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Monday, October 31, 2005

Saw II  (almost four, but not quite)

Written by Guest Hoosier Revue-er: Josh Schiller

The first installment of the Saw series was a fabulous combination of gore, intelligent writing, and unexpected plot twists. Going in to see Saw II felt like going to see The Usual Suspects II if they ever made it – how could it work? I was skeptical, but it worked. (Not that Saw measures up to Suspects, but you get the idea.)

Here’s what you need to know from Saw: a serial killer (and terminal cancer patient) nicknamed Jigsaw gives his victims a choice: give up something nice (like your leg) or die in a horrible way. Think Fear Factor gone horrifically wrong. His victims wake up from having been drugged and learn of their precarious situations through a creepy voice on a mini-cassette tape or a video of some jacked-up dummy. Jigsaw claims that he’s doing a public service because all these people were flawed and didn’t appreciate life. Now they do. Unfortunately, all but one of them dies (normally by their own hand) learning the lesson. Bummer.

Saw II starts in the same vein. Some guy wakes up with a contraption on his head that will snap shut impaling his face with a hundred spikes once the timer runs out. The only way to get it off is to cut out his eye to get the key that has been surgically placed behind it. Nice.

From there, the movie focuses on Donnie Wahlberg playing Detective Eric Matthews, a down and out cop who used to be good, but now he inexplicably just sucks. The former New Kid is divorced, has a strained relationship with his son, and is generally unmotivated to do any police work.

Jigsaw’s calling card is found at a crime scene and Donnie, using his superhuman photographic memory skills, leads the SWAT team to raid his hideout. They discover that Donnie’s son has been kidnapped and is trapped in a house with seven former convicts. They are getting slowly gassed with a deadly nerve agent and have two hours to live. Since not breathing isn’t an option, they need to find antidotes which are blocked by elaborate contraptions that could cause unimaginable pain or bleeding. Of course, the police are powerless to do anything except sit at Jigsaw’s lair and watch the video feeds from the house.

Since Donnie doesn’t really want his son to die, he talks with Jigsaw to find out where this is all happening. At times reminiscent of Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey in Se7en, this is one of the stronger parts of the film.

At the house where everyone is trapped, the eight (oops, make that seven) people are sitting around coughing and arguing about what to do. Each character is either scared, pissed off, or a peacemaker and none of them seems capable of complex thought. One of them is Amanda from the first movie who survived a jaw-wrenching contraption. She’d be a guide except no one listens to her – they’d rather all split up. Did I mention they’re all coughing? Rather than building the suspense, the painful dialogue and dizzying cuts make you hope for someone to die – the more gruesome, the better.

Meanwhile the police are the most ineffective crime-fighting squad this side of Iraq. This almost ruined the movie for me. I’m sorry, but if you used the SWAT team to raid the lair of a maniacal serial killer, your backup should arrive in under two hours. The dialogue here is laughable and repetitive – it’s like they did a bunch of takes of the same scene and inserted them throughout the movie.

While the first 80 minutes of this movie felt like a stall tactic, there were several cool death scenes that rivaled Saw. Unfortunately, the cassette tapes, which I loved in the first one, were used less. Also, Jigsaw has departed a bit from his “I don’t kill them, they end up killing themselves or each other” mantra. The acting sucked, but it also did in Saw. The dialogue was worse – they couldn’t get beyond their one-dimensional characters.

However, and most importantly, the ending was intelligent and once again was a complete surprise. It completely redeemed the movie. The dialogue and acting almost got in the way, but in the end the gore, the originality, and the ending carried the film. There are very few films like the Saw franchise. If you’re on the fence, I’d suggest renting Saw. If you liked Saw, definitely go see Saw II. And if you liked Se7en and haven’t seen either Saw movie, watch them.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


I know that there is an audience out there for this movie, because despite being absurdly predictable in almost all facets imaginable, it’s one of those “feel good” films that will have certain members of the audience squealing with glee by the end. Such was the case for the woman sitting in front of me, at least.

The story begins with young Cale Crane (Daktoa Fanning) staring sadly out of her bedroom window, bemoaning the fact that her family’s horse farm doesn’t have any actual horses on it. She desperately wants to learn about the horseracing business, but her father, Ben Crane (Kurt Russell), insists that he wants a better life for her. Instantly I suspected that I would, at some point in the movie, inevitably hear some character tell Ben that horseracing was “in Cale’s blood,” and that he shouldn’t discourage her. Ben grudgingly takes Cale to work with him one day, and as she watches the horses warming up before the race, she takes an instant liking to Soñador, whom her father says has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, Ben’s boss is an evil, uncaring villain who is only interested in money as opposed to the advice of his expert employee, and forces Ben to have Soñador race despite Ben’s instance that the horse told him she didn’t feel like racing today. Well come on now, that’s just lazy. Anyway, as one might expect, the horse breaks its leg during the race but is saved from euthanization at Ben’s insistence. His evil bad horrible mean boss, Palmer (David Morse), fires Ben for his insolence and for claiming that he can talk to horses. Plus, Palmer is just evil, and he has a villainous reputation to uphold. Ben decides to nurse Soñador back to heath with the help of two of his ranch hands in order to breed her and make money on the foal. The plans change, however, when Cale attempts to run away with the horse after a fight with her father, and Ben sees that Soñador is still remarkably fast, having healed completely from her injury.

The “Eye of the Tiger” song swells up dramatically, as Ben and his ranch hands start Soñador on a rigorous training program to get her back in shape—running laps around a track with her and having her do pull-ups in the barn. Since one of the ranch hands had quit his former job as a jockey after a near-fatal fall from his horse during a race, what would one think the odds would be that he will overcome his fear and make his unbelievable comeback riding Soñador in the upcoming Breeder’s Cup? As the race approaches, the nefarious ex-boss Palmer shows up at the family’s house to exchange antagonistic dialogue and literally wave giant wads of cash at Cale in an offer to buy Soñador back from her. OH MY GOD, WILL SHE TAKE THE MONEY?!?! It was too nerve-wracking, I could hardly take it!

