Monday, January 31, 2011

"2010" (1984)

Starring Roy Scheider, John Lithgow and Helen Mirren
Written and directed by Peter Hyams

2010: The Year We Make Contact [Blu-ray]How exactly do you make a sequel to what was essentially an art film disguised as a sci-fi epic nearly twenty years later?  You just barrel straight forward, dismissing all but the most basic concepts necessary from the original (including one particularly famous musical cue retained as a main theme) and up the suspense quotient so you can market it as a thriller.

Nine years after the events of Stanley Kubrick's cerebral classic, "2001: A Space Odyssey," it is now the year 2010 and Doctor Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider, taking over for William Sylvester) has been drummed out of the space program in disgrace after the failure of the Discovery mission.  The HAL 9000 computer system malfunctioned, killing four astronauts.  The last survivor of Discovery, David Bowman (Keir Dullea) disappeared into a giant black alien monolith in space, leaving behind only a cryptic last transmission: "My God... it's full of stars!"

Floyd is approached by a representative of the Russian space program, who informs him that the Russians are closer to launching a mission to find Discovery than the United States.  The Russians propose a joint mission - an American crew will travel aboard the Russian ship Leonov.  Floyd recruits Dr. Curnhow (John Lithgow), designer of the Discovery, and Dr. Chandra (Bob Balaban), creator of HAL to journey with him to the moons of Jupiter and find the missing ship.

"Sin Nombre" (2009)

Starring Edgar Flores, Paulina Guitan and Kristyan Ferrer
Written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

Sin NombreI had this one on my Netflix queue forever and finally got around to watching it.  Sure, not as "forever" as "Good Will Hunting" the other day, but, y'know, whatever.

"Sin Nombre" (or, "Nameless") is the story of Willy (Edgar Flores), a Mexican gang member also known as "El Casper" to his homies.  Willy is a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, but he's fallen in love with a young woman, Martha Marlen (Diana Garcia), and he shirks his duties with the gang to spend time with her.  He also hides her from the gang.  Willy has become a mentor to a  young boy just inducted into the gang, known as Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer) who has yet to make his first kill or receive his first tattoo. 

One day, Martha follows Willy to a gang meeting, angering the leader of the gang, Lil Mago (Tenoch Huerta Mejia).  Lil Mago attempts to rape Martha, but accidentally kills her instead.  Bitterly, he tells Willy to shrug it off because he'll "just find another."  Not long after, Lil Mago takes Willy and Smiley and they board a train loaded with immigrants headed north with the aim of robbing the immigrants of what meager cash they have.  There, they encounter a small Honduran family - Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), her father Horacio (Gerardo Taracena) and her uncle who are attempting to get into Texas to find relatives in New Jersey.  Lil Mago attempts to rape Sayra, but Willy become enraged, killing him with his machete.  He forces Smiley off the train, and continues on alone, exiling himself from the gang.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Good Will Hunting" (1997)

Starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Robin Williams
Written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
Directed by Gus Van Sant

Movie - Good Will HuntingStrange as it may seem, this is actually the first time I've sat down to watch "Good Will Hunting," which is a movie it seems everyone else in the universe has seen but me.  But frankly, when it came out, it just wasn't the sort of thing I was into.  Even now, it's kind of not... I sort of have to force myself to watch these dramas because at heart I'm still a giant geek and I still gravitate towards things that are awesome, that maybe involve giant robots from outer space, or huge explosions... or Jason Statham.  Y'know.

But anyway...

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a young genius, working a menial job as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) while on parole.  He pals around drinking with his friends from Southie, including best bud Chuckie Sullivan (Ben Affleck), Billy (Cole Hauser) and Morgan (Casey Affleck).  One day, when a physics professor posts a difficult problem on a board in the hallway outside his classroom, Will solves it but doesn't sign his name.  The professor, Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard), tracks down Will who has just been arrested again for assault and is facing a stint in prison.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Alien Resurrection" (1997/2003) - Alien Anthology, Disc 4

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Ron Perlman and Winona Ryder
Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Alien Anthology [Blu-ray]Sequels are often iffy prospects, and then sometimes you get a truly unnecessary sequel.  "Alien Resurrection" is just such a film.  You may recall (spoiler alert) that Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) offed herself at the end of "Alien 3" in order to destroy the alien creature gestating within her, depriving the Weyland-Yutani Corporation of its great prize.  Flash-forward two hundred years, aboard the starship Auriga, where Ripley has been cloned by scientists of the United Systems Military, and an alien queen harvested from her body.  The queen soon begins to spawn xenomorph soldiers, which are kept in a holding pen deep within the ship.

