Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Favorite Movie Picks From 2005 To 2009

Every year I make a list of my favorite movies of that year, as well as the ones I thought were really horrible.  Some years I get around to writing reviews of the movies too but since 2005, I have been pretty hit and miss about doing reviews.  I thought I’d clean out my pending files because I’m pretty certain I’m never going back and writing reviews of movies I saw in 2007 so below is what I did from 2005 to 2009.  Two of the years I did some actual reviews and the other years were just my top 25 favorites and the least favorites list.  Some years I also listed the top grossing movies of the year. 
Year In Movies (2005)
Aeon Flux- This hasn’t been a very good year for movies and this one is a representative explanation about why that is the case.  This movie is based on the MTV cartoon of the same name, something that many people fondly remember from the heyday of MTV (back in the 80’s and early 90’s) and had high expectations for.  It has a good cast, a big budget and interesting premise.  The problem was all in the execution.  The script didn’t do much except recycle ideas from Logan’s Run, the action scenes were dull, the dialogue was clichéd and banal, and everything was entirely predictable.  This movie’s only success was the marketing.  The preview trailer gave everything an undeserved sense of anticipation and its’ December opening date was an implied promise of quality.  Too many movies this year had a lot of flash but minimal substance and once enough word of mouth got around, they tanked at the box office.  The movies that did work were things with an original idea, interesting characters and realistic dialogue.  I know that sounds like a “duh” statement but Hollywood has been churning out increasingly greater quantities of special effects and “blow ‘em up” movies for the last few years with a marked decline in quality.  I think some of it has been because there are only a few directors who have the talent to overcome a weak script with stylistic flourishes and creative photography.  The rest of the spectacle movies are done by hacks that have no vision or lack the skill to put it onscreen.  What needs to happen is stop making so many “big” movies, since it is clear that people will no longer come see a movie just because of the special effects.  Make the types of movies we will see.  That said, let’s take a look at what worked this year and what didn’t. 
Assault On Precinct 13- And now for something completely contradictory.  Everything I said about movies above should by rights have applied to this one.  See, this movie is a remake of something (John Carpenter’s movie of the same name) lots of people liked originally, it was done as shoot ‘em up and had a decent budget.  What made this enjoyable however, was the deft execution and a script that toyed with your expectations.  There were predictable things but not when or what you thought.  The plot is simple- bad guy is brought into a police precinct, which gets attacked by more bad guys trying to get to out the first guy.  The cops try to stop all this and not get killed.  It’s been done a thousand times before, even if you don’t count that this is a remake, yet it worked.  The director was effective and had a better than average script to start from, and it felt true.  When guns were fired, you heard the noise they made. 
Bad News Bears- Just one word for this.  Why?  It’s not a bad remake but why not just watch the original.  This version isn’t more outrageous even though the casting of Billy Bob Thornton was an implied nod to his movie Bad Santa.  Nor is it sweeter, funnier or more updated.  In fact, it is downright lethargic, a throwback to the character studies of the 70’s, which again brings up the question- why not just watch the original from the 70’s?  The only thing I really hated about this movie was the fact that it was by Richard Linklater, a guy I’ve admired for awhile.  Why did he waste his time on this and the earlier School Of Rock?  He could have done something else worthwhile, like Before Sunset which he squeezed in between those two.  After watching a movie, if I ask “Why?” then something was done wrong.
Batman Begins- A return to form for the Batman franchise.  If you are a comic book geek and I said this is the movie version of Batman: Year One, you’d be excited.  If you aren’t a geek, let me just say that this one has a new Batman (Christian Bale), a new attitude (pulp noir), and a new storyline (Batman’s origin).  Now get excited.  This movie returns the danger to the character.  Batman is a scary person and this shows how and why he became the slightly demented avenger.  It’s no parade of clownish supervillains this time.  It’s mostly normal criminals trying to kill people for financial gain and Batman doing his best to exact justice, while agonizing over the morality of what he’s doing.  Christian Bale is a really good choice- he has the dissolute charm necessary for Bruce Wayne and the psychotic edge essential to Batman.  In one interrogation scene, the menace radiating from Bale made me want to confess from my seat in the audience.  If you liked the first Batman, you’ll like this one.
