Matt's Ultra-Complicated Rating System:
GO!  I can recommend this movie without reservation
CAUTION I liked this movie a lot, but you should check it out before deciding.
STOP! This movie is unworthy of your attention.
YIELD There is merit here;  I just wasn't a big fan--and I'll tell you why.
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Movies of 2007
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snarky comments about
2007 Movies
Gran Torino The cool kid reviewers will probably tell you that the best movie of 2008 is either something you've never heard of (say,
Synedoche, New York) or some soulless clunker like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  They won't be jumping on the band wagon for
Gran Torino
as they did for Million Dollar Baby because it makes them uncomfortable.  Hell, it made me uncomfortable.  It flies in the face
of the current Hollywood reality and trots out some ancient notions like "Old people may actually have something useful to pass along to
younger people," and "Americans are basically good people."  But it might also just be the best American movie in a long, long time.  Toads
fly out of Clint Eastwood's mouth every time he opens it.  As a retired auto worker in a decaying Detroit suburb, he's confounded by what
passes for values these days, and particularly so by the Hmong refugees who have moved in to the house next door.  Although their culture is
as different as it is possible to be, their values turn out to be as conservative as his own.  As the movie goes along, they learn to coexist.  
Throughout the movie, you sense that something really bad is just about to happen.  Lots of bad things do happen, but their consequences
don't always turn out to be what you thank they'll be.  In the hands of a lesser director than Clint Eastwood (such as the director of
Pounds) Gran Torino
could  have been a disaster.  Instead, it's something very much like a masterpiece.

Seven Pounds 2008 has not been a good one for Will Smith--except for the obvious fact that people have paid him millions of dollars to
appear in movies that weren't very good.  Along with
Hancock, he's now had two stinkers in a row.  Here, he's a wealthy man who's either a
brilliant engineer or an IRS agent who befriends various down and out individuals for reasons of his own.  You'll figure out how it's going to
end in the first ten minutes or so, and then you'll spend the rest of the movie resenting the director for telling his story in such a convoluted
style.  If you like movies that don't do much more than aggravate you, check it out.  (To answer your question, no, I don't know what the
meaning of the title is.  I thought it might have had something to do with the fact that the average human brain weighs seven pounds, but
apparently  that's not it.)

Bedtime Stories In the interest of maintaining an open mind with my friend Sally, I allow her to coax me into seeing movies that I would
never think to attend on my own.  (
Hancock and Alvin and the Chipmunks way down at the end of this list are other examples.)  But because
I had been seeing trailers fro this movie for months and thinking that if it could attract talent like Keri Russell and Courtney Cox, it might  not
be that bad, I gave in to the suggestion.  Gotcha.  Let's just say that it's an Adam Sandler movie.  If you're still reading, I'd say that it's better
Eight Crazy Nights and not as good as Wedding Singer.

Rachel Getting Married This week on Bridezillas, Kym gets a furlough from rehab to attend her sister Rachel's wedding in ex-urban
Connecticut.  Kym, played with authority by Anne Hathaway, has the look of a hunted raccoon with a penchant for bad hair-do's and the
interpersonal skills of a guest on the Jerry Springer show.  Rachel  (Rosemarie DeWitt from
Mad Men) is almost as good as the bride who
resents that her wedding is not all about her.  As good as they are, both of these fine young actresses are left in the dust by the transcendent
Debra Winger who plays their mother.  Twenty years after
Terms of Endearment, its nice to see what Ms. Winger might have done playing
the Aurora Greenway character.  Seeing her here makes you realize how much you've missed her.

