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Reviews Written by
Benjamin (ATLANTA, United States)

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My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Widescreen/Full Screen) (Sous-titres français) [Import]
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Widescreen/Full Screen) (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Nia Vardalos
Price: CDN$ 7.72
50 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Come on, it's a sitcom pilot!, Jan. 15 2003
No, really, thanks to the folks at CBS, Nia Vardolos' admittedly funny - if hokey, intensely formulaic and predictable - little movie is becoming a midseason replacement sitcom called "My Big Fat Greek Life."
The film, which benefits from old-style laughs from veteran performers like Michael Constantine, Andrea Martin and Lainie Kaizan and family-centered conflict, is as comfortable as a well-worn pair of shoes. It's cute, almost to the point of cheesy. It's a Cinderella story (both within the film and in this sleeper's performance at the box office), and you don't have to think all that much to get it. Vardolos and John Corbett have a good, natural chemistry.
The reason this one was ignored at the outset of its release, though, is because it's so formulaic that there's nothing particularly remarkable about it. It's a tried-and-true audience pleaser, no more and no less.
As it ranks among the greatest films of last year, though, I prefer ones a bit deeper, more thought-provoking and more challenging.
The best this has to offer, though, is Martin's out-of-nowhere, long-winded story about the lump on her neck. That was the loudest I think I've laughed in a theater this year.

A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning
A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning
by Lemony Snicket
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 14.78
181 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars I read this in a couple hours., Jan. 14 2003
This book was so short yet so compelling that I flew through it, and I ran to the store immediately to pick up the second one.
Other reviewers who've said that the lead characters aren't as well-defined as one should hope are correct, for you're not truly invested in the uniqueness of Klaus, Violet and Sunny. They're not so much characters as they are tools of the plot. They're the things that monstrous plot twists are built around.
By the book's end, after Klaus has been beaten, the infant Sunny has been trapped in a birdcage dangling from a tower and the 14-year-old Violet has been forced to participate against her will in a marriage ceremony, the wicked humor of the book wins you over.
Though unfortunate for the Baudelaire children, it was a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours for me.

Let Go
Let Go
Price: CDN$ 8.00
108 used & new from CDN$ 0.49

4.0 out of 5 stars It's not boring nor pre-packaged pop. But it is pop., Jan. 14 2003
This review is from: Let Go (Audio CD)
Avril Lavigne's Grammy-nominated debut album, "Let Go," comes along as other teen girl singer-songwriters are attempting to de-Britney what's currently on the radio, and Lavigne's album is a highlight of that movement. Lavigne, moreso than counterparts Michelle Branch or Punky Brewster-lookalike Vanessa Carlton, creates the most profound, original lyrics of the three. (The other two, to be honest, sound like they're cribbing from Jewel's poetry book.)
"Complicated" has a hook that's killer, an actual and an appeal that's undeniable. "Sk8r Boi," though intensely silly and so high-school, is fun in spite of itself. "I'm With You," the third radio-release single, is different from the first two singles, a more-aching, more-Alanis-lite song. It's good music, even for someone out of their teen years who still hasn't figured out where life is going.
Lavigne, I fear, wants to be seen as a rocker, and I don't think she's quite proven that with this album. But it's more than serviceable.
There are other hidden tracks on the album, as well. So pick it up for "Complicated," but listen to the whole thing. It's a pleasant surprise.

Y tu Mamá También [Unrated] (Widescreen Subtitled) [Import]
Y tu Mamá También [Unrated] (Widescreen Subtitled) [Import]
DVD ~ Maribel Verdú
Offered by TUNESUS
Price: CDN$ 7.87
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best films of the year., Jan. 14 2003
On one level, it's a teen sex movie. On another, it's the most frank and realistic depiction of sexuality that I've ever seen. Director Alfonso Cuaron has created something adult and important, about the reality surrounding what sex is and what it can be. Also, it comments on naivete, class distinctions, marriage, death and grace.
Despite the levels it reaches, though, "Y Tu Mama Tambien" is also endlessly entertaining, both funny and heartbreaking. And the ending, whether or not you see it coming, feels so natural and inevitable that it seems to reward the audience for paying attention.

About a Boy (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
About a Boy (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Hugh Grant
Price: CDN$ 5.00
82 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best films of the year., Jan. 14 2003
It frightened me, at first, to hear that directors Chris and Paul Weitz, the guys who made "American Pie," were behind the film adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel. Though Hugh Grant was born to play the self-centered, shallow, immature man urged to grow through his relationship with a young boy in need, I forgot about the occasional moments of warmth in "American Pie" and doubted the Weitzes were capable of conveying the heart and seriousness necessary to make this film. I was wrong.
Matching moments of true horror involving attempted suicide at the film's beginning with Grant's continuing snarky, sarcastic voiceover showed that the directors had found the precise balance necessary to make the film work. It's a heartwarming, occasionally edgy film about the human need for others and about how a family - whether one we're born into or one that we create for ourselves - can help us grow.
Nicholas Hoult, as Marcus, gives a great performance, and Toni Collette, as his hippie, depressive mother, is Oscar-caliber, but the film belongs to Grant. It's the best work he's ever done.

