The Anchory
"You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads"

Newer reviews (2004-2005) are here • • • Webcomic (with one or two reviews) is here


"I feel like the only thing left to do is send you my eight bucks and stick my shoes in week old coke syrup."
(LiveJournal user)
I blush.

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22 February 2004: Very Cold Mountain

Touching The Void posterTouching the Void
starring: Brendan Mackey and Nicholas Aaron; with narration by Joe Simpson, Simon Yates, and Richard Hawking. Directed by Kevin Macdonald; Produced by John Smithson. Director Of Photography: Mike Eley; Photography by Keith Partridge, Simon Wagen, Dan Shoring. Based on the book Touching The Void by Joe Simpson.
running time: 106 minutes
MPAA says: This film is not rated. There's a bit of profanity, which is only to be expected, given the circumstances.
Release date: February 20, 2004 (Austin, TX).
Seen at: Regal Arbor Cinema at Great Hills. Nice clean screens, if not large, and the theatre could almost pass for an "art house," with a good selection of non-blockbuster films. The restrooms have gigantic glass pumpkins full of liquid handsoap (apparently the staff doesn't want to have to change the soap... ever). The seats are plush red velvet, high backed, with armrests that can be raised and lowered and make very good foot rests, provided no one is sitting in front of you. Unfortunately, the pretty seats don't tilt, and after watching a movie from the third row, my neck was in knots.

I miss snow. But not this much.

Touching the Void begins with an extreme closeup of a pickaxe and climbing apparatus being driven into an ice wall, focussed on the compression and cracking of the hazy ice. It echoes the moment, later in the film, when Joe Simpson, one of the narrators, strikes his axe against a wall and determines that it somehow doesn't sound quite right, just before he loses his grip on the face of a mountain and tumbles to the end of the rope tied to his climbing partner, Simon Yates, and shatters his right leg. The rest of the film is the story of Simon's brute-force effort to lower Joe, 300 feet at a time down a 21,000-foot peak; Simon's eventual excruciating decision to cut Joe loose to save his own life; and the bizarre circumstances of Joe surviving a plummet into a crevasse and a long, slow crawl through a glaciated maze, through the tumble of fragmented tumuli beyond it, and his attempt to reach base camp before his companions leave.


30 January 2004: Butterfly Effects

Timeline posterTimeline
starring: Billy Connolly as the professor, Paul Walker as Gilligan, Frances O'Connor as Mary Ann, Ann Friel as Ginger, Gerard Butler as someone too charismatic to be stranded in this movie, David Thewlis as Bill Gates, and Marton Csokas. He's everywhere! "Directed" by Richard Donner.
running time: 116 minutes
MPAA says: PG-13, for intense battle scenes and brief language. MPAA has a different idea of "intense" than most people.
Release date: November 26, 2003. Soon to be available at your local video/DVD store.
Seen at: Discount Cinema 8—$1.50 for adults, $1 for kids, $2 on Fridays and Saturday. No stadium seating—it's pretty much a flat floor—but with only a half dozen other people in the theatre, seeing over heads was not so much of an issue. This is a Coke-product, cash-only establishment. Heavily air conditioned, so bring a hat—a lot of body heat radiates out through your head. Really. Wear a hood when you go time travelling.

I wanted to see this in first release. Not because I thought it would be any good, but because I'm a sucker for time travel movies. Put a modern person in the past, or a past person in the modern age, and let the mayhem begin! Plus, I was hoping it would be exquisitely bad, and therefore really really good. It's not exquisite. But it's better than Time Tunnel, and many episodes of Dr. Who. You get better production values on Quantum Leap. To be fair, Quantum Leap never had to stage a night battle with flaming catapults.


25 January 2004: Chaos Movie

The Butterfly EffectThe Butterfly Effect
starring: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Eldon Henson, Eric Stoltz, Ethan Suplee. Directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber
running time: 113 minutes
MPAA says: R for violence, sexual content, language, and brief drug use
Release date: January 23, 2004
Seen at: The Regal Gateway Stadium 16, home of the gigantic Viggo/Hidalgo poster, on a drippy rainy night. They do not like outside food at the Gateway 16. Or outside laptops. Because everyone is going to be trying to record a copy of this movie to their hard drives—if everyone is indulging in brief drug use. But I jest.

Viewer Advisory: There are furry animals in this movie, and Bad Things Happen. Close your eyes. Bad things happen to humans, too, but we moviegoers are used to that by now, especially if we've seen Return of the King half a dozen times.

Not as bad as you might think

Can Evan Treborn change the past, or is this merely wish-fulfillment, entirely in his dreams?

You can see this straining to be that sort of movie, a complex Hitchcock of a film where the audience can no more trust reality than the protagonist can, where the audience would feel the crushing defeat he does when it begins to seem that all this "changing the past" is only his imagination. Even had the trailers not made it absolutely plain that The Butterfly Effect is not the result of hero Evan Treborn's (Ashton Kutcher) overactive imagination, the movie itself leaves the viewers completely assured of what is going on as Evan scrambles to understand. We know; he doesn't know; this works for about one iteration of the five realities he passes through. A more subtle approach would have had longer effectiveness, would have built one scene upon the other rather than playing like a SciFi Channel Sliders marathon.


24 January 2004: Return to Zork
I had planned to see The Butterfly Effect, since it just opened, but as previously mentioned, the movie listings had the wrong time. So, for your enlightenment...

Paycheck Paycheck
starring: Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, the short funny guy, the creepy evil guy, the black law-enforcement guy, the other creepy evil guy, and Multivac.
running time: 119 minutes
based in some way on a short story by Philip K. Dick

I should have swiped the giant Viggo/Hidalgo poster on the way out, but my sense of propriety, and lack of a lookout, prevented me.

Remember those old Interactive Fiction games? They were text adventures from before the days of Grand Theft Auto: Kill Everything You Can't Steal and Drive, with names like Haunt and Zork and Trinity and Leather Goddesses of Phobos. The player often found herself in a strange location with a bunch of random items whose usefulness would only become clear when the right set of circumstances arose.

You are standing in an open field west of a white building. There is a manila envelope here. The manila envelope contains a package of Spree candy, a movie ticket from a Fandango Automatic Ticket Machine, and a review of this movie.

As a matter of fact, those games are still popular. I've even written a couple myself—they make great exercises for fiction authors, and they're just plain fun. Playing them requires a great deal of imagination of the part on the player, immersion into a world described only with words, and the best of them require a great deal of mental agility. As a matter of fact, Paramount & Dreamworks have made a movie that is, in essence, an interactive fiction game, but one in which the audience gets to do none of the fun part, none of the figuring-out of the various items. Not even director John Woo can make it particularly exciting to watch Ben Affleck do the figuring.


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