Doubt I missed Mamma Mia earlier this year (OK, "miss" is probably overstating the case--let's just say I didn't see it) until it came out on
DVD.  The only aspect of the movie that kept it from consideration as the worst musical of all time was the performance of Meryl Streep.  
It's probably no surprise that Ms. Streep can stick any role handed to her, and I'd have to say that if she can sell
Dancing Queen, she can do
almost anything.  She even made me almost like this heavy-handed bit of business about a middle school principal nun in the city and a
possibly-pedophilic priest who torments her.  I saw the play on stage last year and found it to be somewhat overwritten and overwrought.  
Here, Ms. Streep masterly underplays the role sufficiently to keep the character believable and the movie watchable.  Phillip Seymour
Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis are fine in supporting roles, but Meryl Streep is the best reason to see the movie. (12/29/08)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Cate Blanchett does an amazing job of aging in this movie, and Brad Pitt takes on the process as
Ginger Rogers dances with Fred Astaire--in high heels and backwards.  It's an amazing technical performance--but that's all it is.  Pitt and
Blanchett don't have a chemistry that makes you believe that when he leaves her at the end, he's doing anything other than moving the plot
along.  As you might imagine, a three-hour move with no chemistry can be an eternity.  This is one long, long ride.  And while there's usually
something on the screen that's interesting to look at--usually the stars, you start suspecting that much of what you are seeing is the product
of an overindulged director.  (12/28/08)

Valkyrie is quite good.  It's the story of a failed assassination attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler.  If you've read your history, you know the
story is going to turn out badly.  But the movie is well-paced and well-acted, so you feel that you are in capable hands.  If I have a complaint,
it's wondering what Kenneth Branaugh is supposed to be doing.  He shows up at the beginning and the end to talk about nothing in particular,
but he disappears for the hour-and-a-half in the middle.  What's up with that?  (12/27/08)

Marley and Me This movie is hard to watch.  Jennifer Aniston is freakishly tan (even in the beginning when she was getting married in
Michigan in the middle of winter), and Owen Wilson's perpetually broken nose looks like it actually hurts.  I once raised a yellow lab who
was just as cute as Marley, and I'm pleased to say that my parenting skills were much superior to these dolts.  Yes, there are some cute
moments.  That either makes you cringe  or it doesn't.  I cringed.  (12/26/08

Yes Ma
n If you've paid any attention at all to this space over the last decade or so, you know that I always give Jim Carrey the benefit of the
doubt.  Somewhere down the left side of this page, you'll see that I thoug
ht The Majestic was the best movie of the year one year (and I
STILL say that some day, folks will look back on it as a classic), and I had less harsh things to say abo
ut Number 23 last  year than the rest
of the sentient universe was dumping on it.  
So of course I'm going to like Yes Man.  And there is a lot to like besides Jim.  Terrence Stamp is
inspired as a self-help snake oil salesman, and  Zooey Deschanel and Bradley Cooper are pleasant enough as the love interest and best friend.  
There are also enou
gh Harry Potter and 300 wannabees to keep the festivities lively.  The biggest complaint I have is that Jim Carrey is 46.  
Zooey Deschanel is 28, and Bradley Cooper is 33.  Carrey is on the cusp of getting to be too old to play these parts.  I'll let this one slide, but
he needs to start looking for scripts for characters who are as old as he's starting to look.  (12/22/08

The Day the Earth Stood Still  Why in the world did someone think this thing needed to be remade?  Well, I'll tell you.  The original was a
warning against where the Cold War could have taken us; now we're getting a sermon about the environment--and the preacher is terrible.  
He looks like Keanu Reeves and sounds like Al Gore.  Jennifer Connelly is woefully miscast as an astro-biologist (I am not making this up),
and Jon Hamm from
Mad Men is wasted as they guy who drives them around New Jersey.  If I were a more curious person, I'd wonder
why all the movies about aliens end up in New Jersey.  But that would require more thought than went into this whole movie.

Four Christmases
may be the WORST Christmas movie EVER.  And this is from a big Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn fan.  The
talent that is squandered in this mess is mind-boggling--Mary Steenburgen, Kristen Chenowith, Jon Voigt, and the list goes on.  If Christmas
means anything at all to you, stay away.  (12/12/0

