Matt's Top 10
Movies of 2005
Matt's Top 10
Movies of 2004
Matt's Top 10
Movies of 2003
Matt's Top 10
Movies of 2002
Matt's Top 10
Movies of 2001
Matt's Top 10
Movies of 2000
Matt's Top 10
Movies of 1999
Matt's Top 10
Movies of 2006
Matt's Top 10
Movies of 2007
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.
Matt's Top 10
Movies of 2008
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Sherlock Holmes My 57th and last offering of the year is Guy Ritchie's take on the Arthur Conan Doyle smart aleck.  Robert Downey,
Jr. is very good as a brawnier Sherlock than we're used to seeing.  Jude Law acts as put out as he needs to be, considering that he'll
always come whenever Holmes calls.  Rachel McAdams is a nice touch as Adler, an old flame who likes the rough stuff as much as
Holmes does.  Ritchie directs with imagination and flair, and the only complaint I would make is the music.  It may well be from the period
or reminiscent of it, but it's still jarring and seemingly out of place.  The plot has a post 9/11 vibe about using fear to control the world--or
at least those parts of it  that speak English.  It's mostly claptrap to keep the show on the road.   But the show in question i--as they say--a
rollicking one, and I recommend it to you.  Happy New Year!  (12/28/09)

Up in the Air That big lump of coal in your stocking this year is Up in the Air. What kind of sick son of a gun could think that movie
qualifies as holiday entertainment?  It's being praised to th skies as one of the funniest things to come along in  years.  But ;it's not.  It's
actually kind of depressing.  No.  Actually it's REALLY depressing.  It's about losing your job (and your soul), and what can happen from
there--in at least one case, suicide. It's a "keep looking at your watch and hope that it will end soon movies."  Which is a shame.  'm kind
of a Jason Reitman fan.  I loved
Thank You for Smoking and Juno.  George Clooney can be a funny guy when he's poking fun at himself,
and he does that for the first half of this movie.  But then he stops; the movie starts to wither; and you start looking at your watch.  

Invictus It's hard to know where to start talking about this movie.  Has any director ever had a run of movies as good as the last six from
Clint Eastwood (
Invictus, Gran Torino, Changeling, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River--to
say nothing of  
Pale Rider,Unforgiven or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil)?  Has there ever been an actor like Morgan Freeman,
who can play God on three occasions, Satan on at least one, and
still drive Miss Daisy?  I don't think so.  Invictus is long (too long); it's
somewhat muddled in its early narrative; some of the art design is unfortunate (especially at the "White House"); and a big chunk of the
music is just woeful--but almost everything else is very nearly perfect.  Eastwood falls all over himself not to deify Mandela, and I think he
succeeds.  All of the performances are admirably understated, and the actors--especially Matt Damon-- do a good job of working with a
tricky dialect.  This is a special movie, and I recommend it to you highly.  (12/22/09)

Avatar The good news is that  America will still be around to oppress minorities in 2154.  Yes, the visuals are stunning, but I liked this
movie better back when it was called
Pocahontas.  (12/20/09)

The Blind Side  Is as good as everyone around Mississippi hoped it would be.  Sandra Bullock shines as Leigh Anne Tuohy, the former
Rebel cheerleader who--for whatever reason or motive--takes Michael Oher off the mean streets of Memphis and into her home and
eventually into the NFL.  Is it enough to say that I smiled at the screen for over two hours?  There are a few nits to be picked--mostly
having to do with disappointment that locations in the film really didn't resemble their real life counterparts--but such complaints are picky
indeed.  If you want to go to a movie that will make you feel good about life in general as you leave--here's your ticket.  (12/01/09)

An Education is the story of a 16-year-old London schoolgirl  who becomes involved with a 35-year-old man who fits every description
of a flim-flam artist that you can think of.  We see the girl interact with her parents, her teachers, her peers and friends, the scumdog she
gets involved with and his friends--but something doesn't feel quite right.  After showing us how sheltered her home life is, we're meant to
believe that her doting parents would suddenly--for lack of a better word--thrust her at this much older total stranger--in the name of
furthering her education.  It feels awkward to poke at this movie too much.  Apparently, this story did actually happen to someone.  The
acting and technical work are exemplary.  It just doesn't "feel" right--and maybe that's my fault.  (11/30/09)

2012 Well, shock me dead.  Despite my initial misgivings, this really isn't the worst movie you'll see this year.   I know.  I'm as surprised
as you are.  Yes, the world pretty much goes to hell,--and shockingly, it's not George Bush's fault.  The Earth's crust moves--or
collapses-or something.  Everyone with the means--or wits --to do so heads to China, where the governments of the world have been
secretly building arks in anticipation of the event.  The biggest surprise is the somewhat skanky gene pool that the governments of the
world are taking such pains to preserve, but I guess looks aren't everything.  Roland Emmerich is the master of blowing stuff up, and he's
in top form here. The most off-putting effect is that the tsunami that engulfs and crushes the White House just happens to be carrying the
aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy along with it.   I suspect that Mr. Emmerich was trying to illustrate some kind of metaphor, but the
result was just hash.  The action is great; the effects are first class; and the plot doesn't insult your intelligence THAT much.  So as we
say, "that's entertainment!"  (11/18/2009)

