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.: film --> mini-reviews
adaptation [ **1/2-- ] critics love it, but it left me cold in spite of the terrific dialogue and outstanding acting. I just didn't really care enough about anyone, and the story wasn't entertaining enough to fully capture my interest. I can see several things the filmmakers were trying to do, but, for my money, they failed at all of them.
catch me if you can [ ****1/2- ] really terrific. put aside your misgivings about spielberg and dicaprio and just go see it. wonderful script, acting, direction. christopher walken is a standout as a sad but never pathetic man. for once, spielberg allows himself to just tell a story without trying to drive home a point. the result is superficial in a good way: the audience is allowed to observe the situations and motivations without being subjected to emotional manipulation.
confessions of a dangerous mind [ ***1/2- ] the story of a man who can't accept who he really is, this film doesn't care whether barris's claims are true--it just wants to tell the outrageous story. sam rockwell is wonderful.
about schmidt [ ****- ] sweet, melancholy, possibly somewhat depressing story of a man coming to terms with his life. it's startling to spend two hours with this quiet man and then to see the number of assistants nicholson required.
daredevil [ **--- ] the acting is fine, but this film is poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly edited. the special effects actually confuse the action, and nothing in this film is earned. skip it. poor affleck is going to be blamed for this, but it really isn't his fault.
the hours [ **** 1/2 ] even though this film is tedious in places, overall it is very strong. very skillful. julianne moore is just breathtaking.
chicago [ ***** ] terrific. this film absolutely succeeds at what it sets out to do. an absolutely brilliant translation of stage to film. great fun.
holes [ ***1/2- ] great casting, it's a perfectly competent film, and it's very faithful to the book--so why didn't I like it better? I think I just liked the book better--this felt like a rendition of the surface story. still, I recommend this film.
identity [ ***-- ] I was expecting mystery-suspense instead of suspense-horror. I didn't like the twist. competently executed, but somehow, it just missed the mark.
x-men: x-men united [ ***-- ] left me cold, but judging from the inexplicable bursts of laughter throughout the film, the fans seemed pleased. probably won't keep your attention unless you're into the comic. why is rogue even in this film?
matrix reloaded [ ***1/2- ] an action film with philosophical aspirations that wants to be a philosophical film with action sequences. matrix reloaded is a catalogue of special effects available in 2003--everything you can think of. if they have such nice, colorful clothes in zion, how come everyone on the ship wears a ripped sweater? nice to see so many faces of color in a science fiction film.
a mighty wind [ ***1/2- ] just not up to guest's standard. he's become a bit formulaic--I think he needs to do something unfamiliar. the fault is all with the story. catherine o'hara, who I think of as a comic actress, does some very fine dramatic work here. it's safe to save this one for a rental.
finding nemo [ ****1/2- ] just terrific. amazing animation. once again, pixar has a great story to tell, and they do it with just the right touch. highly recommended.
spellbound [ ***** ] outstanding. suspenseful and entertaining. this film accomplishes exactly what it set out to do. a beautiful example of the craft of documentary storytelling. highly recommended.
the hulk [ *---- ] just a travesty. when this film isn't tedious, it's excruciating, and when it isn't excruciating, it's dumb, dumb, dumb. nick nolte is perfect, a real delight to watch, but the script is terrible and the special effects look fake. ang lee tries to do several interesting things, which fail, but he forgot to give us a story with internal logic and characters we can care about.
pirates of the caribbean [ ****1/2 ] it's too long, but who cares? way, way better than any film based on a ride has the right to be. johnny depp is magnificent. highly recommended as the big fun movie of the summer.
terminator III: the rise of the machines [ ***-- ] unfortunately, they didn't find a way to make the terminator as human or entertaining as he was in the second film, but it's still a solid action film with a surprising and pretty satisfying ending.
lara croft tomb raider: the cradle of life [ ***-- ] a fun matinee. girl power to the max! angelina is da man.
freaky friday [ ***-- ] not as much fun as I thought it would be, but terrific fun for the preteen girls sitting in front of us.
american splendor [ **** 1/2 ] simply an amazing film (and I'm not a comics reader). almost perfectly realized. highly, highly recommended.
open range [ ****- ] I spent the first half of the movie veering between appreciating that the film was taking its time and internally screaming for something to happen. stick with it. by the end, this film had totally won me over. a small story filled with the little moments that make up an event. highly recommended.
once upon a time in mexico [ ***-- ] well-executed, confusing, gratuitiously violent, and fun. antonio banderas is cooler than I remember. great film score.
lost in translation [ ****1/2 ] delightful, grown-up, and perfectly executed. highly, highly recommended.
underworld [ **--- ] really good clothes in a really dumb film. the music isn't even any good. like the dragon movie, this could have been terrific with a good script or just fun with a baseline effort. but no such luck. kate beckinsale is sure hot, though.
school of rock [ ***-- ] what are the critics thinking? this is a cursory, formulaic vehicle for jack black. if you love black--or maybe if you've never seen him--you will love this movie; if you're familiar with his schtick, it may leave you cold. doesn't get going until he starts his band, and then it's very pleasant. joan cusack isn't in enough films.