Be Cool- Five reviews on this list so far, and they are all sequels/remakes.  Remember what I said about needing originality?  Sequels and remakes aren’t really the way to do that.  This one is no exception but at least it has an answer for the question “Why” and that answer is for the pleasure of watching John Travolta’s Chili character ooze cool.  In Get Shorty, Chili got into the movie business by using Mafia tactics.  Now he’s going into the music business.  He plays the various sleazy characters against each other to his benefit.  It’s a pleasure to watch the way he moves the people around like chess pieces.  It is also fun to watch Vince Vaughn as a spastic gangsta wannabe and The Rock as a sensitive bodyguard. 
Bewitched- Another remake.  Do you sense a trend here, a dearth of originality?  The plot is Hollywood clever- a movie about a movie remake of the television show.  Will Ferrell plays the washed-up actor who will play Darren in an attempt to revive his career and Nicole Kidman plays the real witch who plays the TV witch Samantha.  The plot is the best thing about the movie.  It’s not funny, not ironic, not moving and not deep.  Kidman needs to stay away from remakes because she brings a depressing sense of gravity to a genre that only really thrives from grafting a snarky, detached irony on what was originally straightforward earnestness.
Brothers Grimm- An interesting mess.  If the Grimms of Grimm’s Fairy Tales were really hucksters out for a buck and utilized European folk tales to perpetuate their various scams, this is what it would look like.  Terry Gilliam provides some interesting visuals but the film never lives up to its promise.  The fairy tales feel tacked on and not really integrated into the story, which is disorganized and confusing as well.  Heath Ledger and Matt Damon do a good job with their roles, as does everyone else actually, but for what purpose? 
Charlie & The Chocolate Factory- A major “Why” needs to be asked here.  I think the Gene Wilder original “Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory” is a classic of subversive fantasy and this does nothing to improve on that.  All it does is give Johnny Depp the opportunity to re-imagine Willy Wonka as a fey, foppish flake and Tim Burton a chance to use a bigger budget to portray the Chocolate Factory.  This was a needless movie that did nothing for me.
Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe- I never read the books as a kid but apparently the Christian overtones were fairly overt, which I got from the movie, and kid’s were reluctant heroes, which I found to be a flaw in the movie.  They were reluctant, yes, but I never bought that they were heroic.  The lead kid seemed inept at the start and then magically becomes a commanding warrior kid by the end, with no training what so ever, not even a training montage.  There were a few interesting flourishes, like the whole Mr. Tomnas subplot and Edmund’s betrayal, and I admit that Tilda Swinton as the White Witch really creeped me out but overall, I felt like I was watching a G-rated version of Lord Of The Rings.
Cinderella Man- Russell Crowe plays Depression era boxer Jim Braddock who fights in order to keep food on his family’s table, Renee Zellweggar is the long suffering wife, and Paul Giamatti  is the manager with a heart of gold.  Even if you don’t know the actual events this is based on (which I didn’t), you won’t have any problem guessing what happens.  As a press kit for the movie mentioned, this 75-year old story was the basis for a lot of the clichés  that now appear in movies so you can’t fault this movie for presenting it’s Cinderella story.  It was well directed though and does a nice job of conveying the squalor and hopelessness of the Depression and how there were still some selfish “Haves” in an era of “Have Nots”. 
Coach Carter- Basketball coach turns some screwup kids into a team who learn lessons about life through playing basketball.  Samuel Jackson is the coach.  This is based on a true story.  If you are in the mood for this type of movie, this one is worth watching.
Constantine- If you are looking for a good “Heaven Versus Hell” story with a touch of The Matrix thrown in, here’s your movie.  Based on the comic book series of the same name, this is about how John Constantine fights demons in an attempt to redeem his soul and get into heaven.  The visuals are pretty cool and if I can watch a Keanu Reeves movie and not hate it, then it must be worthwhile. 
Corpse Bride- Did you ever watch Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas and wish that it was creepier?  If so, then this movie is for you.  A schlub, played by a stop-lotion puppet, escapes an arranged marriage by marrying a corpse and living in the underworld.  Don’t ask me to elaborate.  It’s pretty good though.
Crash- An indie movie look at the issue of race and racism, featuring big name Hollywood players, like Sandra Bullock and Don Cheadle.  I like how the multiple plotlines examine different issues of race but I didn’t like the simplistic lessons of some of them.  That said, there were a few standout plotlines, like Matt Dillon’s racist cop who sexually assaults timid Terrance Howard’s wife, Sandra Bullock’s bitter, neglected wife who is robbed by Busta Rhymes, who later interacts with Terrence Howard and I must mention Don Cheadle.  His sensitive, out-upon detective is the heart of the movie.  At the end, all of these plotlines crash together following an actual car crash and there is redemption and damnation in equal measures.