Quantum of Solac
e  doesn't make a lick of sense.  At the beginning of the movie two black cars are chasing one another.  James Bond is in
one.  Which car is he in?  I don't know.  Is he being chased, or is he the chaser?  I don't know.  Why is he chasing  or being chased?  Don't
be ridiculous.  The biggest disappointment of all is that Bond villains used to be bigger than life. They had big dreams.  They wanted to
contaminate the gold supply at Fort Knox or destroy cities from space using satellite lasers made of diamonds.  What does the perp want to
do in this movie?  He wants to buy up he water supply in Paraguay.  I'm not making this up.  Finally, Daniel Craig is a fine actor.  But in this
ke Casino Royale a couple of years ago, all he really does is project a bad attitude and get the crap beat out of himself repeatedly.  
After the first hour or so, it starts to get claustrophobic.  So what's the bottom line?  I'm sorry to say that although the Bond movies look
better than ever, they're no fun.  (12/5/08

Role Models
Please don't hate me for liking this movie.  Yes, it's as
shallow as Joe Biden, but it's much funnier and has a much better message.  Paul Rudd is especially good (he also helped to write the
screenplay), and Jane Lynch is even better in a smaller part as a self-help lunatic.  Even though the kids use language that made
50-somethings blush, it's still a lot of fun.  (11/12/08

g  Looking through the list of what I've seen so far this year, I'm certain that this movie will be near the top of my top ten list at
the end of December.  Clint Eastwood's story of one of the more shameful episodes in the checkered history of the Los Angeles Police
Department is a haunting tale of murder and deception.  The tone of the story is especially noteworthy.  I got the sense that Mr. Eastwood
was not so much telling a story as much as watching it unfold with has much disgust and disbelief as the audience.   Angelina Jolie
disappears in the role of mother who comes home one afternoon to find that her young son has vanished.  John Malkovich (in a difficult
role)  is less "actorly" that usual--which serves this movie very well.  Set in the early 1020's, this movie is less atmospheric t
han Chinatown
or L. A. Confiden
tial, but it's much more realistic.  Check it out.  (11/4/08)

    I hope you won't think I've been shirking my responsibilities,
      but frankly, the post-summer movie period has been pretty
      bleak.  I've been spending my "movie nights" volunteering at
the Global Lens series sponsored by the Crossroads Film
      Society.  We've been watching great movies from places like
      The Philippines, China and Croatia.  It's been awesome, but I've
      not shared them with you here because: 1) I really don't know
      current these movies are; and 2) you probably won't ever see
      them anyway.

Burn After Reading The only question left to answer is whether or not I think this was worse than Sweeney Todd or Meet the Spartans.  
Dismal as they were, they at least had plots and scripts.  This looks very much likes the Coen Brothers and their friends, George Clooney,
Brad Pitt and Frances McDermott, went to dinner after a day of shooting and decided where they thought the plot should go next.  It's truly
dreadful  (9/30/08

The Women OK.  I admit it.  When I'm flipping around the dial on television late at night, I'll stop and watch the 1939 version of this movie
which starred Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell and Paulette Godda
rd.  The cast was remarkable, and it was funny. You
could tell that the cast was having a great time, essentially slumming through an all girl production that wasn't presuming to make a statement
of the role of women in society.  It never occurred to me that Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes and Debra Messing could pull off
anything comparable in 2008, but I never expected it to b
e so earnest.  It wants you to care that women have to juggle relationships and
work.  I do care (a little), but not enough to pay nine bucks to put up with Debra Messing for two hours. (9/27/08)

Vicky Christina Barcelona The people of Barcelona are known for their relaxed attitudes toward living their lives.  In that spirit, I'm going
to encourage you to come to this movie an hour late. The first hour is a rehash of practically every Woody Allen movie ever made.  
Self-absorbed New York women talk about the choices they make with their lives.  (I'm yawning as I type.)  You just want to kill them.  
However, after about an hour, Penelope Cruz shows up and brings the movie to what passes for life.  She pouts; she flirts; she tries to shoot
some of the other characters--it's wonderful.  Sadly, it's not enough to save the movie from the rest of the cast, but you'll certainly be
reminded of the kinds of things a real movie star can do
. (9/8/08)

Hamlet 2
When it's late in the summer, and you're looking for some indy film fun at the old cineplex, you're not looking for much.  Snakes
on a
Plane was a fine entry in this category.  Hamlet 2 is an complete failure.  The whole movie leads up to the production of a high school
play which has a finale c
alled Rock Me Sexy Jesus.  It's marginally interesting, but considering that it's been forty years (!)  since Springtime
Hitler, it's not nearly as edgy as it thinks it is.  And the rest of the movie is just dreadful.  You can practically hear Catherine Keener and
Amy Poehler thinking about the hell they're going to give their agents when they get the opportunity.  (9/6/08

