New Rating System!
GO! I can recommend this movie without reservation
CAUTION I liked this movie a lot, but then I liked Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Check it out before deciding.
STOP! This movie is unworthy of your attention.
Babel Of course, it's simplistic to say that the world is divided into those who know what Babel is about and want to see it, and those
who don't. It's roughly the same breakdown as "those who would want to see a movie just because Brad Pitt is in it and those who
don't." The plot, in short, is Crash on a global scale. People do terrible things because--that's just what people do. Brad and Cate
Blanchett are the "names", but the real star of the movie is Hispanic actress Adriana Barraza, who will break your heart as an illegal
domestic helper who has the misfortune to be working for Brad and Cate.
Little Children Far be it from me to comment on another man's buttocks, but a week after seeing this movie, the main thing I remember
about it is that Patrick Wilson's butt seemed to move very convincingly when he was simulating having sex with Kate Winslet on top of
a washing machine. This is a tawdry little tale of infidelity and paranoia in the suburbs. If infidelity and paranoia in the suburbs (and
Patrick Wilson's butt) are your concerns, here's your movie.
The Last King of Scotland Forrest Whitaker has been getting all kinds of well-deserved credit for playing Idi Amin in this "based on a
true story " story of the young man from Scotland who seemed to picked to be his private physician based on the fact that he is
Scottish. The late Mr. Amin claimed to be an aficionado of all things Scottish--including, apparently, medical practitioners. Mr.
Whitaker's performance, while certainly Oscar-worthy, is but an extraordinary island in the murky sea of a very ordinary move.
The History Boys It's not a bad little movie, but hasn't the topic of homosexuality in the British education system been beaten nearly to
death? I'm starting to suspect that this is the Playgirl Magazine of the Masterpiece Theater crowd.
Casino Royale This is the James Bond movie that you always hoped they'd make some day. It's tough, action-packed, and easy on the
eyes. The only complain I can muster is that, at two-and-a-half hours, it's about fifteen minutes too long. Speaking of long times,
Daniel Craig gives a performance that suggests that we'll have to kick around for a long time. Check it out.
For Your Consideration Didn't you like Christopher Guests's earlier movies, Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman? Yeah, me too.
Unfortunately , that's why you're going to be disappointed by For Your Consideration. The same elements are there--hell, the same
cast is there--Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, et al. It's just that the formula falls flat this time around. Maybe the target
--show business--is too easy. Because I know that their next effort will be back up to their usual high standards, I'm giving them all a
pass this time I suggest you do the same.
Deja Vu One wonders who the writer of this movie had in mind when he was writing. (And it had to be a "he". No self-respecting
woman could possibly come up with something like this.) Denzel Washington plays a New Orleans cop named Doug something who
does things that are improbable even for science-fiction fans. He goes back in time to save a ferry for the Louisiana Department of
Transportation and Development. (I am not making this up.) The movie is lame in the way that only Jerry Bruckheimer can pull off.
On the upside, however, it's nice to see that most of the usual stereotypes are back in New Orleans after Katrina.
Stranger Than Fiction Roger Ebert (Welcome back!) says that this movie is a meditation on life, art, romance, and the responsibilities
we all share. Notice that he does not say that it is engaging or funny. Will Ferrell has strayed into Jim Carrey territory--think The
Truman Show or The Majestic--with this very dark and somber contemplation of life and love. The disappointing result isn't much fun
Marie Antoinette Like M-A herself, the movie is great to look at, but unbelievably shallow--which was probably Sofia Coppola's
The Queen Today is Saturday, November 4th. Take it from me, Helen Mirren WILL win an Academy Award for her portrayal of
QE2. It's a terrific movie. Check it out.
Flags of Our Fathers In the end, Clint Eastwood's reach exceeds his grasp. I think he tries to do too much. Not only does he give the
back story of famous photo of the Marines planting the flag on Iwo Jima, he tries explain why those who fought in the war didn't want
to talk about it when they got home. All of this is on top of telling the story of the battle itself with images that would have made
Steven Spielberg think twice about as he was editing Saving Private Ryan. The narration of the story gets lost in the middle of the
movie, and you're left to be pounded by the themes of the movie, which are important--but ultimately overwhelming. The three young
actors in the central roles are outstanding.