The Box   I was SO ready to love this movie.  Cameron Diaz, the guy who played the DJ in Hairspray, and what sounded like an
interesting plot--if you push the button, you'll get a million dollars--but someone you don't know will die.  Well.  There are so many
caveats to that promise that if they were explained, NO ONE would push the button--and then there'd be no movie. Lots of half-baked
ideas roll around--for example, there are a bunch of people (maybe they're zombies) shuffling around aimlessly, but you never know who
they are or why they're there.  After a while, you start wondering why you're there yourself.  (11/11/09)

Amelia is a beautiful movie.  Hillary Swank embodies Amelia Earhart the way we've always thought of her, as the spunky tomboy from
Kansas who conquers the aeronautical world.  Director Mira Nair captures the style of the 1930's and presents her story in an
old-fashioned, straightforward narrative style.  You might even say that she
embalms Amelia Earhart.  At some point, you'll wonder why
the movies seems to have no verve or energy, but by that point, you'll probably be too anesthetized to care  (11/2/09)

Where the Wild Things Are   Apparently, there are two schools of thought about this movie. One is that it is a perfect interpretation of
the original look and spirit of the 10-sentence children's book by Maurice Sendak.  People of this persuasion are convinced that the movie
is a metaphor for everything from the illusions of youth to the Obama Administration.  I am not one of those people.  I see this movie as
H. R. Pufnstuf II: Return of the Whiny Kid.  Ugh.  As God is my witness, if I ever meet a kid who resembles Max in real life, I'm going to
be seriously tempted to beat him into unconsciousness.  I'm sure I've encountered a more disagreeable child (of any age) in my life, but I
just don't remember who it might have been.  The more I think of the giant Muppets (or whatever they are), the more I resent them for
not eating the kid when they had the chance.  (11/1/09)  

Paranormal Activity was made on a budget of $11,000.  Essentially, it's two people, a bedroom and a video camera.  You might claim
that some of the most interesting movies in history  have been made with two people, a bedroom and video camera, and although  I would
certainly concede your point, I would argue that this movie isn't one of them.  If it  had to be placed in a genre, it would have to be
suspense.  Lots and lots of time goes by, waiting for whatever is going to happen to happen.  And then it does.  It does no good to talk
about characters; the movie is basically about a couple of self-obsessed yuppie- types who are obnoxious and, unfortunately, very
believable.  If the movie has a fault, it's that in the course of however long the movie lasts, you really don't care what happens to the two
people, the bedroom or the video camera.  (10/25/09)  

Couples Retreat About seven or eight movies south of this review is a comment about the movie Extract in which I say that I can't
imagine a more likeable actor than Jason Bateman.  I stand by that comment, but he really can't do much to raise
Couples Retreat to the
level of being anything special--even with the presence of other likable actors like Vince Vaughn, Kristen Bell and Kristen Davis.  Those
four, along with another four, sign up for a week in a Power Point version of paradise.  Naturally, reality is something completely
different, and those difference make for the comedy.  But mainly, the movie depends on the likability of its stars to pull you in and keep
you interested, and it succeeds--sort of.  (10/12/09)

Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All by Myself   I see that Tyler Perry is now putting his name in the titles of his movies.  Well, fine.  I
would have sworn that I saw a video or DVD of a stage version of this work a few years ago, but when I saw the new movie, nothing
looked familiar.  So, either the memory is going (a distinct possibility) or Mr. Perry kept the catchy title and threw out everything else (also
possible).  If you visit my movie page often, you know I'm a big fan of Mr. Perry's work.  Therefore, I regret to report that this is not his
best effort.  A couple of his signature flourishes don't really serve him well here.  He's usually savvy about the music in his films, but this
time I think he's overdone it--despite the presence of such powerhouses as Mary J. Blige and Gladys Knight.  The movie grinds to a halt as
each of those ladies has a "spotlight moment," plus we get two or three hymns that seem to go on forever.  I bow to no one in my love for
gospel music, but enough is enough.  Also--Mr. Perry is getting sloppy with Madea.  She makes what is practically a drive-by cameo, and
her presence barely registers.  The story is strong, and maybe Mr. Perry  is trying to emphasize that fact by sidelining his signature
character; but if he's going to present such a strong dose of medicine, he would do well to remember that a spoonful of sugar helps the
medicine go down.  (10/11/09)  

9    Question:  What if Franz Kafka had written Terminator and Leonardo da Vinci had directed it?  Answer:  You'd have a mess like 9.  In
some post-human world, a bunch of robots that look as if they were made of burlap bags are fighting off the machines who have taken
over world (and not done much with it).  Why are the burlap robots the "good guys"?  Sadly, this question is not answered until the end of
movie, when you no longer care.  Do you feel good at the end when the burlap robots have defeated the machines? Sort of, but since
they're are also machines, what's the point?