Tropic Thunder
OK, New Orleans, you're off the hook.  Oxford, Mississippi, is this week's worst place to watch movies.  It was my
dis-pleasure this week to sit in front of a bunch of yahoos who came in late, congratulated themselves on getting there before the previews
were over (wrong, the "previews" in question were the best part of the movie, which these creeps did their best to ruin), and then kept up a
running conversation as if they were all at the house, sitting on the couch and all alone.  Eventually, I had to get up and move.  News
networks that apparently don't think their audiences would sit still for a story about the energy situation or the invasion of Georgia are giving
extra time to the way the words "retard" and "nigger" get thrown around in this movie.  Is it objectionable?  Oh, yeah.  Is it why this movie is
rated "R" in the first place?  Probably.  The irony of all this to your humble correspondent is that in a movie with enough violence and drug
use to make Sylvester Stallone and Cheech and Chong
blush, language is what seems to offend those who live to be offended.  If you think
you're one of them, don't go--and under NO circumstances should you allow a child to go.  Having said all that, it's hilarious.  (8/18/08)

Brideshead Revisited Congratulations, New Orleans.  You have clawed your way to the top of list of my least favorite place to watch
movies. To the travel guide wannabe/twit who sat in front of me and talked incessantly about places he knew nothing about, no, that was not
Blenheim Palace, so shut the hell up.  To the rude lady behind me, the reason they put seats in front of one another in a theater is to provide
seating--not to give you something to talk about.  The movie?  Oh yeah.  It was no big deal.  It's always pleasant to spend time with Emma
Thompson and Michael Gambon.  Here they play a couple in the early 1900's who are so privileged that they never have to lay eyes on one
another.  So they don't.  This, as you might imagine, plays hell with their parenting abilities.  As a result, they have three of the most tedious
grown children in Great Britain.  The youngest, Sebastian, totters off to Oxford, where he meets the bland but impressionable son of a
merchant in the City.  Homosexual titillation ensues.  Eventually, the bland young man decides that he likes Sebastian's sister, too.  Eventually,
bland trio manufactures enough cheesy drama among themselves to make you decide that you've had enough of the lot of them.  You know
that they're never going to be happy anyway, so you don't care who ends up with whom.   (And by the way, it's Castle Howard, jerk.)  

Journey to the Center of the Earth
I hate that I didn't get to see this movie in 3-D.  It is allegedly the first action movie made especially for
3D screens. That's great for the folks who actually got to see it in 3D, but it also means that the rest of us saw something of a mess.  From
time to time, the movie would practically come to a stop for some great 3D effect like falling rocks, a flock of weird blue birds or the
occasional slobbering dinosaurs that just didn't translate to a regular screen.  Which is too bad.  It's a great story well told.  The actors, led by
the ever-engaging Brendan Fraser, seem to be game for anything, and even the non-3D special effects are impressive.  (8/10/08)
The Dark Knight
There is considerable discussion about how Batman (The Batman, if you must..He must have gone to The Ohio State) is
the hero that Gothan City needs, not the hero it wants.  Apparently, the makers of the movie are slyly telling us that each generation also ge
Batman it needs.
Baby boomers were delighted with Adam West,  Cesar Romero as the joker, and "Pow!" and "Wham!" of comic book violence.  It was a
simpler and less violent time and people were more easily pleased with their superheroes.  Later, the Tim Burton versions with Michael
Keaton and Jack Nicholson spoke to our need to be in on the joke the movie makers were telling.  Now we have
mother and sister-abuser Christian Bale and former crack addict Heath Ledger--and the message is that it's a sick, sad world.  This
relentlessly unpleasant movie unfolds over two-and-a-half hours--which is at least a half hour too long.  Th movie needs the length because
there are too many big-name actors in the cast, and they need time to offer some proof of their participation.  Morgan Freeman, Gary
Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhall and Michael Caine et al are all great actors, but they're not the stars of this show.  Oddly enough, the only
er you don't learn much about is the guy in the rubber suit. The movie is kind of a mess, and fun is nowhere to be found. Why so
serious indeed?  (7/27/08