But the Ripley clone's memories begin to surface, which shocks the human scientists that grew her.  Not long after, the crew of the cargo freighter Betty arrives to deliver a cargo of human bodies in cryosleep.  The crew, consisting of Elgyn (Michael Wincott), ship's captain, as well as pilot Sabra Hillard (Kim Flowers), first mate Christie (Gary Dourdan), mercenary Johner (Ron Perlman), wheelchair-bound mechanic Vriess (Dominic Pinon), and Call (Winona Ryder) a mysterious young newcomer.  Call recognizes Ripley, and tries to kill her, but Ripley informs her that the Queen has already been harvested.  Not long after, the aliens, which are more intelligent than the human scientists realized, escape their holding pen and slaughter the crew of the Auriga, leaving only the crew of Betty and a few survivors struggling to escape.

"Insomnia" (2002)

Starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank
Written by Hilary Seitz
Directed by Christopher Nolan

Insomnia [Blu-ray]Christopher Nolan makes damn fine films.  Sure, they can be flawed, but they're always highly engrossing and entertaining films.  2002's "Insomnia" is no exception.

In the small fishing community of Nightmute, Alaska, a teenage girl is found murdered.  Los Angeles Police Detectives Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) arrive to assist the local police in their investigation.  They're partnered with young, enthusiastic detective Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank).  At dinner, Hap reveals to Dormer that he's been offered an immunity deal by Internal Investigations in LA, who are looking into one of Dormer's old cases. 

The next day, while chasing their suspect, Dormer shoots and kills Hap in a dense fog.  Dormer claims it was the suspect he was chasing that shot Hap, and Ellie is pulled off the dead girl's case and assigned Hap's killing.  Dormer continues to look into the girl's murder, but in the town of Nightmute, the sun never goes down.  Dormer finds that he can't sleep, and the 24-hour sunlight begins to mess with his head.  Soon after, he begins receiving phone calls from Finch (Robin Williams) a local crime author who claims that killing the girl was an accident.  He knows Dormer killed Hap, and begins to lay the seeds of blackmail to make sure that both he and Dormer come out of the investigation clean.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"The Kite Runner" (2007)

Starring Khalid Abdalla, Zekeria Ebrahimi and Ahmed Khan Mahmidzada
Written by David Benioff
Directed by Marc Forster

The Kite Runner [Blu-ray]It's tough sometimes to critique a film that was adapted from another medium.  The trouble with adaptations is that you can get so lost trying to bring the book to life that it somehow turns out rather lifeless.  Now, "The Kite Runner" is certainly not a bad film, in fact, it's even rather good... but it's another one of those projects where you're done watching it and while you don't regret it, the impression you're really left with is, "The book was better."

Adapted from the novel by Khaled Hosseini, "The Kite Runner" is the story of a young Afghan named Amir (Khalid Abdalla as an adult, Zekeria Ebrahimi as a child).  Amir lives in Kabul with his affluent Baba (Homayoun Ershadi).  Baba wishes that Amir would be more assertive, but Amir would rather write stories.  Baba's friend Rahim loves Amir's stories, and encourages him to continue.  Amir's best friend, the son of Baba's servant, is Hassan (Ahmed Khan Mahmidzada).  Amir and Hassan are expert kite flyers, and even have a chance at winning the tournament one year.  But Amir and Hassan find themselves the targets of local bully Assef (Elham Ehsas as a boy, Abdul Salaam Yusoufzai as an adult).  After winning the kite flying tournament, Hassan is assaulted and raped by Assef and his cronies.  Amir witnesses this, but is too frightened to intervene.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

'Veronica Mars' Season Three (2006)

Starring Kristen Bell, Enrico Colantoni and Jason Dohring
Created by Rob Thomas

Veronica Mars: The Complete Third SeasonAnd so it was that despite an uptick in the ratings and more critical praise than you can shake a stick at, the CW for some reason decided that it would not order a fourth season of "Veronica Mars."  The show would end on a cliffhanger, with a number of unresolved storylines, which leaves me with an unfulfilled feeling of frustration at viewing this third season, despite the quality of the episodes contained within.  Unlike the previous two seasons, Season Three does not feature a single mystery spread over the course of the entire season.  Instead, it features two larger mysteries and then ends with a series of standalone episodes. 

Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) is now a freshman at Hearst College, along with her boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), best friends Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Mac (Tina Majorino), and Logan's roommate and surfing buddy Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen).  She also befriends Mac's roommate, Parker (Julie Gonzalo) and Wallace's roommate, Stosh "Piz" Piznarski (Chris Lowell).  Veronica's father Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) continues to head up Mars Investigations, often butting heads with glory-hound local sheriff, Don Lamb (Michael Muhney).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

'Veronica Mars' Season Two (2005)

Starring Kristen Bell, Enrico Colantani and Jason Dohring
Created by Rob Thomas

Veronica Mars: The Complete Second SeasonThe sassy teen detective Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) returns for senior year of high school in the second season of the CW's only good teen drama.  After the events of Season One, movie star Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin) is in jail awaiting trial for the murder of Veronica's best friend, Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried).  Veronica's father Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) has been redeemed in the eyes of the public and has written a successful book about Lilly's murder.  And Veronica is once again dating Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn).

Veronica no longer works as a private detective at school, nor as her father's assistant at Mars Investigations.  Instead, she has a hostess job at a local coffee spot, trying to live her life in peace.  But trouble is stirring once again in Neptune.  No longer outcast by the town's elite, Veronica is now shunned by those she'd championed the year before who believe she's betrayed them for status.  When a bus full of school students drives off a cliff, killing everyone on board, a bus she would have been on if not for being left behind by Duncan's vindictive ex Meg (Alona Tal), Veronica is pulled back into the detective biz to figure out who did it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

'Veronica Mars' Season One (2004)

Starring Kristen Bell, Enrico Colantoni and Percy Daggs III
Created by Rob Thomas

Veronica Mars: The Complete First SeasonI don't endorse teen dramas lightly.  The majority of them are vapid, soap-opera trash.  But every so often one of them comes up with a twist, and coupled with some excellent writing that goes beyond your standard "Dylan slept with Kelly this week OH.  EM.  GEE."  "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was one of those, taking standard teen drama tropes and wrapping them up in a funny and charming supernatural universe.  When that show ended, I wasn't sure there'd ever really be anything like it.  The CW's "Supernatural" takes care of part of it (guess which) but what about the other?

That show is "Veronica Mars."

"Brothers" (2009)

Starring Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman
Written by David Benioff
Directed by Jim Sheridan

Brothers [Blu-ray]Sometimes you come across one of these Oscar-bait dramas, and it's totally worth it.  Sometimes, it's just not.  Such is the case with "Brothers" - a sort of melodramatic take on "The Odyssey" starring Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman.  It's really not that "Brothers" is a bad film, but it just lacks a certain something that makes it great.  It has great performances and an intriguing subject matter, but something about it doesn't gel.

Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) is a loving husband and father, but he's also a captain in the United States Marine Corps.  His brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) on the other hand is a bit of a failure, just released from prison, with little direction in his life.  Sam's wife Grace (Natalie Portman) disapproves of Tommy, considering his criminal record.  Sam and Tommy's father, Hank (Sam Shepard) also disapproves of Tommy, and makes no bones about it.  When Sam is sent back to Afghanistan and then declared dead, Tommy begins to spend more time with Grace and her two daughters, Isabelle and Maggie.

But Sam isn't actually dead - he's being held captive by the enemy in Afghanistan, tortured.  At one point, he's forced to kill a fellow Marine in order to save his own life.  Eventually, he's rescued and returned home.  But he's traumatized, emotionally, but his experiences.  And he returns to find that Grace and Tommy have become close; his own children would rather spend time with Tommy than with Sam.  He begins to suspect that Tommy and Grace have been carrying on a sexual relationship.

Friday, January 14, 2011

'Doctor Who: The Infinite Quest' (2007)

Starring David Tennant, Freema Agyeman and Anthony Head
Written by Alan Barnes
Directed by Gary Russell

Doctor Who: The Infinite QuestI didn't really look too hard at what this was when I added it to my Netflix Queue.  I thought perhaps it was a special that I had missed, but it is, in fact, an animated "Doctor Who" adventure set sometime during the show's third season.  It originally aired in short segments as part of a "Doctor Who" children's spin-off called "Totally Doctor Who" in the UK.

