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April Showers Bring May...Showers, Apparently - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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June 6th, 2011


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01:03 am - April Showers Bring May...Showers, Apparently
With this batch, I've got some movies you may not realize are actually REALLY GOOD and some movies you may have thought were REALLY GOOD but didn't do much for me. And then there's Speed Racer, I don't even know.

Unstoppable: In this Oscar-nominated film (I know, right?), Denzel Washington and Chris Pine must stop a runaway train that is, well, unstoppable. While it sounds like a generic thriller, it's somehow really good. After about ten or fifteen minutes of setup, it's basically non-stop action and tension. I love how the train becomes this soulless monster, a force of unnature. It's just a million fucking tons of metal hurtling down the track, no one controlling it, like a zombie train. Rosario Dawson is great as the woman in charge trying to save lives while the train company is trying to save money. The two main characters have personal issues they must talk about occasionally, but they don't slow the movie down too much (in fact, there's a nice touch of realism in one scene where Chris Pine is telling a story and keeps getting interrupted by updates about the UNSTOPPABLE TRAIN). Tony Scott shows a lot of restraint and rarely does any flashy camera moves, instead just filming a fucking great movie. B+/A-

Tangled: This delightful version of Rapunzel focuses on maternal guilt, as the evil old crone who locks Rapunzel up in a tower to continue using her magical hair to stay young (...just go with it) tells her she's doing it for her own good, she loves her so much, why is she so ugly just kidding, she knows best, why is she incompetent just kidding. Rapunzel's only companion is...a chameleon. Flynn Rider, a wily thief, has just stolen a crown. His chief pursuer is...a horse. It's pretty great. He stumbles into her tower for safety, and she knocks him out with a frying pan. It's pretty great. Then they have adorable adventures and fall in love because this is a Disney movie. It's a nice blend of old-school and new-school. B+

Speed Racer: Was that a movie or a candy-colored assault on my senses and/or film itself? Speed Racer is truly a live-action cartoon, shot almost entirely on greenscreen and featuring the unfunny antics of a small child and a chimpanzee. Yet, it's over two hours long! Do they expect children to pay attention for that long? Hell, do they expect children to even be able to follow the first half hour of the movie, which slips in and out of flashbacks so fluidly as to make you reevaluate your sense of time and place? There is barely a static moment in this movie; everything is moving all the time, especially the camera, which doesn't appear content to remain in one place or time for very long. This movie is completely off the rails, and the racing scenes vary between kind of cool and impossible to follow, but they do look like the kind of eye-popping visuals that would have been glorious to see in a theater. There's a lot of inventiveness and creativity on display here, although I'm not sure how effective it really is. Despite how over-the-top and silly everything is, the movie does manage to be pretty fun and engaging: by the end, I was seriously rooting for Speed to win that fucking race. It's crazy cheesy with its Family Ideals vs. Corporate Power message, but whatever, there are fast cars and Christina Ricci with engine grease on her face. B/B+

The Talented Mr. Ripley: It all starts with a borrowed jacket. Before he knows it, Tom Ripley is traveing to Italy on a rich tycoon's dime on a mission to convince his son to return home. But Tom, a lowly bathroom attendant, seizes this opportunity to get a taste of the rich life, becoming obsessed with his target. We learn that his talents include forging signatures and impersonating people. I'm sure you can see where this is going, and, yes, things get quite interesting. The movie has a great cast (Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Jack Daveport, Philip Seymour Hoffman), and it looks lovely, being shot in Italy (NOW I WANT TO GO TO ITALY). Following Ripley's machinations is fun, and it's almost comical how easily people are taken in by him (the movie is set in a time where it would be easier to pull it off). While there are moments here and there, I wish we got to know Ripley more. We don't really get enough of his motivations. In a way, that makes him scarier and/or more pathetic, though. B+