Running With Scissors Augusten Burroughs, if this is indeed your biography, you have my sympathy. If you get beyond laughing at
the misfortunes of others, this movie is frequently hilarious. Annette Bening is being touted as an Oscar contender for her work here,
but the real heavy lifting in the movie is the work being done by the younger generation of actors, including Joseph Cross, Evan Rachel
Wood, Gwynneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes--although an older Jill Clayburgh commands every scene she's in. It's not for the easily
offended, but I liked it a lot. Also, it has what is by far the best soundtrack of the year.
The Prestige is one of those movies in which, at the beginning, you think to yourself, "When this gets going, it's really going to be
good." And perhaps it might have been, but it never did. Ambiguously, the central mystery wasn't mysterious enough, and the
mysteries surrounding the central mystery were far more complex than they needed to be. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale were just
OK, and when Scarlett Johanssen showed up, I thought to myself, "Why is she bothering with a dinky role like this?"
Infamous In my comments on Capote, I said that although I admired the performance that Phillip Seymour Hoffman gave, I thought he
had understated the personality of Truman Capote. Nobody will say that about the performance that Toby Jones gives in this movie.
The madness and/or genius of Capote is all there. He even makes out with James Bond (Daniel Craig) for chrissakes. Likewise, if
Catherine Keener had understated the personality of Nelle Harper Lee in Capote, Sandra Bullock pushes her just over the top in this
movie. I think it's fair to say that the performances in Capote were just under-calibrated, and the performances her are just
over-calibrated. So which is better? I can't say, but this one is a lot more entertaining.
The Departed Who was that god-awful Jack Nicholson impersonator who took up so much space in this movie? It was Jack himself?
Oh. So now he just does parodies of himself? Has he ever played anything other than "Jack Nicholson as..."? I can't remember.
Well, other than himself, he doesn't bring a lot to this party. On the other hand, Leonardo DiCaprio was actually (I can't believe I'm
about to say this) believable in a role, and Matt Damon was as good as he always is when he's not playing George Clooney's lap dog.
Having said that, Mark Wahlberg stole the movie out from underneath all of them. He did it by having the good sense to take a role that
put him on the screen for only a few minutes of a very long movie. I know I looked at my watch at least four times, wondering how
much older I would be when it finally ended. The one female character seemed totally superfluous, and there were way too many
scenes that seemed to be there merely to establish atmosphere. (Jack fondling two women at the opera?) If I didn't know better, I
would swear that director Martin Scorcese was thinking, "Well, I've got all this talent sitting around the set. Even if it doesn't make
much sense, I might as well put them on the screen."
Jackass: Number Two A couple of weeks ago, Mel Gibson was quoted saying that American civilization is in decline. (Mel said later
that he was misquoted. He's been saying that a lot lately.) If he did say it, there's a good chance that he had just seen Jackass: Number
Two. (Note: the owner of the Lorraine Theatre in Hoopeston, Illinois, who had contracted to show the movie, decided that he would
rather shut his theatre down for a week than honor his commitment.) Others have said that the movie is: 1) probably a leading cause of
death among males aged 15-25; 2) the best gay porn movie ever; and 3) all the evidence that the Arab extremists need to justify their
jihad. All I know is that even though there were a couple of times I wanted to vomit, I can't remember the last time I've laughed so
much in a 90-minute period. But--please, leave the kids at home.
Half Nelson Is Ryan Gosling the new Sean Penn? (And is that even something a rational person would aspire to be?) Half Nelson offers
a few clues but no definitive answers. He is quite good. Some have said that he plays an idealistic young teacher who leads a
dangerous life at night. It looks to me like he's crackhead who spends his daylight hours disillusioning school children. Shameeka
Epps is outstanding as a young skull-full-of mush who learns the hard way that role models can sometimes be examples of what not to
Hollywoodland Ben Affleck dies four different times in this movie--so why isn't it my favorite movie of all time? Because: 1) George
Reeves really wasn't that sympathetic a character; 2) Ben plays him as if he was always a corpse waiting to happen; and 3) Adrien
Brody, who spends the most time on screen, has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. If there is any reason to sink nine bucks on this
project, it's only to worship at the altar of Diane Lane. Sadly , that's not enough.
Dead Horse ...as in, "There's no point in beating a...." It was filmed in Cincinnati by locals. Sadly, we're no Hollywood.