Derailed- This movie fooled me once.  I thought it would be a domestic drama about infidelity which I looked forward to because of how well Clive Owen had done in Closer.  Instead, it turned out to be a con movie where Owen gets suckered out of the money he’d set aside for his sick kid’s operation.  Owen’s character makes a bunch of mis-steps but you still root for him because the villain is completely evil without an ounce of sympathy.  Jennifer Aniston is woman who leads Owen into his infidelity.  She plays effectively against type but no one saw this movie except me and my friends John and Vicky who hated it because of all the mistakes Clive Owen’s character makes.  I claim that most people would not be able to think clearly in such a situation but they still despised the movie.  I ended up liking it though, because it sprung a couple twists on me that I hadn’t expected.  Plus, I’m a sucker for con movies.  I like them all, even if this was a weaker example of the genre.  Or maybe it was a innovative example because it plays against the conventions by not being a matching of wits but rather a triumph of ignorance.  
Domino- Keira Knightley plays bounty hunter Domino Harvey.  There is nothing about that sentence that leads me to believe I would dislike this movie.  Throw in the fact that it’s directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun) and I certainly wouldn’t have expected to get an experimental, artsy drama.  Such a waste.
Doom- Based on a videogame I liked, it some how ended up being the worst movie of the year.  Imagine every cliché found in horror movies, videogame movies, action movies and movies with The Rock and you’ll understand why this movie sucks.  Let’s put it this way.  Here is a typical scene- mutant creatures are killing people on an isolated space station and the soldiers sent to stop them set up a perimeter to contain them.  One soldier leaves his post to go to the bathroom unaccompanied.  In the bathroom he thinks he hears a noise but after not seeing anything proceeds to go into a stall and set his gun down on the floor.  Yes, he knows there are mutants out there, he didn’t tell anyone he was abandoning his post and he sets his weapon on the floor.  Guess what happens?  Guess who cares?  I walked out of this movie before it was over.  I had better ways to spend my time, like sleeping.
Dukes Of Hazzard- A serviceable remake of an average television show.  I admit I watched the show all the time as a kid but at this moment I can’t think of what it was that kept me coming back.  Daisy’s Dukes?  Car chases?  The pleasure of saying “Roscoe P. Coltrane”?  Who knows.  This movie is no better or worse than what I expected.
Elizabethtown- Boy did I have high hopes for this movie.  Cameron Crowe (Say Anything, Jerry Maguire) directing, Kirsten Dunst as the love interest in an offbeat romantic comedy.  I didn’t even mind that pretty boy Orlando Bloom was in it.  The actuality of things was much different though.  It turned out to be a typical cross-roads of life type story with all the inherent clichés.  While watching it, I kept thinking that it was too soon to be remaking last year’s “Garden State”.  Luckily, Crowe is gifted enough to find resonance in such typical material.  I found some humor in Bloom’s suicide attempts in the beginning after his career falls apart spectacularly and I got misty at the end when he makes the necessary journey of discovery.  And of course, I lusted after Kirsten Dunst.  She played the damaged dream girl in the beginning after his career falls apart spectacularly and I got misty at the end when he makes the necessary journey of discovery.  And of course, I lusted after Kirsten Dunst.  She played the damaged dream girl perfectly, a character type I can’t help but to fall for every time.  This was an entertaining failure.
Family Stone- I watched this movie for one reason- Rachel McAdams.  Her character in the previews, the lovely but caustic daughter of the Stone family, captivated me.  When I actually saw the movie, my initial impression held up.  She was captivating and the rest of the movie was kind of fun.  It was good to see Sarah Jessica Parker play uptight, a change from her carefree Sex And The City character, and there was enough warmth and humor to keep things entertaining. 
Fantastic Four- Not being a huge fan of the comic book (it was maybe my 15th favorite comic), I had no expectations except a faithful and enjoyable adaptation, similar to the success of The X-Men and avoiding the lameness of The Hulk.  Oh, and lots of Jessica Alba in skimpy costumes.  I got all of that and more.  The movie did properly capture the comic’s feeling of a dysfunctional family who happen to be superheroes.  Since this comic was an early innovator and inspiration for dozens of comics to come, some of the interactions feel stale but I don’t blame them for that.  All the actors played their parts wonderfully and the action showpieces were appropriately razzle-dazzle.  I liked last year’s “The Incredibles”, deft and better clone of the Fantastic Four but I still enjoyed this one immensely.  I’m actually looking forward to the inevitable sequel (since this made $150 million). 
