THE ALAMO /
Perhaps the most uninteresting and overlong historical blockbuster
of our time. John Lee Hancock's retelling of the famous events that
took place at the Alamo in Texas during the 1830s lacks all sense
of motivation; his take has no grasp on substance or character development,
and instead concentrates solely on the impending notion of weapons
being drawn and blood being spilled in the dirt. Like "Master
& Commander," the testosterone level in this vehicle is
incessant enough to literally bore you into a coma.
Oliver Stone's ambitious retelling of Alexander the Great is one
of the most inconsistent and miscalculated Hollywood blockbusters
in recent memory. Lacking a clear position, it wanders through familiar
historical material -- most of it in a submissive manner -- as if
it doesn't know exactly what for. Colin Farrell, a likable actor,
is also never able to embody the essence of the title persona, and
his surrounding co-stars are so restrictive that you get the feeling
that they want to be upstaged. On a technical level, the
film is beautiful, with battle sequences that are skillfully shot...
but the screenplay doesn't care about penetrating all of the beautiful
sights. For a director as talented as Stone, this is not just a
mere fluke to be dismissed; it is literally a great tragedy in itself.
ALIEN VS. PREDATOR /
Imagine the most watered down combination of two great science fiction/horror
franchises. Now imagine a premise so unamusing and amateurish in
its conviction that you are left staring at the screen in disbelief.
Combine these things and you get "Alien vs. Predator,"
a sloppy, stupid, ugly and pointless excuse to try and revive two
seemingly-dead movie franchises for 20th Century Fox. If we're lucky,
however, next time they'll just make individual series films instead
of doing another one of these big mergers.
ANACONDAS: THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID /
Big digital snakes terrorize a group of scientists in the jungles
of Borneo (never mind the fact that the snakes are not native to
that region to begin with). According to the premise, this "Blood
Orchid" which the scientists are searching for may be a medical
"fountain of youth" (although as luck would have it, the
snakes have figured that out as well). The plot, suffice it to say,
is a big fat tool to try and drive special effects and lots of elaborate
death scenes, but the problem is that none of what the movie does
is that noteworthy or interesting. At least the first "Anaconda"
feature was fun on a purely illogical scale; this film is basically
a rehash of that one minus all the thrills (and laughs).
THE AVIATOR /
Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic is easily one of the most
stylish and detailed period endeavors we have seen in the recent
years. Starring Leonardy DiCaprio in the title role, the film chronicles
the golden element of the life of the famed billionaire -- specifically,
his descent into Hollywood, his love affairs with countless celebrities,
his love of aviation and, ultimately, his endless tug-of-war with
an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Still, though the hero fell great
distances historically, neither the movie nor the director forget
the most important aspect of his story -- he held onto his humanity
for as long as he could. The film is also priveleged to have Cate
Blanchett, whose supporting performance as actress Katharine Hepburn
is so on-the-mark and cunning that it seems less like a reinactment
and more like a full-fledged embodiment.
BEYOND THE SEA /
Kevin Spacey is ambitious in his retelling (or rather, individual
interpretation) of the life of singer/songwriter Bobby Darin. Bouncing
back and forth between drama and ambitious musical numbers, the
film's focus is a bit awkward -- one, because it follows that absurd
"This is Your Life" technique similar to "De Lovely"
from earlier in the year, and two, because the tone between straight
acting and glitsy nightclub performances seems to shift too radically,
and you never know how you are supposed to feel in the end.
THE BIG BOUNCE /
The second screen adaptation of the famed Patrick Leonard novel
is as dead as they come, an 89-minute failure that warrants little
emotion other than yawns and cringes. Stars include Owen Wilson,
Morgan Freemen, Gary Sinise and Charlie Sheen, but you get the impression
that they only showed up to work because they either owed a favor
to the studio or just for the free Hawaiian vacation.
