..
..
The Squid and the Whale IS a comedy, despite the fact that the audience I saw it with was groaning and grimacing throughout.  I
think their pain reflects the recognition of their own childhoods or of the misery they're inflicting on their own children.  Jeff Daniels is
excellent, and Laura Linney is especially good  as parents who are too smart by half and teach their children all the wrong lessons.

The Ice Harvest   came and went in about a week.  If you didn't see it, you missed something subversive and twisted. I liked it.
Hundreds of years ago, I actually spent part of a winter in Wichita.  It was just as nasty as it's presented here.  Since this movie focuses
on mob lawyers (played by John Cusack), strippers, murderers and other lost souls, I generally have a warmer memory of the people in
Wichita, but I was, at least, pleased to see that there were other people there who were having more fun that I was.  This movie does
boast the best line of dialogue of any movie this year.  At one point, John Cusack steals his ex-wife's Mercedes and goes to Billy Bob's
house.  After a disagreement about nothing really important, Billy Bob says, "Geez.  You've only been driving a Mercedes for two hours,
and already you're an asshole."

The Producers has a story that is foolproof.  The basic story has stayed intact since the first movie came out in 1969. Even the jokes
haven't changed much, and depending on what you think about political correctness and jokes about gays, Jews, Swedes and old people,
that's either a good or bad thing.  The irony, of course, is that the musical version of
The Producers could not be produced today if it
were not based on a generally beloved earlier movie.  Spokespersons for gays, Jews, Swedes, old people and who-knows-who-else
would have shut it down faster than Max and Leo wanted
Springtime for Hitler to fold.  The best thing that can be said about the new
movie is that Uma is back--and that's a good thing.  I thought most of the rest of the movie, especially Matthew Broderick, was kind of
icky.  When I saw the musical, Martin Short was in his role, and he was terrific.  However, everyone else in the theater was applauding
after every number, so what do I know.

The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (referred to henceforth at "Narnia") There's a lot to like about
this movie without having to resort to comparisons with The Passion of the Christ.  As a matter of fact, I wish they hadn't belabored
those comparisons: the movie is strong enough without them, and coming from Disney, they just sound cynical.  Four observations:  1.  
That is one big lion.  I guess he has to be to make an impression, and that he sounds like Obi Wan Kenobi is a plus.  2. I guess if I had
read the books, I'd know why some animals like lions and cheetahs are "good guys" and others like cows and polar bears aren't.  I'm
glad they didn't stop the movie to explain all that, but it does seem somewhat arbitrary.  3.  There's a kid in the movie named Skandar
Keynes who plays the child who is led into temptation who is terrific.  He might be the next Freddie Hightower.  4.  From now on, when
I think of Satan, I'm going to be visualizing Tilda Swinton with icicles in her hair and riding in a chariot drawn by polar bears.  She's
mesmerizing.  Check it out.

Rent I guess I should have seen the play.  I saw the movie at a theater in New York where the crowd applauded the opening credits and
the initial appearance of each of the main characters who had been in the play..  Watching the movie felt like a watching an tribute  to the
play, rather than something in and of itself.  Judging from the reaction of the  audience, you'll probably like the movie if you liked the
play.  If you didn't see the play, you'll probably feel like you're missing something.

The Dying Gaul Like Rent, The Dying Gaul also feels like a play.  The plot (which I won't reveal here) turns on a couple of things that
upon reflection, defy the sensibilities of one of the characters--and common sense, for that matter.  This makes for a very unsatisfying
ending.  Sadly, I've never had sex with a man, so I know I'm missing a lot in my life.  Still, there's a sex scene between Campbell Scott
and Peter Skaarsgard that made me wonder what the heck they were actually doing.  (It looked very painful and possibly dangerous.)  If
you see it and want to let me know, I'd appreciate hearing from you.

Walk the Line is the BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR. (So far, anyway.)  Go see it tonight.  Joaquin Phoenix may not look or sound like
Johnny Cash, but he IS Johnny Cash.  Reese Witherspoon is equally good.  When it comes to musical taste, I'm closer to Ray Charles
than Johnny Cash, but in movie terms, The Man in Black takes the prize.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Do young kids know that this really isn't a movie for them?  It may well be the darkest movie I've
seen this year.

