Finding Neverland (2004)

This small budget film appeared out of nowhere last fall (along with other small films like Million Dollar Baby, Sideways and Hotel Rwanda), captured the hearts of many, and went on to receive countless nominations and awards for writing, costumes, and performances. Well deserved, I must say, especially since the film doesn’t try to force strong emotions from you, it just happens to be powerful and simple at the same time.

Johnny Depp (once again acting with his face and not his voice) plays James Matthew Barrie, a playwright in early 1900s, looking for the one big hit, for the one story that will work great on stage, and will bring in audiences night after night. The movie opens with an opening night of yet another of Barrie’s plays. His manager Charles, played by Dustin Hoffman is irreverently optimistic as he ushers people into the theater, his wife Mary (played by Radha Mitchell) is sitting all by herself, and the author is restless behind the curtain, pacing with his cane, peeking at the audience, worrying about the reception. The play opens and most likely will close shortly. A miss. The manager brings up the cold truth about the business of putting together a stage show; the wife complains that she misses her husband, and Barrie goes back to drawing board. He needs a captivating story, a fable. Ne needs a magical fairytale.
Continue reading “Finding Neverland (2004)”

Polar Express (2004)

At first glance, The Polar Express doesn’t have a lot of unique qualities that will hook you: it’s best seen on IMAX screens (which is not available everywhere); many characters are played by Tom Hanks, and is directed by Robert Zemeckis  (didn’t we get enough of them in Castaway?) Plus, it was animated using motion capture – an expensive, sophisticated process that makes you wonder why all the bother. Well, if you check all your negative expectations at the door, and just come to see a holiday cartoon about Santa and what really happens on Christmas Eve – you’ll be pleasantly surprised. A lot of effort was poured into this movie – it’s obviously a pet project for Zemeckis and Hanks – and this effort is right there on the screen – in the detail, in the performances, in the emotion.

Maybe if I saw this movie any other day, I would have been less impressed. But the plan was to see a holiday film on Christmas Eve. So I found a movie theatre with IMAX screen, picked up the 3D glasses on the way in, and settled comfortably in the oversized chair… 90 minutes later I picked up my jaw from the floor, and finally ended a very long gasp. Wow, what an experience! It actually made me giddy, just like Final Fantasy did a couple of years ago. Giddy in awe.

Continue reading “Polar Express (2004)”

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

That Danny Ocean (George Clooney). He’s smart enough to fool a ruthless casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), but he cannot hide from him too long. So the gang is back, and with Terry on their tail, they have no choice but to get back to stealing expensive things in elaborate ways. The entire cast of Ocean’s Eleven is back (with a few new faces, and a couple of cameos) for another round of sassy, stylish heists. Check it out.

The first remake of this 60s Rat Pack classic (you know, the one older people remember, with Sammy David Jr, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra) was a pretty cool film. It came out of nowhere in 2001, a year that had its fill of capers – The Score, Heist come to mind. So when this star-studded remake, headlined by Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Julia Roberts came to theaters at the end of the year, people were skeptic. Surprisingly, the movie did well, despite being largely style over substance. A great soundtrack, an amazing cast that kept on adding the punchlines, and a decent plot that kept moving at a fast pace.

Continue reading “Ocean’s Twelve (2004)”

National Treasure (2004)

So I went to see National Treasure today. Why so late – two weeks after it opened? No, my decision had nothing to do with the fact the movie stayed on top of the box office for 2 straight weekends (and possibly will stick around a bit more). I really wanted to see this flick ever since I saw the trailer – which was very recently. In fact, if you think about it, the movie kinda crept under the radar, and boom – big promotion, talk shows, loud trailers, which is all very typical of Bruckheimer. And, before you turn your nose, please remember that while Jerry Bruckheimer has delivered us some stinkers, he’s also been involved with some great movies and TV shows, and I believe, Nicolas Cage has chosen very well this time.