The X-Files: I Want to Believe
stinks.  On ice.  (On ice, under ice, in ice, through ice...everywhere in the vicinity of ice)  The only
satisfaction I got from this movie was the confirmation of my belief since the beginning that Gillian Anderson's Dana Scully is the more
compelling personality in this much -analyzed partnership. The lines in the movie that David Duchovny phones in from somewhere far away
reflect a character of no real depth.  Frankly, I don't see what Dana sees in him.¿¿  Not only is Scully the movie, she's basically alone.  
Capable actors (not you, Hi bit, if that is your real name) like Amanda Peat are wasted.  I was really looking forward to seeing this movie and
spending some time with these characters, but I have to say that so far, this has been the biggest disappointment of the summer.  (7/26/08

Can I just say I didn't like it and move on?  No?  Fine.  I didn't like it because it was unpleasant, unfunny and uninvolving.  The
only plot point left to the imagination is what the heck Charlize Theron is doing in the movie.  She spends the first hour or so practically
hiding from he camera, so you know that before the thing is over, she's going to have something to say about something.  And she does.  
And you say to yourself, "Oh.  Can I go now? (7/24/08

Somebody I know (I can't remember whom) was recently speaking to Mrs. Morgan Freeman, who said that her husband is tired of
playing God.  (I can't imagine how someone could get tired of playing God, but I'll let is pass.) In this (ultra-violent, no kids!)
cartoon-come-to-life, he plays S
loan, a character who likes to play God.  I guess that's what passes for nuance in Hollywood. Here he gets
plenty of help from James McElvoy and Angelina Jolie.  This movie has lots of action and violence.  If all cartoon adaptations, I'd probably
go to see more of them.  Also, I can't remember the last time I liked a movie for its music.  Danny Elfman's movie music is always good, and
his work he's done on this movie is among his best.   Even if you don't get around to seeing the music, go to Amazon and check out the
soundtrack. (I particular
ly like The Little Things.) (7/5/08)

So what do the 1970 movie Hello, Dolly!, Louis Armstrong and Fred Willard have in common (other than the fact that Satchmo
was in the movie)? In this instance, they happen to be three of the more irritating production elements of a movie that I was really looking
forward to seeing and left feeling really disappointed.  T
he song Put On Your Sunday Clothes was only a minor irritant in Hello, Dolly!, but
here it pops up whenever the story seems to be slowing down--which means frequently.  I think that from now on, I'm going to have to hit
something whenever I he
ar it. WALL-E's plot must have taken someone at least twenty or thirty seconds to devise, and the theme that
humans should take better care of the planet was applied with sledgehammer-like delicacy.  Other than WALL-E himself (itself?) who is an
amazing achievement of computer generated imagery, this was one poorly drawn cartoon.  What a disappointment. (06/29/08

Get Smart
Behold The Forty-Year-Old Sitcom.  I have to say that I wasn't a big fan of this tv show back in the day.  Apparently, not many
people were--the network always ran it on Saturday night when the adults were out of the house.  Apparently, some of the kids who got left
at home with the sitter on Saturday night remember do it fondly, and some of them probably had something to do with making this light,
happy-go-lucky a
nd yes, smart movie. I never had much appreciation for Don Adams, the doofus star of the t.v. show, or Barbara Feldon,
who seemed like a poor man's Emma Peel.  However, Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway match the humor and bring a warmth to the
characters that was nowhere to be found in the sitcom.  Together, th
ey make Get Smart this summer's Hairspray. (06/23/08)

The Love Guru
Imagine, if you will, that you're the guy (or gal) in charge of Paramount Studios.  Mike Myers comes to you and says, "I'd
like to make a movie in which I play the world's Number 2 Love Guru, and I'm trying to catch up with Depak Chopra.  The movie's going to
be silly, pointless and weird."  What do you say?  "Oh,  hell no," seems like a rational response, but hang on a second.  What would have
been your response if he'd said he wanted to make a movie in which he plays an Aurora, Illinois guitar hero?  Or a dentally-challenged British
secret agent?  The point is, with Mike Myers, you say yes and hope for the best.  Sadly, "the best" is nowhere to be seen in this mess.  And
lucky for you, just because some schmuck at Paramount thought he had to make it doesn't mean that you have to go see it.  So don't.

