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Pink Lady (1980)
More painful than a root canal
I was only a baby when this show aired. When I grew up, I borrowed the DVD set from my boss. Next to My Big Fat Greek Life, this is the worst TV show I have ever seen. Unfunny sketches, Mie and Kei singing in badly broken English to bad disco songs, Jeff Altman royally embarrassing himself...need I say more? It was fun to see a young Jim Varney (later of "Ernest" fame) in the sketches, he was the best part of the show. The DVD set should be used for revenge/torture purposes only!
What an excellent TV movie. For once, it's not self-pitying and depressing (though, of course, the subject matter is very sad), but it celebrates Gilda and how she chose to deal with her terminal illness with laughter. Jami Gertz did a phenomenal job in the title role, and I never realized before that she does bear quite a likeness to Gilda. Her love and marriage with Gene Wilder is also handled well, and I can't help but wonder what the real Gene Wilder thinks of the film. The movie had me in tears. I recommend it.
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Different is not always good (minor spoilers)
I watched Vanilla Sky with an open mind but not by choice (my sister talked me into seeing it). Cameron Diaz's character was not fleshed out fully enough to really feel for her, while Penelope Cruz comes off somewhat better, but still comes off as little more than a pretty face to entice male viewers. Cruise just comes off as unlikeable before and after his character's transformations, though his fears are comprehensible, and the ending was a cop-out. It would have been more plausible (and more interesting) if he had killed his lover in a rage thinking she was the girl who had ruined his face (and life), and how he would deal with it. The last 15 minutes made me wonder why I'd wasted my time following this story at all. The theme song by Paul McCartney is nice, though, and the visuals of NYC (especially in the opening) are stunning. Not a movie for everyone.
Shallow Hal (2001)
Nothing great, but Paltrow puts it over
Yes, this is not a film for the ages. But I found Shallow Hal to be an OK movie, and a few scenes really did move me (i.e. Jack Black and the little girl in the burn unit). Jack Black is fine as the loser who looks for love on the surface only, and Gwyneth Paltrow does an admirable job in a very challenging role as the overweight but good-hearted Rosemary. The worst part of the film to me was Jason Alexander, who basically phones in his role as Black's best friend. (Think George Costanza on the big screen with more curse words.) But all in all, this is a great movie to debate, and I'd see it again.
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Totally Enjoyable! (minor spoilers)
The major chick flick of 2001! Renee Zellweger was hysterically funny as Bridget, and her more subdued moments of loneliness, self-pity, and drunkenness also spoke volumes to those of us in singledom. Classic songs "All By Myself", "Without You", "It's Raining Men", "Me and Mrs. Jones", "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "I'm Every Woman" are used as hysterical backdrops to crucial scenes. Colin Firth and Hugh Grant are also perfectly cast as the two men in her life. It's nice to have Hugh Grant play the slimy sleazeball for once, and he's sure more believable here than in Sense and Sensibility! I loved the change in Firth's character, and I especially loved the light in his eyes and his shyness and warmth take the forefront. The last half hour may be predictable, but the slowly growing development of true love hasn't been as well done in a film I've seen since While You Were Sleeping. It's rare that an actress comes along that can handle goofy comedy OR wrenching drama. Renee Zellweger can do both. It's a testament to her that this movie worked as well as it did. Good job!
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
I really wanted to enjoy this film. The comments here seem to be straight down the middle. You'll either love it or you'll loathe it. Granted, Nicole Kidman and Ewan MacGregor are not bad (even though I didn't see any chemistry between them), they both have decent singing voices (although a little of MacGregor's singing goes a long way with me), and once the Duke puts two and two together, the film becomes better and more tolerable to watch. Some of the musical sequences were downright painful (i.e. the "Like A Virgin" scene made me want to reach for a barf bag). It would have been great if this had been a satire film, or a spoof, but as a straight up serious film it lost me. If the Academy wanted to nominate Nicole Kidman, they should have recognized her incredible turn in The Others (a FAR superior film).
Hysterical with a message
Much like Shallow Hal and Bridget Jones' Diary, Shrek deals with learning to love people just the way they are. Unlike the previous two flicks, Shrek is a beautifully animated fairy tale with an edge. The voice overs are priceless (especially Eddie Murphy as the loudmouthed Donkey and John Lithgow as the egotistical Lord Farquaad), and sharp, witty dialogue (I could've done without the "toilet humor", though) and hilarious pop culture spoofs abound. I almost split a gut when Shrek started crooning Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are", and the fairy tale/Disney characters (especially the Gingerbread Man) are all clever and inspired. Well done, Dreamworks!
