Gooden's Catch Up Countdown

Billy Elliot (2000)

Starring Jamie Bell

My Rating:

Get swept off your feet by the boy wonder.

Bitable Bytes:
"A Feel-Good Movie!"
"Winning Tale!"

What to do while watching:
Just enjoy it.

What to eat while watching:
Tater Tots

If you wanted to make a "feel-good movie," you'd put yourself on solid ground by making it about dance. When film successfully captures the abandon and full-body ecstasy of motion, an audience can't help but feel the surge of energy. It worked for Footloose, it worked for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, and it works for Billy Elliot.

This textured ugly-duckling tale follows young Billy in his poor hometown in England. The coal-miner strikes are well underway, a harsh chapter in English history (also see Brassed Off and The Full Monty); and the Elliot family is hurting for money. But Papa Elliot (Gary Lewis) still scrapes together the money to send his boy to boxing lessons in the proud Elliot tradition. Too bad Billy's no good at it.

Being in the right place at the right time, Billy drifts from his boxing lesson to the ballet lesson that shares the gym. At first, he's tentative about being there, even temporarily, but gradually his dedication grows under the firm but sensitive tutelage of the jaded ballet tutor (Julie Walters). In fact, Billy shows a lot of promise. Of course, ballet is associated with homosexuality in Elliot's world and both are frowned upon. It doesn't help that Billy's friend Michael likes to dress up in his sister's clothes.

For Billy, though, the dance becomes more and more about his freedom of expression. He can dance out his frustrations and aggravations and the difficulties of his life and seeing his father and brother struggle so much. The movie culminates (like Footloose) in Elliot's family and community rallying behind him. An opportunity arises for him to audition at a prestigious ballet school in London, and therein lies the climax of this winning tale.

The characters are so likeable, you hardly notice how well the film is shot, but take a moment to notice the sharpness of image and the care with which the choreography is framed. Add a good soundtrack, and this film is really quite an enjoyable experience all around.

The Powerpuff Girls -- The Movie

My Rating:

A good cartoon, especially for Powerpuff Girls fans

Bitable Bytes:
"I Enjoyed It!"
"A Light Treat!"

What to do while watching:
It's over so quickly, you don't have time to do much else.

What to eat while watching:
Sugar, spice...

Granted, this is a children's movie, but there's something adult in its design choices. It's retro in a 50s sense (Dr. Utonian, Chemical X); retro in an 80s sense (think Hello Kitty); and at the same time au courant as a very popular phenomenon among the cartoon-consuming demographic.

Personally, I enjoyed it. In the city of Townsville, Dr. Utonian has combined sugar, spice, and everything nice in order to make himself some daughters. But an accidental dose of Chemical X endows his creations with amazing super powers. Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup are born in an explosion that devastates the lab and also spawns their arch nemesis, Mojo Jojo, a monkey with a brain so large that it protrudes out of the top of his head.

Dr. Utonian attempts to raise his creations as normal little girls, but a game of tag between the three goes out of control and they wind up destroying much of Townsville in their rambunctiousness. A happy ending is in store, but the three have to work for it.

In the fun tradition of Bullwinkle and Rocky, the Powerpuff Girls movie is a light treat--and cultural research--for the adult viewer.

Italian for Beginners (Danish with English Subtitles, 2001)

My Rating:

Daytime television romance made into a movie, sort of.

Bitable Bytes:

What to do while watching:
Struggle to get past how the film is shot on video, as though for television.

What to eat while watching:
A cheese Danish!

I would like to say that I wasn't bothered by the look of this movie, shot on video. But that would be untrue. The videographic pall over the film highlighted for me the television-like quality of this little story of people struggling with their demons. And because there are so many star-crossed characters, a daily series would have fleshed them out more.

The story is set in a small community in Denmark where a new pastor has come to take over at the local church. Meanwhile, a normal guy and his younger ruffian friend take Italian lessons with several women. The younger guy is fired from his day job for being too hotheaded, but he hits it off with the hair stylist, who starts coming to Italian lessons to see him, just as the Italian teacher has a heart attack during class and dies. Since the young ruffian is already pretty fluent in Italian (I'm not sure why he's taking the class), the class elects him to take over. Another woman shows up in class. She's a baker's assistant with fetal alcohol syndrome, so she's always dropping things. The normal guy has fallen in love with an Italian barmaid (at least he has a motivation for taking the class), but he's too bashful to approach her. Not to spoil it, but finally, everything works out in the end.

There's something very, very, very simple about this story and the way it's presented. It is innocent enough to think that its characters can be likeable just by existing.

Men in Black II (2002)

My Rating:

A showcase for special effects and a fiscal second helping for Columbia Pictures.

Bitable Bytes:
"...A Powerful Story...!"

What to do while watching:
Peruse People Magazine.

What to eat while watching:
Alien pie.

If you saw the original Men in Black, you probably enjoyed the wacky aliens, the big laser guns, Will Smith's sass talking, and the special effects. If you really, really loved Men in Black, then you might want another 90-minute dose of exactly the same stuff. You won't be put-off by new characters to meet, groundbreaking special effects to get used to, or a powerful story that makes you rethink the film's universe. No, you'll get just what you got before, including humor on the same adolescent level as the comic book that spawned this. The funniest moment in the movie is when Will Smith kicks the "Ballchinian," an alien whose testicles are located on his chin.

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For your collection: Billy Elliot (DVD), The Powerpuff Girls -- The Movie (DVD), Italian for Beginners (VHS), Men in Black II video game for Playstation2.I don't own a Playstation2 and have never played this game, so I can't really recommend it, but I wanted to offer you a variety of media for your home entertainment system. After reading the sub-literate reviews on, I can tell you that this game is not a smash hit. I can also tell you that some kids are spending too much time playing video games and not enough time learning how to write. Exhibit A: "When I first saw the game, I though this was going to be ggod as the movie. I see that I was wrong. This game was wack... I lost interest very fastly... If you do buy it, rent it first..."

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