The Village (2004)

The Village (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: July 30, 2004
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Covington, Pennsylvania. Population: Sixty Souls. An evil force lurks just beyond the borders of the sleepy town and a treaty is in place as long as Covington’s citizens never stray into the forest. When a young man from the village, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) decides to test out the reality of the treaty – he is injured, prompting the town to send one of their own, Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), to get medicine from a town beyond the forest. She must survive if Lucius is to live, in a race against time. However, she is blind…and the creatures of the woods hold dominion there.

I had been excited for this movie when it came out. I ended up seeing it in a little theater in Canada with some of my friends.

One thing I DID like about the film was that it was appropriately creepy for the most part. The most menacing and scary movie villain is the one you don’t get to see. The fear of the unknown pervades the opening of this movie but ultimately doesn’t stick with it.

True to form, M. Night Shyamalan throws in his “twist” ending and some might like it, others might hate it. I, personally, thought it was a neat ending but the logistics of it made my head spin if I thought about it too much.

The script seemed a little weak with stilted dialogue, but it’s hard to get period-dialogue right.

This is a movie that could have been really neat. Almost all of the elements were there. It’s not the worst Shyamalan film I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly not the best.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For The Village

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Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: August 27, 2004
Director: Jared Hess

Napoleon (Jon Heder) lives in a small Iowa town, where there seems to have congregated a long list of off-the-wall eccentric characters including his crazy family – Kip (Aaron Ruell), Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) and Grandma (Sandy Martin). At his school, he pursues a girl named Deb (Tina Majorino) and tries to help his newfound friend Pedro (Efrem Ramirez) become the class president and defeat the obnoxious Summer Wheatly (Haylie Duff).

The big draw to this film, in case you couldn’t already tell, are the zany characters. The story is there to fit the characters, and not the other way around.

Heder is definitely at his best here, playing the squinty, annoyed and overly-confident but tragically clumsy Napoleon who must constantly wade through the others in the cast to get anything accomplished in his life…from his squabbling brother Kip, who wants to be a cage fighter and somehow gets more attention from the ladies….to his Uncle Rico who does nothing but eat steak and wish he were still in the 1980’s.

There are many worthy moments of comedy cold and there are lots of catchphrases still being used even today from the film (and even a new animated show, which I’m not sure is still on or not).

The locations where the film was shot hold a sort of nostalgic charm that you can’t find in today’s hustle-and-bustle cities and it’s really fun to see a world where you’re really not sure if it’s supposed to be the 1990’s or if it’s really just that backwater there.

This is a classic, for sure.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Napoleon Dynamite

Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Starsky and Hutch (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: March 5, 2004
Director: Todd Phillips

David Starsky (Ben Stiller) is, at least in his own eyes, a super cop. He narrates his own life with a sort of grim, noir commentary and takes pleasure in being an officer of the law…one of the good guys. Ken Hutchinson (Owen Wilson), often called ‘Hutch’, is the exact opposite. Ending up as partners, they must resolve their differences and work together to take down the drug czar Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn) using intel and help from their informant, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg).

I was never a super-huge fan of the show, as I only ever saw reruns when I was a kid. Once I reached college age, though, I started consuming some media I missed when I was too young to appreciate it, and Starsky and Hutch was one of the shows I started getting into.

First of all, the show isn’t really anything like this movie so it’s no use really comparing the two. One is mostly serious, one is pretty much a parody of the buddy-cop genre. With that fact kept firmly in mind, I must say the film was extremely successful with what it set out to do.

Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller, love ’em or hate ’em, do what they do best in this movie – which is to butt heads for comedic effect. They are, to me, a modern day Abbot and Costello and I thoroughly enjoy every movie I’ve seen them in together.

The movie isn’t too long, running at only 95 minutes or so, and that is just enough length for a movie like this. It’s not overly ambitious, but it’s a lot of fun to watch the interactions between Starsky and Hutch or really any of the characters in this film.

There are some cool car chase sequences in the film, making use of the Ford Gran Torino that is pretty much the flagship image of this movie and of the television show.

Overall, there’s not much to complain about here unless you don’t like the kind of humor that comprises the entirety of this flick. If so, you picked the wrong movie to watch.

Oh, and the Will Ferrell cameo is HILARIOUS. (Carmen Elektra, Brande Roderick and Amy Smart didn’t hurt, either…)

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Starsky & Hutch

The Pocket Muse: Ideas And Inspirations For Writing, by Monica Wood (2004)

The Pocket Muse: Ideas And Inspirations For Writing, by Monica Wood (2004)

Original Release Date: July 15, 2004
Publisher: Writer’s Digest
Author: Monica Wood

Monica Wood has put together a mash-up of various writing prompts. Some are photographs, some are questions, some are scenarios and all are aimed at helping you get through your writer’s block or giving you ideas for new stories.

This volume is pretty helpful, as far as these types of books go. There aren’t any page numbers, which can make it hard (if you’re using it in a class or something) to keep track of certain prompts you need or might like. A lot of the prompts are fun but they seem like they could have been a lot cooler. Some feel more like wasted page space.

