out as an indy film and barely got any exposure.  It's worth a detour from your usual diet of new releases.

November's DVD Reviews, Part II
Quick reviews from my Netflix queue and/or the library.

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, 2005
The highlight of this is when Leonard performs the last song on the disc with U2 backing him.  Not so much because it's a great performance (which it is), but rather because it's the only song he performs.  The rest of the film (I use that term reluctantly) is a mixture of lackluster performances by C and D-list musicians interspersed with short interview clips with Mr. Cohen.  The latter are interesting, and that's where the emphasis should have been, as Everbody Knows.

Doctor Who: Season 1: Disc 5, 2005
This was just extras.  Behind the scenes stuff is sometimes interesting, but next time I'll have to remember to check the fine print before I add the last disc of a season (or "series" if you speak British).  Alternatively, I could always travel back in time and delete it from my queue.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 5: Disc 2, 2005
Many people find this show painful to watch, and it isn't even about them.  Can you imagine what it's like for me?

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, 1976
I guess there wasn't enough material to fill up two hours, so there are a lot of long, drawn-out shots of next to nothing.  Still, it otherwise isn't a bad thriller with the added bonus of Jodie Foster's then-21-year-old sister body doubling nude for her as a then-14-year-old.  If John Hinkley had gotten ahold of a copy of this one, he probably would never have left home.

V For Vendetta, 2006
A rare case of the movie being better than the book.  Although Alan Moore's graphic novel has more depth, the film flows better and keeps the themes at the fore thoughout, something the source material sometimes lost track of.  Fortunately, the always-masked Wachowski brothers swooped in and blew up the original text.

Veronica Mars: Season 1, Disc 1, 2005
I had never heard of this series since all I can pick up on my tv are Jesus stations, Spanish-language stations, or a combination thereof.  However, it was at the library and therefore free.  It isn't too bad, basically Alias grafted to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to make a private detective high school girl with a great ass.  The writing is witty, though nothing original.  But she does have a great ass.

Invasion:  Season 1, Disc 1, 2005
I can't remember the last time I passed up a sci-fi series.  Again, this was at the library, so I took a chance.  Honestly, it's pretty slow, and that's saying a lot considering I was watching it in fast-forward.  Unlike a show like Lost where they're always teasing you with mysteries, I didn't get the sense this was going anywhere.  Okay, so there's something that glows and swims... So what?  And that's just the one plot point I didn't feel insulted by.

The NeverEnding Story, 1984
Like everyone born in the 70s to the present, I saw this when I was a kid.  Dani got a craving out of the blue to watch it, so I put it in the queue.  It was a lot better than I remembered in terms of the performances and production values.  Although it's kind of short so there isn't much story development, it's a lot better than what else your kids could be watching if this wasn't on dvd.

Farscape: Season 1: Disc 1, 1999
This is a great show that unfortunately never seemed to find an audience.  Admittedly, the first few episodes are kind of hokey until the story gets going, but then it rocks.  While the series does have some well-developed story arcs, it was still produced mainly in an episodic fashion, so you can come through the wormhole and jump into the storyline at any time.  You'll probably have to do that anyway since some idiot in marketing got the idea to use alien symbols for numbering the volumes, leaving you clueless where the fuck you are in the series.

Arrested Development: Season 3: Disc 2, 2005
RIP.  Why does good tv have to die?

Will & Grace: Season 1: Disc 1, 1998
Man, they were just babies back then!  This never was a really great show (contrast with Seinfeld), but the cast is great and the one-liners raise the quality that is otherwise burried beneath clichéd plots.

Veronica Mars: Season 1: Disc 2, 2005
More of the same.  I have a weakness for fast-talking, intelligent women.  Or at least ones that are written that way.

Winchell, 1999
An HBO biopic about gossip columnist Walter Winchell.  I think Stanley Tucci is great in everything he does.  You don't even have to know who Winchell was to appreciate it because it's the standard story about a guy who does good and does bad and, at the end of the day, is human.  Unlike Winchell's column, there's no surprise revelations here, just a well-made movie.

Suicide Kings, 1998
This could have been better in so many ways that aren't worth my time to do a post-mortem.

Blind Beast, 1969
I checked this out after someone (I can't remember who, sorry; email me!) posted a review that honestly was more interesting than the film itself.  I was hoping for seriously-fucked-up, but it was more like amateurishly-pretentious.  Still, any movie with a naked Japanese women will hold my attention from the waist down.

Space: 1999: Vol. 1, 1975
What is it with me and these Gerry Anderson projects?  Like UFO or his more famous Thunderbirds series, I find myself yawning (literally!) through technically well-directed but emotionally vacuous action scenes.  It's like the least interesting fireworks displays ever.  Picture this, the moon has shot out of its orbit; the staff of the moon base is heading out of the solar sytem into deep space.  What do they do?  Walk around doing paperwork and asking if anyone would like a cup of coffee.  I'm not making this up (as clearly that would require more imagination than one would usually need to write a sci-fi series that was actually any good).

Gilmore Girls: Season 5: Disc 1, 2004
The trick to this series is to deliver dialogue so fast that no one will notice nothing happened over the last hour.  Damn.  They got me again!

PICK OF THE (second half of the) MONTH: Putney Swope falls just short of greatness, but has so many other redeeming qualities that it is worth the trouble to seek out.    Transamerica is pretty damned good, too, just on the acting alone.

Copyright 2006 Ale[x]plorer.
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