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Below are the 8 most recent journal entries recorded in Dan's LiveJournal:

Thursday, July 28th, 2005
9:37 pm
House of Wax
House of Wax

Starring: Elisha Cuthbert as Carly Jones, Chad Michael Murray as Nick Jones, Brian Van Holt as Bo and Vincent, Paris Hilton as Paige Edwards, Jared Padalecki as Wade, Jon Abrahams as Dalton Chapman, Robert Ri'chard as Blake, and Damon Herriman as Roadkill Driver

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Screenplay by Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes

Hundreds of movies are released every year. They can't all be good. No movie I have seen this year so far proves that better than House of Wax. After walking out of this movie, I had never wanted $9.50 back more in my entire life. There are very few (if any) good things to say about this dungheap, but there are plenty of bad ones. First of all, it's a horror movie, but doesn't come close to being scary.
Most of the "scary" moments are laughably bad, and the cast is abysmal. I don't want to say leads Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, and professional celebrity Paris Hilton are bad actors, so I won't. They're TERRIBLE actors. It makes me cringe to think that they are getting paid to stink up the screen the way they are. Cuthbert, the blonde bombshell who is the only weak spot of the otherwise amazing 24, is nothing short of nauseating as the heroine. The best of the bunch is Jon Abrahams, probably best known for playing Robert De Niro's son in Meet the Parents, as the wise-cracking Dalton, who is unfortunately beheaded by one of the pychopathic killers. Rounding out the cast are Jared Padalecki, one of the stars of the infuriating Gilmore Girls, and Robert Ri'chard, best known as the straight man to a puppet on Cousin Skeeter. It's amazing that a top-notch cast like this can fail (note extreme sarcasm).

One moment of this movie prevents it from getting my rating of zero stars, the worst possible. I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that Paris Hilton's character is killed. I won't give away details, but it is very gory and very funny at the same time. The filmmakers knew they had something when they marketed the movie with the phrase "See Paris Die!" Unfortunately, this moment takes about 10 seconds, and the other 112 minutes and 50 seconds are utter garbage. So, do yourself a favor and skip House of Wax.

Overall: 0 1/2 star out of 5
Monday, July 25th, 2005
7:26 pm
Ranking
My ranking of the 2005 movies I have seen so far:

1. Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith- 4 1/2 stars
2. Batman Begins- 4 1/2 stars
3. Wedding Crashers- 4 1/2 stars
4. Sin City- 4 stars
5. Kicking & Screaming- 4 stars
T6. Dark Water- 3 1/2 stars
T6. War of the Worlds- 3 1/2 stars
T6. Be Cool- 3 1/2 stars
T6. Land of the Dead- 3 1/2 stars
10. Bad News Bears- 3 stars
11. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- 2 stars
12. The Jacket- 2 stars
13. The Ring Two- 2 stars
14. The Longest Yard- 1 1/2 stars
15. The Amityville Horror- 1 star
16. House of Wax- 1/2 star
Saturday, July 23rd, 2005
2:12 pm
Bad News Bears
Bad News Bears

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton as Morris Buttermaker, Greg Kinnear as Roy Bullock, Marcia Gay Harden as Liz Whitewood, Sammi Kraft as Amanda Whurlitzer, Timmy Deters as Tanner Boyle, Jeff Davies as Kelly Leak, Brandon Craggs as Mike Engelberg, Ridge Canipe as Toby Whitewood, Jeffrey Tedmori as Garo Daragebrigadian, Tyler Patrick Jones as Timothy Lupus, Aman Johal as Prem Lahiri, Troy Gentile as Matthew Hooper, K.C. Harris as Ahmad Abdul Rahim, Carlos Estrada as Miguel Aguilar, and Emmanuel Estrada as Jose Aguilar

Directed by Richard Linklater

Screenplay by Bill Lancaster, Glenn Ficarra, and John Requa, based on Lancaster's 1976 screenplay

I have never seen 1976's The Bad News Bears, the film on which the topic of this entry is based. It is widely considered one of the best sports movies about children of all time, so it makes sense that producers would want to remake it almost 30 years later. The result is not a great film, by any means, but it is a very enjoyable one, with very funny moments and a refusal to succumb to the formulas of all other sports movies involving kids.