Jimmy and Judy More trash from Cincinnati. I try to support local artists, but they've got to do better than this. If Dead Horse
recycled Glengarry Glen Ross, then J&J would have to be considered an even trashier version of Natural Born Killers--ift that's
The OH in Ohio I really wanted this movie to be better because I was looking forward to a whole series of state-themed movies about
sex--The ID in Idaho, The MO in Missouri--I could go on. Parker Posey is incapable of being boring, but she--along with Paul Rudd,
Mischa Barton and Danny DeVito are swamped in this mess which does nothing to play to their strengths. The scene in which Ms..
Posey has a sexual interlude with a cell phone must have been as humiliating to film as it was to watch. On the other hand, I will say
that Liza Minelli and Heather Graham are hilarious in cameos--but like the sexual techniques they advocate, it's not enough.
The Illusionist This is the one they don't make them like any more. Edward Norton is, as always, brilliant, and Paul Giamatti and
Jessica Biel are surprisingly good in this tale of mystery and magic set in Vienna at the end of the 19th century. (I had thought about
saying "Vienna at the fin de siecle," but I didn't want it to sound too artsy. It's a quiet movie that is content to weave its spell. The
production values are great, so you revel in the experience of watching the story unfold. The kick at the end is lagniappe. Not that
you asked, but I think it's one of the best movies of the year.
Idlewild No, it's not as outre as Moulin Rouge! (What's with that exclamation point?), but then it couldn't be and maintain whatever
passes for credibility in the hip community. And yet, it's that reticence to go completely over the top that keeps me from
recommending it wholeheartedly to you. It's probably more Chicago that Moulin Rouge!, with a sprinkling of the The Color Purple on
top--but make no mistake, Idlewild is it's own dog. OutKast is a major talent, and Antwan Patton and Andre Benjamin are going to be
around in movies for a long time.
The Celestine Prophesy Movie This movie is so earnest that I feel a little guilty about talking about it strictly in movie terms. Suffice to
say, if you're interested in the prophesy, go to www.celestinemessages.com Now back to the movie. It's not a Robert Ludlum novel.
Celestine was an early pope who allegedly prophesied that God is okay with evolution and that if we all be good and pay attention,
something good will happen. This is what actually happens to a young man (Matthew Settle from Into the West), who lose his job on
day, finds himself on a plane to Peru the next, meets someone on the plane who tells him what he needs to know, meets a legendary
priest about ten minutes after he checks into a hotel, meets his spiritual guide about ten minutes after that (the Nazi officer from The
Pianist), and disappears into the jungle that night. All this happens in the first ten minutes of the movie. The movie has a lot of
spiritual ground it wants to cover, so the contrived plot goes by pretty quick. I have to admit I liked it. I was even intrigued by the
"messages" and looked at the website. I don't understand them, but I think that's kind of okay, too.
Little Miss Sunshine If Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear and Steve Carrell aren't enough for you (and if so, what's wrong with you?), go see
the movie to see 24's Phoebe as a beauty pageant coordinator. It will make your day. The movie is lighter than a puff of air. When it's
over, you won't remember anything about it--only that you smiled at the screen for a couple of hours.
Snakes on a Plane by William Shakespeare (OK, there were these women walking around in bikinis while the credits were rolling, so I
might have been distracted and didn't actually see his name, but I know the dude's work when I see it.) Unfortunately, by the time you
read these comments, the cultural tsunami that is Snakes on a Plane will have peaked and ebbed, and all that will be left is an average
horror movie. However, if you could have seen it at a late night show near a college campus on its first weekend, you would have
seen something special. The audience cheered when Sam Jackson made his appearance and uttered his famous line (you know the
one) and applauded at the end. Sequel? Presumably, the guy who illegally imported and raised the snakes is in prison now, so there's a
whole bunch of little orphan adders in the Southern California desert. Is it too early to start the Internet buzz for Snakes on a Plane 2:
Bad News Snakes Go to Japan?