Prime is the second awful movie that Uma Thurman has been in this year.  I'm sensing a trend.

Jarhead Is our society SOOO drenched in sex that a movie that is ostensibly about Marines in Iraq a proper forum for this ode to
masturbation and vaguely homoerotic behavior?  From the evidence of this movie, I'd have to say yes.  Too bad.

{proof} This movie is almost the antithesis of Just Like Heaven (below).  In JLH, perky blonde Reese Witherspoon restores humanity to
doofus Mark Ruffalo.  In {proof}, mathematician doofus Jake Gyllenhall tries to do the same for the decidedly un-perky Gwyneth
Paltrow.  The results are much less assured than they are in
Just Like Heaven. I had read some tepid reviews of the movie and originally
planned not to see it.  I'm glad I changed my mind.   

Pride and Prejudice   Again.  So is Jane Austen lying in her grave thinking, "Keep doing it until you get it right!"  Actually, most of this
version is right.  Keira Knightly certainly is, and the director seems to have captured a new take on what I can only call the earthiness of
England in the late eighteenth century.  It's not as much fun as the Bollywood version, but it probably is more true to the original work.

Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit I wanted to love this movie, and I really expected that I would.  There's no wonder
or magic involved, but I have to say that I smiled everytime Gromit was on the screen.  His best scene was sitting in a pick-up truck
during a were-rabbit attack.  As the were-rabbit neared, Phillip, the villain's dog was desperately trying to save himself by begging
Gromit to let him into the truck.  The deadpan look that Gromit gave him is worth the price of admission.  I have nothing against "British
humor" (humour?), but combined with claymation animation, it can lead to disappointing results.

Capote   Phillip Seymour Hoffman's (PSH) role as Truman Capote has been reviewed elsewhere (OK, practically everywhere) as
Oscar-worthy,
and I'm certainly not going to disagree.  It is outstanding.  I think that the main reason he is getting so much praise is that he underplays
the
flamboyant Capote so profoundly.  While yes, that is a definite improvement over the screeching impersonations that have been evident
among
others portraying the author, it does have a downside.  While he might have been as troubled and conflicted as he is here, he was also
loud and--well, louder.  We don't get that here.  Therefore, when we are shown Capote saying that the delayed execution of two men
really adds to "his" problems. we don't recognize it for the ridiculous observation that it is.  Likewise, when he says under his breath that
his friend Harper Lee's
To Kill a Mockingbird is no "big deal", we don't laugh at the line as we should.  These are small complaints
indeed and do not detract much from a great movie.

A History of Violence Movie of the Week-presented-as-high cinema. With the exception of the wonderful Maria Bello as a put-upon
wife, there's not a believable character in this whole mess.   As consolation, you do get the world's most awkward and uncomfortable
sex scene.  Maria and Vigo Mortenssen do it (fully clothed) on some narrow and steep stairs.  Ouch.

Just Like Heaven So I guess that we have to accept that Reese Witherspoon is an adult now.  Or at least as adult as any of the
residents on
Scrubs or Grey's Anatomy.  But to me, she'll always be over-achievingTracy Flick from Election.  In Just Like Heaven, she
plays a personality type that could be Tracy's, had she chosen a medical career over politics.  This movie wants to be a romantic
comedy; unfortunately, the romantic "other" in this case is Mark "Hangdog" Ruffalo, who doesn't muster the energy to make you think
that he ever wants anything other than to be rid of his unwelcome houseguest.

The Constant Gardener I liked the movie and resented it at the same time--which is something, I guess.  The plot and characters were
interesting and the performances were fine.  But the movie was shot in a documentary-style (at one point, we get an extended close-up
of someone's nose.) in order to convince the audience that drug companies are doing these kinds of things in Africa even as we speak.  
Are they?  I don't know.  I read and watch a lot of news, and I haven';t read or heard anything about it, so I'm not going to say that it is
until I know.  Unlike the movie, I'm not going to convict them without evidence.

Broken Flowers Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch.  It could have been a lot better or a lot worse than it is.  Bill is great.

