Batman Begins

I suppose by now anyone who reads these reviews should be getting used to me saying that I'm not very familiar with the source material for a film. Well, here's another case where this is true. Still, Batman has always been interesting to me for much the same reasons as he's interesting to anyone: the darkness, the inner demons, etc. This film did a great job of bringing all of that to the screen for me. Christian Bale gave us arguably the best film Batman ever, and the supporting cast was great and included some surprisingly big names. Gary Oldman as a Jim Gordon who has yet to become the Police Commissioner, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, and Michael Caine as Alfred all brought exactly the right qualities to their performances. Tom Wilkinson, Cillian Murphy, and Liam Neeson were also pretty good, and Katie Holmes was surprisingly adequate without a hint of awful to her performance. And, of course, another huge part of the film was Gotham City, which had so much personality that it was practically a character itself. I really liked Christopher Nolan's take on Gotham, a grittier, more realistic version than Tim Burton's more cartoonish interpretation that still managed to feel epic.

Viewed: 6/23/2005 | Released: 6/14/2005 | Score: A

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Guns, Germs, and Steel

By Jared Diamond

You don't really need me to say that this is a good book. After all, it won the Pulitzer Prize. It is an excellent read, though. Diamond takes on a very profound question--that is, why were some civilizations able to advance so much more rapidly than others?--and is able to provide a very simple, satisfying answer. The best part is that the book is very easy to read; just about anyone should be able to understand Diamond's argument. In fact, the only reason that it took me so long to finish this book is that I was heavily distracted by video games. In any case, I highly recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in history or anthropology.

Started: 4/12/2005 | Finished: 6/7/2005

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Howl's Moving Castle

This is the third Miyazaki film I've seen and I think I liked it even better than Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. It may have something to do with the mythology of the story being a little more accessible to me in its Western-ness. (That's Western as in the opposite of Eastern, not as in cowboys and six-shooters.) Whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this one. Miyazaki has such a great sense of the fable, and is a master of creating a feeling of epic in his films. Something about his movies grabs me on a very visceral level. The only problem is that I tend to leave his films a bit confused. I can never quite put my finger on just what affects me. With Howl's Moving Castle, I got the feeling that there was a lot of background from the novel that was left out. No matter, I'll just have to put the book in my reading queue. My last thought is that I think at some point I'd like to see a subtitled version. A lot of times English-speaking voice actors tend to overdo anime, and this one was no different. Christian Bale, especially was over the top, although Emily Mortimer and Jean Simmons had their moments, and Billy Crystal was surprisingly good.

Viewed: 6/14/2005 | Released: 6/9/2005 | Score: A

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Mr. and Mrs. Smith

If you're not in the mood for an action flick, it would probably be best to avoid this one. After all, that's all it really is: an action movie with a reasonably clever premise. The film takes normal marital friction and amplifies it to the point of comic ridiculousness. Most couples keep little details from each other, but in this one it's that they're both assassins. Every couple fights, but in this one they fight with guns. Juliette got a little bored, but I thought that it was pretty well paced. I suppose if you're not into long fight scenes, though, it could get quite stale in places. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie managed decent chemistry, although I always find Jolie a little too cold and a little too into herself. I'd say she did better than average in this one, though; you could tell she was trying. Juliette pointed out--and I agreed-- that Brad Pitt had excellent timing.

Viewed: 6/11/2005 | Released: 6/9/2005 | Score: B

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Cinderella Man

As it turned out, Juliette and I had very different opinions about this one. Coming out of the film, we gave each other our impressions as we always do. I said that I thought that the first five minutes were kind of boring, and that I thought Renée Zellweger was miscast. She was quite surprised, because she thought this was one of Zellweger's best performances. However, despite our differences on the chemistry between the two leads, we both agreed that it was a good story and that Russell Crowe and Paul Giamatti did excellent work as Jim Braddock and Joe Gould.

Viewed: 6/4/2005 | Released: 5/22/2005 | Score: B

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You know it's not a good sign when you're at a children's movie and even the kids in the audience are hardly laughing. There were a few bright spots--the lemur king, voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen of Da Ali G Show, was pretty funny--but overall the film was boring and unoriginal. I really wish that filmmakers would realize that it takes more than a few big names and one-liners to make a good animated movie. For that matter, I wish they'd figure out that just because an actor is famous does not mean that he or she will be good as a voice actor. But, since Madagascar opened at number 2--only bested by Revenge of the Sith in its second week--I doubt the studio execs will be learning this lesson any time soon.

Viewed: 5/29/2005 | Released: 5/26/2005 | Score: D

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