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The Flick Chick

The Flick Chick
Film Titles Beginning with "A" & "B"

Movies are fun. They take us away. Need a good cry? Film provides it. Lonesome and blue? They make us feel all warm and mushy. Bored? They scare us, make our hearts beat faster. The right film has something for everyone — the right film, if you can find it. Thats the catch. Anxious now? Never fear. You've got a safari guide now.

Ready? Excellent! Get your fills of chills, thrills, spills, forget your ills, and come with the Chick to the movies!

About a Boy

          Yeah, stupid title. Yeah, hackneyed scenario: shiftless wastrel is redeemed by the love of a good woman and (oh, give it a break) an adorable child. "Oh well," the Chick said, "I'll sit through almost anything for the pleasure of looking at Hugh Grant."
          And right off, she breathed a little sigh of relief, because the visuals had style. And though HG's character was a worthless loser, and HG himself had a disfiguring haircut, the other characters had an oddball charm. There were some mildly good jokes. The Kid was not agonizingly sentimental. And then . . . was the Chick imagining it, or was Grant actually, uh, acting? Nah, surely not. Why would one of the master Sex Symbols of our age want to mess up his act with acting? And yet . . .
           Well, it's not right. There are rules, you know. Cary Grant (the master) never ventured beyond his classic CaryGrantness. Sean Connery made a dozen early flicks based on his gorgousness alone. Paul Newman waited until he was old before he learned to act. So who does Hugh Grant think he is, distracting us from his yumminess by learning his craft? Fie!
            Yet it must be admitted — despite the bad haircut, HG did real good. (5/22/02)

Adaptation - ****

          It's been said that inside every writer there is a madman struggling to get out. Others have described the creative process as a bowl of jello that is occasionally struck by lightning. It's doubtful that either one of these definitions applies to any specific writer, but neither is far off the mark in describing Charles Kaufman, the main character of this fascinating, formless film — that was created, interestingly enough, by a writer named Charles Kaufman.
          In very general, it is about the creation of a film adaptation of a book. And as we watch the adaptation itself unfold before our eyes, viewers do indeed feel that they are inside the desperate mind of the writer, and that they are watching a creative process as the narrative moves forward.
           Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep, two stars great enough to have put vanity behind them, show the dissolution of one character and the re-creation of another. Watching, we experience passion, anguish, desolation, pathos, and a hand-in-hand wedding of violence and slapstick comedy. When the lights come up, you may be asking yourself what it was about. Here's the answer — the making of a classic!
           To the best of anyone's knowledge, however, Charles Kaufman never had a twin brother. (1/17/03)

A-I

          Haley Joel Osment, who singlehandedly carried this film, did so with his best performance to date. He was believably robotic at the outset and at the moment when he bonds with his surrogate mother, his expression changes so subtly, yet so radically, that it was thrilling to watch! The robots were brilliantly conceived, the scene in the "robot graveyard" had the same rich impact as the bar scenes in the first STAR WARS episode, and Jude Law's makeup and performance as Gigolo Joe were absolutely faultless. All that having been said . . . although I was glad I saw it, and although I recommend it, the film as a whole never supplied me with that indispensable click-through of emotion. No matter how good the elements, they must add up to a whole we can care for. Even the standardized Spielberg elongated, featureless glitterdusted humanoids could not save the day for me. (7/01)

ALMOST FAMOUS

           Ever dreamed of traveling with the Big Ones? Yearned to hear the Stunning Songs and watch the Original Singers do their stunts from backstage? Or maybe you 'd like to do a front page story for Rolling Stone? No dreamin', pals, some youngsters sometimes actually do get to do those things. (spoiler alert: But hardly ever.)
           Cameron Crowe was just such a youngster, and he not only traveled with the bands, he wrote the story and helped to create the movie that starred Billy Crudup as an eager innocent, and the luscious young Kate Hudson as everybody's darling, Penny Lane. Very charming film, and not all cotton candy.