Flightplan This is the second or third movie I've seen lately about a mother whose child goes missing and others insist that the woman
never really had a child and that she is obviously insane.  Is this really a phenomenon that we're seeing more of in society?  Or. are
screenwriters just lazy?  Either way,
Flightplan is a competent thriller which presents the always watchable Jodie Foster in a role she
can slamdunk in her sleep.  Check it out.  If you can't see it in a theater, you'll probably have to rent it.  It's not likely to be showing on
any airplane.

2046 The ever-wonderful Gong Li and the hype machine sucked me into this one.  It's received unbelievably good reviews--and those
reviews are indeed unbelievable. The movie goes on for days, and not much happens either in Room 2046 of a Hong Kong flophouse or
in the year 2046 of the director's fantasy.  Even Gong Li, stunning as ever, can't save it.

The 40 Year Old Virgin is impossible not to like--at least until the cast starts singing Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In.  I still don't get
that.  Not liking such an eager-to-please movie is the cinematic equivalent of kicking a puppy.

Protocols of Zion Documentarian Marc Levin sets out to prove that the Jews were not responsible for 9/11. I hadn't heard that anybody
thought they were.  Naturally, Mr. Levin pins the blame on George W. Bush.

March of the Penguins I learned more about penguins in this movie than I did by going to Antarctica.  (In the interest of disclosure,
this movie is about one-and-a-half hours long.  I was only in Antarctica for about four-and-a-half hours.  And I should also say that the
French Polar Research Institute seems to have nabbed a much more scenic piece of Antarctica than did the Argentine research base at
Marambio, which is  rocky, icy and generally penguin-free.)  It's a great movie, even if you don't care much for penguins.

Stealth  I think this movie wants to be the Top Gun of the new millennium.  If so, it's too bad.  It's not.  Your willingness to sit through
the movie is directly related to how hot you think Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx and Josh Lucas are.

Hustle and Flow So if you know me at all, you know I spend a lot of time in the Mississippi Delta.  A couple of weeks ago, I was at the
self-wash car wash.  Nearby, some guy's  crappy car radio at the vacuum cleaner was belting out obscene, misogynous rap at top
volume.  ("F*** the b****!  F*** the b****!")  I pushed the red alarm button on my keyring that makes the horn honk repeatedly.  
After about a minute, the guy got the message and turned his radio off.  Having seen
Hustle and Flow, I now know where such
miserable noise comes from.  It comes from Memphis.  I should have known.  If--unlike me--you think art should reflect the artist's life
(as opposed to strive for some higher ideal), this is the movie for you.  Knock yourself out.

Must Love Dogs I've always said that I'd watch Diane Lane in anything.  This is about as close to "anything" as it gets.  It's a cliched
and predictable science-fiction story of how Diane can't get a date.  With Diane Lane, John Cusack, Dermot Mulroney, Stockard
Channing and Captain von Trapp from
The Sound of Music,  you'd think it would have charm to burn.  You'd be wrong.

Wedding Crashers has no redeeming social value, but it will make you laugh so hard, you'll blow soda out your nose.  Not for the
under 13 crowd.

You and Me and Everyone We Know looks and sounds just like a movie that some self-absorbed performance artist would make.  In
one scene we are treated to watching the artist jumping up and down and making faces.  Yuck.

The Island starts out promisingly, but soon degenerates into a spectacle of things that "blowed up real good."  The only reason to see
the movie is Scarlett Johanson, who is always good.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aka  Charlie and the Neverland Ranch. This may sound hard to believe, but I was even less hip in
the 70's than I am today.  I thought
Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a drug movie, so I didn't see it.  (Over the years, I've
seen enough bits and pieces of it to know that not even druggies could have savored Gene Wilder's singing.)  I like Johhny Depp, but I
liked
Charles and the Chocolate Factory despite him.  He's just too Michael Jackson in this role.  I also think that Freddy Hightower
(Charlie) and Deep Roy (ALL of the Oompa-Loompas) deserve Oscars.

The Beat That My Heart Skipped A great title for an awful movie.

