Articles posted May 2005 Older >>

The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear

Sometimes you get home after a long day and just want to watch something dumb and funny. And that's exactly what you get watching The Naked Gun 2 1/2. It's about as funny as the original, very little plot to speak of, but just good, silly fun.

Leslie Nielsen is back as Lt. Frank Drebbin. Unfortunately, it seems he has tried to take this role and re-use it in other movies to much less success (anyone else see Dracula: Dead and Loving It?) But at least in the original Police Squad! show/movies, he is perfect for the bumbing detective role.

Priscilla Presley is back as Jane, the ditzy love interest. And it's always weird to see O.J. Simpson again, knowing what has become of him.

I was all ready to mention an unexpected cast sighting of Juliette Lewis as the sex shop worker, but it turns out it was only a Juliette Lewis lookalike, played by Gina Mastrogiacomo. I was, however, happy to see "Weird Al" Yankovic turn up in this one, since he made a cameo in the first movie as well.

Good, clean, dumb fun. 3/4 stars.


I'm not quite sure how we ended up adding Drumline to our movie queue. The story of a Harlem kid who plays the snare drum and gets recruited to play in the marching band of a southern college sounds, well, pretty cheesy on the surface.

But the movie was actually pretty enjoyable, if rather formulaic. Of course, the kid comes in all cocky, starts immediately flirting with upperclass(wo)men, and needs to learn how to work as part of a team instead of being a self-centered showboat. There's the stern yet caring band leader/conductor, played by Orlando Jones in a surprisingly restrained role. There's the bitter rival/drumline leader who stands in the way of success but ultimately teaches the kid how to succeed in the band. And of course there's the love interest, who is won over by his charm but then flakes out on him at the crucial moment.

Yet, in spite of the formula, it was done well enough that the characters were interesting and the movie engaging. The whole marching band culture was a new and interesting setting for a plot line that is traditionally used in sports movies.

Overall, it was a fun movie to watch, but nothing particularly groundbreaking. 2.5/4 stars.


Another movie to see while Vera is out of town. :-) I've only seen a few David Cronenberg movies, but that was enough to know to expect something very strange and, uh, squishy out of this movie.

Unfortunately, eXistenZ was released about the same time as The Matrix. And while it suffers a bit in comparison, it is actually quite a fun movie on its own. That is, if you like your virtual reality movies with a bit more blood & guts than the relatively sterile Matrix movies.

Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the main character, a world-renowned video game designer who is just releasing her latest virtual reality game. In a rather surreal twist to the whole concept of VR being driven by goofy looking hats and helmets and electronics, in this world the VR is controlled through biological means and jacked into your system via a "bio-port" installed at the base of your spine (of course, this being an extra orifice on your body, and Cronenberg having directed Crash, you can expect a bit of fetishism around that concept).

The story has a number of twists and turns, and realities within realities. Not every twist is wholly unexpected, but the ride is fun along the way. Even Willem Dafoe gets a creepy appearance as the local country gas station manager.

Overall, I really enjoyed the world that Cronenberg created, and thought the movie was a lot of fun. 3/4 stars.

Gods and Generals

Gods and Generals purports to be an epic tale of some stuff that happened near the beginning of the Civil War. What that stuff is remains a mystery to me because midway through its nearly four-hour running time, I gave up on it. What a snoozer!

If you want to save yourself four hours, just imagine a bunch of generals giving interminable and way overblown speeches to their troops, followed by a big hurrah! and then a battle scene. In between, there are lots of interminable and way overblown bits where the generals pray to God and accept their fate. Lather, rinse, repeat. My god it was boring.

The movie seems only to want to focus on the generals, and pretty much ignore everyone else. In fact, there were so many generals, you start to wonder if all the officers were just fast-tracked to general. I proposed a drinking game where every time a new general was mentioned, you took a drink. It wouldn't be very fun, though, as you'd be lucky to make it through the first hour.

The battle scenes were intensely boring as well, if you can believe it. A bunch of people died. There was no tension or any particular attachment to anyone. I guess it was supposed to be kind of sad, but it just felt so very ... mechanical.

Luckily, the movie was so long that it splits over two sides of a DVD. So after hitting the intermission, we decided it wasn't going to get any better. This is only the second movie I can remember giving up on before the end. 0/4 stars.


Vera's out of town this weekend, so it's time to catch up on movies that she is completely uninterested in seeing. :-)

I've been interested in checking out Saw ever since I heard early rumblings of it last summer. Some were describing it as a close relative to Se7en, but with a more horror-film bent. Sounded right up my alley.

In the end, that turned out to be an apt description of the movie. It's sort of a horror/thriller movie, involving a serial killer who captures people and put them in situations where they have to perform some extreme act in order to stay alive. The movie focuses on two men (played by Cary Elwes and writer Leigh Whannell) who wake up in a dilapidated bathroom together after being captured. They are both chained to opposite walls and in between them is a dead body. Over the course of the movie, they piece together how they got there, how they are connected, and what they need to do to stay alive.

The movie mixes together several elements which I really enjoy. First, it is a fairly claustrophobic movie, focusing on a very small set of characters in an extreme situation (one of the reasons I really liked Panic Room). Second, a lot of it is essentially a puzzle that gets pieced together over the course of the movie, and there are a number of surprising tidbits that crop up along the way to keep things interesting. There are some good, if a bit difficult-to-believe, twists near the end. And some nice gory scenes to tip it back over toward the horror end of the scale.

Overall, I thought the movie was effective and lived up to my expectations. 3/4 stars.