Movies and Shows

Here’s a list of movies and shows that I’ve seen or am currently watching, and a little information about them.

Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. 8/09 They got this one right. An excellent translation from book to movie. One of the best in the series.

The Maltese Falcon. 8/09  B-

Vertigo. 8/09 B 

Doubt. 6/09 A-

Northern Exposure. 08-09 A

The Mission. 3/09  A+

Gran Torino. 2/09  A+

Slumdog Millionaire. 1/09  A+  (See Feb. 2 post.)

The Other Boleyn Girl. 1/09 I am not sure how historical this movie is, but Guitta and I enjoyed it. It was pretty shocking to see the Boleyn father use his daughters to increase his social standing, but it was a good example of how a simple bad decision can lead to more complex bad decisions. B+

Book Cover

Harvey. 1/09 I have seen this movie many times and have enjoyed it with each viewing. James Stewart plays the very pleasant Elwood P. Dowd, a man whom everyone thinks is crazy because of the company he keeps–a six-foot three-inch invisibile rabbit named Harvey. When his stressed-out sister tries to have him committed, a misunderstanding ensues in which she is mistaken for the patient and he the sane one. This is a very funny movie, a true classic. A+

DVD Cover

The Tale of Despereaux. 12/08  The tiny mouse Despereaux is not afraid, unlike all the other mice in the castle. In his neverending quest for adventure, he meets a princess, a kingdom of evil rats living in the castle dungeons, and one kind rat who is responsible for the present sadness that cloaks the entire kingdom. This story is entertaining and the animation is enjoyable to watch, but it does not transcend the children’s story genre enough to capture my imagination. However, I was very impressed by the over-arching message of mastering anger through forgiveness. B-

Quo Vadis (1951). 10/08 As with Ben Hur, this 1950’s Hollywood portrayel does disservice to the book, but unlike Ben Hur, it is not very enjoyable. The plot is diminished, the touching moments are gone, and the action sequences do not fully measure up. Students will find the dialogue unnatural, the action scenes laughable, and the fire unimpressive, and their reactions are primarily due to the huge gap between 1950’s cinema goers and today’s generation of movie viewers, who demand special effects and realism.

My grade, a D.

DVD Cover

Twilight. 11/08  One of my students told me I would have to check my masculinity at the door if I went to see this movie, and I know what he means. This is the teenage girl’s answer to Lord of the Rings; it stirs up their already raging hormones more than LotR stirred up my desire to convert to Elf and go to Middle Earth. If you are unaware of the current literary craze, let me tell you that yes, it is that big of a deal. Everywhere I look at school, there is some female student reading one of the Twilight series. So back to the movie. It was good, actually. Faithful to the book, but not slavishly so, the movie followed an easy pace, allowing the love story to gently fold out and not feeling the need to dazzle its viewers with overblown special effects, gory violence, or explicit sexuality. The rainy, forested scenes of Washington state made me want to pack up my bags and move there. A

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. 10/08  I love British movies with a 1940’s setting! A

The Goonies. 9/08  I thought I would like this movie. I didn’t. It was just a bunch of kids screaming for an hour and half. D

HBO’s John Adams. 9/08  What a great way to learn about history, and what a well-done series! Stiff characters from high school American history suddenly become real people with interesting personalities. Surprisingly, I could show this series to a high school class, with a few well-placed omissions. A

Evan Almighty. 8/08  This was cute and farely respectful, except breaking the second commandment, perhaps.  B- or C+.

Desperate Housewives, Seasons One through Three. 7/08  Wow! I was surprised at how much I liked this show. I like it for the mystery and dark secrets; Guitta likes it for the humor and the relationships. Can’t wait for Season Four. A

Mamma Mia. 6/08  I’m a sucker for musicals, and this one was a lot of fun. A

The Dark Knight 6/08. Wow! What an action flick! And what a freaky Joker! A

Hellboy II:  The Golden Army. 6/08  I wanted to see this movie because of the director Del Toro. He did such a great job with Pan’s Labyrinth. The Hellboy movies, including this one, have been disappointing, though. The dialogue and the story are not that great, but the creatures are very interesting. C

Wall-E. 6/08  Isn’t it amazing how Pixar has yet to produce a flop? This company knows that the most important part of a movie is the story. B

Kung Fu Panda. 6/08  When I saw the previews for this movie, I thought that it was going to be another lousy cartoon. I could just imagine a writer brainstorming something like, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we wrote about monkeys flying into outer space? Or better yet, about a panda learning kung fu?” I foresaw a movie with no story that relied solely on a funny idea and the antics of Jack Black. I was wrong. It had a wonderful story, and Jack Black’s humor was not out of control. Dare I say it? This is my favorite movie of the summer.  A

Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. 5/08  I was afraid that this movie might do for the series what the new Star Wars movies did, but I was proved wrong. This was a fun movie, full of the usual suspense and action as the originals. Still, the magic of the originals was not quite there.  B-

Prince Caspian. 5/08  See post for May 2008. B.