World Trade Center When I finally saw the site of the September 11th attacks, it was just a big sterile hole at the end of Wall Street that
people were calling Ground Zero. It was hard to believe that it had once been a mountainous pile of twisted steel and concrete where
2749 people had died and 20 people had been pulled out of the debris during the aftermath. This is Oliver Stone's vision of the story of
Number 18 and 19 to be pulled out--two Port Authority cops who had gone in to help evacuate the buildings. It's only August, but I
doubt if I will see a better movie this year. Nicholas Cage and Michael Pena are outstanding as the officers who spend much of the
movie pinned beneath twenty feet of fallen building, and Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhall are equally fine as their distressed spouses.
Mr. Stone has taken some heat in the run-up to this movie from people who don't think that it's "political" enough. I can only imagine
that such people were expecting Mr. Stone to make something petty and small like Fahrenheit 9/11. I would disagree with those
people. This is one of the few movies I've seen that captures the diversity that makes our country great and makes me proud to be an
American. I can see how that would irritate some film critics, but how can it not be political? Please go see it.
Scoop At the end of this movie, Woody Allen is dead and being ferried to the underworld. I would like to think that's a metaphor for
Mr. Allen's realization that his days of being able to write, direct, star in, and select the music for a movie are about over. As evidenced
by Scoop, he's gone from disappointing to embarrassing. The chief fun to be had from this movie is enjoying Hugh Jackman's light
comic touch as a non-mutant-rodent. The chief disappointment--usually reserved for Woody, goes to Scarlett Johanssen, who, I hope,
has now completed and emerged from her "Woody Allen phase."
John Tucker Must Die Like most of its characters, John Tucker Must Die doesn't have a brain in its head. As a matter of fact, the most
profound thought I had while watching the movie in a theater near a college campus was that the "high school students" on the
screen--although very atrtractive--looked a lot older than the college students in the audience. I'm sure it was just a coincidence.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend Uma Thurman seems to have become the most difficult woman to cast appropriately. Movie makers keep
putting her in junk like The Producers and this thing and asking her to project nothing more than attitude and her supermodel body. She
needs to find more roles like Beautiful Girls, in which she played an identifiable, sympathetic character. She's good at that. Prime
seemed like a stab in the right direction, but it had other issues. My Super Ex-Girlfriend isn't painful, but Uma deserves better.
Monster House Maggie Gyllenhall as the prototypical babysitter of the 21st century is the best reason to see this movie. ("No more
Mountain Dew" may become my new favorite phrase.) The next best reason is--I don't know. I saw it in 3-D, which provided a few
more distractions than it might have ordinarily, but generally speaking, I thought it was kind of lame.
Lady in the Water Critics who actually get paid for their opinions are piling on and trashing this movie like crazy. My guess is that it's
because the movie takes cheap shots at movie critics. Everybody's got to protect their turf, right? They agree that the director, M.
Night Shyamalan is guilty of reading the wonderful reviews he got for The Sixth Sense. Frankly, I think the critics who compare this
movie to Sixth Sense and find it wanting are guilty of the same thing. The movie doesn't go for the same reactions as his earlier works,
and I think it deserves to be judged on its own merits. As it happens, its own merits are slim, but respectable. It's a nice little tale told
The Devil Wears Prada To the men in the audience, I want to say that it's not that bad. It's definitely a hard-core chick flick, but Meryl
Streep is evil and funny enough to merit your attention. And of course, you don't have to tell anyone that you saw it.
Banlieue 13 French ultraviolence which demonstrates that the banlieux of Paris give nothing away to South Central.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest What a mess. Aaarrrrrrrrr!
A Prairie Home Companion Robert Altman has always made two kinds of movies; big ones that mean something (Nashville, Gosford
Park) and little ones that seem to float along on a breeze. A Prairie Home Companion is clearly of the latter ilk, and despite the
presence of a grim reaper (in the form of Virginia Madsen), all it seems to want to say is that life is a journey. It's all good.
The DaVinci Code Is it mere coincidence that this movie happened to open during the same week that a 47-year-old British housewife
kicked off her summer tour by draping herself on a cross on stage in Los Angeles? Probably, but then there are so many "entertainers"
lined up to take shots at the world's last mockable religion--yours--that they tend to get backed up. I swear that I would not even have
bothered to see this movie if it weren't for the fact that I'm actually going to be visiting Rosslyn Chapel in the very near future, and it
would seem rude not to know what the hubbub is about. In reality, it's about not much. One of my favorite painters is Jacques Louis
David, and in the first five minutes of the movie you get to see Tom Hanks and others darting about in front of his "Oath of the Horatii"
and "Coronation of Napoleon". After that, it's a long haul to Rosslyn Chapel.