BLADE: TRINITY /
The third (and probably final) installment into the stylish "Blade"
franchise is easily the weakest of the chapters, a shallow and underwhelming
experience that cares about nothing other than the way it looks
on the glossy surface. The character of Blade, as always, is one
of the more appealing anti-heroes of the Marvel Comics cannon, but
the movie often forgets about him entirely; instead, its focus shifts
to both a group of misfit vampire hunters as well as an establishment
of bloodsuckers who emerge as if they're reaching for pure comic
relief. The self-parody, intentional or not, simply doesn't work
in a series that has so effectively amused (and challenged) audiences
on both a visual and cerebral level. This is synthetic moviemaking
at its most disheartening.
BROKEN LIZARD'S CLUB DREAD /
This second major feature from the writing and directing team that
collectively refer to themselves as Broken Lizard is a watchable
but ultimately vapid effort in which the enthusiastic push simply
clouds the fact that none of the material is particularly funny
or amusing. The actors are likable and the characters infectious,
but the movie doesn't wrap them in substance that is worthy of our
time. There have been better movies out there that combine elements
of horror and character comedy; it is suggested you find those instead.
THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT /
A kid with a troubled childhood grows up and discovers that he can
jump through time and alter the past in order to reshape certain
outcomes in the present day. His primary goal: make a life with
his childhood sweetheart. The movie excuses the absurd premise by
placing physical and mental illness on the main character (and his
journals are used as a launching point), but the movie isn't so
ridiculous that it insults intellect; in fact, the result is quite
the opposite. Observant, quirky, intriguing and generally well-paced,
it works even when you don't expect it to.
CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS /
Documentary filmmakers invite us into the lives of a seemingly-ordinary
family and then reveal secrets that will inevitably tear holes open
in relationships and subsequently destroy the family's very foundation.
This revealing look into how a father and son were both accused
of molesting and raping several young boys in their neighborhood
in the mid-1980s is unlike any documentary you will ever see: revealing
and introspective without having to fabricate footage to support
its evidence (the sons in the same family provide us a plethora
of genuine video footage that puts us right into their crippling
A woman who is kidnapped by an angry gang of thugs gets ahold of
a damaged telephone and makes outside connection with a complete
stranger, whom she must convince that she is in trouble if there
is any hope for her (or the members of her family) to survive. Sending
this premise into hyper-gear, the movie spirals into an ambitious
frenzy of adrenaline, tension, comedy and drama and emerges as one
of the most effective blockbusters of the year. Finally, a movie
that delivers on multiple cylinders!
THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK /
Director David Twohy returns to the world of Riddick, a rebellious
hero played by Vin Diesel, in this ambitious and enthusiastic successor
to "Pitch Black." The movie's look is easily the most
visionary in science fiction we have seen since "Minority Report,"
but Twohy's restraint as a writer prevents the film from rising
beyond its post-apocalyptic formula. Still, the look is solid and
distinctive enough to make the vehicle amusing enough to recommend.
CITY OF GOD /
A film that has one unanimous praise from so many over the course
of the last several months, "City of God" is a powerful
and relentless weapon of a movie that puts its viewers into the
heart of a dying South American society and the people whose crime
sprees help inch it closer to the end every day. Shocking, bitter,
gritty and yet as realistic as they come; the movie also refuses
to drown its sorrows in the terrible reality that power is taken
(not given) at a very early age, and at one point the film allows
one of the likable characters to find a safe path out of the mayhem.
COLD MOUNTAIN /
Anthony Minghella's third major motion picture effort is basically
just a romance movie set against a war backdrop, and it works, more
or less, because it has colorful characters and lots of zealous
interaction on its side. Still, you can't help but wonder why there
have been so many people singing its praises as if it were one of
the best films ever made about the Civil War. Is the Miramax Oscar
machine simply trying to create the impression that this is a modern
day "Gone With the Wind?" Maybe. But someone should have
told them that every other civil war movie is already a "Gone
With the Wind" retread anyway.
THE COOLER /
The "Cooler" in the title refers to the guy who is so
unlucky in life that he is hired to go and stand by big winners
at casinos in hope of shifting their karma into a negative direction.