National Treasure is being compared to Mummy and Indiana Jones. I like both franchises, and would feel very protective of anyone trying to cash in on them, or even worse, bring them down by creating an ugly sibling. I went into the theater expecting an admirable homage, but being very worried about a good thing that will any minute turn out boring and plain dumb. I was surprised. First of all – the movie is not like the two big franchises mentioned above. Maybe in spirit, but definitely not in execution. There are parallels, but they are so far away from the originals (and quite far from the last adventure genre fiasco – Tomb Raider), that you cannot think of the movie as homage. It has its own universe, its characters, and as you may have guessed it, an open ending that will result in a sequel.
Continue reading “National Treasure (2004)”

Everybody Loves Raymond – nobody loves his women

I am still seething from Monday’s episode. Yes, while the rest of the civilized world was watching NFL, and suddenly got a glimpse of women’s breasts (and while we’re on this topic – how long are we going to keep witnessing wardrobe malfunctions that are nothing but awkward ploys to promote shows?), I tuned in to CBS, and figured what could go wrong with a safe, family-friendly Listen Up, followed by Raymond, and finished off with creepy but sensitive Horatio and CSI: Miami? Well, if you’ve seen this week’s episode, you’ll agree that plenty wrong can be hidden in a seemingly politically correct show that tries very hard to offend only its cast members.

Yes, I’m talking about the “Boys’ Therapy” episode, a 23 minute romp that I almost turned off in the first 2 minutes when I heard the glee with which the women (Debra, Marie and Amy) uttered to word “therapy”and pounded it into the men (Ray, Frank, Robert). Yes, what better way to instill insecurity and inadequacy in your audience than by declaring that “therapy will solve all our (and YOUR) problems”? I actually expected to see flashing 1-800 numbers during the show to encourage people to “start dialing”, and put their lives in order. But that didn’t happen.
Continue reading “Everybody Loves Raymond – nobody loves his women”

The Incredibles (2004)

Being a sucker for Pixar movies, I tried to see this on the opening day, the very first show, before the crowds flooded in, but I was late. So I gave this movie about 10 days, to dissipate the hype, and cool off the madness. And after having seen it, I wish I saw it on the opening day – so I can tell everyone I knew just how good and delicious-looking the movie is. This is big, expensive, but well put together film, and is worth your time, and your attention. Check it out this very weekend, and then go out and buy it on DVD when it comes out. Your kids (and some friends) will thank you for it.
Continue reading “The Incredibles (2004)”

Superman is Dead (1952-2004)

Christopher Reeve is dead at the age of 52. Most of you know him as Superman, and recently, the “guy who fell of the horse, got paralyzed, and is getting all the media attention”. However, he was also in Noises Off, Speechless, Somewhere in Time, The Bostonians, Remains of the Day, and many made-for-TV movies. Sure, playing Superman made Reeve popular and easy-to-recognize, but it was the smaller films, and his campaigning for embryonic stem cell research that made him a good person, and a fascinating actor. It was a shame you were popular for your less demanding roles, and it was a shame you ended up in that wheelchair. We are forever grateful for your involvement in stem cell research, and we will miss you. Check out the movie clip of “Noises Off”
Continue reading “Superman is Dead (1952-2004)”

Fahrenheit 9/11 shocker

I’m sure a lot of you saw Fahrenheit 9/11 this summer. And I’m sure you all have your thoughts about it. As for me, I saw it. I entered the theater with suspicion towards Michael Moore, wondering if this would be another ego trip or send a distorted message. I have to say I was disappointed in it. I felt it didn’t get it’s facts straight or made it look like a one-sided view. Like I heard some people even accusing the movie of having lies, like a newspaper claiming it had a phony front page story and one of the bin Ladens saying the movie has the wrong info about the bin Laden family’s ties to Osama (for the record, they disowned him). Plus even on the subject of war, the movie showed Iraq as a happy place before the war yet we knew of the atrocities Saddam was committing there. Plus the movie showed no clips of the Iraqi’s celebrating Saddam’s overthrow. I agree with one critic when he said “It’s not just one-sided, it doesn’t even acknowledge that there is another side.”

