March 2009

Being John Malkovich (1999)
Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener
Running Time: 1 hrs. 52 min
Rated: R

Review by Brother Reed

Charlie Kaufman is a man who finds truth in absurdity. His screenplay for Being John Malkovich is a goldmine of radical concepts, and director Spike Jonze brings it to life before our eyes as an almost dream-like parade of strangeness. Lifelike puppetry, an office with a four foot ceiling, a chimp with post traumatic stress, people entering the minds of others… this is just the beginning of the oddities to be found in this film. However, it is no conceit. Being John Malkovich may have the trappings of an obscure art film but it is made so accessible – and so funny – that I think audiences will love it if they give it a shot. FULL REVIEW

War of the Worlds (2005)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins
Running Time: 1 hrs. 56 min
Rated: PG-13

Review by Brother Reed

In grade school I read the book War of the Worlds, or at least a kids’ adaptation of it. I don’t remember a lot of details about the story, but I do recall some standout facts and I remember being enthralled with the tale H.G. Wells was weaving. The sketchy illustrations (I told you it was a kids’ version) depicted strange creatures with hooked beaks and tentacles crawling out of craters, and giant machines menacing a frightened populace. It was exciting fuel for my young imagination. What I don’t remember was having to put up with a grumpy dad and a rebel kid who hate each other’s guts. If you’re a big fan of movie family dysfunction, expect to be right at home for 2 hours with War of the Worlds.

Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Director: David R. Ellis
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips
Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min
Rated: R

Review by Brother Reed (originally penned August 18, 2006)

Snakes on a Plane. If you haven’t heard about that by now, you’re probably not reading this review because you don’t actually use the internet. One of the most anticipated summer releases for a relatively small but enthusiastic group has just hit theaters with a bang. After nearly a year of hype, the big question seems to be whether or not it lives up to the now dangerously high expectations. Okay, so perhaps “high” isn’t the best word. From the start, no one really expected this to be a serious horror film, but more of a “so-bad-it’s-good” high-budget B movie tribute. “Specific” might be a better term. Much of the notoriety surrounding the movie is that five days of additional shooting were done to raise the rating from its intended PG-13 to an R. This was done in part to satisfy the growing demands of the as-yet-unreleased project’s internet following. FULL REVIEW

Batman Begins (2005)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson
Running Time: 2 hrs. 20 min
Rated: PG-13

Review by Brother Reed

It is not uncommon for me to come away from a movie feeling somewhat cheated. In 2005 it happened quite a bit. Star Wars: Episode III delivered on action but dive-bombed the dialogue; Boogeyman delivered jumps, but no real substance; and War of the Worlds failed to make me care about the characters. In fact many times it failed to make any sense. I actually enjoyed all of these movies in their own ways, but none of them had that total package that warrants a complete endorsement. However, I am happy to say that after seeing Batman Begins, I walked out of the theater feeling satisfied – satisfied that this was Batman done right. FULL REVIEW

The Hitcher (2007)
Director: Dave Meyers
Starring: Sean Bean, Sofia Bush, Zachary Knighton
Running Time: 1 hr. 24 min
Rated: R

Review by yfguitarist

I was looking forward to this film after seeing the trailer. I saw it opening weekend for a $4 matinée fee, and loved every minute of it.

Of course, it’s nothing new. If you’ve seen Breakdown with Kurt Russell, Joyride with Leelee Sobieski, or Stephen Spielberg’s Duel, you’ve seen this movie (although this one is more violent and shocking). It’s fairly mindless action, and yet the characters and their situation are engaging and I found myself genuinely rooting against the bad guy and for the good guys. FULL REVIEW

Cars (2006)
Directors: John Lasseter, Joe Ranft
Starring: Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy
Running time: 1 hr, 57 min
Rated: PG

Review by Brother Reed

There are three things that I hate. Yea, four are an abomination to me: movies in which a sport is a central part of the plot, movies in which a horse is a main character, movies in which a dog is a main character, and movies in which Hilary Duff is a main character. Usually a movie will have to pretty darn good to overcome any of these grave caveats. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. I liked Remember the Titans despite its sports theme, and Milo & Otis was one of my favorites as a child even though it was about a dog (and a cat). I can’t think of any movie that has survived Hilary Duff’s involvement, but on to the point. Movies about cars fare somewhat better than movies about sports; but it’s a dangerous area nonetheless since NASCAR, at least in some estimations, is a sport. So it was not without some nagging reservations that I went to see Disney and Pixar’s long-awaited latest film, Cars. FULL REVIEW

King Kong (2005)
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody
Running Time: 3 hrs. 8 min
Rated: PG-13

Review by Brother Reed

SPOILER WARNING: This review assumes that the reader is at least passingly familiar with the King Kong story which serves as the source material for this movie. Some plot points and scene details are discussed in brief, so if you have no idea what is going to happen in the movie and don’t want it spoiled for you, go see it before reading on. FULL REVIEW