Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Aposlte * * *

Robert Duvall completely throws himself into the character of "Sony", a Pentecostal preacher on the run from a law after he puts his wife's lover into a coma.   The late Farrah Fawcett plays his wife.  The late June Carter Cash plays his ailing mother.  This is the kind of performance that would make anybody a Robert Duvall fan.  He plays a man of great religious conviction, who may be a little crazy, but spends every moment of every day like he is on personal mission from God.

There is a great deal of religious sermonizing in this movie.  At first, I wasn't sure that I was going to like this movie.  It takes a rather long 17 minutes for the movie to develop any kind of plot.  It took maybe another 20 minutes for me to really start to like Sony.  Nevertheless, there is something appealing about a man on the run, especially when that man has such conviction of purpose.

The center of the film focuses on a conflict with a character played by Billy Bob Thornton, that turns out in a really surprising way.

The movie started to lose me toward the end because of a sermon that lasted a whopping 17 minutes and 45 seconds, but the sermon ends on a sentimental note that I very much enjoyed.

When the credits started rolling I was disappointed that we didn't learn Sony's fate, but then the movie shows it to us.  Let's just say that this man never stopped preaching.

Overall, it is a little bit of a slow film, but the performances from all the cast are like a master class in acting.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Insider * * *

The first half of The Insider is the story of the tobacco industry whistle blower Jeffrey S. Wigand, played subtly as a mild eccentric by Russell Crowe, and 60 Minutes executive producer Lowell A. Bergman, played with passion by Al Pacino, and how they brought revelations about the tobacco industry to the 60 Minutes program that would ultimately cumulate in the tobacco industry settling with the states for $268 Billion dollars.  The second half of the movie is about how this story was almost suppressed because CBS was afraid of lawsuits from the tobacco industry.

It seems to me that the movie plays a bit like a history lesson, although an interesting one, especially by the way it is played by the two principle actors.  This is a side of Russell Crowe that we have not seen before, although I think that there is a slight similarity to his A Beautiful Mind performance.   

It bothers me that the movie plays a little loose with the facts for dramatic effect.  They made up a scene where Jeffrey S. Wigand finds a bullet with a note on it.  Would that not be slander toward the tobacco industry?

I have to wonder about the significance of the events portrayed in this movie.  The movie does a great job of making what might otherwise seem rather mundane interesting.   But how many people in the 1990's didn't know that tobacco was dangerous and addicting?   So I don't see the 60 Minutes piece as being that revealing.  The $268 billion dollar settlement happened because the states sued the tobacco industry, which makes me wonder how culpable the tobacco industry should be for providing a product that many people want and everybody knows is dangerous?    Should the states also sue McDonald's for serving fried food?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (2010)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (2010) is a dark and intense movie. It is sometimes exciting and other times slow and somber. There is an awful lot of scenes where people are running away from terrible things. There is also at least one scene too many of people sitting around sad and wondering what they should do next. Still, I was never bored, but the under-13 crowd might find this movie slow and depressing.

This is more of an adult Harry Potter, unlike the first movie 9 years ago where all the main characters were young children. Here they all look like young adults and they have some serious adult problems. Some people I know have made a fuss about a nude love scene, but that scene is a brief mirage strategically obscured by smoke. Nevertheless, this is clearly not a kiddie picture anymoe.

I think that the cinematography, special effects and attention to detail are the best we have seen so far in this series. The movie is a little too complicated to fully understand in one sitting, but that is O.K. It gives me reason to see it again.

P.S.  I forgot to mention that there is much humor in the first half.  The second half gets all serious and forgets about humor.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dark Star

Dark Star just came out on DVD. I saw it on cable 28 years ago and
thought that it was hilarious. My dad thought the movie was junk and
he was surprised when I said that I liked it. I am not sure how well
it holds up now, because one of the points of the movie is that
traveling through space is really boring. I also remember that the
movie was playing at a drive-in in the late 70's.
Every once in a great while this movie will come up during lunch time
conversation where someone will mention how funny it is and that it is
a classic.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Zombie Land (* * * *)

Zombie Land is comedy about 4 people trying to survive a Zombie Apocalypse.  I was a little put off by the gory opening sequence, but this movie is not as gory as other zombie movies and once past the beginning, the movie is in full comedy mode.  There is a surprise cameo in the middle of the movie that is absolutely brilliant.  