Somewhere along the line, Kris Kirstofferson makes the “horse business is in her blood” remark, and at long-last I felt completely justified in my dislike for this movie. Were I a small child or someone who simply enjoys happy movies with joyous endings, then I would have a much nicer opinion of this film; however, it was just a bit too cliché for me to walk away actually feeling inspired. I like an underdog movie as much as the next moviegoer, and Dreamer was certainly that, so if you don’t mind knowing exactly what’s going to happen in practically every scene, then you will have no problems with Dreamer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Good Night, and Good Luck 

I was honestly surprised at how few “Hollywood embellishments” were added to the story in Good Night, and Good Luck. Apparently, director George Clooney does not embrace the notion that, in order to make a “based on a true story” movie any good, one has to either have a lot of things explode, or use some cute, wise-beyond-his-years child who makes appropriately-timed commentary. Suffice it to say that this is a very serious movie.

Good Night, and Good Luck depicts CBS television broadcaster Ed Murrow’s series of reports that directly attacked Senator Joseph McCarthy’s questionable tactics in his crusade to root out all communist spies in the U.S. during the 1950’s. The film begins in 1958 at a banquet honoring Ed Murrow’s contributions to broadcast journalism, and after the opening credits have been well and fully displayed, the movie switches its focus to 1954 in order to carry on with the story. The country is in the midst of the Red Scare, with Senator McCarthy on a rampage. Journalists and fellow senators alike are all too intimidated to stand up to McCarthy, for fear that they might become a target for his wrath and summarily declared a communist. The CBS employees are each forced to sign “loyalty papers” in order to categorically state their allegiance to the U.S. and assure the company that they are not aligned in any way with the dreaded communist party. Ed Murrow, a well-respected and trusted journalist whose patriotism is beyond question, talks his producer, Fred Friendly (George Clooney), into running a series of reports in direct opposition to McCarthy’s conduct on their weekly television show, See It Now. After covering a story in which an Air Force airman is dismissed from duty following unsubstantiated accusations that his father subscribed to a communist newspaper, Murrow immediately brings himself under McCarthy’s radar and is vaguely threatened with being publicly accused as a member of the communist party.

With the support of CBS behind them, Murrow and Friendly run a special episode of See It Now focusing specifically on Senator McCarthy, in which they question his routine tactic of accusing people of being communists without offering any proof, using footage of McCarthy’s speeches and senate hearings to back up their challenge. Murrow offers McCarthy a chance to respond to any of the information that was presented in the show, inviting him to correct CBS if he feels that they said anything inaccurate. Murrow predicts that McCarthy will resort to character assassination aimed at Murrow himself rather than respond to the show’s claims and provide evidence to back up his list of "known communists." McCarthy’s eventual response to Murrow was indeed the beginning of the end, and eventually led to McCarthy's censure by the U.S. Senate.

Good Night, and Good Luck is shown entirely in black and white, which gave the viewer a firm sense of the 50’s, but also allowed the actual black-and-white footage from 1954 to blend in well with the movie. This is a very academic portrayal, not of Ed Murrow, but of his and his news team’s bold criticisms toward Senator McCarthy during a time in which no one, not even President Eisenhower, seemed willing to rein McCarthy in. The film deviates from the standard “true story” genre, in that it felt much more like a documentary rather than a portrayal—but then again, that might just be because nothing blew up. I definitely recommend it for anyone who likes historical pieces or enjoys films that give you something to think about when you walk out of the theater.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Honestly, what more could one want from a movie like Doom? I mean come on, it’s a video game plot, essentially consisting of one dude wandering around hallways and shooting at aliens. So that’s basically what you get in the movie, although the filmmakers do endeavor to add a tad more plot depth by throwing in their take on the theory of evolution. Fantastic.

The year is 2026, and archaeologists have discovered an ancient portal from Earth to Mars, conveniently located in the deserts of New Mexico, USA. Some unknown and long-dead civilization supposedly constructed it, so scientists have rushed headlong into building a station on Mars where they can test weapons and the like, figuring they’ll worry about whatever caused the previous civilization’s demise later. Predictably, however, the researchers discover something evil and are gruesomely attacked and killed, blah blah blah. In comes Sarge (The Rock) and his elite team of marines, who are ordered to assess and contain the situation, recover all government property, and protect the civilians. The audience is given a quick but thorough introduction to the members of the team, which means we learn their names and one standard defining personality trait for each. Once that is all out of the way and they are transported to the Mars station, the gun fighting can commence.

Aside from Sarge, only one other marine, Reaper (Karl Urban), is given further “character development” when we learn that he has a twin sister, Samantha (that one Bond chick from Die Another Day), who works at the station as an archaeologist—which is apparently interchangeable with being a molecular geneticist in this film. Reaper hasn’t spoken to Samantha in ages, however, because she had the audacity to, um, work at the facility in which their father was tragically killed many years ago. Unforgivable, that. Nevertheless, terrible monsters are attacking people and threatening to break through the containment area back to Earth, so the movie has more important things with which to concern itself than character development. For the remainder of the movie then, The Rock and his team of marines wander through the facility killing monsters and sometimes getting killed themselves, while Samantha tries to determine from where these creatures came. All she has to work with are the bones of some murdered humanoid beings that had been found on Mars, who helpfully died in a defensive posture in order to show that they were about to be attacked... But then they obviously weren’ by that attacker then (as Samantha claims was their fate) if their remains were found still holding a shielded posture. Right? I gave up on this logistical puzzle exercise after a few minutes and reminded myself that I was watching Doom, as opposed to the History Channel.

It turns out that the monsters were the scientists all along. (!) They had apparently been infected with a 24th chromosome—the addition of which, scientifically speaking, gives one super strength/speed/healing powers. And uh, also makes you into a monster thing. My favorite part came in a wonderful moment of glory, when Samantha (the intrepid archaeologist/molecular geneticist, Ph.D.) poses her alternate theory of the origin of species. Suck it, Darwin!

The movie features many visual similarities to the game, with numerous dark hallways, monsters, and a brief sequence from the 1st person perspective, which was when the movie abandons all pretense and just plays the game for the audience. I really liked Doom, however, because it had reasonably decent dialogue, a simple purpose, and exciting sequences of events. Silly, perhaps, but very fun.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Stay (or )

This was one screwed up movie. Of the hour and 38 minutes of running time, I literally spent an hour and 36 minutes of it feeling thoroughly confused. This is the kind of film that one will either love or hate, so I tell you now that if you despise trick endings then avoid Stay at all costs. It is the epitome of mind-fuck movies, so while the subtle clues are cleverly laid out during the film, they won’t make a lick of sense until the final two minutes. I really like the idea behind the story, and after I reviewed my notes I began to appreciate the connections from the clues to the eventual revelation; however, I think that many might get annoyed at sitting through an hour and a half of what is essentially jabberwocky to finally find satisfaction only in simply understanding what the hell it meant.