You can find many prompts for free online, so the asking price of $20.00 is a bit steep. I got mine for free so I didn’t have to worry about it (I won it) but I can picture a lot of people being turned off by its price. Look for it in used bookstores and in libraries.

The size is nice and fits easily inside any backpack and probably some handbags. Wood has also come out with a second volume, so I may get that at some point, but so far I haven’t been able to get through all the prompts from this volume.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Check Out A FREE Sample Of The Pocket Muse HERE

The Punisher (2004)

The Punisher (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: April 16, 2004
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is an FBI agent who foils a drug deal in which Howard Saint’s (John Travolta) son is killed. Saint is a crime lord of the highest caliber and sets out to punish everyone involved. He discovers that Castle and his family are getting together for a reunion and decides to kill them all. With his wife, son and entire family dead, Castle re-groups and goes on a vengeance-fueled murder rampage against the Saint family in an all out war as the Marvel Comics character, The Punisher.

I was never really sold on Thomas Jane as Frank Castle. I don’t fully know why, but I just wasn’t. I thought Dolph Lundgren looked the part back in The Punisher (1989) but that movie had about as much to do with the actual Punisher franchise as Mickey Mouse. Ray Stevenson, from Punisher: War Zone (2008) was a perfect casting for Castle, in my opinion, but that movie also suffered from severe story problems.

What I wish could have happened was that they took Ray and put him in this movie and then amped up the story and it could have been amazing. Really, it could have!

As it is, we get a glimpse of emotion when Frank’s wife and kid are running from the mobsters but then, after they kill Frank about 80 different ways (beating him senseless, shooting him point blank multiple times and then blowing him up) he is transformed to The Punisher but we don’t really transform with him. He is living in an apartment building with some wacky-yet-lovable neighbors (and also Rebecca Romijn Stamos, because she’s TOTALLY believable as the ‘girl next door’) who are constantly wondering about him.

My favorite parts about this movie were his fight with The Russian and the encounter with the singing assassin, Harry Heck, who sounds and looks a lot like Johnny Cash. Those guys were both taken from story runs that Garth Ennis did in the comic books, so I guess you could say I like the books more than the movie.

Jane’s Punisher is just never quite badass enough, which kind of ruined it for me. Travolta wasn’t too bad, but that’s the problem. We needed more time with Castle’s family so that we cared about them and THEN they should have killed them all off so we wanted to see them avenged. As it was, I just thought they all did incredibly idiotic things while they were being fired at by the mob.

In any case, it’s not the worst Punisher movie I’ve seen and certainly not one of the worst movies I’ve seen in general, but I felt kind of let down. I hope they re-boot this series someday, but I hope they stick with the emotional side of his loss because that’s what’s most effective in the comics and why he’s an enduring character. STORY FIRST, PEOPLE!

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For The Punisher

Van Helsing (2004)

Van Helsing (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: May 7, 2004
Director: Stephen Sommers

Van Helsing stars Hugh Jackman as the movie’s title character. Gabriel Van Helsing is sort of a superhero/vigilante who travels the world hunting monsters that prey on the innocent. Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) hears about his monster-hunting prowess and she summons him to Transylvania to help battle Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who her family has been fighting for centuries.

This is one of those movies that COULD have been really cool. I liked the idea of Van Helsing as a Blade/Punisher mashup set in the past with all sorts of steampunk-style sci-fi weapons. Unfortunately, writer/director Stephen Sommers kind of wasted his chance to really shine.

For one thing, there were WAY too many monsters. We open with Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde as well as Frankenstein and his monster. Then we move on to Dracula and other vampires, werewolves and other creatures. How does anyone even survive in this world, let alone not know that Van Helsing is there to save them and is NOT murdering folks (as he’s been framed for doing). Focus on one, or maybe two….but as a viewer I was overwhelmed.

Some of the action is cool, but most of it is too cartoonish to have any real weight. The battles are sometimes too laden with chaos to follow very closely and a disconnect happens. I never really believed Van Helsing was in danger during the battles due to its campy nature.

If the story had been amped up to make it more believable as to why all these creatures came together or exist (yes, I know, monsters aren’t believable anyway but they need to be believable in the context of the film) and maybe if there had been a darker tone instead of trying to make Helsing seem like Errol Flynn playing Robin Hood (lots of rope swinging in this film, by the way), it could have easily been a great movie.

As it is, it’s still entertaining to watch if you just want a mindless action flick. Kate Beckinsale is drop-dead gorgeous (I’m sure many people think the same thing about Hugh Jackman, too) so it’s fun to watch these attractive people fight ugly monsters. Overall, I think the film relied entirely too much on CGI/special effects.

Richard Roxburgh had no bite as Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster was just weird. The werewolves were so-so. The most interesting villain in the movie, to me, was Jekyll/Hyde…but then again, it’s hard to mess him up.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Van Helsing