Minority Report [2 Discs] (Widescreen) [Import]
Minority Report [2 Discs] (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Tom Cruise
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 12.00
49 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, blah special features disc., Jan. 8 2003
"Minority Report," which works as a mystery, a sci-fi film and a pretty damn exciting adventure film, one of the best films of 2002. It is, at different points, thrilling, creepy, funny, confusing and inspired.
The acting is great, for Tom Cruise, in some of the scenes mourning his son, escapes his usual bravado to show some of that talent he so rarely gets to show in an action film. Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Tim Blake Nelson, Samantha Morton and, particularly, the scene-stealing, brilliant Lois Smith also give compelling, supporting performances.
The plot is labyrinth, and the payoff is, for the most part, rewarding, though the ending could've been a bit less conventional. (Why, after such a wacky ride of a movie, are we left with a chase through the annals of a hotel? And what is with that ultra-happy ending? I hear there's a theory that part's all faked, but I think that theory's a result of some disappointed moviegoers.)
My main complaint with the DVD packaging is the extra supplemental disc. Why create a whole second disc and put so little compelling information on it? The documentary is, mostly, Cruise and Spielberg patting themselves and each other on the back. It doesn't delve too much into the actual crafting of the movie's plot or story. It just presents it, point blank, as "We wanted to work together, and we found this script." The mechanics behind the film are inspired, and I wanted to know more. I wanted commentary tracks. I wanted how-to stories about the plausibility of the future gadgets. I got a 20-minute movie about how brilliant Spielberg is. I got a four-page essay on the film work of Tom Cruise, which I already knew about.
I love the movie. Give me the good stuff about it.

The Spirit Room
The Spirit Room
Price: CDN$ 15.00
85 used & new from CDN$ 0.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Some catchy tunes, but it's your usual teen angst nonsense., Jan. 8 2003
This review is from: The Spirit Room (Audio CD)
Michelle Branch's "Everywhere" is cute and light, varied in its rhythms and thus catchy, but the rest of the CD, let's face it, doesn't make much of an impression.
Because she's a pretty, sweet-voiced, confused, sometimes angry teenage girl, she sings songs that a confused, sometimes angry teenage girl would like. All the songs sound the same, with lyrics you can visualize written on the front of someone's notebook for math class.
Her collaboration with Santana, currently Grammy-nominated and at the top of the charts, is better. The song's more mature and studied than anything on this album.

The Notebook
The Notebook
by Nicholas Sparks
Edition: Paperback
81 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Simple, syrupy romantic nonsense with a bizarre ending., Jan. 8 2003
This review is from: The Notebook (Paperback)
I read this in its initial release in hardcover years ago. I thought, at best, that it would try to maintain the spirit of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, which was popular at the time, while coming up with an original story.
The story is original. An old man visits the hospital room of a woman with Alzheimer's, his wife of many years, and he reads her their love story. This story involves a guy named Noah Calhoun, who loved a woman named Allison when they were kids and loves her still, even though she's involved with another, more successful man now, who is himself a rather nice guy. In the past story, of course, Allison must choose between the two men.
This is all pretty blase, considering that you know from the outset of the story, though the author doesn't out-and-out identify which man the old guy telling the story is. Anyone who's ever read any sort of romance novel will be able to figure out who she picks.
The Alzheimer's story, which frames the other narrative, is the more interesting yet less successful aspect of this novel. It seems that whenever the old man reads Allison the history of their love, she is able to remember him and escape the cloud of her Alzheimer's. It's a nice twist on an old story, and it's touching.
Then Sparks, and this was his first novel, goes and ruins everything with a third act twist that's pretty creepy, if you ask me. He gives the old man a debilitating stroke, keeping the old lovers apart until, in the final pages, he's able to return to her.
Whether she remembers him, what they do and how it all works out I'll leave to the reader. I, personally, found the ending jarring, particularly when the story introducing it was nothing more than sweet and slight.

Stop Making Sense (Widescreen) [Import]
Stop Making Sense (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ David Byrne
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 28.80
23 used & new from CDN$ 26.18

5.0 out of 5 stars I was NOT a Talking Heads fan. But I am now., Jan. 8 2003
Director Jonathan Demme's STOP MAKING SENSE, listed by Entertainment Weekly as one of the Essential Independent Films when they produced that list years ago, has been called, by others, the greatest rock concert films of all time. Better than THE LAST WALTZ. Better than WOODSTOCK.
After seeing it, not really knowing much about the quirky, catchy pop music of David Byrne and his brood, the band and the film won me over. The film starts, like the concert, with a bare stage. David Byrne walks out, alone, with his guitar and a radio. Within moments of beginning "Psycho Killer," Byrne's tripping all over the stage, falling all over himself, stumbling into the edges of the film frame. With that, he begins to show some individual, I-am-not-a-rock-star personality. When the staging does come, when the band joins in the fun, that personality expands.
And when it comes time for the giant suit, this film's more than just a concert. It's become a story. The story of the band, the story in the lyrics and a commentary on how abstract visual art and obscure, obtuse music can interact.
Demme never shows the audience through the film, though you can hear them, for the film is just about the band, the stage. It's not about the reaction they get.
It's fascinating, and you'll find yourself a fan of Byrne's music, as a result.

Being John Malkovich (Widescreen) [Import]
Being John Malkovich (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ John Cusack
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 42.24
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Be someone else., Jan. 8 2003
This movie, as you've read, is off-the-wall, yet it manages to ask key questions about the nature of identity. It's funny, constantly manic yet always interesting.
Catherine Keener deserved her Oscar nomination, playing Maxine as this vicious shrew who managed to find and find herself deserving of love. Nearly unrecognizable under a giant, frizzy wig, ministering to animals while trying to come to terms with realizing she's a man in a woman's body, Cameron Diaz gives the best performance of her career. And the switch given to John Cusack's character, from sad-sack hero to villain, proves his range. And Malkovich as Malkovich is superb.
Visually, it's stunning, as well. The puppet show scenes, occasionally hysterical, are just plain neat. And the scene where Malkovich enters his own portal is a particular highlight.
This was the best film of 1999.

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