Poseidon (IMAX version) With me, movies that aren't very good get extra credit for being short. And Poseidon whizzes by in
a flash. Kurt Russell and Josh Lucas are big improvements over Shelley Winters and Gene Hackman in these roles. If you can,
see the IMAX version.
Mission: Impossible III is the perfect summer movie. It's as difficult to dislike as a puppy--OK, maybe a puppy on steroids.
An American Haunting As a child of the South, I heard the story of the Bell Witch so frequently at campouts and sleepovers that I
thought it actually took place in or around my hometown. It was a pretty tepid tale of curses and hauntings, but it was enough to
give a ten-year-old a bit of a fright. That also happens to be the effect of the movie.
Art School Confidential Well, it's a great title for a movie. It's an outstanding premise. And with John Malkovich and an able
writer and director, you'd think it would be campy, snarky, sarcastic fun. You would be wrong. This one plods in a number of
uninteresting directions, telling the stories of boring characters and having precious little fun doing it.
Just My Luck I liked The Parent Trap. I liked Freaky Friday. I liked Mean Girls. (Like you, I skipped Herbie: Fully
Loaded.) But now Lindsay's all of 20, and she needs a vehicle for a young adult. It's too bad she couldn't find anything better
that this clunker. The poor girl looks like she's about 45 years old in this movie, and it's pretty clear that she's not having any
more fun than the audience is.
United 93 defies criticism. That it is a straightforward presentation of what happened on that doomed flight is both its strength
and its weakness. Yes, it depicts the bravery and nobility of "average" Americans. On the other hand, none of the characters
are given any background or context, so it's really up to you to supply your own memories of and feelings about 9/11. The
movie's creators probably thought that there wouldn't be anyone in the audience who wouldn't do that anyway, so maybe it's
just as well. Still, it seems oddly sealed off, as in a vacuum chamber. For the first time ever, I will give you dispensation to buy
or rent the movie and watch it at home, as opposed to seeing it in a theater. It might be too intense for some to sit through in a
theater. Whatever you decide, just see it.
Akeelah and the Bee claims to be based on Spellbound, a 2003 documentary that I liked so much that I named it my favorite
movie of 2003. (See panel at left.) One of the eight participants in Spellbound is "sunny" Ashley White, an African-American
child being raised by her mother in Washington, DC. She said her life was like "a movie. I go through trials and tribulations and
I finally overcome." Behold Akeelah and the Bee. But, just as truth is stranger than fiction, Spellbound is much more interesting
than Akeelah. In trying to shape a conventional movie arc around the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the makers of Akeelah
developed a conventional story that seemed to be headed for a very unsatisfactory ending. About five minutes before the end,
Akeelah remembered what it was about and grasped the error of its ways. Where the first 105 minutes had seemed to be about
one thing, the last five were about something else. But Akeelah and Akeelah triumph, and you almost breathe a sigh of relief.
Thirteen years after What's Love Got to Do With It?, it's good to see Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne looking so well.
(A propos of nothing, the audience for this movie was not what I expected. With all the hype the movie received, I'd expected
to see more people in the seats--and the people who did show up were almost all middle-aged white women. You'd think it
was Scripps-Employees-Get-In-Free Night. If that's the target demographic, Akeelah has bigger problems than how to spell
Thank You for Smoking is as black as a comedy can be. This is what Aaron Eckhart does best. It's hard to say that he's doing a
great job of "acting" in the movie because you suspect that this is pretty much the way he is. Check it out.
Greece: Secrets of the Past At last, an IMAX movie that combines the whole history and travel gestalt with a little humor. The
"secrets" are nothing new--I had seen the same thing on the National Geographic Channel two nights before, but outstanding
photography and the narration of Nia Vardolos (from My Big Fat Greek Wedding) make for a very pleasurable forty minutes.
Friends with Money If it's news to you that people in Hollywood are shallow and self-absorbed, this might be a movie you'd
appreciate. If such an observation aggravates, annoys or irritates you, skip it.
Hard Candy is proof of Jerry Seinfeld's observation, "People. They're the worst!" Another critic has written that the movie is
valuable, if only for the conversations that will begin after it's over. It's not much of a justification for what is basically sadism.