For the cooler in this case, however, bad luck isn't always going
to be around. Why? Because this particular guy, played by William
H. Macy, is falling in love, is having fun, and for the first time
ever has an outlook on life. Not so good news for his boss, played
by Alec Baldwin, who would do just about anything to keep the finances
of his casino in tip-top shape. Erase the faces and a few side details,
though, then this is basically just another run-of-the-mill Las
Vegas film that tries to emphasize the fact that it's not all glitz
and glamour behind the showgirls or the gold curtains (even though
we could have told you that without even seeing the movie in the
DAWN OF THE DEAD /
Not so much a remake of a 1970s cult following as it is a studio
version of the recent "28 Days Later," "Dawn of the
Dead" sees a town get overturn with the outbreak of a virus
that turns everyone into flesh-eating zombies. A group of the uninfected,
as a result, are required to isolate themselves in a mall in order
to stay alive long enough so help can arrive (which, of course,
is only a vague possibility given their situation). Funny, savage,
loud and ambitious, this is a movie in the spirit of genuine summer
blockbusters: movies that are exciting simply because they are dedicated
to the tension rather than trying to be too flashy in the process.
THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW /
Following a string of bid-budgeted crap, director/writer Roland
Emmerich plays it safe in his new movie by tackling a cinematic
subject where there is little room for going wrong: natural disasters.
Amazingly enough, alas, Emmerich doesn't try to have much fun with
the concept; instead, he seems to use it as fuel against impending
social concerns that global warming is a real threat to our future
as human beings. Preachy, sub-standard and overly-concerned with
its subject matter, this is a movie you attend only for the extensive
disaster scenes and then leave before you get exposed to the insulting
mess that is the conclusion.
DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY /
A team of misfits enlist in a national dodgeball championship in
order to prevent their gym from being taken over by a high-profile
competitor, not counting on the fact that the same competitors have
joined the same competition in order to prevent them from winning
and saving their gym. Starring Ben Stiller in a villainous role
that his among his funniest in recent years, the movie is lightweight
comic fluff that, shockingly enough, manages to be both amusing
and charismatic for all 92 minutes it is on-screen. How nice to
see a comedy out that lives for the moment and has a lot of fun
doing so without insulting audiences in the process.
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND /
The latest incarnation from screenwriting genius Charlie Kaufman
is actually just a charming and effective little love story that,
minus the obvious eccentric devices, echoes some of the best romantic
comedies of the past. Jim Carrey is award-worthy as a sympathetic
average guy who meets, falls for, and then ultimately loses, a quirky
girl named Clementine (Kate Winslet). The catch? These two people
are living in a reality that now allows people to erase memories
of loved ones via medical technology, and both of them opt for those
tasks in hopes that it might erase the pain. Comical, witty, observant
and infectious to a fault. One of the year's best.
If comedies were meant to be torture devices, then the makers of
"Eurotrip" have come up with something that puts everything
before it to rest. This is one of the absolute worst movies of our
time, tone-deaf, repugnant, obscene and offensive on every cylinder...
and worst of all, never once funny! The plot deals with a recent
high school graduate on his way to Germany to meet up with his pen
pal, but the movie could care less about that goal. No, this is
simply a labored excercise in extremely bad taste, and a complete
waste of one at that. Makes last year's "Boat Trip" seem
EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING /
A one-dimensional account ofthe early years of Father Merrin before
he went on to face the demon in "The Exorcist" is uninspired
by stylish and amusing in the way it thrusts the substance at an
audience. Considering that no press were allowed to screen the film
(not to mention the fact that this is the infamous SECOND cut to
an unreleased version filmed last year by Paul Schrader), the result
is amusing enough to be worth the price of a weekend matinee. Bonus
points warranted simply for the fact that the movie doesn't insult
intellect in the way that the franchise's two sequels did.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: NEW YORK /
Filmmaker James Ronald Whitney's attempt to outdo the growing zaniness
of reality television results in a sub-standard genre piece with
great ideas but no conviction. The premise, involving six sexually
attractive and uninhibited individuals as they compete for a $10,000
payoff, challenges the very nature of the reality shell, but the
results are not as stellar because the material feels rehearsed
and almost too convenient for its own good (even though a surprise
twist at the end tries to justify all of this).