The Doctor (David Tennant) and Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) run afoul of the evil despot Baltazar (Anthony Head) who plans to turn the entire population of Earth into living diamonds.  The foil his plan, and Baltazar is sentenced to rot in a prison planet.  Later, the Doctor and Martha are contacted by Caw, Baltazar's robotic servant, who informs them that Baltazar is free and is on his way toward finding the mythical wreckage of a ship called the Infinite, which has the power to grant people their heart's desires.  Determined not to let an evil madman gain so much power, the Doctor and Martha set off on a quest to find a series of ancient data chips that map out the way to the wreck.

Along the way they'll encounter space pirates, robotic oil refineries, alien prisons, a war between humans and insects and more.  Eventually they'll confront Baltazar and discover the truth about the Infinite and its powers.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Operation: Endgame" (2009)

Starring Joe Anderson, Odette Yustman and Rob Corddry
Written by Sam Levinson and Brian Watanabe
Directed by Fouad Mikati

Operation: Endgame [Blu-ray]It sucks when you can describe a movie simply as "meh."  It sucks more when the movie in question has some potential in its setup and some inspired casting to boot.  Such is the case with "Operation: Endgame," an action/comedy with an ensemble cast that includes names like Jeffrey Tambor, Ving Rhames, Emilie de Ravin, Maggie Q and Zach Galafianakis.

The Fool (Joe Anderson) has been hired as a thief by The Factory, a secret government organization split into two teams, Alpha and Omega, which function as spies and assassins in secret operations across the globe.  The two teams oppose each other (for some reason which is never made clear), but are overseen by the Devil (Jeffrey Tambor) who sends each on their respective missions.  The Fool is hired shortly after an operation known as Safehouse has gone horribly wrong, killing a member of Omega.

The Alpha team, led by Empress (Ellen Barkin), consists of Magician (Adam Scott), Temperance (Odette Yustman) who happens to be the Fool's ex-girlfriend, Tower (Brandon T. Jackson), and Hierophant (Emilie de Ravin).  The Omega team, which Fool is joining, is Chariot (Rob Corddry), High Priestess (Maggie Q), Judgement (Ving Rhames) and the Emperor (Bob Odenkirk).  During the daily briefing, it is discovered that the Devil has been murdered and a message is delivered by computer telling them that they have two hours escape the facility before the auto-destruct kills them all.  To make things worse, the Alpha team turns on the Omega team. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Logan's Run" (1976)

Starring Michael York, Richard Jordan and Jenny Agutter
Written by David Z. Goodman
Directed by Michael Anderson

Logan's Run [Blu-ray]In the 23rd century, the remnants of humanity live in a great, domed city.  Everyone lives their life in total pursuit of pleasure until the age of 30, when they are called to Carousel, a strange and deadly ritual which promises that some will be reborn in Renewal.  Logan-5 (Michael York) is a Sandman, whose responsibility is to police the city and track down Runners, those who defy the rules and attempt to flee instead of going through Carousel.

One day, he meets Jessica-6 (Jenny Agutter), who has a strange pendant around her neck that Logan doesn't recognize.  He's attracted to her, and her to him, but she's frightened by the fact that he's a Sandman, and she leaves.  The next day, Logan is tasked with a secret mission: to contact Jenny and have her take him to Sanctuary, where it is believed runners who have escaped the Sandmen may be hiding.  Unfortunately, this mission puts him at odds with his partner and friend, Francis-7 (Richard Jordan) who hunts Logan and Jenny when they become Runners.  Also after them are Jenny's friends, who don't believe Logan is really running, and want him dead because he's a Sandman. 

'Doctor Who' Specials (2009)

Starring David Tennant
Developed by Russel T. Davies

Doctor Who: The Complete Specials (The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars / The End of Time Parts 1 and 2) [Blu-ray]Instead of embarking on a fifth season for 2009, "Doctor Who" instead produced a short series of special extended episodes throughout the year, culminating in the two-part "The End of Time" which would see the end of David Tennant's run as the character and introduce Matt Smith to the world as the new Doctor.

In "The Next Doctor," the Doctor finds himself in London in the 1800s during Christmas time, but once again on Christmas, something is afoot: the evil Cybermen have somehow arrived and begun their plans for world domination once more.  But when the Doctor arrives, he comes across something shocking: another man claiming to be the Doctor (David Morrissey) is also there, already on the trail of the Cybermen.  But is he a future regeneration of the Doctor, or is something else afoot?