Find Me Guilty Ambiguity reigns. On one hand, this film (based on a true story, so you can't be disgusted by the ending too much)
looks on while 17 miscreants get off in the longest trial in American history. You hate the way that the obviously guilty criminals
are treated sympathetically. Soft music swells as they make their speeches. On the other hand, you finally are compelled to
acknowledge that Vin Diesel can really act. He's amazing. He's so good that you dislike him for being so sympathetic. Talk
ATL At some point, every child who grows up in the South--especially every black child, I guess, considers moving to Atlanta.
This is a story the children of some of the people who made that decision. They face the same choices and problems as
teenagers anywhere face--drugs, sex, the relative coolness of roller skating, and they make the same good and bad decisions
with pretty much the same results. I liked this movie quite a lot and look forward to seeing more of rapper T.I. (although NOT
on the freeways of Cincinnati, where a member of his posse died in a shootout after a recent performance) who plays Rashad
The Inside Man Denzel Washington and Clive Owen are outstanding, but if I didn't know better, I'd say that Jodie Foster's part
was written in after the rest of the screenplay was finished, so that there could be "a part for Jodie Foster." The movie is a very
competent thriller and delivers on the promises it makes at its beginning. Check it out
Phat Girlz I was prepared to like this movie a lot because I really like Mo'Nique, and it looked as if it would serve up a good
lesson on self-esteem. Miss M is just OK, the lesson is pretty lame, and there's a long, hard slog to get to the end.
Joyeux Noel Until now, the most famous work of art pertaining to the first Christmas of World War I has been--of course-- the
immortal Snoopy's Christmas by the Royal Guardsmen. (The news had come out in the First World War\The bloody Red
Baron was flying once more...) For the first half-hour or so, you're thinking to yourself that the title of the film seems to be some
sort of sick, dark irony. Later, when it gets to where it's going, you realize that the title is indeed appropriate. This lush
French-British-Hungarian co-production is probably more romanticized than it needs to be, but it does provide an interesting
look at one of the most curious incidents in history's most useless war.
V for Vendetta If you're interested in a discussion of the politics of this movie, please seek it elsewhere. I try to limit these
comments to a paragraph, and V... is so all over the map, I really don't have the time or space here to try to sort it out. I will
say that it is populist--which can be far left, left, right or far right; and is anti-dictatorial--which I think we can all agree is a bad
thing. (However, had said that, it still bugs me that V wants to blow up the Parliament Building, which is the ultimate
representation of democracy in the UK, instead of, say, Buckingham Palace. But I digress.) I won't say the actual plot of the
movie is a blatant rip-off of The Phantom of the Opera--well, okay, I will say it. It is. Natalie Portman is always watchable,
and she does her best here. But as the only American in the cast, you do spend a lot of time wondering, "Why her? Keira
Knightly already had the crewcut from the bounty hunter movie. Why didn't they get her?" The movie depicts torture, parents
being hauled off and murdered in front of their children, and other mayhem, so please leave the kids at home. Beyond that, to
paraphrase a line from Evita, "It doesn't say much, but it says it loud."
Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story In graduate school, I had a political science seminar under a professor for whom I had
absolutely no respect. Rather than make us actually write a thesis, he told us to give him an outline of the paper we would write,
if we were going to write one. This concept comes to film-making in Tristam Shandy. It's basically a doodle about what a
movie based on the book would be, if the filmmakers had gotten around to making it. I haven't read the book, but it's reputed
to be "unfilmable." These filmmakers seem to be dedicated to proving that to be the case.
Madea's Family Reunion For the umpteenth year in a row, I skipped watching the Academy Awards and actually went to a
movie--and a pretty good one at that. Several national critics have complained that the movie and its morality are
"unfashionable". They would. Given the nature of what they're finding to be fashionable, I think that Madea can wear her
unfashionableness as a badge of honor. It's a life and values affirming movie that has some great lines. Tyler Perry is no more
believable as a septuagenarian than was Martin Lawrence, but I don't think he's supposed to be. Check it out.
16 Blocks Why is it that every time David Morse comes on screen, you think to yourself, "OK, he's the bad guy." This movie is
an interesting career move for Bruce WIllis. For the first time since The Sixth Sense, he plays a real character. It isn't terrible,
but if the uninspired action doesn't put you out, Mos Def's voice might do it.