I HopeThey Serve Beer in Hell  I'm guessing I'm in the minority on this one, but I loved this movie.  Think of it as the Porky's of the
21st century.  Unapologetic misogynist Tucker Max (think of him as Ferris Bueller crossed with Eliot Spitzer) talks his innocent best friend
into letting him take him to a hands-on strip club in a town 250 miles away.  Also along for the bachelor party is mutual friend Drew,
who's recently been dumped (probably because he can't refer to the female gender in any kind of language that can be repeated in a
family-friendly website).   Sounds li
ke The Hangover, doesn't it?  Sure it does, but there are some key differences.  For one thing, it's
toned down considerably from and much grittier th
an The Hangover.  In IHTSBIH, there are no circus animals, retired boxers or Asian
criminals.  One of the characters indeed goes to jail, but rather than being tasered by vindictive children, he just gets the crap beaten out of
him.  Instead of marrying a stripper, one of the characters finds a stripper who can match him verbal zinger for verbal zinger.  Which
leads me to the biggest surprise about this movie--and the key point of differentiation fr
om The Hangover:  in this movie women are real
people, and they also get some of the best lines.  Instead of the cliché of the left-at-home bride being a self-centered harpy, we get a
woman with a few ideas in her head who moves things along.  I liked it a lot.  (10/04/09)   

The September Issue   I think I was expecting a less glamorous version of The Devil Wears Prada, but I was surprised and pleased to
see a thoughtful and revealing look at the fashion industry and how its denizens aren't nearly as vacuous as other media have presented
them to be.  Exhibit A is Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue.  At one point, she is having a breakfast meeting with some of the magazine's
advertisers.  They complain to her that the designers can't get their products in the stores fast enough and tell her that "she's the only one
who can help them by interceding with the designers.  She understands their problem and says that she'll speak to them.  Who knew that
was part of being a magazine editor?  Maybe it isn't, but it certainly is being a part of the job of the person who determines what people
will be wearing  next season and the next  and the next.  (10/02/09)  

A Woman in Berlin  (Eine Frau in Berlin)  Just before heading off to the theater, I saw a review of this movie calling it "the best movie
you'll never see."   While it's true that hardly anyone who pays attention to my mindless rants will be inspired to track this movie down to
check it out, it really is quite good and deserving of attention.  It's based on the autobiography of a German woman who referred to herself
simply as Anonyma.  She finds herself in Berlin in the spring of 1945 as Germany and its army are collapsing.The victorious Russian army
is consolidating its hold on the German capital and taking its revenge on every man who looks dangerous and every woman who looks
available.  People (even the defeated Germans) do terrible things to each other in the name of staying alive and avenging past wrongs.  
While it's not really "the best movie you'll never see," it is a very gritty look at one of our species' low points.  I suspect that in the years
ahead, you'll be hearing a lot more from Nina Hoss (Anonyma).  (9/28/09)  

Paris  How hard can it be to make an engaging movie if all you have to do is: 1) go to Paris; 2) find Juliette Binoche; and 3) turn on the
camera?   Which is pretty much what director Cedrick Klapisch has done in this valentine to the people of his favorite city.  Ms. Binoche
and several character actors who will be recognizable to most French film geeks just sort of float around town, sometimes interacting with
each other, sometimes not.  You don't really take any of the plot situations seriously because you know that, for example,  in order to film
a scene at Pere Lachaise cemetery, somebody's gotta be dead. The movie is as light as a soufflé, and I think it's fair to say that the title
character gives the best performance.  (9/26/09)

Cold Souls  I liked this movie, but seeing it in a theater with an audience whose sensibilities were rather different from my own was a
somewhat  awkward experience.  This movie has a Charlie Kaufman-esque vibe that reminded me a lot
of Being John Malkovich--except
that I thought this movie was a lot funnier t
han BJM.  Here, an actor named "Paul Giamatti" (played by Paul Giamatti) is having a
soul-killing experience, trying to find the right fame of mind to play Uncle Vanya on Broadway.  To ease his burden, he goes to
commercial establishment  where they are able to remove his soul and replace it temporarily with the soul of a Russian "poet".  This allows
him to give a magnificent performance as Vanya, but in the meantime, the Russian soul donor decides she wants her soul back, and
another woman with high aspirations to be an actress but no talent for the job has arranged to have Paul Giamatti's original soul stolen and
transferred to her.  Hilarity-as they say--ensues.  While I really do think that the writer and director were probably trying to say something
profound here, their message is buried in the ridiculousness of the situations.  Which explains my awkwardness.  I supposes that my
fellow audience members observed more depth to the story than I did.  I just laughed.  (9/25/09)

Extract  I can't imagine a more likable actor than Jason Bateman--which is the only reason I didn't get up and walk out of this movie.  
Mike Judge, creator
of Office Space and King of the Hill on television, has gone tone deaf in this slice of life revolving around the
annoyingly pointless antics of the owner and workers at a plant that makes extracts somewhere in the Southwest.  Any five minute
of Office Space will have more laughs than this entire movie.  (9/24/09)  

All About Steve  
In the summer of 1982, Steven Spielberg confounded critics when two movies that he had produced opened to the
public within weeks of each other.  The sublime
E. T., the Extra-Terrestrial was praised (rightfully) as one of the greatest movies of all
Poltergeist, which followed ET into the theatres, made reviewers wince and wonder how such a sensibility as Spielberg's could
unleash two such divergent products on moviegoers.  (However,
Poltergeist was very popular and made a boatload of money.)  Flash
forward to the summer of 2009, when Sandra Bullock has upped the ante on Spielberg by producing--and appearing in--two movies that
have been relapsed within a few weeks of each other.
The Proposal, while certainly no E. T., was a competently made romantic comedy
in which Sandra played well with Ryan Reynold
s.  All About Steve is just a mess.  While its admirable message is "quirky is good," Ms.
Bullock plays a character so off-putting that I can imagine anyone NOT going out of their way to avoid her when she's headed in their
direction.  It's always more fun to laugh with people than at them, and the laughs in this movie (and there are a few) definitely come at the
expense of people who--in real life--don't really deserve to be laughed at. (9/9/09)