the rundown [ **1/2-- ] this film should have been a good deal funnier and more fun than it is. the script is almost there, and filled with moments that should have been funny. an ill-conceived fugitive character and the lack of a modicum of depth to the bounty hunter prevent this from being a solid story, but the main fault is with the direction, which manages to obscure even funny lines.
kill bill [ **1/2-- ] a stylish, unrelenting glorification of violence that quickly becomes tedious. if you adore asian action films, you may really enjoy this film, but it is little more than a compendium of over-the-top action sequences with lots of blood. tarantino is an expert craftsman who is apparently too lazy to create a masterpiece.
mystic river [ ****- ] terrific acting and direction, but the film is seriously weakened by an unnecessary coda that hits entirely the wrong note.
intolerable cruelty [ ****1/2 ] a modern fairy tale for cynics. perhaps the funniest and most enjoyable coen brothers film I've ever seen--it seems less mean than their usual. with this film, george clooney establishes himself as the modern-day cary grant, if that's what he wants to be--but I think he has something else in mind for himself.
runaway jury [ ***1/2* ] better than I expected. good, solid script and performances. a little tedious to start, but a very satisfying ending. these are the hero tales of our age, you know.
matrix: revolutions [ **1/2-- ] remember when you left the theatre after seeing matrix: reloaded thinking, 'well maybe they can bring this all together in the last film'? they didn't. the filmmakers forgot their original premise, and then it all went to pot. go rent the original and skip this one altogether.
the two towers (extended version) [ ***** ] markedly better than the theatrical release, and I liked the first version.
the return of the king [ ****- ] I was a little disappointed, but I'm not passing final judgement until I see the extended version. the beginning is a little choppy, and there are obvious omissions. instead of an inspiring vision of valor, jackson sees the triumph of good over evil coming through forces beyond our own power, and at a very high cost. triumph is tinged with sadness--for the heroes, things will never be the same as they were. go see it.
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o brother, where art thou? [ *** --] silly, fun riff on the odyssey. great music.
woman of the year [ *** --] light, charming, with an unsatisfying ending.
matewan [ **** -] still a terrific film, even at the third viewing. recommended.
fast, cheap, and out of control [ **** -] a provocative meditation on life, passion, and the nature of consciousness. recommended.
boogie nights [ *** --] funny, but not as much fun as I thought it would be. I think it was too hyped to live up to its reputation. a good film about real people in a seedy profession.
rounders [ **** -] it's still just as good as I remember it being. solid script, well, executed, and what group of great actors. recommended.
office space [ ***1/2 -] a humorous, scathing indictment of corporate america, almost not funny it's so spot on.
the matrix [ ***1/2- ] (on plane) actually much better than I remembered it being.
two weeks notice [ *** -- ] (on plane) this film was surprisingly engaging. the previews did it a real injustice. it's light, to be sure, but nicely done, with a little more depth than I expected. another re-write or two, and it could have been terrific.
maid in manhattan [ *---- ] (on plane) just as bad as it looked in the previews. after my pleasant experience with two weeks notice, I thought I'd give this one a shot. don't bother.
dial m for murder [ ***- ] adapted--barely, it seems--from the stage, and it shows. talky, talky, talky exposition.
barton fink [ ****- ] really pretty brilliant. a surrealist rendering of writer's block, the hollywood system, and the self-absorption of 'serious' artists.
a midwinter's tale [ ***-- ] this film loves the theatre, and by the end you will, too. suffers from the usual branaugh obsession with wanting to seem clever, but it does show what a good director he can be when he stops trying to be orson wells and focuses on his actors.
princess mononoke [ ****- ] complex, haunting, beautiful. recommended.
sense and sensibility [ ****- ] not quite as good as I remember it, but still a delight. fantastic script which is true to the spirit of the original, and wonderful performances.
three days of the condor [ ***-- ] surprisingly dated. made during that awkward period when the studios knew they had to do something different from the classic hollywood style, but they weren't sure what that was. still, overall, smart, suspenseful, and fun to watch with the exception of one of the worst sex scenes ever filmed.
american movie: the making of northwestern [ ***-- ] too true to be fun.
fast times at ridgemont high [ ***-- ] amazingly dated. worth seeing as a document of a particular moment in a particular culture. times have changed.
erin brockovitch [ ***-- ] not an award-winning performance. the script is okay, but lacks a little emotional depth.
the man in the white suit [ *** 1/2- ] charming, delightful to see alec guinness as a young man. it's amazing how entrenched our ideas about capitalists and capitalism have become since the cold war.
blow [ ****1/2 ] I was expecting this film to be anything but what it is. amazingly good. depp is just the best actor of his generation. highly recommended.
the people vs larry flynt [ ***-- ] oddly disjointed. the editing seemed off, the director doesn't seem to have any idea why larry flynt does what he does, and the filmmakers couldn't decide what story they were telling. but watchable.
big trouble in little china [ ***-- ] confused fun with a soundtrack that defines what people who say they hate 80s music mean when they say that. not quite a sendup, not quite straight, it's a fun couple of hours.
heavenly creatures [ ***-- ] a bit overwrought--I have a different idea of how teenage girls behave. but haunting.