THE GRUDGE /
Probably the most cheerfully-absurd horror film ever made. Starring
Sarah Michelle Gellar, the film loosely chronicles the fate of a
various group of people who wander into a cursed house and get marked
by death. Impossible to explain, hard to comprehend, the film nonetheless
houses a series of eerie sequences that are effective in the way
they create a sense of hopelessness. The climax is appalling and
inconclusive, but anyone who has the patience to sit through the
movie that long is obviously not concerned with specifics.
HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE /
Two guys doped up on pot decide to go into town and satisfy their
immense hunger at White Castle, a burger joint that gives people
large amounts of food for a small price. Along the way, however,
the guys find themselves trapped in predicaments that may or may
not interfere with them achieving their ultimate goal. Simple, off-the-wall
and sometimes funny, the movie gives its characters great intellect
but falls short by only reaching for an audience that can identify
with the pot-heads.
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN /
Hogwarts Academy gets a darker, more brooding look thanks to director
Alfonso Cuaron ("Y Tu Mama Tambien"), but like it's two
predecessors, the third "Harry Potter" film suffer from
the same fate that has continued to make this franchise absent of
genuine thrills: it lacks a plot that is engaging to both the viewers
as well as the on-screen characters. Cuaron takes special notice
to all sorts of small visual touches, but here the three heroes
of the story seem more disconnected than before, and the manner
in which the narrative plods along through detail after detail makes
one wonder if this series will ever be able to find a director who
can match the visual splendor with an equally-appealing script.
The embellished historical account of Frank Hopkins and his mixed
breed Mustang horse is an ambitious but misguided vehicle that loses
sight of what is most important very early on: character dillemma.
There are lots of chase sequences and several shootouts in the film
(many of them very well staged and photographed), but they don't
actually have an air of excitement to them because the screenplay
seems uninterested in everything it is doing. This is the kind of
film that feels like it was shot using nothing more than a skeleton
version of a screenplay, minus all the meat that could have been
added in after the idea was intact.
I, ROBOT /
Director Alex Proyas, a seeming master of the science fiction genre,
takes a sever misstep here with this in-name-only adaptation of
the famous Isaas Asimov story. Will Smith stars as a federal agent
who is suspicious about his society's dependance on machines, and
when he uncovers a crime that may or may not have directly resulted
from one of them, it sends him into an investigation that will inevitably
spiral out of control as his challengers begin to fight back --
in a dirty and sinister way. The look of the film is ambitious,
but the writing is half-hearted, and you never have the feeling
at the end that you've reached the best possible payoff.
I'M NOT SCARED /
A 10-year-old boy ventures into the Italian countryside and discoveres
a kidnapped boy imprisoned in a pit, not yet aware of the fact that
several adults around him may be conspirators in this abduction
seeking a steep ransom from the boy's parents. Like "Life is
Beautiful," this is a film in which unlikely heroes become
heroes simply because they are themselves, and the movie is brilliant
in the way it allows childhood innocence to become a pure and sweeping
force of bravery during seemingly bleak moments. One of the best
films of the year.
THE INCREDIBLES /
Just as its name implies, Pixar's latest CGI-animated endeavor is
an ambitious and exhilarating experience, easily the best of the
animated features in the Disney canon in years. Involving a family
of misfit superheroes trying to live life in suburbia, the film
reaches for social context as well as sequences of pure action and
adventure, and as a result is resonating on various levels for more
than just the kids. Supporting characters, including Frozone, a
superhero who freezes things, populate the movie but don't detract
from the plot's primary focuses, and many viewers will appreciate
the maturity of certain things, like the subtle references to the
James Bond franchise. One of the year's finest achievements.