The Wedding Singer (1998)
A total guilty pleasure
Wow...an Adam Sandler movie I actually enjoyed! Maybe it stems from my love of the '80s (if you think that's scary, you should see my CD collection). Tons of period humor (the Boy George guy with a fetish for "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" never fails to make me laugh), great if cheesy '80s songs and a sweet, tender and well-told love story. As someone who is not a huge fan of either Sandler or Drew Barrymore, this is a fun movie for a rainy day or just for a few mindless laughs.
A pleasant surprise!
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and I've never even read any of the Tolkien books! The breathtaking visuals (I'm a sucker for good visuals) were more than enough to earn my approval, and the outstanding cast (Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, etc.) went above and beyond the call of duty to put it over. The only thing I disliked was the length. Three hours and ten minutes was a bit too much for me. But it didn't detract from my experience one bit. I loved it!
Wayne's World (1992)
I watched this for a film class. I'm not big on Mike Myers, but this film was funny! Wayne and Garth (Dana Carvey) are a not too bright but effective team, when they set out to settle the score with an evil TV producer (Rob Lowe). Along the way, they make searingly caustic remarks about pop culture (Bee Gees) to commercialism (Pepsi..."I speak for the new generation!") Great songs are also used, including "Dream Weaver" and the song that brought headbanging mainstream (sort of), "Bohemian Rhapsody". One of the (very) few SNL movies that worked.
As much about love and family as cars...and dreams
OK, I'll admit it...even though the man is a good 30 years older than me, I have a mad crush on Jeff Bridges! But even more than that, the man can act, and after 40+ years in the movie business, he's doing something right. "Tucker..." shows the story of someone who has a dream of making life better in some small way, appeals to the love of cars (the vintage ones used in this movie are striking!), and how you can't see a dream come to fruition without the ones who love you and believe in you (Joan Allen is great as Tucker's wife, and Christian Slater as the son looks like he could really be Jeff Bridges' son!). It is about the love and support of family in good times and bad as much as it is about building the perfect car. But what happens when your dream ultimately doesn't come true? When the people you trust turn against you? These issues are fleshed out beautifully and Jeff Bridges is perfect across the board as Preston Tucker. A great family film as well.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
They put the "fun" in dysfunctional! (minor spoilers)
This biting satire of a dysfunctional family shows offers several surprises: Gene Hackman's deftness at comedy, an amazingly deep performance by Ben Stiller, and the format (like a play or a storybook, with voice-over narration by Alec Baldwin) is one you won't see in every film! The cast is strong, except I feel Gwyneth Paltrow's character was the least developed at all. And I also felt the last half hour didn't totally fit in with the rest of the movie. Gene Hackman was hysterical, and totally deserved the Golden Globe he won. The only parts of the film that made me truly cringe were the "romance" of adopted siblings Paltrow and Luke Wilson (gave me the heebee jeebies) and the lesbian scenes involving Paltrow. Other than that, I found it a darkly funny satire, but not a film everyone will enjoy.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Could've been better
Aside from some truly awesome visuals to recreate the actual attack on Pearl Harbor, this punishingly long movie ultimately fails. Instead of using any of the powerful true stories from the people who experienced the attack, a fictional, drippy love triangle story is formed (with no chemistry at any angle). Cuba Gooding Jr. is woefully underused. The script is filled with cliches and sappy dialogue, and the love scene between Kate Beckinsale and Josh Hartnett is just plain laughable. The visuals, special effects, costumes, and supporting performances by Gooding, Alec Baldwin, and Jon Voight are all high points. The three leads are not horrible, but the script lets them down. It was a good summer movie, but ultimately will not be remembered.
For Love of the Game (1999)
As a baseball fan, and a fan of a good love story, I expected to enjoy this movie. But I'd take the baseball game story line over the dull romance any day. Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston had NO chemistry, and the "love" story made me snooze. I did enjoy John C. Reilly in a supporting role. I've yet to see a movie that can truly, deftly combine a sports story and a romance. This isn't it. Avoid.