Sexy Beast: Otherwise known as "The movie where Ben Kingsley says 'fuck' a lot." Gal is a retired criminal living in Spain, but then Ben Kingsley comes down from London to recruit him for a bank heist organized by Ian McShane. But Gal is retired. So then Ben Kingsley basically yells at him for the rest of the movie and calls him and everyone around him fucking cunts. It's terribly boring, and I didn't really care about any of the characters, but some of Ben Kingsley's outbursts are entertaining. The movie gets a little more interesting in the last third, but, again, didn't really care. As it's the film debut of a music-video director, there are some stylistic flourishes that work and some that don't, and I couldn't really follow what was even going on at times. It's not a bad movie, but it didn't really do much for me. B-

The Brothers Bloom: We all loved Brick, right? So we were all waiting to see what Rian Johnson would do next. And this is what he did next! Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo are the Brothers Bloom, con men since they were kids (the pre-credits prologue that follows their first con, complete with narration, feels like something out of Pushing Daisies). Bloom wants out. Stephen will ask of him One Last Con: the mark is Rachel Weisz, an eccentric shut-in with a taste for adventure. What follows doesn't waver too much from the standard con-men story (complete with Falling in Love with the Mark, of course), but it's told with style and quirk, laugh-out-loud at times, frequently courtesy of the silent Bang Bang, Japanese explosives expert. It's a very fun romp with a healthy dose of what's-a-con-and-what's-real, brotherly love, and references to Ulysses. B+/A-

127 Hours: I'm definitely at the point where I'll watch whatever Danny Boyle does, having seen nearly all his movies and liked them all, so it's no surprise that 127 Hours continues this trend. Just the opening makes me feel like I'm in the hands of a master filmmaker who's going to be telling me a story in an interesting way. Of course, with this movie, everyone knows the story. That doesn't make it boring, however: it's not the destination but the journey, after all. James Franco is indeed excellent as Aron Ralston, who falls down a crack and gets his arm trapped by a boulder. Stuck down below in a place where no one can hear him, he tries to survive. And while there is a lot of neat survivalism to keep you entertained, the real heart of the story is Ralston himself, who films videos to document the experience, hallucinates various fantasies, and reflects on his life, the life he's about to lose. It becomes a portrait of a man stripped away of and from everything, forced to examine what's left. B+

Junebug: This was Amy Adams's breakout role, and she is pretty fucking adorable. Even though she has top billing, the movie actually focuses on her new sister-in-law, a big-city art dealer who comes down to North Carolina with her new husband for work and gets to meet the family. And, hey, she's from the city, and they're quaint Southern folk! That's pretty much the movie! Also, family is important or something. There is a whole plot about Madeleine trying to get some self-taught artist for her gallery, and I have no idea what the point of it was. With a couple exceptions, the characters don't feel real. I'm still not sure what the point of the movie was. Amy Adams's last scene is great, though. She is the only reason to watch this movie. B-/B

Bug: Yes, I thought it would be cute to watch this movie next even though they have nothing to do with each other. Remember when Ashley Judd was in movies? In this movie, she plays a woman with a lesbian best friend and a scary ex-husband who just got out of jail. She befriends a creepy, mysterious stranger, and they discover that her place is infested with bugs. Lots of little bugs. OR IS IT? The paranoia builds as the movie gets more and more fucked up, and I don't even know what the point of it was. It doesn't make a lot of sense, and much of it seems irrelevant. Perhaps it works better as a play. But, man, that must be one fucked up and intense night of theatre. B-/B

Open Water: A couple escape their busy lives by going on a nice, relaxing vacation. Where they go out scuba-diving in the middle of the ocean. And the boat leaves them behind. In the middle of the ocean. Where there are FUCKING SHARKS. Shot on digital video and based on a true story, Open Water is a real nail-biter. There's no CGI, no animatronics: those are real fucking sharks. As a result, you know you're not going to get any of your traditional scares, and the intensity and horror is created through skillful editing and your own imagination. Who are our hapless leads? Do we really care? Not all that much, but it's still nice when movies make the effort. We kind of want them to survive, I guess, but we're also eagerly anticipating the moment when a shark finally eats them. B/B+