KILL BILL, VOL. 1 /
Perhaps one of the most ambitiously successful action pictures ever
made, Quentin Tarrantino's return to the big screen yields a product
that is as perfect as one could hope. Uma Thurman stars as a woman
who is betrayed by assassins and left for dead, only to wake up
years later from a coma to seek revenge on all those who involved.
The offbeat and slick vehicle has little in the way of essential
story, but there's delicious side details along the way, and the
action interludes are so brilliantly choreographed that they literally
reinvent every genre they are referencing. Brave and bold and one
of the most exciting films you will ever see.
KILL BILL, VOL. 2 /
Just as brilliant as its predecessor, the second volume of Quentin
Tarantino's revenge caper thrives at the notion of quirkiness. This
time, however, the action is played drastically down in favor of
hard back story and character exposition, which results in an endeavor
that has a much different tone than the first film. Nonetheless,
the movie is seeped in skill, and the subtext provides great insight
into what was overlooked before. Together, these films are forever
anchored in the psyches of avid moviegoers.
KING ARTHUR /
Antoine Fuqua takes a big risk with this retelling of the famous
Camelot legend: he completely retools the concept until it seems
more like genuine history instead of fable or legend. Sorcery, wizards
and witches are erased here; in their place is a complex premise
about morals and faiths as three opposing factions do battle for
the land of Britain in a merciless relgious war. Not only fun and
exciting, but also thought-provoking and admirable in the way it
creats grand chaos concerning famous material. At least now we know
why this was called the "Dark Ages!"
One of the most liberating experiences of the year, Bill Condon's
probing study of the life and times of sexologist Alfred Kinsey
savors the concept of human behavior almost as much as it pays attention
to historical details. Liam Neeson plays the title role in a manner
that anchors a larger-than-life persona to the average human mindset,
and his characters' constant need to challenge and reshape society's
consensus on the sexual behaviors of Americans provides him with
a lot of good material. Lots of solid supporting performances also
dot the film, and it is overall well shot, conceived, directed and
finalized. One of 2004's best.
LOST IN TRANSLATION /
Two American strangers in Tokyo (one an aging actor) meet and start
up a friendship while they are isolated by their surroundings, taking
them to places (both physically and mentally) that they have seldom
been. Too bad the movie itself doesn't reach such heights--tedious
and mundane, the pacing of the movie is so sluggish that it never
has the chance to show us anything other than a collection of interaction
scenes between stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanson (several
of which are fairly bland). This is not the great film you have
been hearing about; it is a sub-par effort with very little going
for it other than the fact that its actors are likable.
Charlize Theron gives a tour-de-force performance as serial killer
Aileen Wurnos in this rather uneven biopic about her descent into
madness. In the film, Wurnos, a hooker, tries hard to create a normal
life for herself and her partner (Christina Ricci), but soon learns
that the world is not so quick to jump in and help someone like
her (even though she truly needs it). The result? She goes on a
murder spree and kills several of her clients, stealing their cars
and money in order to keep moving herself around in the Florida
area. Theron is really the saving grace of this average effort;
she disappears so effortlessly into the role that she is virtually
unrecognizable in a film that is ultimately familiar.
NATIONAL TREASURE /
One of the most deliberately silly and convoluted films of the year
is also one of the most entertaining. Nicholas Cage stars as a fortune
hunter whom, since childhood, has believed in a legend about an
ancient treasure hidden by the country's founding fathers, and now
trots the globe uncovering clues to its whereabouts. The central
conflict: the Declaration of Independence has a treasure map hidden
on the back, and they need to steel it before a competitor does.
The adventurous cat-and-mouse game that ensues is so amusing that
you lose track of the fact that the details are totally implausible.