Fever Pitch- A stinker.  A perfectly fine book was gutted and changed to this supposed feel-good movie.  All the edge of Nick Hornby’s novel was replaced by fuzzy rom-com moments and the pacing was so slow and laggard that I felt like I was watching an entire season of baseball (replacing the soccer theme of the book and original movie).  Also, Jimmy Fallon was so inert, I felt no sympathy when Drew Barrymore dumped him.  I would have too.  The ending felt tacked on too, and not just because no one expected the Boston Red Sox to actually win the championship last year.  As a metaphor for growing up and becoming a responsible adult, giving up one’s devotion to a sports team (and the attendant season tickets) seemed too absolute.  Life is never that simplistic.  There are practical ways to balance fanciful dreams and day-to-day reality that don’t require abandoning one or the other completely.  In other words, I didn’t buy into the movie’s premise, the character’s motivations or the movie’s supposed charms.
Finding Neverland- A kind of biography about the life of J.M. Barrie, the writer of Peter Pan.  Johnny Depp plays this role with a very sweet, subtle touch and mines the pathos and sorrow of the human story, not the imagery of the author’s fantasy world.  Apparently, very difficult things happened to the author and his stories were as much an escape for him as they were for the readers.  Depp gets us to feel sympathy for Barrie without begging us to do so.  His Oscar nomination was richly deserved, although I’m not sure the same can be said for the movie.  Still, it was very moving and quite touching.
Four Brothers- This was fantastic.  John Singleton delivers a powerhouse film.  It sounds like a B-movie plot, with four multi-cultural screwed-up kids who were adopted and return as grownups to look into the recent murder of their adoptive mother.  In a sense, it is a B-movie but it is made with A-list skill.  The actors are excellent, the plot is engrossing, and the action scenes are incredible.  The neighborhood shootout rivals anything in Heat, Die Hard or The Matrix.  Nothing here feels contrived.  It is like picking up the Sunday paper and reading about what happened on a troublesome Saturday in the city.  This was one of the best movies of the year because it felt real. 
Fun With Dick & Jane- The entire time I watched this, I kept feeling like I had already seen this movie done better in Elizabethtown where it was simply one of the subplots.  Here the same themes are stretched over a longer period, done less creatively and Jim Carrey is allowed to ply his schtick for too long.  Plus, Tea Leoni is wasted in a supporting role.  I had no fun with Dick & Jane.
Guess Who- Ashton Kutcher is engaged to Bernie Mac’s daughter.  Look, the white boy is marrying the black girl.  How mindblowing.  Yeah, in 1967 when the original “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” first appeared.  Now it is being played for cheap laughs and unfunny black/white jokes.
Happy Endings- Another of those large ensemble independent movies where everyone’s lives turn out to be intertwined.  It’s a so-so example of the genre and quite downbeat.  Despite the title, there is no optimism to be found here but I was impressed by the plot featuring Tom Arnold and Maggie Gyllenhaal.  It had a sweetness lacking in the rest of the movie, although sweetness is a relative term since she sleeps with Arnold and his son in order to keep living in their house rent-free while she pursues her dream of being a singer.  Maggie also sings two lovely and despondently aching versions of Billy Joel songs.
Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire- A decent version of the book but I still recommend the book.
History Of Violence- As one review mentioned, an intriguing play on words.  It alludes to a repetition of violence throughout the years and also to a person with a propensity for violence.  This is also a bit of a pun since the story is a slowly paced drama that involves a peaceful diner owner who is mistaken for a Mafia thug who abruptly disappeared years ago.  Suddenly the small town is over-run by mob types looking for the absent wiseguy.  They focus on the diner cook and attempt to get him to reveal his true colors, to show his violent side.  When he is forced to act out in self-defense, there are massive repercussions for everyone involved.  When violence occurs in a place where previously peace had reigned, nobody wins.  History shows that violence rarely is the answer.  An excellent, slow boiling drama.
Hitch- Will Smith stars as hitch, a date doctor who helps his more romantically challenged clients find love.  An enjoyable piffle.  My only problem with the movie was that a reporter exposes Smith’s involvement with the schlubs he has for clients and suddenly Smith is personae non grata.  I don’t see how that jibes with the movie’s message- that everyone deserves love.  Why would getting professional help to be more appealing be a terrible crime?  Why would his services be rejected?  If he can help Kevin James bag a super-model girlfriend, why wouldn’t I seek him out to help me?  I would think having his success publicized would have greatly helped his business, not ruined it.  I know it was done as a deus ex machina but it spoiled some of my enjoyment for what was an otherwise enjoyable, frothy romp of a date movie.
Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy- an almost unfilmable book but this two decades too late effort makes a reasonable stab at it.  Some of the absurd humor translates well and the characters retain their appeal although I was disappointed with the understated, almost invisible Mos Def as Ford Prefect.  I always envisioned Ford as a more outgoing sort, kind of like Vince Vaughn’s character in Swingers, a self-absorbed, detached yet clever and quick thinking dude.  The clever wordplay remains as does the Everyman loser charm of the real hero, Arthur Dent.  I wish this had made more money because I would have liked to see what happens in the sequel.
Hostage- Bruce Willis as a cop out to rescue his family who are being held hostage.  Everything goes by the numbers until the ending, where I sat there thinking “Huh?  That’s the ending?  That can’t be the ending- that’s what happens in real life, not in the movies.  Where is the big resolution?”  That’s actually what salvaged the movie for me because the rest was juts so-so.
Hustle & Flow- This movie still sticks in my mind.  It’s an engrossing look at the creative process and also a captivating slice of life, assuming you are a pimp trying to cross-over to being a rap star.  I was mesmerized watching the cast try to create a hit song in the middle of their dumpy living room using a second hand equipment.  There was also the powerhouse performance of Terrence Howard as the pimp Djay.  He is alternately fierce, terrifying and gentle.  He has been pushed around his whole life and seems a bit surprised to find himself where he is in life.  Once he finds a way out, a possible redemption, he fights to succeed at what he rightly sees as his last chance.  There is one scene where you watch him force himself to go from his natural charming, friendly self into the dangerous, towering figure he needs to be in his line of work and you just are amazed at the transformation.  He inhabits the role so fully you are breathless.  After his similarly effective turns in Four Brothers and Crash, I was thrilled to see him get an Oscar nomination and I hope he wins, even though I doubt he will get it for playing a pimp, even with such a masterful performance as this one.
Ice Harvest- This is actually a drama, or even a heist movie, but it is not a comedy.  Maybe a very dark comedy, but not the light-hearted romp promised by the previews.  It’s along the lines of “Feeling Minnesota”, except with John Cusack instead of Keanu Reeves, almost always a good thing, and more intelligence in the characters, also a good thing.  The same thing John & Vicky hated about “Derailed”, I hated about this movie.  None of the characters used good sense.  They did everything wrong and bad things happened to them.
In Good Company- Topher Grace (or is it Gopher Trace?) takes a new job that makes him the boss of Dennis Quaid, a much older employee who happens to be the father of Scarlett Johansson, whom he is now secretly dating.  Of course things go badly, but in a realistic way and with actual consequences.  It is kind of sweet, a throwback of a movie.  You could imagine this in a movie from the 1950’s.
The Interpreter- Did this actually come out this year?  It feels so old and so dated.  Nicole Kidman has lost almost all of her luster by now, and the remaining bit would shortly get dusted off by her performance in Bewitched.  Sean Penn and Kidman try to stop some assassination plot at the U.N.  Is she out to stop the killing or is she the cause of it?  Who cares.
Into The Blue- This movie is about Jessica Alba in a bikini.  Yeah, there is also some nonsense about a crashed drug-running plane, lost treasure ships, and lots of sharks but really the reason to see this is Alba in the bikini.  If you care about anything other than that, then I’ll add that the movie looks great and the water scenes are stunning.
Just Friends- I was surprised that I liked this as much as I did.  It was really sweet.  Ryan Reynolds returns to his boyhood town as a success, different from the fat loser he was when he left yet he still can’t win the heart of the hot girl in high school even with his built in advantage of having been her best friend in school.  He remains just friends with her.  There are several subplots, like Anna Faris hysterically playing a Britney Spears type singer and Reynolds fighting with his younger brother, and they all add to the fun in the movie.  This one is a little different and has a nice edge to it.
Just Like Heaven- Reese Witherspoon plays a over-worked, under-romanced doctor who dies in a car crash. She comes back to haunt (to woo?) Mark Ruffalo who now lives in her apartment.  Wanna bet that it somehow works out?  I know- she’s a ghost, but still it’s a Reese Witherspoon mainstream romantic movie.  Of course it works out in the end.