The highlight of the movie is without a doubt Billy Bob Thornton as washed up pitcher Morris Buttermaker, who agrees to coach the kids who weren't good enough to be on the other Little League teams. Thornton is given an opportunity to show his comedic skill as the drunken, foul-mouthed Buttermaker. He is very funny in all of the scenes he is in, and works very well with the children. The team is made up of the usual no-talent misfits. One of the best among these is Tanner Boyle, the shrimpy blonde who swears like a sailor and isn't afraid to pick a fight with anyone, usually the portly Engleberg. Other members of the team include an Armenian immigrant, a child genius, a very skinny weakling, a Mark McGwire fan, and a parapalegic. The team is helped by the arrival of hurler Amanda Whurlitzer, who happens to be Buttermaker's daughter, and bad boy Kelly Leak, who can hit the ball a mile. Greg Kinnear and Marcia Gay Harden provide ample support as a rival coach and an obsessed mother, respectively.

Bad News Bears will not be winning any awards. It won't be on any top ten lists, and it probably won't even be the top grossing film of the weekend, facing opposition from The Island, The Devil's Rejects, and Hustle & Flow, but it is a very enjoyable movie for teenagers and adults alike.

Overall: 3 stars out of 5
2:05 pm
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Starring: Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket, David Kelly as Grandpa Joe, Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Bucket, Noah Taylor as Mr. Bucket, Philip Wiegratz as Augustus Gloop, Franziska Troegner as Mrs. Gloop, Annasophia Robb as Violet Beauregarde, Missi Pyle as Mrs. Beauregarde, Julia Winter as Veruca Salt, James Fox as Mr. Salt, Jordan Fry as Mike Teavee, Adam Godley as Mr. Teavee, Deep Roy as the Oompa Loompas, and Christopher Lee as Dr. Wilbur Wonka

Directed by Tim Burton

Screenplay by John August, from the book by Roald Dahl

Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the second film adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's book of the same name. The first, 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, is one of my favorite movies and has proved to be a timeless children's classic. When I heard that Burton, a director whose work I have always enjoyed, I was very excited. Johnny Depp was not my first choice to play Wonka, but he has been one of Burton's most frequent and successful collaborators. Unfortunately, the new movie does not come close to living up to the precedent set by the first movie. Burton removes a lot of the aspects that made the 1971 version great, including the clever script, the great music, and the touching ending. Depp is a fine actor, but his Wonka pales in comparison to Gene Wilder's quirky choclatier. Burton's version is just weird. The Willy Wonka in the first film was an eccentric genius, while Depp's Wonka only walks around saying odd and painfully unfunny things. As for the music, the only songs in this movie are sung by the Oompa Loompas, and they might be good, but it is impossible to understand any of the words. The excellent ending from the first movie is replaced with a sour one that involves the added aspect of Wonka's relationship with his father, a comletely unneccesary subplot that really slows the movie down.

To be honest, I was enjoying the movie at the beginning. I did not mind the "Burtonization" of the setting of Charlie's house and the neighborhood he lived in. I liked the scenes with Charlie, his parents, and his grandparents talking about the wonders of Willy Wonka and his factory. However, when the other children start to find the Golden Tickets, the film goes steeply downhill. The other children, particularly Augustus Gloop, look more like cartoons than real people, as do their parents. By the way the movie runs through each child so quickly, you can tell that they will not be as important to the movie as they should be. In the blink of an eye, Charlie finds the last Golden Ticket and he goes to the factory with his grandfather. At this point, the movie might as well change its name to The Johnny Depp Show. I don't think anyone besides Depp has more than two lines for the next hour or so. The other characters become completely unimportant, as the children are rushed out to make room for more lines for Willy Wonka. The ending is quite possibly the worst part of the movie, as it drags on for far too long and is completely inferior to the ending of the Gene Wilder version. I left the theater utterly disappointed and wanting more. In conclusion, save your 10 dollars and rent the original version instead. It will be a much better experience.