City of God: In this fantastic Brazilian film, we're treated to a decades-long epic of bloody gang violence in the Rio de Janeiro slums. It's fun for the whole family! Our narrator—AND YOU KNOW HOW I LOVE NARRATORS—is Rocket, an aspiring photographer, who tells us his story, as well as the stories of other important figures, sometimes teasing us that characters will figure more importantly later on. He watches the formation of gangs, the rise of the crime lords, the beginnings of the inevitable war. But throughout all of this, we never forget that these are all people who have to make their choices—when they're allowed to. Some fates are out of their hands. Blood will be paid in blood, and the cycle of violence continues. This movie holds your full attention for over two hours because it's a joy to look at, if only because it's shot in Rio. But not the touristy, Carnival part of Rio. There's so much energy in every shot, propelling the non-linear narrative, which keeps looping back in on itself as Rocket puts the story together for us. Nearly everyone in the movie is a non-professional actor taken from the slums of Rio, which gives the film an even greater sense of authenticity than it already has by being based on a true story (there is a clip of an actual news report in the credits that was recreated almost exactly in the film). Man, after last cycle had so many good movies, this one has had too many that weren't great, so it's invigorating to watch a movie this good. A-/A

The Green Hornet: Britt Reid, partygoing son of a newspaper magnate, decides to become a superhero by being a supercriminal. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, since the "saving people" aspect is completely ignored through most of the movie, but never mind that. This movie is basically about Kato and how he is an AMAZING BADASS. Kato builds all the awesome weapons and tricks out the awesome car and fights awesomely. I don't understand why this movie was so panned and reviled. I can only imagine that people went in expecting a straight superhero movie and couldn't handle the fact that it was actually a comedy. It balances the comedy and drama pretty well for the most part, though. It's pretty silly and there's lots of destruction and explosions. What more do you want, I mean come on. B+

Strangely enough, my Netflix queue isn't exciting me very much at the moment since I have so many great things in my Netflix Instant queue. Maybe I should try clearing out that thing.
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Stabbing Westward - Falls Apart

(29 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:loopychew
Date:June 6th, 2011 09:30 am (UTC)
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Fix bolding!

This is great; I finally ordered Speed Racer, Tangled, and The Brothers Bloom on Blu-Ray a couple weeks ago on clearance. (Of those, I hadn't already watched TBB, which I loved). The moment I realized the introduction was being done in common meter, I knew I was going to love the movie.

Speed Racer begs for the biggest screen with the best resolution possible. I originally saw it in IMAX at the Metreon while I was in SF. Looking forward to trying it out on my screen. (Tangled, too.)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 6th, 2011 03:12 pm (UTC)
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The moment I realized the introduction was being done in common meter, I knew I was going to love the movie.
RIGHT??
(Deleted comment)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 6th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC)
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It's worth it!

Speed Racer would very likely be better stoned, yes.
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From:skogkatt
Date:June 6th, 2011 01:23 pm (UTC)
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I have only seen two of these movies. I saw City of God in France when it was new, and I really thought it was excellent, but have never felt like seeing it again. Excellent, but super disturbing! The Brothers Bloom I saw, but I don't remember if I liked it or not. That seems weird now that I think about it. I can remember plot details and visuals, but they leave me emotionally blank. Huh.
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From:equustel
Date:June 6th, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)
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I am with you on Tangled and Speed Racer! We saw the former quite recently, and I just could not for the life of me get over the horse. HIS EXPRESSIONS.

I think Speed Racer was the last interesting thing the Wachowskis did. I wish they would make something batshit again.
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From:sabra_n
Date:June 6th, 2011 11:48 pm (UTC)
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The horse was a dog! Oh gosh, Tangled was adorable.
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From:latropita
Date:June 6th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
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I had the "fortune" of seeing Speed Racer in the theater. I don't normally get motion sick or anything during movies, but sweet jesus I was dizzy for significant portions of that. I think I liked it okay, it was just difficult to tell.