Kicking & Screaming- Will Ferrell plays a soccer coach out to win the championship to show his dad, a competing coach, that he is worthwhile after all.  It should have gone a bit more zany than it did.
King Kong- If you haven’t seen this by now, you don’t have to rush to do so.  It is the epitome of a big screen movie.  Everything in here looks great on a big screen, especially the dinosaur fights with Kong and the attack by the bugs.  Nothing changes from the original story except the special effects budget which is showcased in this 3 hour spectacle.  I’m sure it is less impressive on video.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang- Where to begin with this movie, one of the most original of the year?  Robert Downey Jr. is the thief who is mistaken for an actor, Val Kilmer is the gay detective who coaches him for his role in a cop movie, and eventually they team up to find out who is trying to kill them.  The banter is hilarious, wicked, and clever and the plot is intricate, obvious yet unexpected.  This tweaked both my funny bone and my brain.  It is the directorial debut of  the writer of Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight and he retains the noir-ish, nihilistic edge of those movies.
Kung Fu Hustle- A silly kung fu farce, along the lines of Shaolin Soccer.
The Last Days- Gus Van Sant makes a dreamy, thinly veiled account of the last days of Kurt Cobain’s life.  It has the hazy, disconnected, druggy feel that you imagine characterized his final days.  It is also meandering, dull, obtuse and frustrating so you get a bit of mixed bag with this.
Layer Cake- A crime caper in the vein of Snatch and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.  It’s not as cleverly plotted as those others but it does boast one of the same producers in the director’s seat.  The biggest draw of this movie is that it features Daniel Criag in the lead role, the man who was later cast as the new James Bond.  Here he is a bit charming but also a little subdued and bland, overshadowed by some of the other more charismatic actors in the film. 
Legend Of Zorro- I was quite disappointed by this movie.  I liked the first Zorro and this was directed by the same guy, Martin Campbell, who made the best James Bond movies of the last 10 years (Golden Eye).  I think the problem was that Zorro was made as a PG movie.  Plus, you had a cute little kid, his son, as an unnecessary sidekick.  They captured the romantic tension between Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones and set up the action scenes properly but didn’t invest them with enough gravity to work.  It was too slapstick.  You had a movie about a swordfighting outlaw, yet almost no one dies here and certainly none die by his sword.  All the elements were there but they were rendered lifeless by the decision to make this a family movie.  Even more scary to me is the fact that the director’s next movie is the new Bond movie.  I hope he is allowed to hit harder in that movie otherwise it will end up as the worst Bond movie ever (Yes, even worse than A View To A Kill).
Longest Yard- Another remake.  I don’t mind remakes but I think you need to bring something new to them otherwise why bother.  In this movie, there was no answer for the audience’s why.  It was a fairly straight-forward remake.  The only why answered was on Adam Sandler’s part- to be seen as a more traditional leading man, and to make money after the failure of Little Nicky and Spanglish.
Lord Of War- A few years back, Johnny Depp did a movie called “Blow” that was an in-depth examination of the drug trade.  It was quite compelling and successful.  Lord Of War attempts to do the same thing with the gun trade.  The problem is that this doesn’t go as in-depth, throws in un-needed subplots, and isn’t as convincingly acted.
Melinda & Melinda- Woody Allen’s latest movie.  I had honestly forgotten about it until I saw the name here.  It was not bad nor good.  I actually liked the actor’s performances, like Radha Mitchell and Will Ferrell’s but the movie itself was a tad dull.
Million Dollar Baby- I admit I’m moving quickly through some of these reviews because I’m way behind but the only reason I’m not writing a lot about this film is because, first of all, it is an Academy Award winner and got tons of press which I’m sure you heard about.  Second, there are certainly plot points I shouldn’t reveal because I don’t want to take away the surprise when you see them happen.  In fact, surprise may be too mild a word.  Gut-punch would be better.  This “girl-Rocky” story is very engrossing and I would recommend it although it is trying at times.  If you don’t like movies to be anything other than mindless entertainment, then this isn’t for you.  This movie makes you think and challenges some of your pre-conceptions about life.  For once, I appreciated that in a movie even if it took me by surprise.
Mindhunters- You know how movies like Final Destination and Nightmare On Elm Street have their characters die clever, elaborately unlikely deaths?  Well, this movie does the same thing for thrillers.  The deaths are the stars, not Val Kilmer, Christian Slater, LL Cool J and Kathryn Morris.  Which is a shame, because just imagine what that cast could do with a real script.  A fun but disposable movie.