THE POLAR EXPRESS /
Robert Zemeckis' motion-capture CGI animation holiday vehicle is
one of the biggest curiosities of 2004 cinema, a film so ambitious
on a technical scale that it seems a stark contrast compared to
the childlike simplicity of the narrative. Unfortunately, the result
creates too unpleasant a contrast; the animation is burdened by
the essence that the director is just showing off his check book
(the movie's budget is reportedly $170 million), and the story is
so routine that you've seen it done hundreds of times already in
film. Tots will find it amusing, but adults, once they see past
the facade, will find something very uneven.
THE PUNISHER /
Director Jonathan Hensleigh strips back the fundamental rules of
comic book screen adaptations and instead puts his focus on what
he is given: a basic story about a man who becomes a ruthless vigilante
after his family is executed out of revenge by a major crime lord.
The result is as raw and hard-hitting as few movies in this genre
have ever been. Thomas Jane's performance as Frank Castle is thoughtful
and concentrated, driven by his mere gaze which reveals all the
rage and the sadness of his situation without the standard emotional
breakdown, and the script he is enraptured in cares about its characters
and thinks logically about its situations without overburdening
them with high-octane action scenes. The best this genre has offered
since the original "X-Men" film.
RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE /
No better or worse than its predecessor, "Resident Evil: Apocalypse"
is a zombie movie in which the flesh-eaters seem like they have
more brain power than those who wrote the script. Milla Jovovich
is back as Alice, the survivor of the first movie, and much like
her new companions, her primary goal here is to wade through a horde
of the undead so she and a select few survivors can stay alive.
Basically the same movie as the first, except with different locations
and louder explosions. Dumb and pointless.
An aptly-titled, hardcore horror film with snuff-like undertones
that has a lot of skill on a technical level but tries to match
it with an overabundance of plot detail. The Jigsaw killer, a murderer
who specializes in creating elaborate death scenarios for his victims
to unwittingly fall into, has struck again, imprisoning a doctor
and a total stranger in a public toilet but providing them some
very sadistic means of an escape route. The movie succeeds in creating
the sense of dread that is required of any skillfull scare-fest,
but some of the narrative is so over-reaching that it doesn't leave
much of a lasting impression. Good for jumps and shocks, frustrating
for those who want to think as much as they want to be scared.
SECRET WINDOW /
The latest adaptation of a Stephen King narrative is one of the
best in recent memory, a film that has urgency and drama without
trying to overdo things a la "Dreamcatcher." Johnny Depp
steals the screen in a performance that is among his best, and the
movie does a respectable job of creating a villain that is neither
too random or too calculating. The movie lacks substantial supporting
players, but what did you expect? Any time you have Depp on screen,
everyone else pretty much becomes a blur.
SHARK TALE /
Dreamworks takes the in-joke sensibility of "Shrek" and
matches it with the production value of "Finding Nemo,"
but the result is not exactly as suitable a marriage as it should
be. It tells the story of a fish named Oscar (Will Smith), who has
visions of wealth and then accidentally attains that goal when he
takes credit for the death of a shark. The urban thrust of the film
is amusing (especially on a visual scale), but the jokes aren't
really that funny. In the end, you sense that the people who made
the picture were more interested in killing time between big projects
instead of creating something memorable in the meantime.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD /
Inspired by the zombie craze set off by "28 Days Later,"
here is a movie that takes a more humorous approach at the concept
-- by making its brainless villains slow-moving flesh eaters while
at the same time giving its core characters comic values. Several
of the situations are witty and amusing, and before its over you
find yourself admiring several of the misfit characters. On the
minus side, however, the movie is short, too brief and perhaps a
little more bloody than it needs to be.
SHREK 2 /
The most lovable ogre in all of animation returns home from his
honeymoon with Princess Fiona, only to find out that her parents,
kind and queen in a kingdom dubbed "Far Far Away," have
invited them to their lands. The result is as chaotic as it is uncomfortable
for all parties involved, as Fiona's parents struggly to cope with
the fact that their daughter has embraced her cursed transformation,
and both ogres feeling out-of-place in a world meant for human beings.