I'm glad you thought Unstoppable was good! I half wanted to see it because of the cast, but that wasn't enough incentive to see it in the theater when my semester was still going on.
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From:sisterjune
Date:June 6th, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC)
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Brick was a gorgeous movie but made me SO SAD. and Then I watched Brothers Bloom which was even more gorgeous and amazing and I thought this was gonna be a happy fun movie and then the ending happens and I bawled my eyes out. WHY RIAN JOHNSON. WHY DO YOU KEEP UPSETTING MEEEE? But basically he and his movies are amazing. I just got the Green Hornet in the mail today, I am pretty much watching it just to see Kato doing awesome stuff and no other reason (dont care for seth rogen.)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC)
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Then I think you will be pleased!

Oh, Brothers Bloom. What the hell, mixed reviews. It was great! I can't wait for Looper!!
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From:sabra_n
Date:June 6th, 2011 11:47 pm (UTC)
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But, man, that must be one fucked up and intense night of theatre.

Yes. Yes it was. There are stories about audience members starting to scratch themselves while watching the play, and while I didn't feel its hold quite that strongly, I did find it to be just about the most perfect depiction of the nature of paranoia that I'd ever seen. Tracy Letts is a sick twisted bastard, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. :)
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From:ethanvahlere
Date:June 7th, 2011 01:08 am (UTC)
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I haven't liked any movie Tony Scott has directed since Spy Game, and I haven't liked any of the movies he's done with Denzel Washington, but I have heard enough good things from people (even those who dislike Scott as much as I do) that I might give Unstoppable a shot. Also will give Tangled a shot as well. Never had the courage to tackle Speed Racer or The Green Hornet (the latter because I'm getting tired of Seth Rogen and Michel Gondry).

See, I thought we did have enough motivation for Ripley's actions; he was obviously poor (the fact he had to borrow a jacket at the beginning, and where he was working, was a clue), so Dickie's life held enormous appeal to him, and he also fell in love with Dickie, though he couldn't really express it. And once Dickie rejected him, he felt hurt and exposed, and lashed out as a result. And once that's dealt with (I'm being deliberately vague for those who haven't seen it), he knows he doesn't want to go back, and everything he does from then on is to protect what he now has. You might like the earlier version of this story, Purple Noon, a French movie from the late 1950's starring Alain Delon. Once you get past the shock of these supposedly American characters speaking nothing but French, it's a pretty good movie, though I prefer Ripley, which I flat-out loved.

Agree with you about The Brothers Bloom (lot of fun), 127 Hours, Junebug (except, of course, for Amy Adams, I also found it lacking, though I did like it a little more than you did), Bug (maybe in the theater, it was harrowing, but I found it ridiculous, despite the best efforts of the actors), and Open Water.

My major disagreements with you are about Sexy Beast and City of God. Maybe I wouldn't like the former as much after seeing a movie from the same writers that I loathed (44 Inch Chest), but I thought everybody in the film was brilliant, especially Kingsley, and I thought the direction was stylish, and I was interested in how the characters fared. As for the latter, while I liked the movie, I thought it was somewhat overrated; here, I thought the style overwhelmed the movie, as if the director was more interested in making it look flashy rather than being true to the material. Also, the movie held my interest, but it never gave me that feeling of dread (there was a movie that came out a year later set in an unnamed Latin America country called The Dancer Upstairs about a detective tracking a terrorist that, while flawed, did a better job of creating that dread). Maybe seeing it after all the hype made a difference, but it definitely underwhelmed me.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 7th, 2011 01:33 am (UTC)
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See, I thought we did have enough motivation for Ripley's actions
All you are saying is true, but I wanted to know more about Ripley before the movie. Was he a pathological liar or something? His actions seem so calculated, and he's so good at it, that I can't believe it's the first time he's ever done anything like it.