When the movie began I braced myself for the conclusion that Sam (Ewan McGregor), a psychiatrist, was actually dead but didn’t realize it, or something to that effect. As it became clear that he was decidedly not dead, I began to suspect that perhaps Henry (Ryan Gosling), the strange patient who comes to see Sam, was actually the dead one. Maybe. Eventually I had to abandon that theory as well and give in to the increasingly clear fact that I was not going to understand anything until the very end, which was frustrating, to be sure. Henry tells Sam during one of their first sessions that he hears voices and can no longer ascertain which ones are real or imagined. And before he forgets to mention it, he also plans to kill himself on Saturday at midnight, which Sam takes as a sign that clearly falls into the “bad” category. He realizes that he has three days to prevent Henry’s planned suicide, so he desperately embarks on a rather strange trail in order to determine where Henry is planning to shoot himself. Before he worries about any of that, however, he takes a break to play a stimulating game of chess with his old colleague Dr. Leon (Bob Hoskins), who works with him in the psychiatry ward. Ostensibly annoyed that Sam is not out scouring New York to find him, Henry randomly turns up to say something spooky and reignite Sam’s sense of urgency. So he insists that Dr. Leon is in fact his deceased father. This statement confuses everyone—especially Dr. Leon who huffs out of the room.

At this point in the film, things take a distinctly incomprehensible turn, when Sam goes to visit Henry’s supposedly deceased mother. After noticing the bare house and the mother’s inexplicable bleeding head, Sam starts to fear that something a bit strange is going on, but continues his search for Henry. As events around Sam begin to repeat themselves and camera angles turn more and more disorienting, Sam starts to realize that he can no longer discern between what is real or not, even as midnight on Saturday approaches.

I won’t spoil anything, but suffice it to say that all is finally explained at midnight, and if one has been paying attention to the details along the way then the ending will make sense. Again, this is the kind of film that requires the audience to be kept in the dark in order to add meaning, so if you like twist endings and “nothing is as it seems” movies, then this is clearly a four star film. Otherwise, you’re looking at one star.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

North Country 

I liked the fact that the filmmakers didn’t marginalize the female miners’ suffering by attempting to pass the characters off as genuine real-life portrayals, which in the end made this movie more enjoyable to watch.

Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) is a completely fictionalized version of Lois Jenson, the real-life plaintiff in the successful class-action sexual harassment case against the Eveleth Mine in northern Minnesota. The film starts with Josey and her two children leaving her physically abusive husband in order to move back in with her parents. When she arrives back home with a battered face, her father asks her if she deserved it, which immediately informs the audience that the pervading social attitude during the 1980’s is still that women are probably at fault for all domestic problems. At first taking a job as a hairdresser, she runs into an old friend, Glory (Frances McDormand), who convinces her to apply for a job at the local mine where she can make a significant amount of money. Obviously, after a bit of discouragement from her parents, she takes the job anyway and immediately begins to endure the humiliating comments and practical jokes that her female coworkers have long been forced to tolerate.

The women are constantly reminded to have a sense of humor about the offensive belittlements that are viciously flung at them, yet they understandably have a hard time laughing when being groped or made to clean off sexual profanities written in excrement on the walls of their locker room. When Josey complains to her supervisor, he tells her to shut her mouth and take it like a man, refusing to acknowledge the harassment and even taking part in it himself. As Glory constantly reminds Josey, the men do not want women working at the mine, and she advises Josey to grow a “gatorskin” in order to persevere. The other women, for their part, adamantly refuse to complain about the situation, as they fear that the persecution would worsen and force them to quit their much-needed jobs. When Josey finally makes a formal complaint to the company itself, she is told to either resign, or spend less time in the beds of her married male coworkers and instead work on improving her job performance. Having finally reached the proverbial last straw, Josey hires a lawyer and attempts to enlist her coworkers’ support in suing the mine.

The female characters were mostly a conglomeration of several women actually involved in the case, so while their Hollywood versions were embellished for entertainment’s sake, the attitudes and examples of harassments were disturbingly real. Aside from one or two somewhat slow parts in the movie, I found North Country to be quite compelling and emotional. My date didn’t seem to take issue with the melodramatic nature of the movie, so I don’t think that this is a film that would only appeal to women. Considering the wide range and nature of the male characters in the movie, I would think that most men could relate in some way to some of the male characters’ reactions to the tense environment at the mine. North Country was certainly not a man-bashing movie, as only a small portion of the miners took part in the abuse, leaving everyone else room for sympathy.

Despite a somewhat ridiculously melodramatic courtroom scene toward the end of the movie, North Country was a very respectable film. I definitely recommend it in spite of its predictable ending, because it was at times powerful and always thoughtful.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Elizabethtown showed a lot of promise but ultimately choked on unnecessarily long and sometimes pointless scenes, as well as lengthy stretches of time when the story came to a dead stop. It wasn’t necessarily a bad movie per se, but I wouldn’t spend $10 to see it in theaters. Ok, well obviously I would because I had to review it, but that doesn’t mean that you should be so unfortunate as well.

Poor Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) has just been fired from his job at a major shoe corporation for creating the worst shoe design ever. Somehow the blame for the shoe fiasco, which will cost the company roughly $1 billion, falls squarely on Drew’s shoulders—because apparently engineers get to make all the billion-dollar decisions at this shoe corporation. Suddenly feeling extremely depressed that he is stuck in this movie, Orlando Bloom decides to commit suicide with a bizarre exercise bike/knife contraption. He answers a phone call from his sister (Judy Greer) at the last second, and she tearfully informs him that their father died while visiting his family in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. As his sister must stay behind to deal with a psychotic Susan Sarandon, Drew puts his suicidal plans on hold in order to travel to Kentucky and retrieve his father’s body for cremation. Claire (Kirsten Dunst) is the lone stewardess on a severely undersold flight to Kentucky, and she miraculously knows all the right things to say to a morose Drew. Several hours later, Drew calls her when he feels lonely and depressed in his hotel room, and they have an all-night conversation about anything and everything. From there they proceed to tediously dance around their mutual attraction while Claire solves all of Drew’s problems with her perky spirit and various theories on life.