Taking Woodstock   
So if Woodstock, the original concert movie, is Hamlet, this movie would be Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are
To everyone who attended Woodstock and have written magazine articles complaining about this movie--all 612 million of you--I
say, if this movie isn't your experience at the concert, that's okay.  This movie is so sanitized that I suspect it wasn't the real experience of
Elliott Teichberg (author of the book and central character in the movie) either.  For one thing, the movie is a lot more lighthearted and fun
that the concert was.  It's certainly nowhere near as earnest as the concert was presented to be in the first concert movie.  As we were
walking out of the theater, I told my friend Sally that this is the first time I'd ever seen Woodstock presented as something that I might
have enjoyed.  Elliott trips out, meets a hot construction worker and befriends a transvestite ex-Marine, but those experiences are
presented so benignly that you smile at the screen and go with it.  I 'll take innocent and friendly over peace and love any day.   (8/30/09)  

Inglorious Basterds  I never know if Quentin Tarantino is laughing with his audience or at us.  In the past, I've always given him the
benefit of the doubt, but I'm drawing the line on this one.  Rewriting WWII, misspelling the title, goofy subtitles, casting B. J. Novak
(Ryan from
The Office) and Brad Pitt as theoretically credible war heroes--and lots of other stuff-- left me feeling that I was the one being
punk'd.  (I wouldn't have been too surprised if the Basterds were given medals at the end of the war by Ashton Kuthcher playing
Eisenhower.)  Having said all that, I really do think that Tarantino was grasping  for something that would have been pretty great--a
movie played as a comedy.  But the violence is really too pointless and the humor was too crude to be successful.  His grasp
exceeded his reach.  (8/23/09)

District 9  
    I guess I wanted this movie to be sort of a Cloverfield for the Southern Hemisphere.  It's certainly not that.  Some have said
that it's a metaphor for the state of race relations in South Africa, but if that's the case, the message is clearly "Don't Go to South Africa."  
So what is it?   Well, it's definitely something you've never seen before--which is always a nice surprise for a movie that comes out in
August.  A million leaderless aliens (who look like and are called "prawns") are found in a spaceship that has been floating over downtown
Johannesburg for twenty years.  (You'd think that couldn't be good for real estate prices in the area, but apparently such is not the case.)  
The South Africans responded by doing what South Africans do best--packing them off to a segregated township where they're preyed
upon by some of humanity's worst representatives.   The story begins as a multi-national corporation takes on the job of relocating the
prawns to a newer camp that is further away from town.  Bad things ensue.  It's all very well done.  It's engaging and
thought-provoking--and more than a little slimy.  (Note: This movie contains more f-bombs than Quentin Tarantino's entire body of work.  
If that's a problem for you, you should probably stay home.)  (9/17/09)    

  First, I think it's important to say that I was crazy about Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, Hiyao Miyazaki's last two films
that have been translated for American audiences.  This one, not so much.  I may be wrong about this, but I think I recall that
Miyazaki-san has said that this is the first movie he's made specifically for children.  And that may be the rub.  
'Spirited' and 'Howl' were
animated features that adults could love; I'm not even sure that children would sit still for
Ponyo.   The movie has a weird "Godzilla vs.
The Little Mermaid"-vibe that's frankly kind of creepy.  Having said all that, the movie is certainly a visual wonder.  It has merit on this
basis alone--but that's about it.   (08/15/09)

The Stoning of Soraya M   "Its a man's world," says the husband of the title character of this stunning movie about an Iranian wife and
mother of four who is savagely stoned to death after refusing her husband a divorce in order that he might move to the city and marry a
fourteen-year-old girl "with shining eyes".  Practically the entire town knows that the husband is a dangerous jerk, but no one stops this
slow-motion tragedy  before it moves to its ultimate conclusion.  (To sweeten the pot for the two sons that the father wants to take with
him when he leaves, he tells them, "You can be Republican Guards!")  The best acting in the film comes from Shohreh Aghdashloo, a
recent Academy Award nominee for
The House of Sand and Fog.  Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ plays the
French journalist to whom she tells her story.  It's a powerful and heartbreaking movie.  Don't even think about taking a child to see it.  

Julie and Julia  
Yes, Meryl is great.  Amy Adams is fine in a lesser role.  And for the first half of the movie, you're sitting there smiling
and thinking that this beats the heck out of
You've Got Mail.   It 's fresh, and it's fun.  Then, things start to go horribly wrong.  First,
there's an sour, unnecessary buzz-kill scene about the McCarthy hearings, and the next thing you know, you're back in a Nora Ephron
movie.  You know what I mean--old situations, old complications, and old music (in one instance--"I Love You a Bushel and a Peck")
playing over scenes where people try to "get on with their lives."  Yuck.  But Meryl is still worth the trip.  (8/9/09)