The movie is so delightful and rich in the way it plays adventure
that you smile throughout the whole experience. Is it as good as
the first "Shrek" film? Of course not. But who cares?
This is a series that isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and the
fact that the first of several inevitable sequels is this zealous
is a promising (and admirable) prospect.
STAGE BEAUTY /
Richard Eyre's savage and revealing romp through the times of Charles
II's England is one of the best films of the year. Billy Crudup
stars as a stage actor who has mastered the art of imitating women
in the theater, and Claire Daines plays his costum mistress, who
sits off to the side and absorbs his nightly trickery as if she
envies the opportunity to perform material in front of a crowd.
When the laws change, of course, she inherits the female lead in
"Othello" and he is ousted -- a factor that puts severe
strain on their relationship as each struggle with the personal
dillemma as well as try to find a common ground. The screenplay
by Jeffrey Hatcher balances all this feats with comedy, drama, and
provides it all with a deep social relevance. Absolutely hilarious
at certain intervals and tense at others, we don't see movies like
this very often anymore.
STARSKY & HUTCH /
The fifth acting collaboration between unlikely comedy partners
Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson is actually a decent undertaking. Based
on the hit 1970s television drama of the same name, the movie is
basically just a bunch of cop show cliches strung out to fill two
hours of screen time, but one that has decent characterization and
some genuinely funny moments. Some parts feel too forced and the
story doesn't really go anywhere, but if you're a fan of either
Stiller or Wilson (or the two), then this shouldn't matter that
SWIMMING POOL /
A mystery writer, seeking a change, decides to vacation in the French
countryside to seek new inspiration, and while there she meets her
publisher's rebellious French daughter and becomes very infatuated
by her sense of lifestyle (which mostly consists of boozing and
having sex with every man she picks up). The scenario essentially
gives her a new outlook on both life and work, and the resulting
effect on the audience is that they feel just as renewed as she
does after all is said and done. A beautiful, honest and impactful
movie, especially for those in the writing profession.
TAKING LIVES /
Angelina Jolie is an FBI investigator trying to uncover the identity
of a killer who assumes his victims' identies, and Ethan Hawke plays
an art dealer in town whose association with the eccentric but charming
agent makes him an inevitable target for the killer in question.
Unfortunately for the movie, the presentation of these facts is
so murky and detached that no one cares about anything that's going
on. Points are rewarded for the fact that the ending is a pleasant
surprise, but other than that? Skip this like a meal at Hannibal
TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE /
The latest bastard child of the Trey Parker/Matt Stone working partnership
is just as messy as it is inventive. Built entirely around the use
of puppets, the movie takes a stab at nearly every one involved
in the global concept of the war on terrorism -- as one critic so
put it, the movie is "an equal opportunity offender."
Unfortunately, both Parker and Stone seem more interested here in
provoking people instead of being genuinely funny in their sentiment.
The movie might have worked better if it had just been two hours
of the men standing in front of a camera flipping off every person
that they hated.
Generally mediocre actors are demanded to play dominant roles in
this routine and chaotic retelling of Homer's "The Iliad,"
in which the Greeks declare war on the nearly-unbeatable realm of
the Trojans. Once you take away specifics, however, then this is
basically the same movie that we dealt with in "Master &
Commander" and "The Alamo"--men fighting men for
the sake of stroking their own egos. The big difference, at least,
is that "Troy" looks good and has some genuine human moments.
It's just too bad it doesn't have anything beyond that.
THE VILLAGE /
M. Night Shyamalan's fourth film is a drastic step down from the
brilliance of his third, a faux thriller that is so fueled by camouflage
and manipulation, it has no resonance whatsoever once the big secrets
are revealed. As always, the director thrives at the opportunity
to pull the wool over the eyes of his audience, but this time when
he tries to pull it away, he yanks the skin off with it as well.
This isn't the kind of movie you can admire knowing full well what
is involved in the resolution; to realize the goal is to destroy
any and all possibility of thrill the story hopes to have on you.
© 2004, David