For the Love of Nancy (1994)
Tracey Gold, you deserved better than this!
Boasting more plot holes than your average piece of Swiss cheese, this was Tracey Gold's first major role after recovering from anorexia. I highly doubt anyone's parents would take their anorexic daughter to court, no matter what the feelings involved were. Jill Clayburgh wails and wrings her hands, William Devane's big scene involves throwing a bowl on the floor, and Cameron Bancroft and Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Gold's brothers deliver acting performances with all the depth of Jello. Gold, of course, fares better than everyone and her own experiences truly shed light upon her character's struggles, but the featherweight scripts and hammy "supporting acting" let her down. Maybe this would have worked better as an ABC After School Special.
Law & Order (1990)
Still compelling after all these years
I only started watching L&O a few years ago, and am hooked on the brilliant writing, acting, and direction that have made this show so popular for so long. Jerry Orbach is great as Lennie, and I was stunned to learn that he also played the voice of Lumiere, the French candlestick in Beauty and the Beast! His sarcastic one-liners never fail to get me laughing, and he and his new partner, Jesse L. Martin as Ed Green, have a good rapport and are believable as partners. On the "Order" side, Sam Waterston, Dianne Wiest, and Elisabeth Rohm are equally compelling. New cast member Rohm has gotten better as she's gone along; she had big shoes to fill as Angie Harmon's replacement. Because the stories are all driven by the plots, and not the characters' personal lives, it makes the constant cast turnover more believable. It's a testament to Dick Wolf and co. that such a smart, sharp show has stayed on the edge after almost 12 years! My only beef is I'm tired of hearing "Ripped from the headlines" in every promo. That, though, is a minor quibble. Wednesday nights wouldn't be the same without it!
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
It still thrills and chills
This was the big budget adventure that started it all: spinning off two sequels, a TV show, and still influencing films today (The Mummy movies, for example). Offering adventure, chases, sneering villians, goofy sidekicks, romance, stunts, and lots of humor, it's not hard to see why ROTLA is such a beloved movie. Could anyone else besides Harrison Ford really play Indiana Jones? I loved the chemistry and fire and ice relationship between Indiana and Marion (Karen Allen), and of course Indiana's classic line "I HATE snakes!" It would be great if the whole Indiana Jones trilogy was re-released in theaters, much as ET is going to be in a couple of weeks. Steven Spielburg and George Lucas, are you listening??
Something to think about (minor spoilers)
I loved K-PAX! Kevin Spacey's performance as a gentle man and/or alien from the utopian planet K-PAX is among his most emotive and thought-provoking. Jeff Bridges turns in fine support as the shrink assigned to Prot (Spacey). Through his sessions with Prot, the doctor is deeply affected by the problems affecting his charge and learns several hard lessons. Through a gently humorous, full story, it presents issues such as love, separation, anger, and helping others and how the characters grapple with them is very involving. The mystery of who Prot really is and what finally happens to him keeps you thinking. Kudos to Bridges, Spacey and all involved for a wonderful movie!
The Majestic (2001)
What a wonderful flick!
Sometimes we need a film that really speaks to the human spirit and is willing to defend the actions of the righteous. The Majestic bleeds apple pie and red, white and blue, but what other time than post 9/11 is there a better time to reaffirm our love for our country and stand up for our values?
Jim Carrey should do more roles like this. As an blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter in the McCarthy era, he wanders into a town where he is mistaken for a long declared dead WWII hero, much to the surprise, delight and confusion of his "father" and "girlfriend". With strong characters, a bold story, and all the whimsy and feel-goodness of a Capra film, I was most touched by Peter/Luke establishing relationships and the re-opening of the dilapidated Majestic Theater. Maybe since I work in a theater it spoke to me as Peter/Luke went into the ticket booth and began to sell the tickets for the major re-opening that mirrors the re-awakening of the town.