Battlestar Galactica, Season One. 3/08  Inspired in part by Dwight Schrute’s endorsement, I decided to indulge the sci-fi loving parts in me and check this recent tv series out. Guitta was unenthused by the prospect but willing to go along with it. However, we are both pleased with our new show. The characters may be a little slow in developing, but the story is intense and the special effects are impressive. My one caveat for all the viewers who immediately check out whatever I recommend is that sensuality is frequent, though this is no HBO series.  A 

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Jumper. 3/08  This is a pretty uninspiring, undeveloped story, but the idea of being able to warp anywhere is a fun one and the special effects are not bad. C

Penelope. 3/08 A happy, though cliched, family film about a girl with a pig snout who must be accepted by someone “of her own kind” in order to return to normal. Funny, but not hilarious. B-

Northern Exposure, Season One. 2/08 This is Guitta and my new happy show, an ’80s  replacement to Gilmore Girls, if you will. I’m enjoying the wit and the fish-out-of-water situations of the cityboy doctor in an Alaskan small town. A 

There Will Be Blood. 1/08  Even though I know that Oscar-nominated films do not often equal good movies, I was curious enough about why it made the list to see it with Nathan. It was interesting enough at first–I enjoyed learning about the development of the oil drilling business at the turn of the 20th century–but the movie went absolutely nowhere. I thought it was going to be about the main character’s conflict with the crazy prophet/preacher, but I was wrong. Then I thought it would be about the man and his son’s relationship. Again, I was wrong. The movie never went anywhere. Perhaps  it was about the development of the Daniel Day-Lewis character, I don’t know. In any case, I don’t recommend this movie.  D

Juno. 1/08 The best movie I’ve seen in the theaters for a year at least. Guitta and I have every intention of buying this movie on dvd. It was a perfect mix of humor (Juno’s wit is sharp, quick, and unceasing), relationships, important issues (the preciousness of life in the womb, the uncertainty of marriages lasting), and story-telling. True, there’s a generous peppering of crudity, but that’s pretty true to the high school experience. A+

Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. 1/08  The one act of violence that I almost always have to turn away from is the slitting of throats. I can watch all the gruesome killing of Braveheart except the scene where Wallace’s wife has her throat opened. So why on earth would I go see a movie where throat after throat after throat is slit by the razors of Johnny Depp? Because I like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, I guess. The movie was gloomy, bloody, and distrurbing, but all the different aspects of this movie (acting, story, costumes, etc.) were well done. B+

HBO’s Rome: Season 2. 12/07  The second season is an entertaining way to find out what happens to Brutus, Cassius, Marc Antony, and Octavian, if you’re willing to wade through the graphic nudity and violence that are so characteristic of HBO. I wish that I could rid the series of all the objectional parts so that I could show it to my classes, but alas, that will never happen. The once lovable characters of Polo and Virenus become the heads of a gang in Rome, and I lost interest in them and sympathy for Virenus. B-

Gilmore Girls, Season 6.  12/07  The title of this WB television series poses a serious question to any guy’s masculinity–can I watch this and still be a man? The answer is yes. It’s such a well-written, funny series chocked full of fast-paced, witty dialogue and lovable characters. It makes for good, light-hearted viewing.  A 

Sicko. 11/07  Guitta and I have been put off by Michael Moore’s manipulation and distortion of the truth in past “documentaries” of his, but we actually found this movie to be pretty thought-provoking and challenging. It raised questions for us, like:  why should medical care be refused to people simply because they don’t have enough money? is it right to refuse to re-attach a man’s finger simply because he can’t afford it? why not make healthcare a government service, just like firefighting and policing? would I not be spending the same money in taxes for healthcare as I currently am on health insurance? Sure, parts of the movie were dubious, like the whole trip to Cuba and their supposed kindness to our citizens. (As if their communist government wasn’t delighted at a chance to try to make the U.S.  look bad!) Overall, though, this is worth a viewing.  A