Howl's Moving Castle   (Hauro No Igoku Shiro)  An awful title for a great movie.  Hayao Miyazaki follows Spirited Away with a
wistful tale of a young woman who is turned into a spry old crone by evil witch--for some reason that escapes me.  When the
eponymous castle floats by, she jumps aboard and changes the lives of several people (and things) whose lives need changing.  Voices
by Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Billy Crystal and others.  See it on the biggest screen you can find.

War of the Worlds Yes, you're willing to spend valuable hours of your life watch Tom Cruise do almost anything--like talking to Oprah
or Matt.  The same is true of Dakota Fanning.  That's why from the instant park your butt in a theater seat, you know that nothing really
bad is going to happen to them.  That works against the plot of
War of the Worlds, which frankly, was pretty lame to start with.  You
sense that Spielberg had been here and done that.  Everything, except maybe the tripods (which defy common sense and the laws of
physics) looks like something you've seen before.  Wasn't Tim Robbins in the basement with Joachim Phoenix in
Signs?   The most
threatening machine was ripped off from
The Abyss.  Even the aliens look like the same bunch from Independence Day. E.T., Phone it in!

Apres Vous For wanna-be romantic comedies like this to work, you have to have a cast that makes you care what happens to them.  
With a great actor like Daniel Auteil doing most of the heavy lifting, the movie his halfway home.  Unfortunately, he's stranded with a
charisma-free supporting cast and a script that can't decide if it wants to be a screwball or bittersweet--and can't do both.

Bewitched I was already convinced that there is no acting universe that can accommodate both Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell.  It
wasn't necessary to spend $85 million to prove it to me.  
Bewitched is a mess--and not in a good way.

Caterina Goes to the City This was a very charming movie--sort of the Roman version of Mean Girls.  Even though I know you'll
never see it, I highly recommend it.  (For some reason, the credits say,
Caterina Goes to the City, but the ads say, Caterina in the City.  
Is a puzzlement.

Cinderella Man   Say what you want about Chris Rock, but he got it right at the Academy Awards when he said, "If you're making a
movie and you want a
star, you don't call Jude Law.  You call Russell Crowe."  Crowe si mesmerizing in this movie that critics seem to
be trashing because it's not
Raging Bull.  To them, I say, "Good.  I didn't like Raging Bull." I do think, however, that Clint Eastwood
should be very happy that Opie directed this movie this year--not last.  Paul Giamatti (from
Sideways) and Renee Zellweger (from every
other movie ever made
) are excellent.  Check it out.

Batman Begins  Now THIS is the Batman we've been waiting for 30 years.  Just as slick as the Tim Burton-Joel Schumacher products
of the late 80's and 90's, but unlike them it's also about something and someone.  It was great seeing Jack, Nicole, Uma, Arnold, Drew  
et al in the campy roles, but there was no Batman in those movies.  In retrospect, do you REALLY think that Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer
and George Clooney were the right choices?  Christian Bale wouldn't have been a choice I would have made for this role, but as it turns
out, he was an inspired one.  Morgan "God" Freeman, Linus Roache, Michael Caine and Katie Holmes are all terrific.  (And may I say,
that Tom Cruise is one lucky guy.)

Off the Map   The theater where this movie is showing in Cincinnati has 221 ceiling tiles.  13 of them have been removed for lights and
air conditioning ducts.  There are 63 emergency lights along the aisle.  These are the things one notices when there's nothing going on up
on the screen.

Heights is an ugly little bit of business.  It wants to be compared to Closer.  Why it would want to be compared to that god-awful thing
is beyond me, but there you go.  I think that
Heights is meant to observe the passing of the last heterosexual man in Manhattan.  In this
movie, even the men who sleep with women are gay.  It's probably an accurate depiction of the Broadway/journalism/p.r. world it
presents, but it doesn't present that world as a place fit for human habitation.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith   No, it's not a great movie, and I'm cutting it a lot of slack by calling it a good movie.  It is, however, a terrific
entertainment.  It's what great movies have always been about.  Angelina Jolie is a
movie star, and when she's on the screen, you
understand why Jennifer Aniston is a single woman today.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants   Yes, it's true:  In one of my multiple personalities, I'm a teenage girl named Cindy.  Having said
that, there is a young girl in this movie who gives an altogether amazing performance.  Her name is Jenna Boyd.  She doesn't play one of
the lead characters; she's a leukemia patient named Bailey.  You'll be hearing about her for a long, long time.  All I can say is, "Dakota
Fanning, watch your back."