The Girl from Monaco  
is a mess.  It's a French film about a lawyer from Paris who travels to Monaco to serve as a defense attorney for
a woman accused of killing her lover.The movie has nothing to do with the trial, and not much to do with Monaco ("The Rock"), although
it does look spectacular.   Everyone in the movie looks like they're embarrassed to be there.   I know I was.  (8/8/09)  

   was the official Austrian entry in the Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards this year.  I don't know why they
bothered.  A prostitute insists on going with her boyfriend on a mission to rob a bank in a small town.  As he reassures her that nothing
will go wrong, you can almost hear Daffy Duck in your mind, saying, "Thisss iss foolproofff!!")  So naturally the prostitute is killed by a
cop who claims to have been aiming at the tires of the getaway car.   The rest of the movie deals with the cop's remorse, the angst of the
bank robber who wonders what to do next, and one REALLY screwed up woman who stands between them.  It's not terrible, but at  the
end, you do find yourself thinking that these people have always had and will always have issues.  (8/7/09)

(500) Days of Summer  This movie is about two things: 1) how cute Zooey Deschanel is (and she's adorable); and 2) non-linear
storytelling.  You don't see the natural progression of the relationship between Summer and the random guy who dreams of being an
architect, but writes greeting cards for a living. (Let's call him George Constanza.) If the story were told in a linear fashion, it would have
been excruciatingly boring.  (At some point in the relationship, we see George's junior high school-age sister riding her bicycle over to the
house to offer relationship counseling to George, but by the end of the movie, we've forgotten if that situation happened early in the
relationship, later on, or somewhere in the middle.)  Summer tells George on Day 1 that she's not looking for a relationship with him, and
that remains the case all the way through to Day 488.  (The last 12 days are unaccounted for.) So all you're really left with in this movie is
how cute Zooey Deschanel is--and she's adorable.  (8/6/09)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
feels like the two middle hours of a very good twenty-hour mini-series--which for all practical
purposes, it is.  Not much happens.  Nothing gets resolved.  Lots of plot points get set up for the big finish to follow, but don't look for
that until 2011.  Technically, the movie is a marvel, and the cast--like all
Potter movies--is a "Who's Who" of the British film industry.  
Helena Bonham-Carter and Jim Broadbent have featured roles this time around, yet they're seldom in evidence.  The wonderful Maggie
Smith has about four lines.  Heck, Alan Rickman who has the title role this time (I don't think I'm giving much away here) isn't even on
screen for more than a couple of minutes.  The young actors playing the leads are perfectly fine, as always, but I have to say that I'm
ready for some resolution.  (7/19/2009)  

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen   
Well, hell, no wonder the Arabs hate us.  In the course of this two-and-a-half hour (!) movie,
no less then four World Heritage Sites in Egypt and Jordan get trashed by hyperkinetic General Motors products.  It's equally unsurprising
that American students don't know squat about geography as the Pyramids, The Temple of Luxor, the temple at Tetra all seem to be just
down the street from each other.  Sigh.  It does no good to talk about how mindless this movie is--and it
really, really is.  Mindless movies
are what mindless people want to see.  So why am I wasting my breath?  (BTW, the Hasbro people aren't done with World Heritage Sit
yet.  Tra
nsformers features a coming attraction for this summer's G. I. Joe, in which the Eiffel Tower gets slimed.  Great.)  6/28/09)    

The Proposal  
doesn't stink.  For a romantic comedy, it's only marginally romantic and only intermittently funny.  In this day when
Transformers are ruling the multi-plexes, it seems a bit churlish to speak ill of movie characters who at least speak in complete sentences.   
Sandra Bullock is still young enough (barely) to make this plot work, and Ryan Reynolds is less off-putting than usual.  Many of the laughs
come from Betty White, who has been stealing scenes since D. W. Griffith was a boy, and Oscar Nunez (Oscar from
The Office) who
demonstrates why bikini waxes are a good idea for exotic dancers.  (6/26/09)   

L'heure d'ete (Summer Hours)  
OK, it's not Chekhov, although the plot sounds a lot like The Cherry Orchard.  The wonderful Juliette
Binoche, the talented Charles Berling from
Ridicule and Some Other Guy  who's a good actor and will be a big star some day, play three
French siblings who must come to grips with the passing of their mother and the disposal of her home filled with  treasures from the
Beaux Arts (I think) period.  The Musee d'Orsay and Christie's are interested, but not everyone wants to let the house and its furnishings
out of the family.  What I loved most about the movie is that although the three do not agree on how the assets will be disposed of, they
discuss it rationally, like three people who actually love each other and will continue to do so.  If this were an American film, I suspect it
would have to be punched up with some verbal or maybe even physical histrionics.  As it is, it's perfect.  See it.  (6/16/09)  

Moon   is a compelling and watchable movie that has much more to do with Earth than the moon.  Sam Rockwell is an engineer, who
single-handedly manages a strip-mining operation on the dark side of the moon with the help of a droll computer named Hal--I mean
Gertie.  Things Happen, and Sam (also the character's name) discovers that he is not alone.  Without giving too much away, this is also
where the movie goes off the rails a little bit.  Some of the decisions don't seem terribly logical, but then, maybe the characters in the film
would also say that about me.  (6/15/09)

Night at the Museum 2:  Battle of the Smithsonian   I didn't see the first one.  I'm pretty sure that if I had, I wouldn't have seen the
second one.  Not even the practically perfect Amy Adams (as Amelia Earhart) can save this pointless mess from itself.  (6/14/09)