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous- I’m not sure what to say about this.  I don’t generally badmouth Sandra bullock movies but had she not been in this one, I would call it one of the worst movies this millennium.  Her personality manages to salvage some enjoyment from this dreary, unimaginative film.   
Mr & Mrs Smith- Where to begin with this movie?  I shouldn’t have had any expectations for this movie because it was by the director of Swingers- a cool comedy but not an action movie- and The Bourne Identity- a lackluster adaptation of a fantastic spy story by Robert Ludlum.  Plus, throw in the fact that Brad Pitt has never done a straight action movie that didn’t involve sandals and loincloths and that co-star Angelina Jolie has been on a major losing streak lately and you can see why I shouldn’t have anticipated this movie.  But……the preview trailer looked so cool!  So, I was there in line the weekend it opened and man was I blown away.  The action scenes were stellar, with plenty of flair and visual style and, most unexpectedly, it was really funny with an undercurrent of social commentary.  The action scenes are used as a high-concept proxy for normal domestic discord.  Instead of spouses arguing with each other by screaming and yelling, they pull and guns and try to kill each other or shoot their way out of a dodgy situation.  I loved the scene where the pair realized they had been lying to each other and instead of “needing to talk”, they demolish the house in the course of trying to settle the matter physically.  This was one of the most interesting action movies of the last few years because it was about more than just action.
Munich- When Spielberg gets serious and has an overt message, it sometimes works and sometimes flops badly.  This is one of the latter, I felt.  Notice that I didn’t say he did bad work, just unsuccessful work.  This was an acceptable movie, but it likely lost money and despite the Oscar nominations it didn’t really make an impact.  The story follows several Israeli hired assassins out to get revenge for the murder of the Israeli Olympic athletes in 1972.  They track down the terrorists responsible for the killings and take them out.  The idea of the movie seems to be about violence begetting violence and about the moral and mental righteousness of revenge versus turning the other cheek.  I did enjoy watching the progression of their abilities as they got more comfortable with their roles and then their discomfort at their success and how it turned them into targets themselves.  This is one of those movies that is sporadically very interesting but doesn’t work only because it is only interesting, not gripping.
Must Love Dogs- For someone who is not a chick, I don’t know why I get sucked into watching most of the chick flick romantic comedies that come out.  Maybe I’m using them as a vicarious form of romance or maybe I just like the promise they hold.  Comedies that are well-done are rare but one that can find their comic elements in a romantic situation as well is like the holy grail- it doesn’t happen very often.  The number of original rom-coms that are good can usually be counted on one hand.  The number that are near-misses requires a couple hands, and the ones that are wide of the mark or aren’t  even pointing in the right direction seem to turn up every weekend.  (Except around Valentine’s Day this year- for some reason the new releases seemed to all be horror movies.  Some kind of statement?)  This one had some moments of sincerity, such as John Cusack’s ill-timed but amusing honesty like the scene in the kitchen and his confession in the park about his dog, the utter loveliness of Diane Lane- like she would be single for very long, and the moment of doubt about the outcome of the movie- Dermot Mulroney seems like a great catch until you realize it’s Dermot Mulroney and he never gets the main girl, only the consolation prize girl.  When this comes on cable, I’ll watch parts of it again even though it is no bulls-eye. 
Pride & Predjudice- Yes, my hopeless fascination with chick flicks carries over to one of the most “chick-est” of flicks, a Jane Austen adaptation.  The attraction here is Keira Knightley (yummy!) and the chance to see a version of the story that doesn’t include the over-rated Colin Firth.  I loved the intelligence of the script and Keira’s delivery and I was quite moved in several parts.  I’ve heard some people say that they disliked how Donald Sutherland played his part, but since I haven’t read/adored/memorized the book, I was quite taken with how he assayed the character.  It was quite sweet, a touching indulgence that masked a slight regret and palpable distaste for conflict.  A very well-done movie that rooted the rom-com elements in a serious statement about the role of woman and their place in society.
The Producers- I didn’t watch the whole movie, but to be fair I didn’t pay for it.  I just snuck in for a few minutes while I waited for something else to start.  The parts I did see verified what I thought the movie would be- a broad farce with mediocre songs.  Nathan Lane mugged the camera at every opportunity while Matthew Broderick played coy with it.  Will Ferrell did goodness knows what to the camera although I admit his Hitler worshipper made me smile in parts, almost enough to make me wish I had seen the rest of his parts in the movie.  Everyone else I could care less about.