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith   (I feel like a schmuck just for writing it.)  After you see this movie (and face it, you
know you will), you'll wonder to yourself, "Did I really love the first set of movies, and if so, why?"  You loved them because they were
fun.  Yoda had not yet become a special effect.   No one will ever say that
Sith is fun.  At best, it's a great technical accomplishment.  
So is a Buick.  This is not your father's--or your--
Star Wars.  It's really violent.  As sad as this is to say, leave the little kids at home.)

Melinda and Melinda From Matt's List of Things to Do in 2005:  No. 79: See disappointing Woody Allen film. Check.

Crash   Every decade or so, somebody makes a poignant film about the sad, and in some cases, hopeful state of race relations in Los
Angeles.  In the 80's, we had
Grand Canyon, and in the 90's, Robert Altman's Short Cuts.  Now, in honor of a certain trilogy of films
from a galaxy far, far away, what I will call
The Rodney King Trilogy (Can't we all just get along?), is complete with Crash..  It's much
less treacly than
Grand Canyon and much more realistic than Short Cuts.  In fact, it's wonderful.  It has good performance from lots of
my favorite people, including Loretta Devine (right).  You know going in that someone is going to do something terrible to someone who
doesn't deserve it, and when it finally happens, it's devastating.  The film is violent, and behavior is coarse.  It's not for everyone--but
maybe it should be.

Monster-in-Law J Lo is predictable and boring.  Jane Fonda is slightly less predictable and boring.  I want to talk about Wanda Sykes. I
think it's fair to say that a star is born.  It occurred to me that if she is interested, Ms Sykes could become the Thelma Ritter of the 21st
century.  (If you don't know who TM is, look her up.)  This is actually a serious compliment.  Ms. Ritter made every actor she was
around and every movie she was in better and more interesting.  That's no small thing.  Ms. Ritter earned a couple of Oscar nominations
by being herself and not by trying to carry movies on her own. I hope that Ms. Sykes will follow her lead  By the way, this movie will be
plaguing airplanes and cable stations for a long time.  There's no need to rush out and see it.)

The Interpreter I don't want to give away too much of the plot (although there's much more than enough of it to go around), but the
biggest mystery about this mystery is "Why isn't Nicole Kidman in jail at the end of the movie?"  The ending is rather absurd (not to
mention staged), but everything before it is pretty good.  Kidman and Penn are good, and this may be the first time I've actually liked
Catherine Keener in a movie.  Check it out.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Even though outer space and sex are two things to which I've had equally little exposure, I
want to compare
The Hitchhiker's Guide... to a book and movie that came out in the 1960's, Everything You Always Wanted to Know
About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask
.  In making a movie of Everything... , Woody Allen threw out everything in the book but the name
and made a hilarious movie.  Given the nature of  
The Hitchhiker's Guide..., I'm thinking that's what the film-makers should have done in
this case as well.  Unless you actually got around to reading the book at some point in the last 20 years, the movie probably doesn't make
much sense to you.  It's not unpleasant.  It's almost an extended inside joke.

Fever Pitch Hmm.  Let's see.  Drew Barrrymore has more than twice the charisma needed to pull off something like this;  Jimmy Fallon
has none.  That averages out to a feeble recommendation in favor.  Just don't expect to see a baseball movie.

Beauty Shop   Do I love Queen Latifah?  Yes, I do.  Can she do better than this?  Yes, she can.  Ultimately, she has no one to blame but
her producer--also herself.  It's likable enough.  Kevin Bacon and Alicia Silverstone experiment with exotic characters.  She's from East
Georgia; he's from--well that would be giving things away.