Monday, January 10, 2011

'Doctor Who' Season 4 (2008)

Starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate
Developed by Russell T. Davies

Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth SeriesAfter the incredible heights reached in Season Three, I wasn't sure what would happen with the fourth season of the BBC's "Doctor Who."  Fortunately, while not a disaster, and still featuring some great episodes, it's a definite step down from the previous year. 

After rewriting time to stop the Master from conquering the Earth, the Doctor (David Tennant) parts ways with Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman).  The Doctor finds himself then coming face to face once more with Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) who had helped him stop an alien invasion on Christmas the previous year.  Donna joins the Doctor on his travels, facing crazy alien threats like alien armies, creatures made out of human body fat, killer shadows and more. 

But a new threat is rising.  Warnings come to Donna and the Doctor that a darkness is coming, that a malevolent and ancient evil will return.  What is this threat?  What does it have to do with Donna?  And what does it have to do with planets and moons that are mysteriously disappearing all over the universe?  Donna and the Doctor will find out, but both of them will have to pay a price in order to save not just Earth, but all of creation.

"Batman: Gotham Knight" (2008)

Starring Kevin Conroy, Gary Dourdan and David McCallum
Written by (Various)
Directed by (Various)

Batman Gotham Knight [Blu-ray]Oh, how I love Batman.  Seriously.  I know I've gone on and on about that before, but what more can I say?  He's my favorite comic book hero.  And when brought to life by Kevin Conroy, well, there's really nothing better.

Released in conjunction with Christopher Nolan's live-action sequel "The Dark Knight," "Gotham Knight" is an animated anthology of six short films by prominent Japanese animation studios.  Though not 100% "canon" with the universe established in "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," these six episodes are meant to be relatively in line with them, featuring some of the characters and mentioning certain events. 

The first short, "Have I Got a Story for You," written by Josh Olson and animated by Studio 4-C, features a plot that had been done before and better in an episode of "Batman: The Animated Series."  Three kids tell their stories of their encounters with Batman, each one featuring a different interpretation of the Dark Knight - one as a living shadow, one as an actual giant bat, and one a technological marvel.  And, of course, just as in that old episode, the kids themselves come face to face once more with the actual Batman and even help him apprehend a villain. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

'Doctor Who' Season 3 (2007)

Starring David Tennant and Freema Agyeman
Developed by Russell T. Davies

Doctor Who: The Complete Third SeriesWhile I felt Season Two was a huge step up from Season One, could I really have been prepared for how near-perfect Season Three of "Doctor Who" is?

The Doctor (David Tennant) still reeling from the lose of Rose (Billie Piper), suddenly finds himself on a new adventure when a woman named Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) is mysteriously transported aboard the TARDIS from her wedding on Christmas day.  Attempting to get Donna back to her wedding, the two discover that she is actually the central figure in a new alien invasion of Earth.  Within her body are certain energy particles which could be used to awaken long-dormant alien creatures hibernating in the core of the Earth, which would then eat the population.  After defeating these aliens, the Doctor asks Donna if she'd like to join him in his travels, but she refuses.

Not long after, however, the Doctor meets Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), a medical student who gets embroiled in an adventure after aliens transport her entire hospital to the moon.  As reward for helping him stop the aliens, the Doctor offers Martha a single trip to anywhere in time or space.  The two head for the 1500s and meet William Shakespeare.  With their trip extending further and further the Doctor eventually offers Martha a more permanent place aboard the TARDIS, and the two journey across the cosmos together, facing strange alien menaces, and new and old enemies alike.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

'Doctor Who' Season 2 (2006)

Starring David Tennant and Billie Piper
Developed by Russell T. Davies

Doctor Who: The Complete Second SeriesAfter the conclusion of Season One, which saw the departure of Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, Season Two begins with the newly regenerated Doctor (David Tennant) falling ill just as the world is threatened by a new alien invasion, on Christmas no less.  Rose (Billie Piper), her mother Jackie (Camille Coduri) and ex-boyfriend Mickey (Noel Clarke) must figure out a way to help the Doctor before the aliens use their mind-control technology to kill one-third of the Earth's population.

When the Doctor is finally recovered and able to resist the Sycorax, he defeats their leader in a sword fight and demands that they leave Earth, never to return.  The Sycorax do so, but the British government has other plans.  The once-kindly Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton), now believing aliens (and the Doctor) to be a threat, enlists the mysterious organization known as Torchwood to destroy the Sycorax ship as it flees Earth. 