The Incredible Hulk
Sorry, but I'm kind of super-heroed out for the summer.  (Sorry, Hancock.)  The problem with the Incredible Hulk is
that while he may be incredible, he is, alas, still a hulk.  He doesn't have much to say, and even when he does, you can't understand him.  
He's not particularly interested in making the world a better place--what he does seem to be most interested in is not being a hulk anymore.  
It's kind of hard to get behind a superhero like that.  The effects were adequate in a CG kind of way, but I didn't ever wonder, "Is that real or
an effect?"  (6/16/08

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
I give up.  I've never considered myself a biblical scholar, but I think I know enough about the
Judeo-Christian religion to know when something is being used as a metaphor for it.  In two movies now, I've yet to come across anything
that serves as a decent metaphor for anything in the Bible.  I'm willing to accept that the Aslan the lion who is very big on people believing in
him is God.  Maybe the Jews of all nations are represented by the Narnian dwarves, centaurs, talking animals, rivers and (ahem) trees.  
Maybe it's a more coherent metaphor than I'm giving it credit for, but frankly, I think the screenwriters got bored and decided to make an
action story instead.  At that level, the movie kind of works.  The good guys were pretty good (although not, I suspect, nearly as adorable as
the filmmakers would like for them to be), the bad guys were bad, and the action didn't stink.  (6/15/08

The Happening
While the trees in Narnia might be the proverbial calvary, arriving at a key point in the plot to save the day, the trees in this
movie are clearly up to no good.  In M. Night Shyamalan's most recent effort, men, women and children in blue states of the Northeast are
killing themselves in response to--what?  The prospect of Barack Obama becoming President doesn't seem to alarm them, so it must be
something else.  Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel think it might be the plants.  (Don't ask.)  I probably like Mr. Shyamalan's work a little
more than the average bear.  While his plot resolutions are sometimes downright goofy, he's always trying to engage us at some intellectual
level, and I appreciate that.  Marky Mark and Zooey are suitably puzzled, horrified and heroic when called upon, but I will give you one
warning, though.  This movie is much bloodier than anything Mr. Shyamalan has produced before.  Don't even think of taking a child to see

Kung Fu Panda
I admit that I went into this movie with little expectation of being entertained.  This sucker had Shrek IV written all over it. I
didn't much like the last two Shrek movies, and I was confident that putting Jack Black in the Mike Myers role wasn't going to do anything to
boost my enjoyment level.  So having said all that, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  For one thing, it may well be the most beautiful
movie that I've seen this year.  The artwork is stunning.  There was always something to look at as I was cringing in my seat, chanting,
"Please don't release this movie in China...Please don't release this movie in China...Please don't...."  (6/13/08

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Does it really matter if I liked it or not?  It probably made about $18 gazillion over
the weekend, so I don't think that a negative review here will hurt it much.  But the truth is that I did like it--a lot--and a lot more than I
thought I would.  Indy is back and moving around pretty well for an older guy. (Interestingly, Harrison Ford is playing about the same age
here that Sean Connery did in the last Indiana Jones movie.  As opposed to Connery, who mostly "sat in the truck", Ford climbs around like a
monkey, swings from his bull whip AND gets the girl in the end.)  The only time during the movie when I wasn't willing to suspend my
disbelief was the ridiculous nuclear blast sequence--after a quick shower, Indy was good to go.  The rest of the time, I enjoyed being in the
company of filmmakers who really know how to put on a show.  I might even go back when Shia LeBouef takes over the franchise in a
couple of years.  (5/30/08