I am bumping my rating of this movie to 4 stars.  Why?  It is clever and witty in almost every scene, which makes it incredibly watchable.   There is enough here to keep me entertained through at least 3 or 4 viewings.

I enjoyed it much more than Shaun of the Dead (* * *), which is another zombie comedy that I liked.

Other more serious zombie movies that I liked are ...

28 Days Later  (* * *.5)
I am Legend.  (* * *.5)
The Omega Man

Of this bunch, I prefer 28 Days Later  (* * *.5), because it shows the Zombie Apocalypse being caused by a virus;  No dead people crawling out of their graves.  It also has a reasonably good sequel.

That is the limit of my experience with zombie movies, but along comes a new TV mini-series about zombies called The Walking Dead.  At this point I was wondering why do we need yet another show about a  Zombie Apocalypse?  You would think that with the dozens of zombie movies out there that this genre would be beaten to death.  The answer is that The Walking Dead is extremely well written, or at least the first part is because that is all that has aired so far.  The characters in this show feel very real.

The Walking Dead is excessively gory, which I don't like, but the story and the characters are so good that it kept me interested.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stuart Little 3 (* * .5)

Having just watched Stuart Little 2, I was curious enough to watch Stuart Little 3.  Just so we are clear: this is a direct to video movie, minus the live action.  It is mostly 3D computer animated, although the characters look like they are animated in 2D, which seemed kind of weird to me at first.  This is NOT a top quality animated film, but there are a few parts where the animation does look interesting.  I see on Netflix that some people reject the movie because of the animation.

I am not so much worried about whether this is live action or all animated, and I am not too concerned about the cheapness of the animation.  I am mostly interested in the quality of the story.  The first half seems so full of promise.  There is a lot of humor here and a few very cool moments.  I think that the first half might be worth checking out.  You can see all the best parts here.

The second half is a little dull.  It seems like they ran out of cool ideas and therefor the movie mostly degrades into a kiddie story.  That might be O.K., but I think that even little kids know the difference between good stories and dull ones.  It is not terrible, but it is not that great either.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

L.A. Confidential (* * * .5)

There is so much going on here that I was captivated by what I saw.  The LA-is-corrupt-and-so-are-the-cops plot is too convoluted to explain.  Here is one review that I liked.  I also recommend reading Roger Ebert's review.

This movie is a well done period piece that presents itself as modern film noir and has an all star cast.  With all that going for it, the film naturally has an attitude about itself:   This movie wants you to believe that it is great film.  In some ways it is, but most of the movie is dialog, sometimes corny, punctuated by  frequent moments of extreme violence.  There are a large number of speaking parts, and a high body count.  The action scenes are certainly intense.  There is a gritty realism to the movie.  When it was over, I was thinking that the movie is good, and technically excellent, but I wasn't sure if it was great.  My problem is that I don't totally believe it.  Parts of the movie are based on real events, but the story as a whole is a little too far out there.  This is not good for a movie that is supposedly a  period piece about 1950's Los Angeles.  Now if I could just think of the movie in the same way as "Pulp Fiction" then I would feel differently about it, but I don't think that "Pulp Fiction" was trying to be a realistic period piece.  Maybe that is the point; the movie is not trying to be realistic, but a more modern and intense version of classic film noir.

In places this movie is pretty gory..  This is not the kind of movie that I would want to watch over and over.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stuart Little 2 (* * 3/4)

Stuart Little 2 deserves some credit for being cute and fun to look at, if you can stand an overdose of cuteness.  The problem is the movie loses what little believability it had from the first film as it puts Stuart through one situation after another too dangerous for a 2 inch tall mouse.  The first film made me believe that this unusual family situation could work out somehow, but the second film had me saying, "Oh come on!"  as Stuart is in danger of being crushed at every turn.  This movie raised all sorts of questions in my mind, like how long does it take a mouse to grow up, and what will Stuart do when he grows up, and what will he do for a girlfriend? 