The Brothers Bloom   Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody play the title characters as a couple of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels who are "the last
gentleman con men."  (Obviously, the movie was made before the Obama Administration took over.)  I've not always been fans of their
work, but they're fine in this movie.  They just happen to be in a movie where Rachel Weisz is acting circles around them.  She plays the
delightfully neurotic ( and it's been a long time since we've seen a delightful neurotic on screen) New Jersey heiress and the brothers' latest
mark.  When asked what she likes to do, she says she "collects hobbies." Her knowledge of a little bit about lots of things make her a
pleasure to watch on screen and a major impediment to the brothers' plans.  It's funny, poignant and--well, it's mostly funny.  (6/13/09)   

Drag Me to Hell   
I have to admit that I went to see this movie just because I liked the title. Horror is definitely not favorite genre, so I
can't offer much of a critique regarding whether it's better or worse than other recent horror movies.  On the upside, things jumped out of
the closet and yelled "boo!" the way you'd want them to.  On the downside, Alison Lohman was such a twit, I really didn't care if she lived
or died.  (6/12/09)  

The Hangover    Don't hate me, but I loved this movie.   Four average joes (OK, maybe three average joes and someone who may or may
not be a registered sex offender) set out from Los Angeles for the proverbial bachelor party in Las Vegas.  I don't want to spoil any
surprises, but the night goes horribly and hilariously wrong from the opening toast on the roof at Caesar's Palace.  Suffice to say that a live
tiger, chickens, Heather Graham, Mike Tyson, Chinese crime lords and do-it-yourself dentistry are part of the plot.  This is a story that
could be told badly so many ways, but the writers, director and talented cast get it right on lots of level.  It starts to lose steam toward the
end, but it never loses its way.  Don't even think about taking a child to see this movie, but do grab a friend or two and check it out.  

Tennessee   At the beginning of While You Were Sleeping, Sandra Bullock does a voice-over narrative about  her childhood.  As we see
her as a child sitting her with her father on a bridge admiring an intensely golden sunset, we hear her adult voice say, "I remember a lot
about my childhood...I just don't remember it being this
orange." Tennessee may be the orangest movie ever made--and it has nothing do
with the Big Orange football team.  Director Aaron Woodley and his cinematographer have photographed the wastes of the American
Southwest gorgeously.  It's a beautiful film just to look at.  To be honest, if I'd known that Mariah Carey was in the movie, I probably
wouldn't have wanted to see it.  But she is, and lo and behold, she's actually quite good.  Two young Tennesseeans, Adam Rothenberg and
Ethan Peck, find themselves in New Mexico with an urgent need to get home.  Along the way, they encounter Ms. Carey, a waitress in a
Texas diner who wants to escape her abusive husband and get to Nashville to be a songwriter.   The plot is somewhat predictable, but
overall, it's a very satisfying movie experience.   (6/7/09)  

Up   After a sour note with Wall-E last year, Disney's Pixar is back on its relentlessly perky track.  I don't know what I was expecting
(maybe something like an American version of
Howl's Moving Castle, I guess), but what I saw was The Wizard of Oz Meets Gran
.  The slow-moving but richly textured opening chronicled the loving but not particularly special lives shared by Karl and Ellie in a
house that is in grave danger of: 1) falling in; and 2) being redeveloped.  An unfortunate accident leaves Karl (voiced by Ed Asner) cranky,
alone (he thinks), and with no prospects beyond being traumatized by his neighborhoods.  But, when he decides to do something about it
and thousands of balloons sprout from his chimney, picking up his house and carrying it to South America ("It's like America--but
South!"), the movie takes off along with the house.  The house doesn't land on a wicked witch, but it does land in close proximity to a
nearly extinct bird, a pack of talking dogs, and Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer).  After a slow start, it's a great ride and a
wonderful lesson about what constitutes a meaningful life.  Go see it.  (6/6/09)

Terminator: Salvation   
In the early years of the 21st century, the Terminator movie franchise became self-aware.  The movies of the
series recognized that in order to defeat their human foes, they would need to implement ear-splitting noise, mind-numbing special effects,
nonsensical plots and actors who looked very earnest as they did things that made no
sense.    Well, you get the point.  This latest reboot
of the
Terminator series may make the movies relevant again, although I doubt it.   There's not enough soul in Christian Bale's John Conner
to make people care about what happens to him next.  As is sometimes the case with movies (even
Terminator movies), the actors playing
machines seem more human than actors playing people. Sam Worthington, an Australian actor who plays a machine here is someone
you're going to enjoy seeing more of in the future.  (5/27/09)  

Star Trek   is there really any point in trying to say anything useful about this movie?  If you're a Trekkie, you'll go.   If not, you won't.  
On the plus side, the perky young cast gives it the old high school try, and the movie has a better pace than any of its predecessors,
excluding possibly
The Wrath of Khan.  It may not be a coincidence that the plot of this movie closely resembles Khan.   Chris Pine has
about  one one-hundredth of William Shatner's charisma, but maybe William Shatner didn't have "it" either when the series debuted 42 (!)  
years ago.  Maybe he'll grow into the role in what we're told will be lots of sequels.  (Ruh roh.)  On the down side, we've got time travel.  
This is disturbing because it means that during the course of all these sequels, we're going to be subjected to "drop in appearances" from
everyone whos ever been in any of the several movies and series based on the original material.  Yikes.  In this movie, the time travel
device let Leonard Nimoy soak up way too much screen time.  He came close to shutting the movie down altogether, but not quite.  In the
sequels ahead, be prepared to welcome back the Tribbles and bartender Whoopi Goldberg.  (5/18/09)   