In addition to the plodding romance, we must also lumber around with the funeral drama surrounding Drew’s father. There were actually some fairly entertaining moments between Drew and his Kentucky relatives, as well as an especially funny rendition of Lynard Skynard’s “Free Bird” by one of Drew’s cousins; however, these flashes of entertainment were constantly undercut by extremely boring or ridiculous counterparts. The “Free Bird” performance is dampened somewhat by Drew’s mother (Susan Sarandon), who gives a disturbing eulogy that morphs into a self-serving attempt at stand-up comedy. I knew I was supposed to find it all quite amusing, but it fell extremely flat.

It was as though Crowe had a sweet and at times entertaining story to tell the audience, but he was simply too long-winded in his delivery. I generally enjoyed the romance between Drew and Claire, even if it was a tad unrealistic, and had Crowe sliced about half an hour’s worth of film then I think Elizabethtown could have prevailed as a solid romantic comedy.

The best word to describe this movie would probably be mediocre. I wouldn’t run screaming in terror when it comes out on DVD, but it might not be a bad idea to do so while it’s still in theaters. If you have a high tolerance for circuitous storytelling then Elizabethtown won’t be so bad, but otherwise I would steer clear.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I had the benefit of extensive notes in trying to follow the rapid pace and incongruous nature of this film, but as most moviegoers aren’t in the habit of carefully enumerating plot points, I would suggest paying extremely close attention to every little detail in order to understand what the hell is going on.

It’s nice that director Tony Scott prefaces Domino by admitting that it is only sort of based on a true story, meaning that all he really wanted to do was take a real-life female bounty hunter and place her in a largely fictionalized adventure story. My main complaint with Domino, however, is that while I don’t mind watching a highly fabricated tale of the exploits of a female bounty hunter, I think a more chronological version of the story would have been a little easier to watch. Unfortunately, Scott sacrifices part of his story by telling it in no particular order and using spastic and jittery camera angles in almost every single scene.

Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley) spends her teenage years rebelling against the life of luxury in which she feels trapped. Finding the opulent environment around her to be rather dull and pretentious, she attends a bounty-hunting seminar hosted by Ed Mosbey (Mickey Rourke), the most legendary bounty hunter in the world, in the hopes of injecting some excitement into her life. Once Ed and his partner, Choco (Edgar Ramirez) witness Domino’s unique intensity and mettle, they welcome her aboard the team and teach her the fundamentals of bounty hunting. After several years of successful captures, Ed’s boss, Claremont Williams (Delroy Lindo), sets them on the trail of armored car thieves who have just stolen $10 million from a Las Vegas kingpin, charging the mob a $300,000 finder’s fee for their hunting services. This is when things get complicated, however, as Domino realizes that they will be delivering the robbers to the mob instead of the police as is normal procedure. Claremont’s girlfriend, Lateesha (Mo’Nique), works at the DMV and appears to be involved with the robbery scheme somehow, having provided fake ID’s to the alleged robbers days before the theft. It then quickly becomes evident to Domino that Claremont has gotten her and her team into a dangerous situation, when the mafia begins to suspect that Claremont himself arranged the robbery in order to collect the $300,000 finder’s fee.

It should be apparent by now that while the plot is obviously quite detailed, it’s not necessarily all that complicated. However, Scott’s insistence upon making it so by having no apparent order in revealing important details did cause a bit of frustration on my part. It is somewhat irritating when a director presents the audience with a set of events and then reveals 20 minutes later that, oh yeah, it actually happened a completely different way than the earlier depiction. When this happens multiple times in the film, Scott finally resorts to literally showing the audience a diagram in order to clarify matters. Unfortunately, even his diagrams made little sense.

Despite this, I still enjoyed the movie. Domino Harvey was an exceptionally easy character for whom to root, and I thought her action scenes, while frenetic and visually hard to follow, were still quite exciting to watch. Anyone who doesn’t mind fast-paced stories and “artistic” shaky cameras will surely not have any complaints with Domino, because the story really is a fascinating, if not substantially fictional, look at a tough little rich girl in a violent underworld. Personally, I enjoyed the film, but many might prefer to wait for DVD.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Fog 

In watching this movie, I witnessed the complete destruction of any and all elements from the original 1980 film, The Fog, that made it worthwhile. This shameful remake not only ripped out any semblance of terror, but it added in the most preposterous storyline ever. Having seen the original film, I was somewhat prepared to run with this one, but judging by the uproarious laughter I heard in the audience, I’m sure that those not fortunate enough to have seen John Carpenter’s 1980 version probably felt that someone in Hollywood had gone utterly insane.

The filmmakers apparently didn’t like how the original movie featured a foreboding explanation of the point of the story, which thereby set up the necessary background for the entire film, so they instead jumped straight into the middle for the remake. Nick Castle (Tom Welling) lives in the small town of Antonio Bay, which is days away from celebrating its centennial anniversary. He operates a small fishing boat with his friend, Spooner (DeRay Davis), who is supposed to be hip and cool but is bogged down by horrendously awful dialogue. Despite the fact that flocks of birds start abruptly vacating the island and dogs start barking frantically and then spontaneously combusting, Spooner ignores these obvious indications to flee the island and instead heads out on the boat with two drunk hot chicks wearing bikinis. As Spooner has gone to the trouble of setting up the most clichéd situation for preliminary slaughtering ever, the fog has no choice but to acquiesce and kill them all totally dead. Meanwhile, Nick and his girlfriend, Elizabeth (Maggie Grace), wander around town until the resident crazy old man can approach them and flaunt an old pocket watch that he found washed up on shore. He shakes it at them ominously, spews out some hideous dialogue, and warns that “everything comes back from the sea!” The malevolent fog descends on the island at this point, and secondary characters either start dying violently or simply develop a random case of leprosy, although the audience still isn’t quite clear as to why.

Eventually, through a series of flashbacks toward the end of the movie, the viewer is finally shown that the fog is attacking the town because the original founding fathers of Antonio Island had evilly stolen a leper colony’s gold and then burned them all alive on their boat. It’s a sad state of affairs that intentionally misleading the leper ship off course into a rocky cliffside in the original movie wasn’t shocking enough for audiences, that the filmmakers had to make the founding fathers ten times more sadistic in their treachery. As the final insult atop this decrepit feast of hideousness, the writers added an absurd ending that nearly had me frothing at the mouth in frustration.