I thought the direction was stylish
It was! Like I said, sometimes the stylishness worked and sometimes it didn't. But I wasn't interested in the characters.

here, I thought the style overwhelmed the movie, as if the director was more interested in making it look flashy rather than being true to the material.
I thought the style enhanced the movie considerably, giving it a lot of kinetic energy that pumped into the narrative. As for the sense of dread, I think the unforgiving violence and the repeated hints about future developments helped create the feeling that nothing was going to end well, although we really hoped things would be okay for Rocket.
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From:taraljc
Date:June 19th, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC)
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I can highly recommend the novels on which the Ripley movies are based. They veer off into the weirdly comical atpoints, but are lovely examples of a certain type of noir.
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From:imwalde
Date:June 7th, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
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I loved Tangled, it was totally charming. Pascal and Maximus were totally my favorite parts.

Yay Speed Racer, I thought it was really fun and did not deserve to be a famous flop. Granted, I saw it in German, so any script/acting problems would not be apparent, but it was just so pretty I was won over.

I've never seen Sexy Beast, but for your interest, there's the actor who plays Gal (Ray Winstone) in my icon at age 20-something.
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From:taraljc
Date:June 19th, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC)
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I saw Sexy Beast just for Ray, and continue to remain bewildered as to why he is not a household name in America.
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From:imwalde
Date:June 20th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
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And tragically, what he'll probably be best-known for is Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, which is not anyone's best work, frankly.
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From:taraljc
Date:June 20th, 2011 04:44 am (UTC)
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I think when all is said and done, it's Scum that he's most famous for. I still need to see it; that, and Nil by Mouth.
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From:imwalde
Date:June 21st, 2011 01:00 am (UTC)
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Oh yes, I was not clear, I meant Indiana Jones is probably the work on his resume cited in America among people who don't actually know who he is.

I've never managed to see Scum. I've heard he's amazing, but that it's a brutal movie/performance, so somehow the fancy never quite strikes.
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From:adnirem
Date:June 7th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
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The Brothers Bloom is one of my very favorite movies. It hit all my emotional cues. So good.

My favorite recent movie I saw was Broadcast News. I can't believe I hadn't seen it before. Pretty good. (I have an ever-present crush on William Hurt AND Albert Brooks.)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 7th, 2011 04:46 am (UTC)
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I have not seen it either! I will add it to the queue and MAYBE I will find the time to watch Network too as a DOUBLE FEATURE.
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From:adnirem
Date:June 7th, 2011 04:48 am (UTC)
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I DID THAT VERY THING ON MY OWN QUEUE! (double feature mind twins)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 7th, 2011 04:55 am (UTC)
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Did you also do The Fighter/Raging Bull? UPCOMING DOUBLE FEATURE.
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From:adnirem
Date:June 7th, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
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No. But, now I am!

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From:truemyth
Date:June 7th, 2011 06:09 am (UTC)
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I really enjoyed City of God too. Got to see it in the theater as an assignment for Spanish class. \0/
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 7th, 2011 06:16 am (UTC)
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But it's in Portuguese! Still: nice!
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From:truemyth
Date:June 7th, 2011 06:20 am (UTC)
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I know. That's still the reason I went. *Shrugs* It was community college, and my teacher liked to bring in Latin culture in general. She also did a fantastic lesson with Neruda's odes to apples, lemons, and tomatoes, where we had to bring in at least one of the fruits and interact with it while we read.
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From:ashfae
Date:June 7th, 2011 08:30 am (UTC)
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Looooooove your movie review entries. Though yikes, I've seen only *one* of these! Clearly need to remedy this!!!
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From:sterope
Date:June 9th, 2011 03:38 am (UTC)
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I got all excited because I thought this meant The Talented Mr. Ripley was on Instant View. I'm still going to rent the DVD though- I've been wanting to watch it again for a while now.

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