Amazing Grace

            When people describe a film as inspiring, it's always a temptation to inspire and then suspire — that is, to heave a large sigh and run in the other direction. Not so here. Sets beautiful enough to enhance a production of Pride and Prejudice; a handsome, haunted, and impassioned hero (who can sing); a moving and articulate script, and a marvelous cast (complete with a fieisty leading lady who won't take no for an answer) combine to make this a great film. Plus, whoever thought William Pitt the Younger would be such a cutie! I ask you! ( 3/07)

Amelie
(In French, with subtitles)

          Yes, I admit to a weakness for foreign film. And that I'm partial to films directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (even, dare I say it, the little-known but ghoulishly hilarious Delicatessen). And I do love to laugh. Despite all these admissions, you may trust the Chick's word that this is a thoroughly delightful film. Audrey Tatou, as the title character, is just as winsome as one hopes, never descending into kitsch, yet enlisting our full sympathy with her do-gooding and her mischief-making alike.
          One the strengths of Jeunet's film-making is that, although there are many small parts in this film, there are no minor characters. Each persona is fully rounded out, brilliantly cast and charmingly played. (One such charmer is the clown-faced protagonist of the above-mentioned Delicatessen. Surely the other two living U.S. members of that film's cult-fan-club will be glad to see him again.)
           Although Amelie won beaucoup prizes at the Cannes festival, it is still hitting art-theaters here in the heartland. Lucky us; we need not travel to Metropolis. Anyway, ignore the words "warm," "heart-warming," and "charming" — See it anyway. You'll be glad. (2/6/02)

Angels and Demons

           Oh, this is a very silly movie! Why would Tom Hanks do such a thing? Again! Surely he does not need the money. Although, indeed, nothing much was required of him: only to look wise . . . except, of course, for jumping into speeding taxis, breaking through walls of bullet-proof glass, saving a few Cardinals from certain death, and half drowning in Italian fountains. That sort of thing.
           But it was so very silly! The ritual murders, the secret documents, the secret societies, the bit about reading the mind of Leonardo da Vinci and the other Greats Sculptors, the plot, and also the plot that was not, the parachute jump — you know what I mean!
           On the other hand, I do like seeing Tom Hanks get some lucrative work, even in such a nit-wit storyline. And it had good chases. And the sculpture was fine, and the scenery was wonderful. Oh well. 5/09

An Ideal Husband *****

          Oscar Wilde was a truly gifted playwright: razor-sharp satire, witty dialogue, charm, and perfect timing. Although this film does not quite live up to the (yes, dated) original it is still a delightful experience. Rupert Everett is suave and clever, Cate Blanchett is tender and vulnerable, and Minnie Driver is, well, a doll! The quips and quirks are quick. The sarcasm is sleek and sly, and the film is — well worth seeing.

Angels and Insects -

          I was lucky enough to enjoy once more the eerie charm of this wonderful and strange film. At once an intellectual experience and a stroll through the mind of a great visual artist, this has also a very kinky & voluptuous story line. By the last reel, we are in a fever of anxiety, fearing that the hero will not escape. Does he? And if so . . . what sort of bondage will he assume in exchange? Go out of your way to experience this!

Avatar

           Perfectly beautiful. Kind of inspiring. And yet, after a little thought . . . you have to know that, ultimately, bows and arrows really can't win against AK-47s. The tanks can keep coming, and change keeps coming, and civilization evolves. It's not just a lot of greedy guys and the sale of cokes and blue jeans. It is also literacy. And philosophy. And plumbing. And medicine that — if it cannot always save life — can work its own real miracles. So be aware that this film is more Lord of the Ring than it is Charlie Wilson's War. Much as we love the fantasy, let's recognize the realities, too. (12/09)

Bad Company

          What's not to like about Tony Hopkins as a smooth, world-weary superspy training wildman Chris Rock to play a smooth, world-weary superspy in a storyline that features double dealing, doubletakes, and a wealth of snappy comebacks. See this one for a really enjoyable evening. (6/10/02)

Bad Santa

           Why Billy Bob Thornton! How you do go on! If you wasn't so doggone cute in your Santa beard . . . I swan — but I would knock that bottle of apple juice right outta your hand and wash out your mouth with brown soap — the way you talk! For shame!
          But as my tender ears have never heard such language before, and as I am so pure as to not recognize that you are a wicked, and obscene, and thieving scoundrel, I guess as I have took no hurt from those goings on. But if I was you, I would clean up my mouth before I talked that to innocent young ladies and small children. You be warned! (video)