Overall: 2 stars out of 5
Friday, July 15th, 2005
11:16 pm
Wedding Crashers
Wedding Crashers

Starring: Owen Wilson as John Beckwith, Vince Vaughn as Jeremy Klein, Rachel McAdams as Claire Cleary, Christopher Walken as William Cleary, Isla Fisher as Gloria Cleary, Jane Seymour as Kathleen Cleary, Bradley Cooper as Zack Lodge, Keir O'Donnell as Todd Cleary, Ellen Albertini Dow as Grandma Cleary, Henry Gibson as the Priest, Ron Canada as Randolph, and Will Ferrell as Chaz Reinhold

Directed by David Dobkin

Screenplay by Steve Faber and Bob Fisher

The hottest group of actors in American film comedy today have been dubbed the "Frat Pack" by some. This hilarious group consists of Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Jack Black, and Jason Bateman. Some of the hits starring multiple members of this group are Meet the Parents, Zoolander, Old School, Starsky & Hutch, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Wedding Crashers is the latest, and it ranks up with Anchorman and Dodgeball among the group's best. The movie provides constant laughs while still presenting a good romantic story. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are as good as ever as two best friends whose favorite activity is showing up at weddings to meet women whose inhibitions have been lowered by the romantic atmosphere and too much champagne. Problems arise when they crash the "Kentucky Derby of weddings," the wedding of one of the daughters of Secretary of the Treasury William Cleary, played by the always wonderful Christopher Walken. Both crashers meet another of Cleary's daughters. John (Wilson), meets Claire, beautiful and smart, played by Rachel McAdams. Jeremy (Vaughn) meets Gloria, innocent and red-headed, played by newcomer Isla Fisher. However, there are two problems: Claire has a long-term boyfriend, and Gloria is out of her mind. This wedding becomes anything but conventional when John starts to fall for Claire, and John and Jeremy spend the weekend with the eccentric Cleary family, and hilarity ensues.

The cast of Wedding Crashers is stellar. There is not a bad performance in the house. Wilson and Vaughn are wonderful, and McAdams makes it easy to understand how John could fall for Claire so quickly. Walken is just Walken. Jane Seymour plays against type as Claire's whorish mother. Isla Fisher is one of the film's standouts as the unbalanced Gloria. (I read a rumor she may be in the next Batman movie, and judging by this performance, that might not be such a bad idea.) Bradley Cooper is perfectly snivelling as Zach, Claire's conniving boyfriend. Ellen Albertini Dow and Keir O'Donnell are very funny as the vulgar grandmother and bizarre brother, respectively. And, in a hilarious cameo, Will Ferrell appears as John and Jeremy's mentor.

The Frat Pack are certainly sitting atop the comedy world, and Wedding Crashers will only cement their status. I did not stop laughing throughout the entire movie, and it was the same with the rest of the audience. If you don't mind a little raunch and you want to laugh, I would enthusiastically recommend Wedding Crashers.

Overall: 4 1/2 Stars out of 5
Tuesday, July 12th, 2005
6:56 pm
Batman Begins
Batman Begins

Starring: Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/ Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Liam Neeson as Ducard, Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, Gary Oldman as James Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane/ The Scarecrow, Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Falcone, Ken Watanabe as Ra's Al Ghul, Mark Boone Junior as Flass, Linus Roache as Thomas Wayne, and Rutger Hauer as Mr. Earle

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer

For me, seeing Batman Begins was a big event. I boarded Metro-North with some friends and went into New York City, as that was the closest place showing the movie on IMAX. We made a whole day out of it, finally seeing the movie in the late afternoon. While we were sitting in the theater in front of the six-story screen waiting for the movie to start, we noticed actor Richard Belzer from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit walk in, and we knew it would be a good experience. The movie was nothing short of incredible. Batman has always been my favorite superhero, and I was eagerly waiting another good film adaptation after the massive disappointment of 1997's Batman & Robin. Batman Begins was right in every way Batman & Robin was wrong. It focused on character and story rather than flash and special effects. In Batman & Robin, Bruce Wayne was not a character, he was an excuse to show George Clooney's face. Granted, that was the fourth movie in the original Batman series, so Wayne's character was about as developed as it was going to be, but Batman just didn't have the edge that the previous movies had. It was up to Christopher Nolan to bring that edge back.