Night Watch Russian. Vampire. Movie. It's pretty much all you need to know. If you're into it, you've already seen it. If not,
Cache It's probably not fair, but I always cut French films more slack than I do for American movies. Maybe, it's a
manifestation of my insecurity about my lack of sophistication. Whatever. Most Americans will go to see this based on the fact
that Juliette Binoche is in it. (I did, anyway.) Sadly, she's hugely wasted in a thankless role. Having said that, watching the
movie is not unpleasant, but at the end, you'll think, "Daniel Auteil is really good, but the story didn't make a lick of sense."
Eight Below Some time around this time every year, I see a movie I know will be the first of the ten best movies I'll see that year.
This is that movie. It's terrific. It's a cross between March of the Penguins and Old Yeller--but in a good way. I feel this way
the way I felt about Lilo and Stitch--that someone has made a movie like they don't make any more. Please go see it.
The White Countess isn't bad. If this were anything other than an Merchant Ivory production, that would be mere damning with
faint praise. Since it is--and is, in fact the last such production (one of them died recently), it's a real disappointment that they
went out with a whimper, not a bang. Too bad.
The New World A reviewer for the Los Angeles Times calls The New World, "not so much a film as a mode of transportation."
It's not a trip everyone will want to take, but f you're up for it, it's definitely worth your time
One of my biggest complaints about Brokeback Mountain is that Nothing Happens for long stretches of the movie. That goes
double for The New World, but here, nothing happens in such a ravishing, lyrical, and sensuous way that you know you're
watching something that's not quite a movie. Another way to think of the movie is as a very expensive career launching pad for
an incredible actress named Q'orianka Kilcher. She was fourteen when she played the role of Pocahontas. She embodies the
spirit of the movie, and she more than holds her own with Colin Farrell and Christian Bale in every scene. It's a remarkable
performance. The New World is worth exploring.
Transamerica is clearly a remake of The Muppet Movie, in which Kermit and Fozzie drive cross-country to Hollywood to break
into the movie business. In this version, Kermit is played by Felicity Huffman as pre-op transsexual and is accompanied by "her"
17-year-old son, who wants to break into the porn movie business. Along the way, they meet a man in Kentucky who enjoys
raping his teenage stepson, a slutty girl in Arkansas, a vegan felon and a man who enjoys having sex with teenage boys in the
back of his van in New Mexico, and sanctimonious Christians and clueless Jews in Arizona. Unwittingly (as everything is done
in this movie), Transamerica also asks the question, "Why Are There So Many Songs About Rainbows?"
Match Point isn't as easily dismissed as recent Woody Allen efforts. At the very least, he doesn't present either himself or New
York as a character. For that we can all be grateful. Still, there's a lot of disbelief to be suspended before you can get too
excited. For example, the protagonist, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, presumes to be a Dostoyevsky-loving professional
tennis player. That's about as hard to swallow as Crime and Punishment. He insinuates himself into a very wealthy family who
claim to be great movie buffs--who can't see this, one of the stalest plot clichés of all time, headed their way. The chief
attraction here to be had is watching sexy young people being sexy young people--except when they feel compelled to tell you
that they are sexy young people, as Scarlett Johanssen does at one point. If you're a Woody Allen fan, you'll see it anyway.
Otherwise, don't bother.
Hoodwinked January seems to be becoming the time of year when good movies that producers don't trust the audience to find
during the holidays get released. January 2005 brought us In Good Company and Bride and Prejudice. This year's entry in that
category is Hoodwinked, an animated examination of when Red Plunkett (aka Little Red Riding Hood) paid a call on Granny.
It's very clever, but it doesn't try to kill you with cleverness (Shrek 2 comes to mind.) The kids will like it, and you'll have a few
chuckles yourself. Check it out.
The Matador Pierce Brosnan gave up being James Bond to do junk like this? Hard to believe.
Fun with Dick and Jane I guess "fun" is one of those relative terms that one hears so much about. Regular visitors to this page
know that I always give Jim Carrey the benefit of the doubt When the movie is good (The Majestic, The Truman Show), he's
amazing. When he's not so great (How the Grinch Stole Christmas), he's usually the only thing worth watching. Although not
as wretched as The Grinch..., Fun with Dick and Jane is still down there. It's not much, but Jim is good.