Anyways enough of my thoughts. The shocker came recently when Michael Moore announced that the movie will not make a running for the Oscar in the Best Documentary category. Why? Here’s the story according to : Michael Moore has decided not to submit Fahrenheit 9/11 for Oscar consideration (but hopes it will be nominated in other categories).

As reported on his website,

Monday, September 6th, 2004
Why I Will Not Seek a Best Documentary Oscar (I’m giving it up in the hopes more voters can see “Fahrenheit 9/11”)

Dear Friends,

I had dinner recently with a well-known pollster who had often worked for Republicans. He told me that when he went to see “Fahrenheit 9/11” he got so distraught he twice had to go out in the lobby and pace during the movie.

“The Bush White House left open a huge void when it came to explaining the war to the American people,” he told me. “And your film has filled that void — and now there is no way to defeat it. It is the atomic bomb of this campaign.”

He told me how he had conducted an informal poll with “Fahrenheit 9/11” audiences in three different cities and the results were all the same. “Essentially, 80% of the people going IN to see your movie are already likely Kerry voters and the movie has galvanized them in a way you rarely see Democrats galvanized.

“But, here’s the bad news for Bush: Though 80% going IN to your movie are Kerry voters, 100% of those COMING OUT of your movie are Kerry voters. You can’t come out of this movie and say, ‘I am absolutely and enthusiastically voting for George W. Bush.'”

His findings are similar to those in other polls conducted around the country. In Pennsylvania, a Keystone poll showed that 4% of Kerry’s support has come from people who decided to vote for him AFTER seeing “Fahrenheit 9/11” — and in an election that will be very close, 4% is a landslide. A Harris poll found that 44% of Republicans who see the film give it a “positive” rating. Another poll, to be released this week, shows a 21-point shift in Bush’s approval rating, after just one viewing of the movie, among audiences of undecideds who were shown “Fahrenheit 9/11” in Ohio.

My pollster friend told me that he believes if Kerry wins, “Fahrenheit 9/11” will be one of the top three reasons for his election. Kerry’s only problem, he said, is how many people will actually be able to see it before election day. The less that see it, the better for Bush.

But 20 million people have already seen it — and the Gallup poll said that 56% of the American public has seen or plans to see “Fahrenheit 9/11” either in the theater or on home video. The DVD and home video of our film, thanks to our distributors listening to our pleas to release it before November, will be in the stores on October 5. This is very good news.

But can it also be shown on TV? I brought this possibility up in this week’s Rolling Stone interview. Our contract with our DVD distributor says no, it cannot. I have asked them to show it just once, perhaps the night before the election. So far, no deal. But I haven’t given up trying.

The only problem with my desire to get this movie in front of as many Americans as possible is that, should it air on TV, I will NOT be eligible to submit “Fahrenheit 9/11” for Academy Award consideration for Best Documentary. Academy rules forbid the airing of a documentary on television within nine months of its theatrical release (fiction films do not have the same restriction).

Although I have no assurance from our home video distributor that they would allow a one-time television broadcast — and the chances are they probably won’t — I have decided it is more important to take that risk and hope against hope that I can persuade someone to put it on TV, even if it’s the night before the election.

Therefore, I have decided not to submit “Fahrenheit 9/11” for consideration for the Best Documentary Oscar. If there is even the remotest of chances that I can get this film seen by a few million more Americans before election day, then that is more important to me than winning another documentary Oscar. I have already won a Best Documentary statue. Having a second one would be nice, but not as nice as getting this country back in the hands of the majority.

The deadline to submit the film for the documentary Oscar was last Wednesday. I told my crew who worked on the film, let’s let someone else have that Oscar. We have already helped to ignite the biggest year ever for nonfiction films. Last week, 1 out of every 5 films playing in movie theaters across America was a documentary! That is simply unheard of. There have been so many great nonfiction films this year, why not step aside and share what we have with someone else? Remove the 800-pound gorilla from that Oscar category and let the five films who get nominated have all the attention they deserve (instead of the focus being on a film that has already had more than its share of attention).