Nolan's first step in revitalizing Batman was enlisting a phenomenal cast. Some people were probably less than excited with Christian Bale's casting in the lead, but he turns out to be an inspired choice. He shows Bruce Wayne's inner demons and motives for fighting crime better than any other actor who had played the part before. His change from a bratty young man trying to avenge his parents to a heroic defender of justice is masterful. Surrounding Bale in the cast are several Oscar winners and nominees, including Michael Caine as Wayne's loyal butler Alfred, Liam Neeson, as Ducard, Wayne's mysterious trainer with a devastating secret, Tom Wilkinson as crime boss Carmine Falcone, Morgan Freeman as inventor Lucius Fox, the man who provides Wayne with all of Batman's familiar gadgets, (including the Batmobile, Batsuit, and utility belt), and Ken Watanabe as the sinister Ra's Al Ghul. Also in the principal cast are Gary Oldman as Officer (and future Commisioner) James Gordon, Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, Bruce's love interest, and Cillian Murphy as psycho-therapist Jonathan Crane, who doubles as the maniacal Scarecrow. Overall, the cast is brilliant, with the exception of Holmes, who is only mediocre as the female lead. To be honest, I expected worse, but the movie still might have been a little better with a stronger actress. Supporting characters included Flass, a corrupt cop played by Mark Boone Junior, Earle, a businessman played by Rutger Hauer, and Thomas Wayne, Bruce's slain father, played by Linus Roache. This outstanding cast gives this movie something other comic book movies tend to lack- great characters.

Another reason this movie is a cut above the rest is the filmmaking itself. Director Christopher Nolan, best known for Memento, an amazing film released in 2000, provides the audience with sharp storytellingand intense action that does not fully rely on computer effects, as so many movies do these days. I, and everyone else in the large theater, were on the edge of our seats throughout the movie. I left knowing I wanted to see it again, and three days later, I did. In a matter of days, I spent 26 dollars on Batman Begins, and I believe it was worth every penny. In the days following seeing the movie, I compared it to the other comic book movies I have seen (and I've seen many), and concluded that it is the best. Batman Begins is a definite must-see.

Overall: 4 1/2 stars out of 5
12:06 pm
Dark Water
Dark Water

Starring: Jennifer Connelly as Dahlia, John C. Reilly as Mr. Murray, Tim Roth as Jeff Platzer, Ariel Gade as Ceci, Pete Postlethwaite as Mr. Veeck, Dougray Scott as Kyle, Camryn Manheim as Ceci's teacher, and Perla Haney-Jardine as Natasha/ Young Dahlia

Directed by Walter Salles

Screenplay by Rafael Yglesias, based on the book by Koji Suzuki

When I went to see Dark Water, I had already seen four other horror movies this year. One, Land of the Dead, was very entertaining. The other three, The Ring Two, The Amityville Horror, and House of Wax, were very disappointing. I went into this movie hoping that it would avoid the fate of the three stinkers with the help of good acting, and a story from the writer of the Japanese novel Ringu, on which 2002's The Ring was based. I was not disappointed.
The main thing that set Dark Water apart from the lesser films I saw this year was the acting. In her role as Dahlia, a desperate single mother trying to figure things out, Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly shines. John C. Reilly, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, turns in and inspired and very funny performance as Mr. Murray, the obnoxious and insincere landlord of the building Dahlia and her daughter move into. The always reliable Pete Postlethwaite and Tim Roth are also very good as the building's superintendant and Dahlia's lawyer, respectively. The child actors are also good, with Ariel Gade playing Ceci, Dahlia's daughter, Ceci, and Perla Haney-Jardine (last seen as The Bride's daughter in Kill Bill Volume 2) in a dual role as Dahlia as a child and Natasha, the dead girl who haunts Dahlia and her daughter. Rounding out the cast are Dougray Scott as Dahlia's ex-husband and The Practice's Camryn Manheim as Ceci's teacher. The movie proves that a horror movie can be just as good as other movies if competant actors are involved.
The plot of Dark Water was good, but not great. It was definitely obvious that the book on which the movie was based was from the author of The Ring, as there were many plot similarities, most notably the ghost of a little girl being the main antagonist. Some other aspects, such as hair in the sink and large water receptacles (a well in The Ring, a water tower in Dark Water) are present in both works. However, despite the similarites to The Ring, Dark Water was the first movie that genuinely scared me as I watched it in a long time. Brazilian director Walter Salles, whose other credits include last year's The Motorcycle Diaries, produced many real thrills and scares that keep you up the night you see them.
Overall, Dark Water was a very good movie, and the best horror movie I have seen so far this year. So, if you want to get a good scare at the movies, ignore and Paris Hilton trash that comes out of the woodwork, and check out Dark Water.

Overall: 3 1/2 Stars out of 5
Monday, July 11th, 2005
6:14 pm
first entry
Well, I've had this thing for a few months now and I've yet to put anything on it, so I would like to announce that whenever I see a new movie this year I will submit a review of it on this thing. I will also start to put up reviews of the 15 or so 2005 movies I have already seen. Have a nice day.
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