Iron Man
I saw this in a packed theater on 42nd Street in New York, where the audience whooped and hollered through Coming Attractions
for Ind
iana Jones, The Incredible Hulk (especially loud), Hellraiser and the new Will Smith movie, but when the Feature Presentation started,
they became curiously silent.  I suspect that one reason for the lack of over-the-top teenage enthusiasm was that they were watching a movie
that was actually geared for adults, not teenagers.  Needless to say, I thought that was pretty terrific.  The movie may not be the second
coming of Spider-Man, but it is a perfectly serviceable device for killing a couple of hours and not feeling as if you've been insulted.  Robert
Downey, Jr., Gwynneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard are refreshing (if offbeat) choices for the lead roles, and frankly it's nice to have a
superhero around who: 1) is a grown-up; 2) seems to think that Islamo-fascism is bad; and 3) doesn't feel compelled to maintain a secret
identity.  Yeah, I'd watch more of that.  (5/5/08

The Counterfeiters (Die Falscher)
In World War II, the Nazis (them again) had the bright idea that they could undermine the British and
American economies by flooding those nations with counterfeit notes.  This is the story of the Jews who (mostly) escaped the holocaust by
assisting their captors in this effort.  It's a terrific film by Stefan Ruzowitzky about the moral choices men are willing to make to stay alive, or
even whether it is moral to stay alive if doing so abets a Nazi victory
.  This Austrian film won the Academy Award earlier this year as
Best Foreign Film. (4/14/08)

The Bank Job is lots of fun.  Ostensibly the story of the 1971 "walkie-talkie robbery" in London, the movie features a snootful of compelling
performances--chiefly from Jason Stratham as the leader of the motley bunch of bank robbers and Saffron Burrows as the woman who's
hiding something.  There's a secondary plot about 70's era cult figure Michael X, but it confuses, rather than enhances the movie.  The
editing and pacing are crisp,  there are enough laughs along the way to make the grisly later scenes bearable, and you're really drawn into the
story about a gang that discovered that it's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart. (3/14/08

The Other Boleyn Gir
l  In case you're wondering who would qualify as the Jamie and Lynne Spears of the 16th century, I present for your
consideration, Thomas Boleyn and his wife, who pimp their two already-married daughters, Anne (Natalie Portman) and Mary (Scarlett
Johansson) to Henry VIII of England.  They both bear him children, one a boy he cannot make his heir, and the other a girl he would not
have as his heir--who goes on to be Elizabeth I--but that's another movie.  I've given this movie a blue rating because I don't know--and I'm
not curious enough to find out--how much of the movie is true.  It's based on a novel by Philippa Gregory.  If it's not true, outstanding
performances by Portman and Johansson are merely put in the service of gossip.  (3/11/08

U2 3D
Several serious reviewers have called this "the greatest concert film ever."  So who were the contenders? Woodstock?  Stop Making
Sense?  Pink Floyd
: The Wall?  It's not hard leave those three in the dust.  The closest thing to this movie that I can think of is the Rolling
Stones IMAX movie from the early 1990's, which was as nothing compared to this extravaganza.  Do mo
vies like Richard Pryor Live on the
nset Strip, Gilda Live and Divine Madness count?  It occurred to me that people who consider this to be the best concert movie also think
U2 is the greatest band ever, and judge their movies accordingly. That's their prerogative.   As much as I liked this movie of
the 2006 Vertigo
tour--and it is a technological marvel that thankfully excludes Bono's sermonettes that were so much a part of the concerts, I can't say that
I'd want to see it again any time soon.  I'd much rather see Richard, Gilda or Bette. (3/10/08

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Da
y  I can't imagine how this movie got made.  It's based on what is apparently a very slight 1938 novel by
Winifred Watson, and it proceeds like a play made up of long scenes in elegant apartments and swanky nightclubs.  The story is not remotely
plausible, but what keeps you in your seat are lively and engaging performances from ever-interesting Frances McDormand and the
rapidly-becoming-indispensable Amy Adams. (03/01/

mper  Hayden Christiansen: Serious Actor, or the Mark Hammill of the 21st Century?  On the basis of Shattered Glass from a few years
back, you'd think he had a great career ahead of him after playing The Man Who Would Be Darth Vader.  Even in this action pic gone wrong,
you can see flashes of competency in his work.  This movie won't make him a star, so I'll guess we'll have to wait to see what the future
holds.  There's not a lot of "there"
there in Jumper, but it moves fast, there's always something new popping up, and it's got Samuel L.
Jackson.  It could have been a lot worse.