Top it all off with a satisfying ending, The Majestic is a winner. I know many of the critics wrote it off and its performance at the box office was nothing to write home about. Props to Jim Carrey and all the folks who gave this viewer something to cheer about.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
The Best All-Around Movie I've seen since Sixth Sense (minor spoilers)
I was totally blown away by Ron Howard's masterpiece "A Beautiful Mind". I was so touched by the film that I went to the mall to buy Sylvia Nasar's book. Russell Crowe completely loses himself in the role of a mathematics genius who learns the reality and delusions of the world he sees are not necessarily the real world. I thought Crowe was incredible, Ed Harris is bone-chilling, and Jennifer Connelly was magnificent in her supporting role as Crowe's wife who desperately tries to love and support her husband as he battles his demons. I was mildly annoyed to learn that there were quite a few liberties taken with John Nash's life in the film, but I learned that after, so it did not affect my viewing experience at all. I adored this film and I'm sure Oscar will award it richly. A Beautiful Mind truly shows the redeeming power of love.
Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
Enjoyable but also forgettable
Yet another coming of age story, along the lines of Stephen King's earlier Stand By Me. It holds your interest while you watch, but it becomes somewhat forgettable afterwards. What sets it apart is the heartfelt performances by Anton Yelchin as Bobby Garfield and David Morse who plays Bobby as an adult, Hope Davis as Bobby's mother, and of course Anthony Hopkins as the mysterious Ted. The 1960s atmosphere is genuine, and so is the rapport between Hopkins (in his first major role since reprising Hannibal) and young Yelchin. This film was a breath of fresh air when it came out in October 2001. If you liked Stand By Me, I recommend Hearts In Atlantis.
In the Bedroom (2001)
Deep and Disturbing
No, this is NOT a porno movie. Despite the somewhat misleading title, In the Bedroom is a disturbing little film that keeps you guessing until the unconventional end. Sissy Spacek and Marisa Tomei (even though she wasn't in the film as much as you might think) are both excellent, though the real star of the film is Tom Wilkinson. If anyone beats out Oscar favorite Russell Crowe, it will be Wilkinson. His portrayal of the gentle father and husband pushed to the edge is mesmerizing. Even though the film drags in several places, I thought In the Bedroom was very effective.
...but not for the reason you'd think! As one of the friendly people who sells you your tickets when you come to the theater, I worked day shift the morning Harry Potter opened. Imagine the pit in my stomach when I came to work and saw the immense crowd planted by the doors. At 9:30 AM!!! As someone who'd also worked through Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Austin Powers 2, Shrek, Pokemon (1,2, and 3), Toy Story 2 and several other biggies, Harry Potter was an experience all unto itself for the entire 2 months we had it.
A couple of days later, I took my cousin and a couple of her little friends to see it. I've never read the books and I'm not even going to go into the whole controversy. The visuals were awesome, the performances were incredible all around (especially by the three young leads), but the story didn't really hold my interest, especially given the 2 hour 45 minute time length, which was just too long. Especially for a film mainly geared toward kids. But my little entourage enjoyed it, so that's all that mattered.
Gilmore Girls (2000)
What you've been missing...(minor spoilers)
...is a heart-warming (but never mushy) comedy/drama revolving around a single mom and her teenage daughter. Lauren Graham (mom Lorelai) and Alexis Bidel (daughter Rory) are so convincing as mom and daughter, and they have such a warm rapport. The two live in a charming little town, Stars Hollow, that never lacks for colorful citizens. When Rory was accepted into elite private academy Chiltin, Lorelai was forced to go to her estranged parents (played by Kelly Bishop and Edward Hermann) to help her pay the tuition. They agreed, on the condition that Lorelai and Rory eat dinner at their house every Friday night (a sacred ritual). The dinners are often among the most interesting scenes in every episode, as are Lorelai's chemistry charged encounters with Luke, the grumpy, grouchy, but kind-hearted diner owner. I liken this wonderful show, its quirky characters, absorbing story lines and snappy, witty dialogue to such gems as Northern Exposure, Providence, and even Twin Peaks. Definitely the best show (IMO) to come from the WB camp.
The Others (2001)
Viva Nicole Kidman!
Coming right off her popular turn in Moulin Rouge, Nicole Kidman firmly established herself as an excellent and very versatile actress in 2001. She makes the movie, and as Grace, she seems to be Grace Kelly reincarnated as the quiet, devoted, but frightened and overprotective mother of two while her husband is lost at war.
Excellent scenery and props of a creepy haunted house and a housekeeping staff that may not be what they appear keep the film on its toes, and it delivers an ending that rivals only the Sixth Sense in surprise endings in recent history.
If Nicole Kidman can keep up the momentum following her two triumphs of 2001, who knows how far she can go??