The Banger Sisters

            Who can resist Goldie Hawn? Ans. No sane human.
        Is there anybody in the world who doesn't believe Susan Sarandon is a first-rate actress? A no-show of hands indicates you all agree, so you see, you're way ahead before you start.
            Although this is billed as a feckless chick flick, that promo does it a huge injusice. It is also about compassion. And choices. And the results of those choices. And growing wiser as we grow older. Every character in this film shows real emotional growth — and that's no small accomplishment. Although there are some wildly improbable moments, we are willing to go along with the fantasy as well as the versimillitudes of reality. And perhaps best of all, to quote someone who is speaking of Goldie Hawn's character: "You look like a flower." Fairly true of the character. Entirely true of the no-longer-quite-young actress. We believe in her completely; she's a real, true star. (9/02)

Barber Shop

          Even though this has been a big box-office winner, you may still be surprised at how much you like it. Although most are stock characters, they are well played in three dimensions. The interactions are warm, the jokes and dialogue made my audience laugh, and Ice Cube has real presence. We sympathized with him, were willing to be patient with him while he worked out his problems in his own mind, and enjoyed his far-fetched success. One big criticism: take ear plugs. The sound track is WAY too loud.(9/02)

A Beautiful Mind

           What constitutes genius? We hardly know, because we can't see the lightning as it strikes. All we have is a whiff of ozone when it comes near. So if we can't even recognize it when we're looking at it, it's understandable that portraying genius would present a few problems. But it's fascinating to see them try: Amadeus (Tom Hulce as Mozart); Infinity (Matthew Broderick as Richard Feynman); the very powerful Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (in 1993), which actually included substantive examples of his work; Pollock (with Ed Harris in the title role, also reviewed in these columns). And now Russell Crowe portrays the tormented mathematician John Forbes Nash.
           Lots of good stuff here. Ed Harris is craggy and dangerous, Jennifer Connelly is appetizing and enduring. As a film buff, I relished the many examples of first-rate throwaway business: e.g. when Nash's friend and sometime tormentor acknowledges his success, Nash silently offers him a glass; the friend hesitates before taking it. And Nash wordlessly reaches out to him just as the camera leaves the scene.
           Okay. You've already guessed that I really liked this film. It engaged my emotions and my mind. It raised, very powerfully, the eternal questions about reality and our perceptions of it. Russell Crowe turns his potent charisma inside-out, so that it merely glints beneath the surface of Nash's driving, driven character. It was an exceptional performance, in which I frequently lost track of the actor within the man he portrayed. We went inside him. Struggled with him.
          Did we see Nash's genius? . . . well, lightening is notoriously hard to see.
           A suggestion: although troubled lives generally make better copy, how's about a salute once in a while to a relatively untroubled genius or two. Starting with, say, director Ron Howard? (Jan.'02)

BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

            Expected to hate it. Enjoyed it, instead. Really liked the ending, even though it should have been predictable. Enough said.

The Blind Side

            Billed as a true story, this film, which won an Oscar for Sandra Bullock, has a strong storyline, highly appealing characters, and is almost too sweet for some tastes. Could be that's because kind hearts and good behavior don't make the news the way incest and brutality and gunfights do.
           However, I must admit what that interested the Chick the most was seeing Ms. Bullock play so strongly against type. She usually plays waifs and innocents, sometimes shows her stuff as a comedienne. But here, as a tough, blonde, heart-of-gold Southern Mom, she adopts a street kid from the wrong side of town, and he turns out to be a Champ.
            She lit up this film. Worth your while to watch it, just to see her work! (2010)

Bourne I, Bourne II, & Bourne III and on the The Farthest Bourne

           These crisp, action overstuffed films are like a quick trip to the arctic — just the antidote for hot, sluggish summer afternoons. Not very strong on plot, but the story hangs together while hanging by its toes from various high wires.
           Matt Damon is a very capable actor, and this role is no great challenge, but he's likeable enough to root for, and it's easy to believe that he really is resourceful enough to vanish in a crowd, and tough enough to knock off the bad guys and come back with hardly a bruise. The quick cuts keep viewers off balance, but not disagreeably so. The Bournes are a fine choice at the movies or to rent when what you want is an fast-paced evening and a raised pulse. (7/07)