The scenes in this version somewhat mirror the scenes from the original, with Dan the weatherman in his office, and Stevie Wayne’s (Selma Blair) son trapped in the house, but the director, Rupert Wainwright, opts to make them as boring as possible. So seriously does Wainwright take his mission to bore an already confused audience, that he eliminates one of the most terrifying scenes from the 1980 film and replaces it with complete nonsense.

Needless to say, I can’t think of anyone who would like this movie, unless it is viewed on a DVD with a huge case of Corona. Perhaps I’m just not frightened of fog since I live in San Francisco where it really does chase one around at times; of course, I’ve never seen it when it feels particularly malicious, but then again, I also never went out and killed a boatload of pirates who then swore eternal vengeance on my ancestors either. I emphatically don’t recommend betraying leprotic pirates, nor do I recommend seeing this film. See the 1980 version instead.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

In Her Shoes 

I was fairly surprised by In Her Shoes. I was expecting an overly long chick flick movie where Cameron Diaz plays a hot chick and Toni Collette plays her exasperated sister. While certainly aimed squarely at the female demographic, the movie didn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence with standard chick movie clichés.

In Her Shoes centers on two sisters, Rose (Toni Collette) and Maggie (Cameron Diaz) who have a close yet tumultuous relationship. Maggie is the pretty sister (à la Jessica and Ashlee Simpson), and she relies completely upon her stunningly beautiful looks to get by in life. When that fails, she falls back on her ever-accommodating, if not annoyed, sister, Rose. As a self-absorbed and inconsiderate freeloader, Maggie thoughtlessly trashes Rose’s apartment, wears her shoes without asking, and generally makes an annoying nuisance of herself—but not in a funny, Cat-in-the-Hat kind of way that makes Rose laugh in spite of herself, more in a car-towing, boyfriend-stealing kind of way that makes Rose angry. Finally, Rose reaches the breaking point and kicks Maggie out of her apartment, telling her to figure out her living arrangements on her own. Sisters can be mean like that sometimes. While Maggie rummages through her father’s house looking for spare cash—which apparently her dad keeps hidden all over the house in some sort of bizarre treasure hunt fashion—she stumbles upon a box full of old birthday and holiday cards sent to the girls by their heretofore unknown grandmother. Desperate for a place to go and out of options, Maggie heads for Florida in an attempt to mooch off a grandmother she has never met, without telling her sister or father where she is going.

At this point in the film, both sisters break out of their routines and learn valuable lessons about themselves, which is quite touching and emotional, etc... Rose finally allows a long-standing admirer from her firm to take her out on a date, and she is shocked when he seems to be really taken with her. Having perpetually stood in the shadow of her younger sister’s beauty and being slightly overweight, Rose never gave herself a chance, much less allowed any potential suitors to get to know her. While Rose finds confidence and builds a strong relationship with her new boyfriend, Simon (Mark Feuerstein), Maggie loafs around the pool at the retirement community and reluctantly opens up to her grandmother, Ella (Shirley MacLaine). This half of the movie was surprisingly funny, with fantastic dialogue and an assortment of entertaining characters. At a friend’s suggestion, Ella finally coaxes Maggie into bonding with her the old-fashioned way: cable tv and reruns of Sex & the City. Excellent.

This movie was entirely focused on its characters and their respective progression through a difficult time. Rose has tried to protect her younger sister from everything terrible in the world, resulting, in part, with Maggie’s complete reliance upon her and inability to grow up. Their separation after a particularly nasty fight finally allows them to deal with their particular issues and eventually rebuild their damaged relationship.

The movie is an estrogen-heavy film to be sure, so I believe that most women would really enjoy it despite the ridiculously long running time. It wasn’t insipid or cliché, however, so I was happy to discover that I really enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say it is necessarily a date movie, but it is definitely the perfect movie for a girls’ night out.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit 

I hardly noticed the quick hour and 20 minutes go by because I was so mesmerized by the quirky animation, but Wallace & Gromit is a happy and upbeat claymation film, so I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the animation genre.

Wallace (Peter Sallis) is a clever but clumsy inventor who operates Anti-Pesto, a humanitarian pest elimination service, along with his loyal and levelheaded dog, Gromit. Wallace has set up all manner of contraptions in his house as well as in his clients’ gardens in order to eliminate manual labor, and each gadget, whether it makes coffee or sets off a rabbit alarm, works quite efficiently at its intended purpose. Wallace and Gromit keep all of the apprehended rabbit as pets as an alternative to killing them, and they have been especially busy of late due to an upcoming vegetable growing contest. The contest’s organizer, Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter—again), approves of Anti-Pesto’s humane business practices, so when the town is terrorized by a gigantic were-rabbit, she hires Wallace and Gromit to protect the citizens’ gardens and capture the creature. Because even were-beasts should be treated humanely, after all. Unfortunately, the gun-toting Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes) would rather hunt down and kill the were-rabbit, fearing that Wallace could become a potential rival for the affections of Lady Tottington if he should prove successful in humanely stopping the giant rabbit.

The movie was exceptionally “cute” and definitely funny; however, some might find it slightly dull in spots. While the story moves along fairly quickly, there was a lot of down-time between bouts of were-creature hunting, and the most exciting parts didn’t occur until the end of the movie. I didn’t mind these breaks in action, however, as Wallace and Gromit were absolutely charming and delightful to watch. Despite Gromit’s lack of vocal ability, I found him to be one of the funniest characters in the movie—his facial expressions and body language whenever Wallace was about to attempt something reckless were absolutely hysterical. I thoroughly enjoyed all of their scenes, and I was quite impressed with the filmmakers’ ability to create so much expression and emotion out of nothing more than facial features.

Wallace & Gromit was a very simple story, and I really liked the unique animation style. The characters were extremely lovable, and I thought the film was a delight to watch. I strongly recommend this movie as a fantastic parent-kid cinematic outing, and I don’t doubt that almost anyone who goes to see this film will certainly enjoy it.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Well, Waiting definitely wasn’t the Office Space of restaurant parodies as I had hoped it might be, but it was funny in a juvenile and obnoxious way. Personally, I liked Waiting, and I can see its appeal for a fairly young demographic (of which I am apparently still part). The film, like its characters, is not meant to be seen as a sophisticated attempt at satire, but as a lighthearted and, at times, disgusting glimpse of restaurant employee tomfoolery.