License To Wed. 10/07  The sole reason for our interest in this movie was that Jim from The Office played in it. Guitta and I both laughed throughout, enjoying the antics of Robin Williams, but we would both acknowledge that this romantic comedy will probably never be a classic on anybody’s list. Still, though, if you’re looking for a light, happy movie, you probably won’t be disappointed here. B- 

Shaun Of the Dead. 10/07  A smart, hilarious spoof of the classic zombie movie Dawn Of the Dead, this is British humor (or should I spell it humour?) at its best. Multiple viewings only increase the enjoyment, since viewers will recognize fun occurring in the background and pick up missed lines.  A

HBO’s Rome. This is really well-made. The story and characters are intriguing, lots of the actors have deep, melodic British voices, and the scenery and action are of movie quality. Guitta and I are enjoying the series AND learning about Roman history, but beware! There’s lots of nudity and violence. I wouldn’t dare watch this on my own if I didn’t have my wife acting as censor.  A



  1. David,
    are you kidding me?!! Desperate Housewives!! your credibility has just dropped 10 points.


  2. Don’t let the title scare you away. Give season one a try.

  3. Wendell and I felt the same way about The Goonies. I just wanted everyone to stop screaming! I know it’s a popular movie, but my theory is that those who like it now saw it for the first time as kids. Now that we are adults it’s too late to form the attachment our peers did. All we get is screaming.

  4. We’ll have to talk about There Will Be Blood, sometime. Based on your review of that and the Hellboy movies, I’m really not sure I can trust you to teach the children on Wednesday night anymore. As we’ve learned from Mike Campbell’s sermons, movies are very important for communicating spiritual truths. How can we expect someone so blind to aesthetics to teach our children? It’s hard for me to say this, but…maybe you should go to the Baptist church.

  5. Pretty good list, although I disagree with a few of the tangentials. Here is a list of my own:

    Hoosiers- A+ The story of the 1951 Hickory Hoosiers (based upon real life Milan, Indiana) is the greatest sports movie of all time and one of the greatest period. Watch it at least 5 times.

    The Pledge- B+- Directed by Sean Penn, starring Jack Nicholson about a search for a serial child killer. Very haunting in many respects.

    Shadow of A Doubt-A- Hitchcock’s early masterpiece of a “merry widow” killer played by Joseph Cotton who is the favorite uncle to his niece played by Theresa Wright in a small California town. Hume Cronyn also stars.

    Face in the Crowd- A- Andy Griffith is a thoroughly nasty character who manipulates the media for his own advantage. Also stars Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau and Lee Remick.

    The Bell Jar- C- Actually sort of a ridiculous account of a neurotic 1950’s woman in a New England/New York urbane atmosphere around the intellegensia. But I had a monster crush on Donna Mitchell, a semi-Michelle Pieffer lookalike, who played Joan in the 1978 version.

    Vertigo- B- Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart. Also Kim Novak. And also Kim Novak. Speaking of monster crushes.

    The Longest Yard-B+- the original (not the Adam Sandler profane remake) with Burt Reynolds and James Hampton about the prison football teams which plays the guards.
    Caretaker (James Hampton): “There’s Connie Shockner, the baddest cat in the joint. They say he killed 4 people with his bare hands.”
    Paul Crew (Burt Reynolds): “Man, that karate’s bad news.”
    Caretaker: “Oh, that’s before he ever learned karate.”

    Paul Crew: “Cookie, that 30 years you got when you punched out Warden Hazen. Was it worth it?”
    Cookie: “Well, I’d say… for me it was. Yep. For me it sure was.”
    Paul Crew: “Well then give me my &**%^ helmet!”

    Finally: the grandaddy of them all:

    The Outlaw Josey Wales- A- starring Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Ken Vernon, Chief Dan George, etc..

    Josey Wales: “Why do you think you have to kill me?”
    Assassin: “It’s a living.”
    Josey Wales: “Dyin’ ain’t much of a livin’, boy.”
    Assassin: (after exiting the saloon for about 20 seconds, he returns): “I had to come back.”
    Josey Wales: “I know.”

    (thereupon Wales blasts the assassin out of the saloon.)

    Ah, talking pictures, ain’t they great?

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