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

     Whoa, Dudes, just when you think there's nothing on, just as you're doing a last, desperate flip through the channels before falling exhausted and sleepless to the deck, what should you find but a 1989 antique gem — brilliant in the flickering darkness! A lanky teenaged Keanu Reeves (Ted) in a strange Dutch-boy haircut and with an orange Tee knotted around his loins is sent back in time (together with pal, Bill, played by Alex Winter) by a charming, deadpan George Carlin (Rufus, the future Dude) via a Doctor-Who-style phone booth, powered by a rusty TV antenna and some chewing gum. Yum. Once there, they rocket around collecting the cream of historical characters: Napolean, Soo-Krates, Dr. Frood, Beethoven, and a few of that ilk to win, ultimately, fame, fortune, world peace, and a passing grade in history. Excellent dudes! Its only equal in that arena was Yahoo Serious playing Albert Einstein. Who ever said Cable never gave us nothing! (4/17/01)

Billy Bathgate

          Splendid, complex drama with an even more splendid Dustin Hoffman at the center as Dutch Schultz. Although the film is not as convoluted as the E.L.Doctorow novel on which it's based, it still has marvelous locales, and a splendid storyline full of quick turns, betrayals, double crosses, ruthless cons, murders, crooked deals, hopes dashed, passionate young love, and explosive violence. The stellar supporting cast includes Nicole Kidman, Loren Dean in the title role, and a brief star turn by Bruce Willis. If it passed you by the first time, get the disk ASAP. <1998>

Billy Elliot

           If it's possible that you have not yet seen the film, or the musical, or the hype for either, it's high time you viewed this very charming and delightful flick on DVD. Never mind that you avoid "charming" films. Never mind that you don't like "delightful" anythings! Take it from the Chick. This you can't resist! See it. Prove the Chick wrong if you can!

Blow

          Blow it off! Even Johnny Dep can't save this loser-flick that tries to make you feel sorry for a heartless, worthless, pusher. (4/15/01)

Bound for Glory

          Where was I when this film was new? I never knew it existed! Caught only the last 3/4 of this superb biopic of the great Woody Guthrie. (He was far more than Arlo's dad, believe me.) I was traveling and it was a long, mostly sleepless night, so I don't even know the release date, although the fact that David Carradine stars gives us a clue.
          Guthrie was more than a brilliant performer and songwriter; his involvment in the labor struggles of impoverished itinerant workers during the dark days of the Great Depression was genuinely heroic. The film is valuable as a social document as well as for commemorating the life of a great and troubled artist. And the sound track brims with Guthrie's great songs. If you love folk music, if you think Grandpa always had it easy, and even if you can't stand David Carradine, see Bound for Glory. (If the video store never heard of it, try the Net.)
            Note from the net: Film was directed by Hal Ashley, and it won two Academy Awards in 1976. Can the Chick pick 'em or not!

The Brothers Grimm

          Any Terry Gilliam film will be quirky, visually moving, and will offer odd and unexpected perspectives. This one does all that . . . although to a somewhat lesser extent than Time Bandits and Baron Munchausen. And it is certainly not Brazil, which is in a class by itself. Instead, the stars, Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, as the Brothers, and Lena Headley as Angelika, play relatively straightforward characters in a fairly straightforward Gothic narrative which even includes some rare moments of humor. ("Don't rely on that armor. It doesn't do anything but look pretty. I made it myself.")
           But the horror elements — trees that stalk the travelers, the menacing birds, the witches, and the Black Blob that comes out of the well — are sufficiently effective to cause nightmares in the faint of heart. As in most Python-originated films, the mud and squalor of past centuries are more-than-realistically shown. But there is something else that sets this film apart. It serves to remind us of a very dark aspect of humanity's very dark past . . . the genuine and omnipresent fear of the night, a dread of the unknown, and the threat of horrid happenings that are beyond our control and outside our understanding.
           Do you like this sort of film? See this one, by all means. (9/05)

The Flick Chick Reviews New Films
More Film Reviews. Click the appropriate letter for films whose titles begin with . . .
A-B #  C-D #  E-F #  G-H #  I-J #  K-L #  M-N #  O-P #  Q-R #  S #  T-U #  V-W  #  X-Y-Z
A few choice foreign films (subtitles)


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