The movie takes place over the course of one day at Shenaniganz, a mid-priced restaurant with a group of highly colorful characters. Monty (Ryan Reynolds) arrives to work the lunch and dinner shifts and is told by the manager to show a new employee, Mitch (John Francis Daley), the ropes. From there we are given a quick introduction to each of the characters on the restaurant’s staff as Monty gives Mitch a rather disturbing tour. Apparently, the male members of the staff keep themselves entertained during their shifts by playing the “Penis-Showing Game,” which is comprised of several different exposing positions, each with a corresponding number of kicks awarded if one is successful in flashing an unwitting fellow employee. The plot itself centers around... well, nothing really. The employees have various interactions with each other, Mitch is hazed, the manager is on a power-trip all night, and the customers are sometimes nice but more often rude. Dean (Justin Long) might have the only real storyline in the movie, as the manager, Dan (David Koechner), offers him a promotion to assistant manager and explains the perks of having “real power.” Dean can’t decide whether to take the position or not, however, because although he would make considerably more money, he worries that it will be a dead-end.

The kitchen staff and the waiters play the Penis game throughout the night with varying results, and Mitch continues to follow Monty around his tables as part of his training. He learns one of the horrifying truths of the restaurant industry: never mess with the people who handle your food. When one such customer gets her comeuppance after being inexcusably mean to a waitress, Mitch, as well as most everyone in the audience, is completely sickened at the employees’ idea of vengeance. But man was that customer a bitch. There are various other customer-related incidents, but the majority of time is spent on the interactions between the employees.

Again, this is not a sophisticated movie. I cannot emphasize more strongly that this film was ridiculously stupid—and funny in that way, which is precisely the point. The characters are overdone and exaggerated, the situations are sometimes too contrived, and the main source of comedy is freaking penis humor for crying out loud, so while it’s entertaining in a guilty pleasure sort of way, it’s definitely not clever or riotously funny. I got a fair number of laughs, a good deal of chuckles, and quite a few grimaces when it came to a food scene here or there.

I highly recommend this movie for adolescent guys, fraternity brothers, and anyone else who is interested in watching an obnoxious film. It’s easily one of the most immature movies I’ve seen in a while, and yet I admit that I thought parts of it were pretty dang funny.

Two for the Money 

I think this movie was trying to teach me some important life-truths, but I was so distracted by boredom that I fear I missed its intended lessons. Perhaps when I tune in to Jim Rome this week, he’ll spend his entire show explaining what I overlooked, since he has been zealously devoting so much time on his supposed sports show to marketing this film in recent weeks.

Two for the Money is a great movie to watch if you enjoy quality acting, and I suppose that if you can relate to gambling and its addictive characteristics then you will be especially touched by its message. Matthew McConaughey stars as Brandon Lang, a former college football star whose promising career ended with a deafening crunch of his knee. Apparently he chose to give up his pursuit of a healthy football contract as well as a college degree, because he finds himself working as a 1-900 operator in Vegas for a measly $10/hour. Suddenly, however, his astounding ability to accurately predict the outcomes of football games lands him a job offer from Walter Abrams (Al Pacino), a New York betting advisor who makes tons of money and likes to yell. Walter takes an immediate liking toward Brandon and gives him an office, an apartment, and a spot on the company’s weekly television show. The only stipulation to all this generosity is that Brandon assume the alter-ego of John Anthony—not, in this case, a mild-mannered reporter, but a slick and supremely confident a-hole in order to persuade clients to take his suggestions. Brandon/John makes the picks each week and advises the clients as to how much they should bet on each game. If the clients win on Brandon/John’s picks, then they pay a percentage to the company—if not, well, that’s not really the company’s problem.

At first Brandon is unsuccessful at assuming his new identity as John Anthony because he is pure of heart. He doesn’t cuss. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t smoke. And he’ll be damned if he gambles. Inevitably, however, the f-word slips out one day, which symbolizes, I suppose, his predictable transformation into the cocky John Anthony. Walter is quick to applaud his new protégé for finally ditching his honorable nature, and he takes the opportunity to start spouting out metaphorical observations of human behavior, like how we’re all just lemons or some other crazy Al Pacino-ism. As we see from the previews, Brandon/John Anthony finally gets his comeuppance and has a horrendous weekend of bad predictions, which were no doubt caused by his new sports car and slick hairdo.

My problem with this movie was that I kept waiting, futilely as it turned out, for something to happen (or at least for Jim Rome to make his “starring” appearance that he kept going on about all week). Instead, Walter just wants Brandon to be his surrogate son, so he gets wheezy and has mini heart attacks, spews out a few rants occasionally, and Brandon learns a valuable lesson about letting sports remain pure. Walter is depicted in the previews as being a tyrannical gambling overlord with talons apparently, who only cares about money; in fact, he is a feeble and self-destructive gambling addict who loves his wife and wants Brandon to take over his company.

If you love Al Pacino or movies about gambling, then this film may surprise you. I think part of my disappointment comes from false advertising, because personally, I thought Two for the Money was just exceptionally tedious.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Obviously, I was particularly predisposed to like this movie, being that Joss Whedon wrote and directed it. That being said, I was extremely pleased when Serenity surprised me by being even better than I anticipated.

Based on Whedon’s short-lived television series, Firefly, Serenity is set 500 years in the future when humans have colonized and terraformed a vast portion of the galaxy, which is governed by the Central Alliance. A small crew of rebels—the last survivors of an army on the losing side of a war against the Alliance 10 years earlier—now tries to make their living smuggling and heisting in a beat-up old ship named Serenity. Since the crew survives by remaining under the Alliance’s radar, the ship serves as the perfect place for Simon Tam and his sister, River, to hide after Simon brazenly rescued her from Alliance captivity. River, it turns out, is a psychic who was being brainwashed and trained by the Alliance for use as a weapon. Unfortunately, as many higher-ups in the Alliance parliament had recently observed River’s progress, they freak out upon learning she has escaped as her psychic abilities would have allowed her to read their minds and discover dangerous state secrets. Unbeknownst to the crew of Serenity, a methodical and brutally efficient Alliance assassin, whose sole purpose is to recapture River no matter what the body count, is now pursuing them across the galaxy.

Serenity’s captain, Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), is at first reluctant to help his two new passengers, as his main concern is the safety of his crew; however, it quickly becomes evident to him that the Alliance is desperately trying to hide something far more sinister than their military intentions for River, and the crew must discover what it is in order to save their own lives. Unfortunately, their flight from the Alliance is fraught with Reavers—a savage, cannibalistic group of men who annihilate anyone and everyone for no clear purpose other than a love of extreme violence. There aren’t any aliens in the movie, however, so the Reavers become all the more frightening to the audience by their nature as human.

