Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What I'm Watching - A Lot of Movies

It's been a nice period during the past few weeks, relaxing, watching a lot of Hardball and Countdown (and the new David Gregory MSNBC show, Race for the White House, which I'll post on in a few days) and even checking out Hannity and Colmes to see how badly the right is slandering Obama, but I think I may stop because it just raises my blood pressure and no good comes of watching it. Tonight, Hannity attacked Obama because some Super Delegate who has no connection to the Obama campaign said some outlandish things. I'm waiting for the exclusive on the racist tendency's of Obama's mailman next week and why this should force Obama to resign from office.

But this post is not about politics, it's about movies, because aside from the political nonsense, and the occasional Pistons and Wings games, I've been catching up on a lot of movies in the past few weeks. With a new Blu Ray DVD player and DirecTV providing me all of the movie channels free for three months, I've been filling my DVR with every HD movie I haven't seen yet (and even some I have). So what have I watched so far?

Michael Clayton (Blu Ray)- After finishing up Damages on Blu Ray (which I wrote about last week) I moved on to another legal drama short on the law on the new high-definition DVD format, the Oscar nominated and critically acclaimed Michael Clayton. And I was, well, pretty underwhelmed. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it didn't blow me away like I thought it was going to. I was surprised at how small a role Tilda Swinton had, especially after she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and while George Clooney was good, and the supporting cast was good, I don't know, maybe my expectations were too high. There were some great scenes, especially the final "negotiation" (not that you can really call it that) between Swinton and Clayton, but overall, I wasn't a huge fan. I do have to say though, Blu Ray DVDs are pretty amazing. The picture and audio quality just blows everything else out of the water.

Gattaca (Blu Ray) - I've said a few times before in the blog that I don't consider myself a "Sci-Fi Guy." I never got into Star Trek, never watched the Star Wars movies, but there are a lot of science-fiction movies and television shows I like, and Gattaca is near the top of the list. The mid 1990s thriller featuring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law, is a story about overcoming the odds and perseverance as much as it is about genetic engineering and what life could be like in the "near future." Gattaca has always been one of my favorite movies (it's probably in my Top 5 with Field of Dreams, Almost Famous, The Fugitive, and maybe Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and when the new version was released on Blu Ray this week, I jumped at the chance to add it to my collection. And with superior picture and sound (as mentioned above) you can't go wrong.

Deja Vu- I love having the movie channels and being able to DVR all sorts of films I never saw and watch them in HD whenever I feel like it. I watched Deja Vu yesterday, and for those unfamiliar, it stars Denzel Washington as an ATF Agent who uses new government technology to first investigate, then travel back in time to try to stop, a murder and terrorist attack by Jim Caviezel. Time travel movies usually make my head hurt, because of the logical problems time travel always presents, but unlike a lot of reviews of the movie, which were pretty harsh, but I liked this a lot. The ending, which I won't ruin, was both frustrating but somewhat logical. There were a lot of things which could have been done better, but overall, unlike many, I really liked Deja Vu and would recommend it.

Thank You For Smoking- I was really looking forward to this movie. It got great reviews, it was about Washington lobbying, had an all-star cast including William H. Macy, Rob Lowe, Katie Holmes and Mario Bello. And I hated it. Well, maybe hate is too strong. I thought it was over the top, too cute for its own good, and many of the characters were not characters at all but caricatures. And maybe that was the point because this movie was supposed to be a satire of lobbying, but, I just didn't find it very entertaining. Maybe that speaks more to me not enjoying satires, I don't know. But William H. Macy's character was a cartoon character, the great Mario Bello, whom I loved in The Cooler, was completely wasted in a nothing role, and that was basically it.

Stranger Than Fiction- Now here was a good movie. I'll be the first to admit I am not a huge Will Ferrell fan. I know most people are, but I just don't find his brand of humor entertaining. I have a similar view of most of Jim Carrey's most successful and well received comedies. And just as I loved Carrey in some of his more serious roles (like The Truman Show, which I am a big fan of) I really liked Ferrell in this more serious movie that still has a more understated humor which shines through. Dustin Hoffman is good here as well, and the story keeps you engaged from start to finish. You really don't know how the story is going to end until it does, and it keeps you guessing. Makes you wish Ferrell took on more semi-serious roles instead of the next sports-satire that he's gotten into a loop of doing, because somewhat surprisingly, he was very very good here.

So what's next, with time running down before I start work in April? I have I-Robot on Blu Ray, which I was told is quickly becoming the "demo disc" to use to really show off the power of the Blu Ray players. And I have a few other movies left on the DVR, but at least for the next few days, movies (and politics for that matter) take a back seat to basketball, as the NCAA Tournament starts up (BTW -- North Carolina over UCLA in the finals).

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