Angels and Demons   
is better than The DaVinci Code.  This is what is known as damning with faint praise.  The book of A&D was
much better than
Code because its plot was a bit more believable.  Killing the Pope has a more immediate impact than finding the last living
descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.  Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks, but with one exception, he's surrounded by a much better
supporting cast here.  Ewan MacGregor is especially good as the camerleno, charged with running The Vatican while a new pope is
chosen.  The exception in the cast is the lone woman in the movie.  Audrey Tatou was very good in
The DaVinci Code,  but Ayelet Zurer
is lost as the scientist (I"m trying my best to type this with a straight face) whose stock of anti-matter has been stolen and hidden
somewhere it will destroy The Vatican and all of the cardinals of the church.  I can't recommend going out of your way to see this movie,
but if you're stuck in a hotel room some night with nothing to do, it would be a good movie to watch while you're waiting for room
service to bring you a cheeseburger.  (5/16/09)   

as it's name implies, is a French movie.  Seriously.  Actually, it's a triptych of short films by French and Japanese film makers set
in Japan's capital.  And all three of the films reflect the absurdist French genre--which is too bad.  They could as easily have been set in
Paris as in Tokyo--which, for all I know, is the point of the movie.  In the first short, a woman may or may not be turning into a piece of
furniture; in the revolting second (aptly titled "Merde"), a creature from the sewers terrorizes the city; in the third, a hikikimori (an
obsessive-compulsive agoraphobic) who hasn't left his home in five years falls in love with a pizza delivery girl during an earthquake.  The
first and third are clever and well done, but I just didn't connect with them.  (4/28/09)   

Sunshine Cleaning   
The ever-delightful Amy Adams, the saucy Emily Blunt and "Chloe" from 24, together in a movie.  How could that
go wrong?  Sometimes, great actors transcend their material, but this is not one of those times.  It's the story of a maid who hopes to
make a better life for herself  and her bastard son (her words) by starting a cleaning service specializing in cleaning up crime scenes.  The
best thing the director of this movie does is to allow his phenomenally talented threesome space to let them try to make sense of a script
that is pretty bad.  You won't hate it.  You'll just regret what could have been.  (4/26/09)   

State of Play   
is a crock.  Ben Affleck plays an aspiring Congressman leading an investigation of the same privatized military corporation
that Jack Bauer seems to be fig
hting in 24 this season.  Suffice to say that bad stuff happens to people who may be good people.  You
don't really care.  The tone of the movie is that the journalistic heirs of Woodward and Bernstein now look like a scruffy Russell Crowe, a
mousy Rachel McAdams (come back, Regina George!) and a very British Helen Mirren.  You can almost hear this newspaper going
bankrupt.  The movie's lone saving grace--aside from wondering what toads are going to leap next from the mouth of Ms. Mirren--is the
presence of Robin Wright Penn.  I don't know why she doesn't make more movies than she does, but I do wish she would start working
more.  She elevated
The Princess Bride and Forrest Gump, and she does the same here.  When she's on screen, the movie has a dignity
that is sorely missing when she's not.  (4/20/09)   

Prom Night in Mississippi   
was the featured film at the recently completed Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson and will be shown on
HBO in June.   The high school in the hometown of actor Morgan Freeman, Charleston, Mississippi, has been holding separate senior
proms for white and black students since the school integrated in 1970.  In an effort to do something to provide some racial healing in the
school and the town, Freeman offered to pay for a prom, if it would be integrated.  This movie is a record of the progress from idea to
actualization of his offer.  What a coincidence that I would see this movie less than a week after seeing
The Class.  Both movies are quite
good and will appear on my list of favorite movies of 2009.  I'm sorry to say that the 17- and 18-year-old Mississippi students come off
very poorly compared to their 14- and 15-year-old French counterparts.  In fairness, the French students were played by actors, and the
Mississippi student were--for the most part--just trying to live their lives.   But still, the Charleston students come off as much less verbal,
much less interesting and much, much more obese than their Parisian counterparts.  That's not really the point, but the comparison does
kind of smack you in the face.  Check it out if you get the chance.  (BTW, after the screening, I was asked to give one of the student
actors a ride to Delta State where she's in her first year of elementary education.  In the movie, she claimed that although she had the
highest scholastic average in her class, she was denied being named as valedictorian.  I meant to ask her how she knew that, but I forgot.  
She's a bright, articulate young lady who had the good sense not to be too impressed when she met Paris Hilton at Sundance.  (4/6/09)   

The Class   
is the best movie of the year.  I think so now, and I'll think so later on when I put together my list of my favorite movies of
the year.  It was made in 2006, and was not distributed until last year (when it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes).  The movie stars Francoise
Begaudeau, who wrote the book that the movie is based on, and a classroom-full of gifted young actors who play his 14- and 15-year-old
students.  It's shot in a documentary style, and as you're watching it, you can't imagine that this is scripted behavior.  I don't know if this
movie could made in English to conform to American or British sensibilities.  I think the film makers would want the teacher to be more
visibly noble than Mssr. Begaudeau appears to be here.  He makes mistakes; he clearly doesn't connect with all of his students; and it's
clear that he's not trying to save anybody.  I've emailed a couple of teachers I know and encouraged them to check it out.  I can just
imagine them sitting in darkened theater somewhere and nodding their heads in recognition.  (3/30/09)   