The first 20 minutes of the movie were slightly difficult to follow, and I found myself having to pay extremely close attention in order to keep up with the fast-moving plot. Whedon had to squeeze an entire season’s worth of plot and character development into the first half hour of the movie in order to fully tell what turned out to be an immensely creative and gripping story. There were only a handful of fight scenes in the film, but each was well choreographed inasmuch as I could actually differentiate between characters versus watching a jittery, grayish blur. The space fight toward the end of the film was also really exciting to watch, and I loved the realistic, non-CGI appearance of the ships as well as the battle itself. The dialogue was very well written and often funny, which worked especially well in the context of a space saga because it was so unexpected and added to the film’s overall appeal.

Watching this movie made me feel disappointed that Fox cancelled the television show, because I got the definite feeling that there was a lot left unsaid in the movie, with hints of more developments and surprises that could have been revealed. I highly, highly recommend this movie, even for people (like me) who never watched the television series, and I really wish there were more films out there like this one.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Oliver Twist 

Roman Polanski’s cinematic adaptation of Oliver Twist felt much more like a play than a movie, but despite its deliberate and at times slow pace, by the end of the film I found myself quite engaged in the story and the fate of its characters.

Oliver Twist is not one of the Charles Dickens books that I have read, but it certainly felt like one of his stories with its bleak outlook and colorful characters. The movie begins with nine year-old Oliver (Barney Clark) being taken to an orphanage, where he is told that he will be educated and taught a useful trade. In actuality the orphanage is more of a workhouse, where the children are underfed and overworked. After making the mistake of asking for more porridge at dinnertime, Oliver is denounced as being ungrateful and sold off to a local undertaker in need of an extra worker. These new caretakers are no better than the heartless orphanage directors, so Oliver runs away, walking 70 harsh miles to London. Once there, he is taken in by Artful Dodger (Harry Eden), the most talented of a young gang of pickpockets who steal food and jewelry for their boss, Fagin (Ben Kingsley). Despite Fagin’s unsavory choice of occupation, he provides Oliver with decent food, a place to sleep, and his first experience with benevolence. Sadly, this new home also means a future of constant poverty and employment by Fagin, having to steal wallets and food to earn his keep. When Artful Dodger is nearly caught attempting to pickpocket a wealthy gentleman, Mr. Brownlow (Edward Hardwicke), Oliver suddenly finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and is arrested as the assumed thief. He finally benefits from the circumstances, however, and once it is determined that he is innocent of the theft, Mr. Brownlow takes pity on Oliver and essentially adopts him. Unfortunately, Fagin’s rather disreputable associate Bill Sykes, upon hearing of Oliver’s new benefactor, kidnaps the unwilling Oliver from Mr. Brownlow’s care in order to use him for more sinister purposes, forcing Oliver back into a dismal future.

Oliver’s story is both moving and pitiable, although the overall tone of the film is gloomy. His entire life is at the mercy of the adults around him, whether they are the heartless bureaucrats who would see him in a workhouse, the desperate criminals who would force him into a life of theft and poverty, or the few kind souls who would provide him a home and an education. Regardless of his particular environment, Oliver maintains a permanent expression of melancholy to demonstrate his sad situation and speaks a total of perhaps 10 lines throughout the entire film. Polanski seems to take particular interest in Fagin’s character, who, despite his profession as a thief, is not necessarily evil and does appear to have some redeeming qualities of character. The movie as a whole was quite slow at times, but the second half turned out to be much more rousing, when the menacing Sykes proves himself capable of the most horrific acts.

I would assume that any fan of Dickens would appreciate this movie, and despite its sluggish moments (and extremely long running time), the story itself is immensely engaging. I was somewhat annoyed at times that Oliver had so little dialogue given that the movie is ostensibly centered on his character; but, I suppose he didn’t need to blather on about his unfortunate life in order for the audience to empathize with him. Oliver Twist is a decent movie and a great story, so I recommend it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio 

The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio is an interesting movie based on a 1950’s suburban housewife, Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore), who supports her extremely large family by winning jingle contests, much to the growing chagrin of her husband, Kelly (Woody Harrelson). Evelyn’s struggle with her societal designation as a housewife despite her impressive verbal talents provided an interesting look at pre-feminist American culture, so I think this movie will vastly appeal to women as well as English majors.

The film is based on the true story of Evelyn Ryan, who lives in Defiance, Ohio with her husband, Kelly, and their 10 children. Evelyn has a gift with words, and between caring for her children, housekeeping, and cooking, she enters numerous jingle contests as a creative (and financially motivated) outlet for her keen intellect. Kelly is resentful of her success, inasmuch as he is forced to endure the taunting of his coworkers and neighbors, who question his ability to provide for his family by referring to Evelyn as the real breadwinner. Despite his clear devotion to Evelyn, he can barely suppress his resentment and humiliation, so he resorts to alcohol to solve his internal manhood issues. Unfortunately, by spending the majority of his paycheck on booze, he forces Evelyn to continue entering and winning contests in order to support the family, which perpetuates his bitterness and ever-simmering anger. Evelyn, for her part, remains relentlessly optimistic and cheerful, attempting to convince herself as much as her family that she is happy with her life and able to conquer any of the problems that perpetually threaten their tenuous financial state.

The screenplay for this film was based on a book written by one of Evelyn’s daughters about her mother’s perseverance in the face of constant poverty. It is apparent then, that while the movie is narrated by Evelyn and therefore ostensibly told from her perspective, it is in actuality a story told from the vantage point of her children. I began to suspect this fact halfway through the movie when I noticed that Evelyn was really just too damn happy all the time (as Kelly himself remarks at one point). As I’m fairly certain Prozac was not around back in those days, I can only assume that her character’s unyielding optimism was probably a product of putting on a tough façade in front of her children. Literally, no matter what horrible catastrophe occurs, Evelyn simply smiles, says something soothing, and gets to work on a solution. Her kids make a failed attempt at changing a diaper and make a disgusting mess everywhere; Kelly destroys Evelyn’s brand new freezer in a fit of rage; she slips and falls on fresh jars of milk, breaking all of them and severely gashing her hands; aliens kidnap her first born son; yet, these events merely serve to inspire a jazzy new jingle in her mind as she cheerfully goes about dealing with whatever calamity has occurred.