Brokeback Mountain The best thing that can be said for Brokeback Mountain is that it rises above its politics. In the 1962
Wyoming census, the number of people who responded "hot, bisexual cowboy" was roughly somewhere in the area of--two.
What luck that they found each other and were able to spend an idyllic summer in the beautiful mountains with an apparently
unlimited supply of beans and sheep. At the end of any movie like this, you ask yourself, "Did I care about these people?" In
this case, the answer is certainly yes. Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhall, Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams are all terrific.
When I saw the movie, I was somewhat irritated that events at the end of the movie were so ambiguous. I've since been told
that this ambiguity accurately reflects the ending of the original short story. OK, but I still think the ending soured a lot of much
of the good that came before it
Casanova Remember what I said about how an interesting subject doesn't necessarily assure an interesting movie? (If not, look
up one-half inch.) That goes also for Casanova. Sadly, Heath Ledger, who in real life probably IS a glib, sophisticated
heterosexual, is more convincing as a conflicted, non-verbal cowpuncher than he is as Senore Casanova. The star of this movie
is Venice, which has never looked better.
King Kong The Bible says that too much of a good thing is not good for you. Mae West famously said that too much of a good
thing is wonderful. I say that way too much of a good thing is King Kong. When the big ape is on the screen, particularly atop
the Empire State Building at the end, the movie is epic and magical. Unfortunately, that scene comes along almost two hours
and forty-five minutes into a very long movie. Before we ever see Kong for the first time, there's an hour of inconsequential
story-telling that could have been compressed easily into fifteen minutes. Later, there's a half-hour or so on Skull Island, in
which the cast fends off hostile natives, brontosaurs, tyrannosaurs, giant bats, insects the size of Weimaraners, and things that
look like the sand worms left over from Dune. Yes, they're creepy, but they really don't have much to do with the story of King
Kong. They--and the movie--are really much too much.
Munich It's official. I have had it up to here with movies that claim to be "Inspired by true events" or, even worse, "Based on a
true story." As soon as I saw the former line at the beginning of Munich, I knew that I could not trust the story that was to
follow. The movie is solid, but if you're going to tell about story about real people who did things that are in the history books,
just give me the darned facts and let me make up my own mind what I think about it. Otherwise, it's just a story.
Rumor Has It... claims to be "Based on a true rumor..." As awful as that line was, at least I knew that I'd be able to take or leave
whatever followed--which pretty much stunk. Jennifer Aniston's hair was as hypnotic as ever, but as a better reviewer than I
noted, not enough time passed between the lines Are you my father? and Where are my clothes? for the movie to escape being
Memoirs of a Geisha Like geisha themselves, this movie is lovely to look at and makes beautiful music. I don't know about any of
the other Academy Awards, but I'm pretty sure this one will win for Best Original Score. As someone who has pledged always
to see Gong Li in whatever she's in, I was happy to see her being so brilliant in this. (If you see it, keep in mind that she doesn't
speak English and is saying her lines phonetically.) It's definitely a chick flick, but at least it's a pretty one.
Family Stone Somewhere in America, some family had a perfectly happy, perfectly ordinary Christmas. Sadly, they will never
have a movie made about them. The Family Stone is yet another movie about family members behaving badly during the
holidays. The difference here is that this family is a bunch of liberal hypocrites (The first real laugh in the movie is when one
family throws her NPR tote bag to the ground in disgust), as opposed to the conservative Neanderthals one usually gets. If you
ask me, the only reason to see the movie is Rachel McAdams, who is terrific as the younger sister intent on sabotaging her
|So What HAVEN'T You Seen?
A lot actually.
Here's a partial list of the most
popular movies that I didn't get
around to seeing..
X-Men: The Last Stand
Ice Age: The Meltdown
Over the Hedge
Scary Movie 4
You, Me and Dupree
Big Momma's House 2
The Fast and the Furious:
The Shaggy Dog
The Lake House
Lucky Number Sleven
An inconvenient Truth
A Scanner Darkly
Keeping Up with the Steins
(The only one I'm actually
boycotting is Superman Returns.
If Superman no longer stands
for Truth, Justice and the
American Way, to hell with him.)