Arlington Road (1999)

In two words: great movie! Of course it had flaws, as all films do, but essentially they were few and far between and relatively insignificant. The basis of the film lies in terrorism. Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges), who teaches a class in extremists at a local university, begins to suspect his neighbors Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusak) of being more than what they appear. Faraday begins to find inconsistencies in the stories Oliver gives him and what the truth reveals and the story unfolds from there.
Jeff Bridges did a good job, but with a lot of heavy breathing, which I’m sure was convey panic and fear, however it tended to get on my nerves. Also in his classes, he would be talking about terrorist groups and events which they clearly must not have been able to use actual names and places where true attacks occurred, so instead they showed the faces of people we all know, but gave them different names which was intriguing, but also somewhat distracting.

Tim Robbins just did a wonderful job, and I was thrilled to see him in such a good film since the last one he acted in was Nothing to Lose in 1997. And Joan Cusak also gave an applause-worthy performance…and even though you didn’t see a whole lot of their kids, they managed to carry off a definite spookiness that really added to the atmosphere and mood of that whole house. Something else that impressed me was that such a relatively small nucleus of a cast managed to pull off such an involved plot and storyline. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the film and couldn’t avoid jumping several times.

The ending which I won’t give away, but have to let it be said that I thought it was incredibly thought provoking and perfect for the film. Couldn’t have been a better ending and that’s important. In many cases an ending can make or break the film. The last movie I saw was great, but the ending could have been a lot better which really hurt the overall film.

Good start, good story, perfect ending…4 stars. This is a film you need to go see in the theatre where you can watch without distractions.

For Love of the Game (1999)

Enjoyed it…and it’s been a long time since I could really say that about a Kevin Costner film. The poor man has given us so many mediocre movies the past several years that it was starting to become depressing. But then Field of Dreams (which holds a permanent place in my movie collection) kept staring at me from its place on the shelf, reminding me not to give up hope on Kevin. And I’m glad!

For Love of the Game is, of course, a baseball movie…and I have to admit that I am somewhat of a baseball-movie fan so I entered the theater figuring on liking the movie for that aspect if nothing else. Fortunately, I liked the rest of it too.

Nearing the end of his 19th year with the Detroit Tigers, Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) is faced with his past, present, and future, and is forced to think through them all during the final game of the season against the NY Yankees. The movie flips between the past and present throughout the game giving us a good background story on Billy and the love-of-his-life, Jane, played Kelly Preston. The movie does a good job of character development…which is important since a story is only as good as its characters. If you don’t care about them, then why bother? This is particularly true with a love story.

Kevin Costner did a job like I haven’t seen since his Field of Dreams days…or perhaps he always acts this well and this was a better storyline than Waterworld or The Postman so I could really tell. Kelly Preston (Addicted to Love, Jerry Maguire) was also excellent. Preston is one of those actresses that every time I see her in something, I can barely tell that it’s the same girl. I think she has a real talent for totally becoming her role, which draws you in, and you either love her or hate her, depending upon who she is. Love her in this part.

Just so you know, the film wasn’t perfect. Most of its minor flaws are overlook-able, but I did find the first 15 minutes or so didn’t seem to fit well into the rest of the movie. It all seems fine until they give you all that background detail and you gain a better understanding of who Billy and Jane are and what their relationship has been. In fact, if they cut those first few minutes, I’d probably be able to figure out what was going on without them. It wasn’t a particularly strong opener for what turned out to be a strong film.

Definitely a good date movie.