Disturbed, the Doctor and Rose continue on their adventures, often coming across hints of this Torchwood, but never really realizing what it means.  The Doctor and Rose have a number of fun adventures this season, including fighting a werewolf in 1879, encountering a new breed of Cybermen in an alternate universe, and even the devil.  One of the best episodes is "The Girl in the Fireplace," which has a particularly fun premise of the Doctor visiting a single woman at various points in her life, and having her fall in love with him, waiting years between sightings, while for him only minutes have passed. 

"Alien 3" (1992/2003) - Alien Anthology, Disc 3

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton and Charles Dance
Written by David Giler, Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson
Directed by David Fincher

Sometimes a film comes along and you wonder how it got made.  And I don't mean in the "How did they do that?" sense, like with that spinning corridor fight in "Inception."  I mean a production so troubled that the director himself decided to wash his hands of it, and somehow it got released anyway.  "Alien 3" is one such film, ultimately a film which seems more interesting behind the scenes than on screen.

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), at the end of James Cameron's excellent "Aliens," had found herself a surrogate family and confronted the horrific alien queen.  In the happily ever after world of fairy tale, that would be it.  But this is Hollywood, and Ripley's life is about to take another turn for the worse.  An alien stowaway aboard the starship Sulaco causes irreparable damage, forcing the ship's automated systems to jettison an escape pod with Ripley, Newt and Hicks to the surface of Fiorina 161, a harsh world home to a refinery populated by the worst killers and rapists in the galaxy.  Hicks and Newt are killed in the crash, leaving Ripley the only survivor.

"It's Complicated" (2009)

Starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin
Written and directed by Nancy Meyers

I'm a dude.  There's not much getting around that.  You can tell just looking at this blog where my allegiances generally fall when it comes to movie genres, and the romantic comedy is not one where I spend a good deal of my time.  Now, I've outlined my reasons for this before, and those reasons still stand.  But I also said that when there are good examples of the romantic comedy, I'll happily champion them.

"It's Complicated" is one of those good examples.  Sure, it follows the same basic plot structure as nearly every romantic comedy out there, but it does so in such a warm and inviting manner that it becomes instantly likable rather than cloying and obnoxious.  A lot of that success has to do with the cast, which pulls off the fun, but imperfect, script by writer/director Nancy Meyers quite well.

Jane Adler (Meryl Streep) is an aging divorcee.  After ten years, she's lonely, but finally "over" her divorce, so she thinks.  Her business is going well, and she's got enough to begin construction on an expansion of her home.  Her architect, Adam (Steve Martin) is also divorced, and the two find themselves attracted to each other.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"The Long Kiss Goodnight" (1996)

Starring Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson and Brian Cox
Written by Shane Black
Directed by Renny Harlin

"The Long Kiss Goodnight" is one of those movies that's stayed on the periphery of my radar for quite some time.  I've been a fan of Shane Black for a while, his having penned "Lethal Weapon," "Last Action Hero" and appearing as an actor in "Predator," but I'd never seen this particular entry in his resume until it showed up on Netflix Instant Watch.

Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) is a simple school teacher in a small town in Pennsylvania, where she is raising her young daughter, Caitlin (Yvonne Zima).  But Caine is a mystery: she can't remember anything about her past earlier than eight years prior, when she awoke one day covered in wounds and two months pregnant with her daughter.  Over the years, she's hired various private detectives to attempt to figure out who she used to be, but they all came up empty... until now.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"Aliens" (1986/1992) - Alien Anthology, Disc 2

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Micheal Biehn and Paul Riser
Written and directed by James Cameron

Now, I've already reviewed "Aliens" for this blog so I'll keep this particular post to discussing the merits of the 1992 special edition version of the film and its presentation on Blu-Ray disc as part of the massive Alien Anthology set.

The special edition includes some 17 minutes of footage not seen in the original theatrical release.  It affects the pacing of the film somewhat, but not negatively, if you ask me.  The film feels fuller, and more complete, though it was hardly sparse to begin with.  There's new footage that makes Ripley's relationship with Newt more satisfying.  We learn that Ripley's daughter died of old age while Ripley was drifting through space in hypersleep, which makes it all the more clear that Newt becomes her surrogate daughter.

We also learn that Burke sent a transmission to the colonists on LV-426, asking them to check out Ripley's claims of a derelict alien spacecraft.  The surveyors sent out into the wilderness to search for it are Newt's parents, and we encounter Newt much earlier in this version of the film.  It makes he appearance later seem a bit less random.