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Oakland, CA

American history around the time of the Revolution, figuring out how to marry top-down task-based information architecture processes with bottom-up document-based ones, finding a good dentist in San Francisco Oakland
Designing the user experience (interaction design, information architecture, user research, etc.), cognitive science, ice cream, films and film theory, girls, commuter bicycling, coffee, travel, theoretical physics for laypeople, single malt scotch, fresh salmon nigiri, hanging out, comics formalism, applied complexity theory, Krispy Kreme donuts.

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Movie Reviews

Lane pre-cognated, "When you review this on your site, you're going to call it 'Mediocre Report', aren't you?" Posted on 06/23/2002.

The answer to which is, "Yes."

Yesterday I saw Minority Report. Reviewers have been falling all over themselves in praising this film, and the clips looked like it had promise.

Well, it's not a bad movie, but it's not very good, either. The movie is chock-full of interesting ideas about the future (beware: it's marketing hell), has some fun set pieces involving chases and eye surgery, and has a slew of perfectly good performances.

It just doesn't add up to anything. From what I can tell, reviewers are dazzled by the look and paranoia and the film's "edge," without bothering to check to see if they had any emotional engagement... And I challenge a viewer to have an emotional engagement--I don't think it's there. This isn't helped by the paint-by-numbers plot--once the movie starts, you feel inexorably pulled to the utterly predictable end, like a ride-on-rails at an amusement park. Not that I'm against formula (I just watched for the umpteenth time, and loved, DIE HARD... side note: great DVD commentary). But the plot and characterization never do more than simply follow the rules, and leaves you very little to care about.

See it as a matinee.

Poking around, I found one review that shared my weariness with the flick. You've got to like a critic who hasn't given an "A" grade to any flick currently in theaters.

Oh, and someone must stop John Williams from ever putting pen to staff paper again.

12 comments so far. Add a comment.

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If they stopped John Williams from writing music, what would marching bands play?
Posted by jane @ 06/23/2002 02:46 PM PST [link to this comment]

Well, I've got a more positive review up on my blog. I do think you nail it when you say the critics are dazzled with the visual look and the faithfulness to Dick's paranoid world. And as for giving us "edge," Spielberg tries too hard. The eye surgeon with snot running down his mouth is not edge, just South Park.

The emotional engagement occurs in the margins. Amanda the precog is affecting as she reveals herself to be more than just a freaky subhuman. (She's SO glad to be rid of her creepy caretaker/bather who's obviously rather in love with her, a classic nerd in search an unthreatening child-woman.) And the opening scene -- the final morning of a marriage imploding to murder -- I found cringefully affecting as well.

But yes, the main characters do not engage us, and that's a big problem.

As for John Williams: completely agree. But as I note in my blog, the film's non-original musical scoring -- the classical music particularly, Kubrick-style -- is dead on, and no thanks to Williams. If I want his kind of wretched symphonic excess, I can just listen to Korngold. listen to Korngold.
Posted by Tom Davey @ 06/23/2002 04:07 PM PST [link to this comment]

I have a reputation as the Old Curmudgeon, but fifty years ago I was generally recognized as a Young Curmudgeon. But it wasn't until I became an old curmudgeon that I realized how self-satisfied and superior I felt because I had never run off to screen The Hot New Film on its opening weekend. What a dreary and unfulfilling syndrome that must be.
Posted by BJMe @ 06/23/2002 08:26 PM PST [link to this comment]

yes. hanging out with one's best pals on a saturday afternoon is always dreary and unfulfilling.
Posted by peterme @ 06/23/2002 08:27 PM PST [link to this comment]

I agree with Tom - I felt the most powerful emotional engagement came from Agatha. When she asked "Is it now?", it sent chills down my spine.

Still, there's nothing wrong with plot-driven drama... although I could have done without the last half hour. Switching protagonists mid-flick from Tom Cruise to his poorly developed wife? Only Hitchcock could have pulled off a psycho move like that...
Posted by john hiler @ 06/24/2002 03:51 AM PST [link to this comment]

I am the classic koffee klatcher. I have no doubt but that my sons learned everything they know about hanging out at coffee from me. Peterme learned it at Pupi's on the Sunset Plaza Strip at the age of One. And I've got the damning visual evidence to prove it.

But what the hell has that got to do with running like sheep to the opening weekend slaughter of trendy movies?
Posted by BJMe @ 06/24/2002 08:34 PM PST [link to this comment]

I wasn't disappointed, but I had low expectations going in - I really only wanted to be dazzled by the visuals (and maybe get some Phillip K. Dick futuristic creepiness).

I have to agree with the "see it as a matinee" verdict.

One of my favorite parts was the interface of the computer he used when scrubbing through the precog visions. Maybe I'm too much of a design/interface geek but I found it quite intriguing - and I haven't seen any discussion of it anywhere.

At the same time, what's with moving the little glass plates to a different computer 5 feet across the room? They can't network computers in 2054? Hell, we can do that right now without wires - why no WiFi in the precrime lab? Maybe in 2054 the RIAA has managed to make all networking protocols illegal. (I know, I know: without that transfer of the glass plate we wouldn't have that heightened cinematic drama. Feh. What actually happened was my suspension of disbelief was rattled.)
Posted by scott benish @ 06/24/2002 10:21 PM PST [link to this comment]

Even better than the matinee, read Phillip K. Dick's story.

BTW, I *only* go to matinees.
Posted by Jeff @ 06/25/2002 05:46 AM PST [link to this comment]

For entertaining movie reviews, you just *have* to read Mr. Cranky -

Quick link to Minority Report review -

I'll have to wait for a couple of months till the movie comes to India. :(
Posted by MadMan @ 06/25/2002 10:39 AM PST [link to this comment]

I don't get to go see new popular movies with my husband because he lives in mortal fear we'll be sitting next to a popcorn chewer. We have to wait until its been out thwo or three months and the theater is empty.

On the up side, the theater is empty.

The popcorn chewers never bothered me until I started noticing them. it's amazing how many people eat with their mouths open.

Anhow, I'm looking for the good film. You know, the one you come out of and go, wow, I could go back in. Big, possibly dumb, but big summer fun. I need big summer fun.
Posted by christina @ 06/25/2002 09:39 PM PST [link to this comment]

I haven't been to a cinema for about a year or so.. When we go it's almost always to a matinee, I'm too cheap to pay the evening prices..
As for M.R.,
I will wait for the tape.. I'm not overly enthused with T.C. and am getting tired of all the x-treme special fx...
(Although I am looking forward to, and will probably go to the cinema to see MIB.2.)
As I haven't seen M.R, I can't give an opinion, except to the previews.. They do not grab me in any way, shape or form.. Perhaps I'm the wrong age/ gender for it...
Posted by a webby @ 06/26/2002 06:51 AM PST [link to this comment]

I saw it, a matinee, and it was a fine mytery, a lot like a high tech fugitive. In fact, a whole like the fugitive.

In other news, startld to see a movie soon to be released in which every body does fake russian accents. including harrison ford and rafe fines. is this a good idea???
Posted by christina @ 06/27/2002 09:14 PM PST [link to this comment]

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