King Kong 2006-01-03 and 2006-01-10
As most have said, it could do with being a half hour shorter, if only to make it less of an endurance test (though I hear that some places put an interval in the middle - if only mine had). Some of the bits that could have been cut out are the Return of the King-alike stampede scnes and the maching-gunning giant insects swarming over someone without hitting the person they're swarming over at all scenes. Brits don't appear to be able to get a decent version of the original King Kong yet, which is odd (reading the Amazon reviews of the four-disc box set you wonder how it got past quality control). There are some truly awful-looking Kong films out there.
Merry Christmas Joyeux Noël 2006-01-04
Shown at the Cannes Festival (out of competition), this probably won't have been shown at your local screen, unless you're lucky enough to live right next to an arts cinema. It tells the tale of the Christmas of 1914, when British, French and German troops called an unofficial ceasefire on Christas Eve / Christmas Day, played football, and then went back to killing each other afterwards. Many of a certain age will be familiar with the scenario from the Paul McCartney music video to Pipes of Peace (which is how I first learnt about it), and it's strange that so extraordinary a story doesn't get told more. This is a French, German, Belgian and Romanian or British (depending on which website you read) collaboration, and somewhat unusually all the characters speak in their native tongues (i.e. they don't just speak English with a German accent). The ridiculousness of the situation lends itself quite readily to humour, which is capitalised on (though not to excess).
Just Like Heaven 2006-01-10
Referred to in some places as the noughties answer to Ghost, though I detect elements of Beetlejuice in there as well, in that it takes the newly-dead's viewpoint. The freshly deceased does, of course, suffer from that movie cliché, Sam Wheat syndrome, though this time there is a twist (don't think I'm giving too much away here).
Just Friends 2006-01-11
Low brow stuff - a typical teen movie (though with twenty-something characters). Claims to value the qualities inherent in people and not just surface looks, but only to quick to get a quick laugh from things that don't fit the social norms of beauty. Humourous in a few places, but relies on slapstick far too much (okay so it could be argued that any reliance on slapstick since the era of the silent movie is too much).
Memoirs of a Geisha 2006-01-13
Assuming this is fairly authentic then I've learnt more about geisha than I ever knew before having watched this film. I've not read the book so no idea how it compares. While I thought it was okay I'm not tempted either to watch again or read the book.
Brokeback Mountain 2006-01-13
Not a fan of cowboy films, but this was one of the only movies left that I hadn't seen, so thought I may as well. Still not a fan of cowboys, but this was beautifully shot (in a cinematography sense), and the story took a few unexpected twists. Two men from the south deal with their feelings for each other (or entirely fail to deal, as the case may be).
 A bit more, 'coz I have more time now, and because asiddburn asked:
This film is up for eight Academy Awards, and you can see why - a thorny subject sensitively handled, wonderful landscapes, the depiction of the changes in a friendship over the course of many years, and the anticipation of seeing how their relationship gets into gear (seeing as we all now what's going to happen in the first half of the film, we're just waiting to see when and how). If I didn't have so many other films to see in the coming week I might go to see it again (seeing as I know how it all ends up now). Though with the afore-mentioned Oscar nominations out of the bag, I'd guess it's going to be running for quite a while, so maybe I'll get the chance anyway?
Continues a long tradition of sympathetic war movies, some previous examples of which get shown at various points in this film (Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter). Shows the humanity of soldiers, the horrors of war and the stresses of being separated from loved ones (and the perniciousness of women).
 Who managed to put the link in for another war movie, but forgot to say why?
Much of the film, such as the structure and the subject matter, reminds one of a certain other war movie - that movie being Full Metal Jacket. Both films involve raw recruits going through training, learning catchy little rhyming couplets about death, killing and weaponry before they get sent off somewhere more dangerous. I think they both have someone being killed during training, or was that just Starship Troopers?
p.s. It was strange to see Jake playing such a different character so soon after Brokeback...