I know.  I think too hard.  The first movie allowed me to turn off my brain and just enjoy the ride.  Here, the story is just not strong enough.

The animation of Stuart did impress me.  I could see every hair on his tiny fury face.

I also liked seeing Hugh Laurie just before he became House M.D.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Theme Song (click here!)

One of the greatest spaghetti westerns ever ...  there is something addicting about this song.  I can't get it out of my head.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Triumph of the Will.

I have a slight fascination with Adolf Hitler, only because I want to understand how such a evil man could come to power.   I am convinced Hitler was a psychopath, or at least seriously mentally ill.  I happened to see Roger Ebert's review of Triumph of the Will, the 1935 Nazi Party propaganda film, where he describes it as a terrible film, but historically significant.  I started watching Triumph of the Will on YouTube,  and the first ten minutes I thought was fascinating.  Hitler in these scenes is almost comical, since he seems to struggle to keep his armed raised through a vast parade, and his slight plumpness makes him look clownish as he smiles at his success.  In these scenes it is hard to take him seriously.

I found the first 50 minutes to be pretty interesting from a historical perspective, but the last 50 minutes is almost nothing but repetitious marching and parading.

From the video I think I understand better how such an evil man can come to power.  About 25 minutes into the video, the Reich Party Congress promises people the world.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Canadian Bacon - In French, please!

It was not a great movie, but I thought that this scene was funny.
The idea is that a bunch of U.S. rednecks decide to go declare war on
Canada after someone they know is presumably arrested in Canada.
Oddly enough, it was written by Michael Moore, who is Canadian, and
all the actors are Canadian, but the movie never hesitates to make fun
of Canada. It is funny that Dan Aykroyd shows up just after they
mention "Driving Miss Daisy".

Monday, September 27, 2010


From: Hebden, Daniel R




I know there are some limits on streaming form Netflix.

One I don’t have a PC hooked up to my big screen.

Two, I don’t have a DVR yet  and  don’t have one hooked up to internet.

Three, they are a bit limited on selection, although it is getting bigger.


Yesterday I got a free box from my nephew who doesn’t have Netflix anymore  and  we hooked it up to our network  and  was

watching stuff in less than 10 min.

I spent an hour adding movies  and  TV series to watch to my queue, while my wife was watching “Dog the Bounty Hunter”.

I must admit it sure is nice to stream some movies.


Dan H.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

2012 * * *

2012 is a movie that is implausible most of the time, but entertaining regardless.  The last three quarters of the movie is almost non-stop action.  We get to see the super volcano at Yellowstone National Park erupt into a mushroom cloud, which under normal circumstances would be a major continental catastrophe, but as it turns out, it is least violent disaster that happens in this movie. The scale of worldwide destruction depicted in this movie goes way beyond anything we have ever seen before and the special effects make for good eye candy.

Anyone who knows anything about science knows that neutrinos from the sun in no possible way could make the center of the earth heat up.  This is not a movie that you want to think very deeply about.  Despite how unlikely the science seems, this movie reminds us that the universe is a very violent place.   Natural disasters have caused mass extinctions on planet earth multiple times before, so why not now?

There are other implausible moments, like when they can't start the engine of a giant ship as they go careening toward certain doom.  Nevertheless, it is easy to get caught up in the action, and the many characters are just barely interesting enough to make us care.

I enjoyed seeing Woody Harrelson as a wacked out conspiracy theorist. He is probably the most entertaining character in the movie. Danny Glover does a good job playing the president.

Friday, September 24, 2010

FW: Great movie but hard to watch.



From: Witmer, Robert C.


I put all the movies on my Netflix queue that get an Oscar nomination.  Sometimes I get the movies much later and forget why I thought I wanted to see them. 


The 2009 film “The Messenger” starring Woody Harrelson nominated for Best Supporting Actor is a movie I got the other day.  I remembered the subject matter and I watched it.  I’m glad I watched it.  It’s about the Military’s Casualty Notification teams that go to people’s homes and notify them that their soldier relative has been killed.  The reactions that people have when they are notified are very heart pounding moments.  Those scenes are hard to watch.