I’ve read a lot about “Fahrenheit” being a “sure bet” for the documentary Oscar this year. I don’t believe anything is truly a “sure bet.” And, in the end, I think sometimes it’s good for your soul to give up something everyone says is so easily yours (ask Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps why he gave up his spot in the last race to someone else equally deserving, and you’ll know what I am talking about).

I have informed our distributors of my decision. They support me (in fact, they then offered to submit our film for all the other categories it is eligible for, including Best Picture — so, hey, who knows, maybe I’ll get to complete that Oscar speech from 2003! Sorry, just kidding).

Don’t get your hopes up for seeing “Fahrenheit 9/11” on TV before the election. In fact, I would count on NOT seeing it there (you know me, I’m always going after something I probably shouldn’t). Get to the theaters soon, if you haven’t already, or get it from the video store in October and hold house parties. Share it with everyone you know, especially your nonvoting friends. I have included 100 minutes of extras on the DVD — powerful footage obtained after we made the movie, and some things that are going to drive Karl Rove into a permanent tailspin — more on this later!

Thanks for all of your support. And go see “Super Size Me,” “Control Room,” “The Corporation,” “Orwell Rolls Over in His Grave,” “Bush’s Brain,” Robert Greenwald’s films and the upcoming “Yes Men.” You won’t be sorry!


Michael Moore

Anyways I guess that means Super Size Me will win in that category.

As for me, I’m neither for nor against the war. I believe that if the goal was to give freedom to Iraq, they’re failing at it. They succeeded in overthrowing Saddam, they succeeded in bringing him to prison, but they’re failing at bringing democracy to Iraq. And they should get their act in gear.

Fall 2004 premiere dates

Here it is (subject to change), a list of premiere dates for this TV season. Don’t miss NBC’s REALLY early openings this week. The rest of the networks catch up after the long weekend. Let us know if we forgot a show you watch.