The Reader  
OK.  I have no problem with any of the subject matter of this movie.  I know that older women take advantage of
15-year-old boys every day.   Some of them go to jail for it, but I get it.   
The Reader, however, doesn't just want you to get it, it wants to
rub your nose in it.   With not much "filler", the first half of this movie is about a naked Kate Winslet and a naked 15-year-old having more
fun than I hope to have ever in my life.  Why?  The point was made--so to speak.    When the story of the movie gets going after an hour
or so of sexual instruction, it's quite engrossing, and you get to see that Ms. Winslet doesn't have to be naked to display all of her talents.  I
can't believe that the film makers thought that they had to provide this much sexual titillation to keep the customers in their seats to watch
what came later.  (3/29/09)  

Duplicity   I admit that I had all kind of misgivings about seeing this movie.  Julia Roberts seems to have been sleepwalking through recent
outings like
Charlie Wilson's War and the Oceans movies.   You kind of wondered if she still even  liked making movies.  Also, the coming
attractions for
Duplicity did her no favors. If you didn't know that Clive Owen is five years older than Julia in real life, you'd think she was
a cougar staking out a much younger guy.  But as soon as the movie started, you knew that the woman who was probably the actress of
her generation was back.  She can still light up a screen with her smile, and she carries this one.  It's all very stylish and sexy.  Earlier in
the week, I read a review of this movie that called the film's sleazy corporate culture "very un-Obama".  If this is very un-Obama, give me
more.  3/23/09)   

I Love You Man   
This movie had a few yucks, but mostly, it just made me wince in embarrassment for poor old Paul Rudd.  

Does the current economic and governmental situation have you down.  Cheer up!  The world is ending soon anyway.  This is
the perky message being dispensed in Nicolas Cage's new movie.  Despite the cheesy special effects, it does have  few moments that will
scare the you-know-what out of you.  Almost everybody dies at the end (this is not giving away anything about the plot), but at least you'll
be thinking as you leave the theatre that if it all comes true, you won't feel so bad about how badly your retirement account is doing.  

I saw this the night before Liam Neeson's wife, Natasha Richardson, had the accident that caused her death.  It's a very well-told
story of a former operative of one of our intelligence services whose child is kidnapped while on vacation in Paris.  The story is told
well-told and concise.  I appreciate that.  The only thing I can quite appreciate is that 50-something Liam Neeson is kicking butt and
running roughshod over dozens of tough guys who are half his age.  That part is almost cartoonish. (3/15/09)   

The International   
If the current financial news has shown us anything, I guess it's that banks need to diversify their portfolios.  This
film, while not disagreeing, suggests that arms dealing, contract killing, and similar forms a mayhem might be a bit much.  Clive Owen
soldiers on in this film, trying to break the code of secrecy of a mega-bank based in Luxembourg.  Naomi Watts is here to collect a
paycheck while she waits to be offered a role in a better movie.  There are lots of lush locales, including various European cities, New
York and Istanbul (which I know is technically European, but you get my drift.)  After a while, these locations got to be a tad irritating.  
Here's why.  All of the European locations were clean, ultra-modern, and stylish.  New York, on the other hand, looked like--well,
Istanbul.  But it's a minor point.  The movie is competent, but nothing more.  (3/9/09)  

Defiance   is a moving film about the Bielski brothers of Belorussia whose organizational and survival skills helped to rescue 1200 Jews
during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941 and kept them alive until the tide of the war changed two years later.  The movie is not without
its flaws.  The movie's makers probably thought they knew what they were doing when they decided when different languages would be
spoken during the course of the movie.  I think the final decision was that English would be spoken when members of the Bielski
community were talking among themselves, and that Russian or German would be spoken when they were interacting with "outsiders".  I
think.  Also, accepting 41-year-old Liev Schreiber, 40-year-old Daniel Craig, 22-year-old Jamie Bell and some kid who looks like he's about
13 as brothers is a bit of a stretch.  Having said that, I admired practically everything else.  The writing, acting and directing were
first-rate, and I came out thinking that I liked this movie rather better than
Schindler's List.  This will, of course, not be a popular opinion,
but I do think that this is the better movie. (1/20/09)

Madea Goes to Jail  
For the 800th year in a row, I celebrated Oscar night by going to a real movie.  (BTW, congrats to all the
overprivileged, over-praised and overpaid winners.  If you're still feeling guilty and think that you're paid way too much for what you do,
stop worrying about it.  You are.  Have another drink.)  If you've been paying attention (and there's really no reason that you should have
been), you know that I'm a big Madea fan.  She looks great here, but I think she's starting to show her age.  Either that, or Tyler Perry is
so overextended that he's not taking the time to write for her as well as he's done in the past.  If you've EVER seen a Tyler Perry movie,
you've seen this one.  Only the names have been changed--plus they've brought in Rudy Huxtable to play a hooker--which she does
respectably.   In short, if you like Tyler Perry, check it out; if you don't, give it a very wide berth.  (2/23/09)
Click here to see Matt's Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2009!