Here is a wiki page about the film:

Here is Ebert’s review:


Bob Witmer


Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Mist * * 1/2

The Mist is a horror film about people trapped in a supermarket surrounded by a monster filled fog.  This is a movie that kept me in suspense for most of film, but still left me disappointed.  My first problem is that a crazy religious lady in the store develops quite a following and causes people to turn on each other.  I found her to be quite annoying as she talked nonsense constantly through the film.  When someone finally decides to shoot her, I was greatly pleased.  If this is how Stephen King thinks people are, then he thinks that they are idiots.

My second problem is that movie changed the ending from the novella to be something much more shocking.  There is really no way to feel satisfied with an ending like this.  It also defied logic:  I think that the characters would have looked for a solution to their problem other than what was depicted.

Finally: I can only watch monsters attack people so many times before it starts to wear thin.

Roger Ebert gave the movie just two stars.  I mostly agree, but for different reasons.  There are moments when the characters, the dialog and the story are very interesting, but the story is just not quite enough.  I also think that too many of the characters are stereotypes.

The Mist got a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  This tells me that some people like horror films.  I think that maybe a similar film in terms of suspense would be The Happening, which I enjoyed a great deal more, but it was not critically well received even though it should have been.  At least Ebert liked it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

FW: The Mist

I’ll add it to my Netflix Queue.


From: Witmer, Robert C
Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2010 9:10 AM
To: Coffey, John
Subject: The Mist



I saw this and loved it.  It’s the first time I watched the movie twice and the commentary track for any movie in a long time.



Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Road * * * 1/2

The Apocalypse is not pretty.  You just about couldn't make a bleaker looking movie than "The Road".  That is what makes the movie feel authentic; it feels like the world really did come to an end.  The first third of the movie is bleak to the point of depressing, but the remainder gets more interesting and there is sort of a payoff at the end.  The payoff wasn't what I expected but I found it to be very satisfying.

This is not as much of an action picture as the trailer would lead you to believe.  It is different than the action oriented "Book Of Eli" which also lacks an emotional center.   The core of "The Road" is the emotional bond between father and son trying to survive under the worst possible circumstances.  This bond gets stronger as the movie progresses.  

Robert Duvall's part in the movie is very short, but a pleasant surprise and worth the price of admission.  He is already a great actor, but this may be one of his best performances ever.

I felt that the story might only be 3 stars, but this film gets extra credit for being unique.  We have seen post-apocalyptic movies before, but never one that looked quite like this.  Movies shouldn't just be measured on the quality of the story but also on the emotional impact, which for me is 4 stars.  I don't think that I will ever forget it.

John Coffey

Monday, August 30, 2010

Re: Carriers/Road

On Aug 30, 2010, at 8:34 AM, "" <> wrote:

Hello John,

   I assume you saw the Road this weekend.

   I saw Carriers, with Chris Paine who played Kirk from Star Trek.

   Carriers is about a plaque that killed mankind. It is a less epic, apocolypse movie.

   It was an interesting character dynamic between 4 traveling survivors and other survivors.

   Larry R. Trout

I saw it early  last week sometime but didn't get to finish the last 15 minutes.  Will do it tonight.  

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blade Runner: Final Cut * * * 1/2

I watched Blade Runner for the third time, having seen the original theatrical version in the 80's, the directors cut in the 90's, and now the Final Cut, which is essentially the same as the directors cut, with some minor changes.

I enjoyed seeing the movie again.   I think that I will watch this movie once every ten years just to see how its predictions compare to real advances in biotechnology.

This was a visionary film for its time, although the center of the film runs at a slow pace trying to set a somber mood.  It is a dark film, both figuratively and visually.  The movie messes with your head with moral ambiguities, but not as well as the book.   I highly recommend the film, but parts of it require patience.

John Coffey

P.S. I always value what Roger Ebert has to say. As usual, I think that he is too hard on science fiction.