According To Jim (ABC) Sept. 21
Al Franken (Sundance) Sept. 7
All Of Us (UPN) Sept. 21
Amazing Race 6 (CBS) Sept. 25
American Dreams (NBC) Sept. 26
America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC) Sept. 26
America’s Most Wanted (Fox) Sept. 11
America’s Next Top Model 3 (UPN) Sept. 22
Apprentice 2 (NBC) Sept. 9
Arrested Development (Fox) Nov. 7
Bachelor 6 (ABC) Sept. 22
The Benefactor (ABC) Sept. 13
Bernie Mac Show (Fox) Sept. 8
The Billionaire (Fox) Nov. 9
Boston Legal (ABC) Oct. 3
Center Of The Universe (CBS) Sept. 29
Charmed (WB) Sept. 12
The Club (Spike) Oct. 12
Clubhouse (CBS) Sept. 26
Cold Case (CBS) Oct. 3
Commando Nanny (WB) Sept. 17
Complete Savages (ABC) Sept. 24
The Complex: Malibu (Fox) Aug. 30
Cops (Fox) Sept. 11
Crossing Jordan (NBC) Sept. 26
CSI (CBS) Sept. 23
CSI: Miami (CBS) Sept. 20
CSI: New York (CBS) Sept. 22
Desperate Housewives (ABC) Oct. 3
Dog The Bounty Hunter (A&E) Aug. 31
Drawn Together (CC) Oct. 27
Dream Job 2 (ESPN) Sept. 14
Drew Carey’s Green Screen (WB) Sept. 16
Dr. Vegas (CBS) Sept. 24
Eight Simple Rules (ABC) Sept. 24
ER (NBC) Sept. 23
Eve (UPN) Sept. 21
Everwood (WB) Sept. 13
Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS) Sept. 20
Extreme Makeover (ABC) Sept. 23
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC) Sept. 26
Family Bonds (HBO) Sept. 19
Father Of The Pride (NBC) Aug. 31
Fear Factor (NBC) Aug. 30
George Lopez Show (ABC) Sept. 21
Ghost Hunters (SciFi) Oct. 6
Gilmore Girls (WB) Sept. 21
Girlfriends (UPN) Sept. 20
Grounded For Life (WB) Sept. 17
Half & Half (UPN) Sept. 20
Hawaii (NBC) Sept. 1
Hope & Faith (ABC) Sept. 24
House (Fox) Nov. 16
How Clean Is Your House? (Lifetime) Sept. 6
Huff (Showtime) Nov. 7
I’ll Do Anything (ESPN) Sept. 28
In Search Of The Partridge Family (VH1) Sept. 5
Jack & Bobby (WB) Sept. 12
JAG (CBS) Sept. 24
Joan Of Arcadia (CBS) Sept. 24
Joey (NBC) Sept. 9
Judging Amy (CBS) Sept. 28
Kevin Hill (UPN) Sept. 29
King Of Queens (CBS) Sept. 29
King Of The Hill (Fox) Nov. 7
Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County (MTV) Sept. 14
Last Comic Standing 3 (NBC) Aug. 30
Las Vegas (NBC) Sept. 13
Law & Order (NBC) Sept. 22
Law & Order: CI (NBC) Sept. 26
Law & Order: SVU (NBC) Sept. 21
LAX (NBC) Sept. 13
Less Than Perfect (ABC) Sept. 24
Life As We Know It (ABC) Oct. 7
Listen Up (CBS) Sept. 20
Long Way Around (Bravo) Oct. 28
Lost (ABC) Sept. 22
Malcolm In The Middle (Fox) Nov. 7
Medical Investigation (NBC) Sept. 9
The Mountain (WB) Sept. 22
My Wife & Kids (ABC) Sept. 21
Navy NCIS (CBS) Sept. 28
The Next Great Champ (Fox) Sept. 7
NYPD Blue (ABC) Sept. 21
The OC (Fox) Nov. 4
One On One (UPN) Sept. 20
One Tree Hill (WB) Sept. 21
The Partner (Fox) Nov. 7
Proof Positive (SciFi) Oct. 6
Real World 15 (MTV) Sept. 7
Reba (WB) Sept. 17
Renovate My Family (Fox) Sept. 1
Rodney (ABC) Sept. 21
Scare Tactics (SciFi) Oct. 6
Scrubs (NBC) Aug. 31
Second Time Around (UPN) Sept. 20
Seventh Heaven (WB) Sept. 13
Simpsons (Fox) Nov. 7
Smallville (WB) Sept. 22
Star Trek: Enterprise (UPN) Oct. 8
Steve Harvey’s Big Time (WB) Sept. 12
Still Standing (CBS) Sept. 20
South Park (CC) Oct. 27
Surreal Life 3 (VH1) Sept. 5
Survivor 9: Vanuatu (CBS) Sept. 16
Swan 2 (Fox) Oct. 25
That ’70s Show (Fox) Sept. 8
Third Watch (NBC) Sept. 17
Tru Calling (Fox) Nov. 4
Two And A Half Men (CBS) Sept. 20
Veronica Mars (UPN) Sept. 22
Wanda Does It (CC) Oct. 5
West Wing (NBC) Oct. 20
What I Like About You (WB) Sept. 17
Wife Swap (ABC) Sept. 29
Will & Grace (NBC) Sept. 16
The Wire (HBO) Sept. 19
Without A Trace (CBS) Sept. 23

Mystic River (2003) runs deep

This is one movie in which you will be impressed and effected by. You will not leave the cinema unmoved.

If you were to judge the Best Picture nominees by combination of acting, script and direction, I’d pick this as the winner. Basically this movie kept my interest from start to finish. It was very well done. It’s impossible to not get any emotional involvement in the story. It’s one that cuts deep into you. This has to be the best non-epic of the year.

Continue reading “Mystic River (2003) runs deep”