October 31, 2006

Studio 60 - $10

Ok I know this is a tv show but there is a precedent on my site for reviewing tv. Also this review is less of an actual review and more of a plea. A plea that you watch this show.

Studio 60 is the best thing on TV right now, in my opinion. The writing is clever, funny and moving. The acting is brilliant as the characters have all been developed well and it's only a few shows into it's life. This is a well made show, not hype or emotional manipulation but solid. I have looked forward to it each week since watching the premier.

The reason I'm pleading with you to watch it is that I've heard it may be cancelled. It may have been a mistake by NBC to put it up against CSI Miami, as inferior as that show is to Studio 60 in every way. But the reality is that they are apparently considering scrapping it.

So please, try it. You don't have to like it or agree with me but watch it once and decide. Skip the predictable, cookie cutter, not-worthy-of-your-time CSI Miami and watch the best thing on TV right now.

Watch It, Mondays at 10:00 PM on NBC.

October 21, 2006

Friends With Money - $8

Four middle aged women have been friends for years though there lives have become more and more different with each year they've aged. As the title implies the theme of money is used throughout. Three of the women are married and fairly wealthy and the fourth is single, alone, and a maid. Friends With Money explores the relationship of these four different women who don't quite understand each other but are held together by friendship.

This is not an escapist movie, nor is it "entertaining" in the Hollywood sense of the word. Friends With Money is a frighteningly realistic portrayal of friendship, gossip, human interaction and marriage - as the husbands of the three married characters also play an important role in this story.

There is certainly a kind of entertainment value in this movie, it is funny and moving and dramatic at times, sometimes all three at once. You'll laugh at the quirks of some characters because you'll see things in them that you see in people you know. You'll also cringe at moments when a character portrays an ugly side of themselves and you realize you're watching yourself.

Friends With Money is well written, brilliantly acted and is a truly refreshing story about the reality of relationships.

I put this movie on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $8.

October 12, 2006

Fearless - $7

Fearless is the true story Huo Yuanjia, or at the very least it is the telling of his legend. Yuanjia was an early 20th century Chinese martial arts master who is credited with uniting China and bringing it respectability in a time when China was short of both.

Yuanjia is kept from learning martial arts as a young boy by his Father but he trains in secret. As a young man he becomes skilled and arrogant and after defeating all challengers he is named the local champion fighter.

Yuanjia takes to drinking and partying and due to events that are partly his fault a serious tragedy strikes his family. Devastated, he leaves his home town and disappears to the Chinese countryside, living as a simple farmer. Here he learns the value of hard work, humility and the respect of human life and returns to his hometown years later. What he finds is not the town he left; the people are poor and foreigners are controlling the economy. The Chinese people are belittled here and all over their country by foreigners. Eventually Yuanjia answers a challenge to take on fighters in different styles from all over the world to disprove the reputation of the Chinese as the "weak men of the east."

I went in to this movie with low expectations and truly enjoyed it. I don't typically enjoy martial arts movies that have little more than fancy fighting in them. (see 'Ong-Bak' review below) This movie provided more than martial arts as it goes through the maturing and learning stages of Yuanjia after his family tragedy.

Jet Li plays Yuanjia and though his acting is not what has made him famous, he does an affective and convincing job in Fearless.

The fights in this movie are impressive and though I am thankful that they are not all there was to it, they are choreographed well and are a huge part of why I enjoyed this movie. The cinematography was surprisingly impressive as well as the movie maker took great pains to make this movie about more than just martial arts.

This movie will not blow you away but as I said it was a pleasant surprise and I enjoyed it.

I put Fearless on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $7.

October 8, 2006

X - Men: The Last Stand - $4

A "cure" for the mutant X gene has been discovered, it is developed thanks to the discovery of a mutant who causes other mutants to lose their power or "mutation" when they are near him. At first it is said that this cure will be administered only to mutants who volunteer to take it but it is quickly discovered that the government has developed weapons that fire darts filled with the cure, this sparks a backlash from mutants who become suspicious that the government wants to exterminate them.

Magneto, leader of all the angry mutants, wants to start a war with non-mutants and Charles Xavier, leader of the X-Men, wants to find a compromise and work with the government. Even the mutants who follow Xavier are angered that these weapons have been made, some even that this discovery is being called a "cure" since this implies they are sick rather than just different.

The plot falls apart at this point for me, we have X-Men fighting alongside non-mutants to stop Magneto from destroying the cure; the cure which they hate and don't think should exist. In an amazing twist of hypocrisy the X-Men even use the cure at one point in the battle on one of the bad mutants. I didn't know who to cheer for, or if I thought anyone was right. It's hard to get into a movie which centers around a battle wherein I could care less about the outcome.

This movie felt like no-one wrote it, instead the actors were just told the 3 things their character usually says and then they just said variations of them over and over. How many times will the X-Men come upon a situation where they need to hide and someone has to suggest to Storm that she make is foggy. Just once I'd like to see her think of it herself.

Despite a cast that I thought did a great job with the first two movies, there is no making up for the bad writing in this third installment. The jokes are lame, the drama is hokey and the plot is convoluted. New characters are introduced and given no development. One new character has wings and is the son of the man who developed the cure yet he is basically given 3 lines in the whole movie.

If you love special effects there are plenty in this movie and some of them are quite impressive. Visually X-Men is stunning and there is some entertainment value in that. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart as Magneto and Xavier respectively, do an admirable job of acting with the simple and limited script they were given.

If you enjoyed the first 2 X-Men movies you may want to see this 3rd one but let me assure that it pales in comparison.

I put this movie on my 'Don't Watch It' list and give it a value of $4.