I don’t mean to say that this is a bad movie, because it was actually quite interesting. I would say that many people will really enjoy it, and I myself found it to be an intriguing look at one woman’s struggle in the repressive 1950’s and early 1960’s. From what I have read, the movie is very true to the book, which is in all likelihood quite an accurate account from the daughter’s perspective. I definitely recommend this movie to women but also to anyone who can relate to feeling trapped in a world that won’t allow one to reach her (or his) full potential.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Into the Blue 

Fans of Jessica Alba will certainly be pleased, as the only reason in the world to see Into the Blue is to admire the bountiful amounts of eye candy. The rest of the movie alternates between being extremely boring and outrageously absurd.

Jared (Paul Walker) is a recently unemployed diving instructor, who lives on a broken down boat with his beautiful girlfriend, Sam (Jessica Alba), in the Bahamas. He desperately wants to be a treasure hunter, but doesn’t have enough money to buy the necessary equipment for such a venture. Eventually, Jared’s brother, Bryce (Scott Caan), comes down to visit along with his date Amanda (Ashley Scott), a chick whom he just picked up the previous night (presumably at the airport I guess). Bryce is a big-time lawyer in New York City, and he has recently gained possession of a beach house and boat in the Bahamas when one of his firm’s clients defaults on payment. As is apparently common practice in big city law firms, the company seizes the client’s personal property and plops the deed on Bryce’s desk. Needless to say, the filmmakers’ creative energies were not overexerted much while planning this film.

Nevertheless, the foursome take out Bryce’s new boat, and after a long and tedious underwater diving scene that is visually appealing but mind numbingly dull, they randomly stumble upon the wreckage of a plane that is filled with cocaine. While this is not quite the treasure that Jared has dreamed of, Bryce and Amanda are absolutely convinced that they should simply sell the cocaine and get rich. While everyone bickers about the drugs, Jared jumps back down into the water among the perfectly docile sharks because he just knows that there’s more treasure to be found other than cocaine! Sure enough, after a few minutes of digging in the sand and holding his breath underwater for a good 10 minutes, he finds the remains of the legendary pirate ship, the Zephyr (note: not the legendary surf/skateboard shop). Unfortunately, the local drug dealer kingpin finds out about the cocaine in the airplane wreck, but instead of simply giving the drugs to him and getting back to the Zephyr, everyone freaks out and acts like idiots for the remainder of the film.

The whole movie was thoroughly exasperating. It’s one thing to be entertained by people making inexplicably half-witted decisions, but usually I get the feeling that the filmmakers intend for the audience to laugh at the imbeciles on the screen versus giving everyone the urge to kick themselves in the face. The dialogue is absolutely vile, and the interactions among the characters were completely unrealistic. There was virtually no chemistry between Sam and Jared, so the filmmakers’ brilliant method for attempting to create it is to have them kiss each other incessantly. Which is just more annoying than anything else. At least by this point in the film I wasn’t so painfully bored to the point of near hypnosis, although my brain cells started writhing in agony at the sight of the heretofore “docile” sharks suddenly deciding to feast on the bad guys--but only the bad guys. You see, sharks are apparently much smarter than humans, because they had the sense to try and eat those involved with this movie.

I only recommend Into the Blue to those interested in watching copious footage of Jessica Alba frolicking around in her bikini. Quite literally, that’s all you’ll get from this film, although the end credits proudly exclaim that there is $6 million in buried treasure just waiting to be unearthed at the bottom of the world’s seas. So, you know, better start looking.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Greatest Game Ever Played 

The most impressive thing about this movie was its ability to make a golf game ridiculously suspenseful and gripping. Despite being relatively confident of the film’s eventual ending, I remained on the edge of my seat for a solid 15 minutes at the very least.

The Greatest Game Ever Played recounts in relatively accurate detail (by Hollywood standards) the story of Francis Ouimet’s (Shia LaBeouf) improbable run in the 1913 U.S. Open, a time in which golf was played only by the wealthy upper class. Francis enters the tournament with some prodding by a friendly country club member for whom Francis caddies, and he attempts to compete with his childhood idol, Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane). Vardon and his British compatriot Ted Ray (Stephen Marcus), have traveled from Britain in order to win the U.S. Open and take the American trophy home with them to England. I assumed that the filmmakers would portray Vardon and Ray as villains, making them arrogant and rude, but apparently director Bill Paxton wanted to stay reasonably true to the actual material instead of providing the audience with a gimme bad guy to hate. Harry Vardon is actually quite a sympathetic character in the film, as he comes from a similar background as Francis. Despite his prominence and fame as the greatest golfer in the world, his parentage and impoverished background prevent him from acceptance in British high society—forced to work at the very country club that refuses to grant him membership. Vardon is haunted by the men who still look down on him and sees in Francis a younger version of himself. The wealthy gentlemen with whom Francis competes in the U.S. Open despise Francis for having the audacity to be poor and yet still gifted at golf. He is refused a caddy and is forced to settle for 10 year-old Eddie Lowery, a tenacious kid with a plethora of catchy clichés that often diffuse the pressure that threatens to overcome Francis.

Entwined with the actual tournament itself is the struggle between Francis and his father, in which his dad insists that Francis give up his damn fool ideals and go to work in the mines. Or something equally less exciting. His mother, however, is insistent upon encouraging Francis’ dreams, so she spends the majority of her screen time with a distressed expression on her face to show that she is, in fact, nervous about Francis’ performance in the tournament. The golfing scenes themselves were very interesting and increasingly suspenseful, although there was a considerable amount of slow-motion used for many of the more potent moments in order to further convey to the audience that there is an important event occurring, please pay strict attention. Which we obligingly did.

What I really liked about this movie was that, as far as I have read, it stays reasonably true to the actual story. There are of course some Hollywood embellishments for dramatic effect, but for all intents and purposes, the major details remained intact. The would-be antagonist of the story, Harry Vardon, is allowed to be three-dimensional, which prevents him from being used as the stereotypical villain. Francis himself is not presented as being a veritable saint, although in reality he was in fact a modest and well-mannered man, which is exactly how the film portrays him.

I very highly recommend The Greatest Game Ever Played as a relatively honest account of the historic 1913 U.S. Open, and Francis Ouimet’s resulting impact on the game of golf. I thoroughly enjoy American sports hero movies, and I recommend this one as a great example of a well-told true story.