Sin City It may just be that I saw this piece of crap on the day that the Pope died.  However, I'd like to think that an ultra-violent film in
which Rutger Hauer plays a murdering and cannibalistic cardinal, and Frodo Baggins plays his equally cannibalistic acolyte would be
relentlessly unpleasant on any day.  Sadistic cops, murderous prostitutes and whatever the hell Mickey Roarke is supposed to be do
nothing but sicken the soul.  Oddly enough, the only person in the movie to whom I give credit for enough sense to know better is Bruce
Willis.  Shame on you, Bruce.

Robots   For my money, the fanfare that accompanies the 20th Century Fox logo before movies is the greatest piece of music in the
history of film.  I mention that in conjunction with
Robots because it was the last pleasant thought I remember prior to leaving the theater
and discovering that my car hadn't been stolen.  
Robots isn't Get-that-thing-out-of-here bad, it's just Ignore-it-and-maybe-it'll go-away
bad.  What does it say about a movie when the best thing in it is Robin Williams?

Schultze Gets the Blues I really wanted to like this movie.  A retired salt mine worker in East Germany hears zydeco music on the
radio and dreams of visiting Louisiana.  And he does.  Unfortunately, the movie is too odd for its own good.  Given its bizarre unrealistic
plot and lack of pace, I started thinking that the whole story was some sort of unfortunate reinterpretation of
The Odyssey.  (But's it's
not.  I don't think it is, anyway.)   The director's idea of setting up a scene is putting a camera somewhere and waiting for something
interesting to drift into the field of vision.  This usually takes much too much time and gets really tedious.  As do most of the characters.  
Too bad.  The highlight is getting to see Rock and Bowl in New Orleans get some screen time.

Downfall Just to recap for those of you who might have been in a coma or vegetative state for the past 60 years or so, the Nazis were
insane, and their regime ended badly.  This excellent, if long, movie documents the last two weeks of the Reich as Hitler sunk further
into madness in the not-so-fashionable
Fuhrerbunker in downtown Berlin.  The facts of the case are so well known that you relish the
small moments, like when Eva Braun admits that she hates Hitler's dog, Blondi, and kicks her when the Fuhrer isn't looking.

Be Cool  Uma, I love you, but you're trying my patience.  The next time Travolta or Tarantino call, let the machine pick it up.

Bad Education This is a very difficult movie to try to describe.  Yes, it's got pedophile priests, young boys having sex and lots of
transvestites and transgenders.  Given the reputation of our fine Cincinnati constabulary, I was concerned that the theater would be
raided by the end of the movie--and before Gael Garcia Bernal had sex with
every man in Spain..  But is it pornography?  I don't think so,
but it's hard to tell these days.

Bride and Prejudice   How can you NOT love an all-singing, all-dancing, sub-continental, Colin Firth-free version of the Jane Austen
classic?  Roger Ebert has called Aishwaya Rai, 1994 Miss World, the first AND second most beautiful woman in the world.  Personally,
I think she qualifies as the whole top ten list, but I digress.  She played the Elizabeth Bennett character, and I smiled at the screen for
two hours.  To pick at its faults would be pointless and petty. Go see it when you need a pick-me-up.  (This may not be the place to
bring this up, but I think that I really don't have much interest in visiting India because I know it would be a disappointment after
Bollywood.  How weird is that?)

Constantine  isn't terrible.  It's not particularly scary--which isn't good for what is supposed to be a horror movie.  It isn't particularly
stylish--which isn't good for a movie that cost a gazillion dollars. This may be damning with faint praise, but it's a not-unpleasant story
about good and evil in which Keanu Reeves is actually pretty good.

Mystery of the Nile   About as mundane as it's possible for an IMAX movie to be.

In Good Company   With the obvious exception of Meg Ryan, is there anyone who doesn't think that Dennis Quaid
is wonderful?  He's one of actors like Kurt Russell, Bill Murray or Hugh Grant who always welcome you into whatever character they're
playing and make you enjoy whatever they're doing.  In the coming years, I expect that Topher Grace will also become one of those
actors.  Here, those two team with the Weitz brothers, who directed and produced Hugh Grant's
About a Boy, Scarlett Johanssen and
other terrific supporting actors to provide a movie experience I'm sure I'll remember when I prepare my "Ten Favorite... " list at the end
of 2005.
"Must see" movies are in red.
2005 MOVIE REVIEWS
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