Meet the Spartans
I guess it was inevitable that a month that began with Alvin and the Chipmunks would end like this.  The movie itself is
beneath comment; a more interesting topic would be the motive anyone wou
ld have for wanting to see it.  Let's just say that if you're dumb
enough to plunk down eight dollars for this mess...you're dumb enough.  (1/30/08)

Cloverfield is a hoot.  It's been called :"The Blair Witch Project of the 21st Century," but it's infinitely superior to that lamentable mess.  For
one thing, you actively wanted the annoying
campers in BWP to die.  Here, the young dudes and dudettes are so generic and interchangeable
that you know if this bunch doesn't make it, another bunch just like them will be fine.  You couldn't care less.  For example, while trapped in
the Spring Street subway station in New York while a skyscraper-sized squid attacks the city above, a young man named Rob (Something)
gets a call from his mother on his cell phone.  At some point during the course of the conversation, Rob tells Mom that his brother Jason was
killed by a skyscraper-sized squid that attacked him on the Brooklyn Bridge.  Don't you think that would have been the "lead" in that
conversation?  You don't mind that everyone is going to die (I'm not giving anything away here: You're given this information in the first
thirty seconds of the movie.) because you don't know them well enough to miss them; the monsters are totall
y non-threatening; and the way
it unfolds is kind of hilarious. (1/21/08

Nothing hilarious here.  It's just as ponderous as the god-awful book it's based on.  If it weren't for the fact that the writers and
directors are jacking the audience around with confusing editing and--well, lying to us, there would be little more to see than Keira Knightly's
amazing bone structur
e. (1/20/08)

No Country for Old Me
n  I went to this movie thinking that it might recall Blood Simple, the Coen Brothers' first movie, a dark comedy film
noir of the West in the 1980's.  It does--but the vision is not unified.  The central story is of a cowboy who happens on a drug deal gone
wrong in the desert one day and thinks that since all of the hombres are dead, he can keep the $2 million he found in a satchel at the scene.  
Trouble--in the form a psychopathic killer--ensues.  Along the course of his escape from the killer, he encounters--among other losers,
Woody Harrelson.  Meanwhile, in what seems to be another movie altogether, Tommy Lee Jones as the sheriff of the Texas county where
the original crime went down, is contemplating retirement with characters we wish we knew more about.  This is not the Coens' best wo

Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Stree
t  For the first half hour, I was wondering what was the point of filming this movie in
color, when it was so relentlessly gray.  And then director Tim Burton cranked up the blood-spurting devices implanted in the necks of the
barber's customers, and I understood.  This movie is aggressively unpleasant.  Had anyone but Stephen Sondheim written the lyrics for the
original theatrical production, we wouldn't be having this conversation.  However, because the critics swooned, we now have to deal with the
movie.  Speaking of critics, despite what they tell you, Johnny Depp is not a singer.  I think that even Johnny Depp would tell you that.  
Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen--ditto.  (But the adolescent newcome
r who sings Not While I'm Around will break
your heart.)  The best I can say for this movie is that it's an hour shorter than the stage production.  The plot of the stage show was hash,
but at least Mr. Burton has made some sense of it. (1/2/08

Alvin and the Chipmunks
Because I have not chosen my friends wisely, I was given the unforeseen opportunity to see this movie on New
Year's Day.  When it comes to rock bio-pic
s, it's not The Doors or even This Is Spinal Tap.  It looked like an overly long episode of My
Name is Earl to me, but at its own third grade level, it worked.  I know this because when it was over, all of the third-graders sitting around
me burst into applause.  The movie was smart enough to know that it was about singing chipmunks and that some belief-suspension was in
order.  This level of self-realization made the experience of hot 20-somethings grooving to a hip-ho
p remake of Please Christmas, Don't Be
Late and The
Witch Doctor (remember oo-ee-oo-ah-ah?--no, I didn't think you did) somewhat less surreal than it could have been. (1/1/08)
Click here to see my Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2008!