Ferris Bueller's Day Off 2006-01-17
My local CineWorld, while being about the most difficult-to-get-too cinema I've ever been (and that generally has pretty 'safe' mainstream films - no Breakfast on Pluto, Cry Wolf, Family, Match Point, Running Scared, The Truth or even March of the Penguins for us - we get Cheaper by the Dozen 2) it does have one thing in it's favour -
back to the past film specials on tuesdays at twenty past eight (I'd have called it
hindsight is always 20:20 or
20:20 vision personally). You can guess what this week's was, surely... Anyway, I hate those reviews where most of the article is a rant or lead-in and then there's half a paragraph on the actual film. Not that I really need to say much about this one, as it's all been said before. Random things that occurred to me were:
old films don't get loads of white splodged on them (though there was the odd line down the screen), mostly they're black (this was an original copy of the film, which must have been doing the rounds for twenty years now).
the pacing of some elements was completely out, f'rinstance the parking tickets on the prinipal's car could have built up gradually (in the film as edited there are three segments - the first ticket being written, a bundle of tickets on the windscreen and then a tow-truck, all within the space of five minutes, while he's been in the house for a good half hour).
I do like the breaking-of-the-fourth-wall though, in it's place (and this film is the place), especially when complimented by on-screen writing (also see the square in Pulp Fiction and the catalogue apartment in Fight Club).
p.s. I got the art gallery scene partially mixed-up in my head with a similar scene in LA Story - an excellent film which is spoilt by the sculptures-turning-their-heads shots (and is there something about an anthropormorphic personification of the wind as well?). Anyway, the point is... the point is that those shots in LA Story signify the end of Steve Martin's doing-good-films career. Well, can you name anything decent he's done since?
p.s. (again) other John Hughes films that are set in Shermer (a fictional suburb of Chicago) are The Breakfast Club and Weird Science. As well as posters for a bunch of eighties bands that get played in Goth clubs (Blancmange, Killing Joke) there is a poster for the single Don't You (Forget About Me) in the background, which was written for Breakfast Club and performed by Simple Minds. Glenbrook High School is used in location shooting in all three films (er, actually still trying to find a reference for Weird Science).
Trivia time - the actors who played Ferris' parents married after filming this movie (and later divorced). Registration plates on cars are significant: Katie's car = VCTN (National Lampoon's Vacation); Jeannie's car = TBC (The Breakfast Club); Tom's car = MMOM (Mr Mom); Rooney's car = 4FBDO (Ferris Bueller's Day Off); Cameron's dad's Ferrari = NRVOUS (Cameron is, most of the time). The economics teacher ad-libbed the boring lecture, being an economics graduate. Finally - actual ages of the main characters during filming: Matthew Broderick = 23; Jennifer Grey = 25; Alan Ruck = 29; Mia Sara = 17 (the only one actually of school age).
Fun With Dick and Jane 2006-01-20
Remake of some film from the fifties or sixties (have to look it up). This film is built around the high-profile corporate fraud cases that we've heard so much about recently (and some people in the companies involved were mentioned in the end credits - don't know if they were on board as advisors or what). Funny film, and Jim Carrey's gurning is almost kept to tolerable levels.
I haven't seen the first film, so much of this probably didn't make as much sense as it otherwise should. Stylish, well-shot and with some of the least distracting CGI I've seen in a film so far - you still know they're computer-generated, but it's not as in-your-face as most SF films - maybe all that darkness and rain helps...
Breakfast Club 2006-01-24
The first of the bratpack films in the eighties. Having seen this one week after Ferris Bueller, I've come to the conclusion that John Hughes is not good at writing dialogue, at least when he wants it to be witty and cool. This works when he's writing a school prinipal suffering a mid-life crisis who's trying to identify with the kids, but when 'the kids' are talking to each other they should be just slightly more savvy. Unless he was trying to depict people attempting to be cool, but failing?
In the long run this doesn't matter though, and it's (probably) not just the nostalgia talking - as a complete work, the films do work, and Breakfast Club is higher concept than Bueller, though does descend into silliness every now and then. But at least it isn't Home Alone (or worse, Home Alone's 2, 3 or 4, or Beethoven, or - you get the idea).