Monday, May 23, 2005

EC:WC FCA Review - Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

This is a West Coast Critic review:

A very quirky and tongue-in-cheek space comedy in the vein of Monty Python. I've read the books by Douglas Adams, and this flick keeps the spirit of the novels (and the BBC radio series they were based on). It doesn't always work, with a few jokes and a couple scenes falling flat. But, for the most part, it's a fun ride. I laughed my a** off on a number of occasions.

If you're not familiar with Adams' work, then you may not quite "get it". And if you're an Adams worshipper, you may feel a little let down. But if you go into the theater with the proper mindset, you'll walk out of the theater giving it 3 wine bottles out of 5.

The special fx are cool, there's enough laughs to split your sides, and it's pure oddball escapism. I'd much rather watch this than yet another Star Wars "pre-quel" (and, no, I have not seen Stars Wars Part I, nor Part II, and I have absolutely no compulsion to see Part III... I'm Sith and tired of George Lucas).

Monday, May 16, 2005

Supreme Court rejects ban on out-of-state wine sales

Fresh from the presses (via MSNBC):

WASHINGTON - Raising the bar on states wanting to restrict online commerce, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that wine lovers may buy directly from out-of-state wineries, striking down laws banning a practice that has flourished because of the Internet and growing popularity of winery tours.

While the ruling only involves wine sales, industry groups expect that it will soon apply to beer and other alcoholic beverages currently regulated through state-licensed wholesalers and retailers.

Lawyers involved in the case say the ruling will also make it harder for states to restrict Internet commerce on other regulated items — from contact lenses to car insurance.

The 5-4 decision strikes down laws in New York and Michigan that make it a crime to buy wine directly from vineyards in another state. In all, 24 states have laws that bar interstate shipments.

The state bans are discriminatory and anti-competitive, the court said.

“States have broad power to regulate liquor,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. “This power, however, does not allow states to ban, or severely limit, the direct shipment of out-of-state wine while simultaneously authorizing direct shipment by in-state producers.”

If a state chooses to allow direct shipments of wine, it must do so on evenhanded terms,” he wrote.

Kennedy was joined in his opinion by Justices Antonin Scalia, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Read the rest of the article here.

This is a GOOD thing (especially for us vino lovers). I find it to be very odd the way that the voting broke down. Scalia with Ginsburg & Breyer in the affirmative while Thomas, Renquist and Stevens were in opposition.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

EC:WC FCA Review – Hotel Rwanda

A West Coast Film Critic Review

One powerfully effective retelling of the African genocidal massacres of the mid-90s, shown through the eyes of a courageous hotel administrator. Don Cheadle plays the roll of Paul Rusesabagina, the assistant manager of the Hotel des Milles Collines (a Belgian-owned resort in Kigali, Rwanda). Rwanda had been run by the Belgian-chosen Tutsi clan - the taller, lighter-skinned, thinner-nosed citizenry. But when Belgium pulls out of the country, the French-backed rival Hutu clan seeks revenge for their years of oppression.

But not all Rwandans have this intense hatred of their fellow countrymen, many of whom have intermarried over the years (including Rusesabagina). His family and friends are forced to take refuge at his hotel, where he soon has to protect hundreds more of his fellow Rwandans facing persecution. Known for his style and smooth talk, Paul begins to cash in the chips he's collected over the years through the various friendships and relationships he’d built over the years as hotel manager.

For two hours, you are experiencing the escalation of this calamity through the eyes of Rusesabagina. It’s not only fine storytelling, it’s downright affecting. There are a few brief moments when the film director chooses to awkwardly preach to his audience. I felt that it wasn’t needed since the rest of the film does such a fine job of explaining things without beating you over the head.

There are quite a few harrowing moments in the film, including an absolutely haunting scene in which Paul and a fellow hotel employee need to drive through a dense morning fog and encounter what can only be described as an ethereal nightmare. Cheadle's performance here as well as in the scene immediately following is acting excellence.

The western world does not get off easy in this re-telling of the genocidal atrocities in Rwanda. Fingers are sharply pointed at the U.N., with particular emphasis on the lack of compassion and intervention from France, Belgium and the U.S. under the Clinton administration.

There are several extras on the DVD that are also well worth the viewing: a commentary by Don Cheadle on several key scenes, and two documentaries – “A Message of Peace: The Making of Hotel Rwanda” and “Return to Rwanda”. These extras help to explain the historical events which are the basis of the film, as well as the process of making the movie. I highly recommend taking the time to watch these extras immediately after the movie ends.

Hotel Rwanda is definitely a 4 wine bottles out of 5 film! With fine performances by Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo (who plays his Tutsi wife, Tatiana), it places recent history right in your lap. And it forces you to ask why this world is letting similar situations continue in Sudan and the Congo.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Soon to come... reviews of "I Am David" and "Hotel Rwanda"

Will have these DVD reviews within the next few days.