Red Eye- Wes Craver directed this typical thriller but since it is Wes Craven is was still worth watching.  A cute girl (Rachel McAdams, my movie crush for this year) bumps into Jack Ripner at the airport and later on the plane and, as if his name wasn’t enough of a clue, bad things happen.  Wes Craven can bring a sense of dread to using airplane bathrooms and he does so here.  He employees all of his visual style to make this potboiler hum with menace.   Very few people do “cat and mouse” as well as he does.
The Ringer- Johnny Knoxville pretends to be mentally challenged so he can win the Special Olympics.  He has a good reason to win, one too bizarre and amusing to ruin by telling you here, especially since it’s a visual gag and doesn’t translate well to print.  Suffice to say, he needs the money.  The only thing standing in his way are the other retards, who call him out for his fraud but then help him.  Naturally there is a girl in this thing, causing a moral dilemma about what he’s doing.  If this sounds s bit like a recent episode of South Park, you are thinking the same thing the screenwriter did- they ripped him off.  I don’t know if anyone stole ideas or not, but basically the South Park episode was much funnier and this movie was much sweeter.  Take your pick as to which you want.
Rumor Has It- Jennifer Aniston’s other flop this year, with this one being a romantic comedy to counterpoint the “serious acting” of Derailed.  It is a re-thinking of The Graduate, imagining what it would be like if there was a real family that was the basis for the book/movie The Graduate.  I wasn’t really knocked out by anything in this movie with the exception of Kevin Costner’s role.  He displayed more of the rough charm that he had back in earlier movies.  He played a bit of a rogue, a part that displays his talents to their best effect, who makes a move on Aniston, in addition to her mom and grandmother, but it’s not a sleazy as it sounds.  Aniston has done this type of movie before, and better.
Sahara- I won’t go into much detail about this movie, especially since I can’t speak the last name of the lead actor and don’t feel like looking it up.  The main character, Dirk Pitt, goes looking in the Egyptian desert for a missing Confederate ironclad ship bearing gold.  Yeah, that’s what I said.  Steve Zahn makes an amusing sidekick, as always, and I actually found Penelope Cruz quite appealing, finally.  It is an odd amalgam of a movie but is worth a look on cable.
Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic- basically a Sarah Silverman stand-up comedy act on film, with a few interstitial skits that elaborate on certain jokes.  The standup was moderately amusing and the skits ranged from bizarre to “No she didn’t!”  My favorite bit of all was the first skit, which analyzes her motivation for making the movie.  One gripe- the movie was too short, at least for the price I paid.
Serenity- If you haven’t seen the television show this is based on, Firefly, then go see it now.  Okay, you don’t need to have seen the show to understand the movie but I recommend the show nonetheless.  For one thing, you will realize that the description of the movie- band of space pirates who get mixed up with the Alliance when they abscond with a psychic prisoner- doesn’t do justice to the creativity you are about to witness.  Rarely in an action or sci-fi movie do I wind up quoting lines of dialogue which goes to show how well-written the thing is.  Also, for a first time director, Joss Whedon does some remarkable things with his visuals, things I hadn’t seen done before and that were really innovative.  Finally, you care about the characters here.  They come across as real people and when a character dies in this movie, you feel sad that you won’t be seeing that character anymore.
Shopgirl- Steve Martin adapts his novella for the big screen and co-stars with Claire Danes.  I found the novella a bit dry and melancholic but this adaptation is a significant improvement.  It is a sparkling gem, a sapphire actually- a deep blue, but casting off glints of light that touch the heart.  I won’t even try to describe the radiance of Claire Danes who perfectly embodies the role and makes it everything it needed to be to succeed.  This is not a romantic comedy.  This is a bittersweet ode to love.  
Sin City- What Serenity did for sci-fi and Mr & Mrs Smith did for action, Sin City does for hard-boiled detective stories.  It re-boots the genre.  It is another one of those movies that can’t be fully understood by describing it- you have to see it to understand.  It is shot in black and white, with occasional splashes of color, and to call it hard-boiled is actually under-stating its’ rawness.  The violence is over-the-top yet brutality intense.  The actors and actresses all do stellar jobs, with special accolades to Mickey Rourke for his touching thug Marv.  There are three intersecting stories, which don’t really overlap except for one moment when they are all in the same bar and you realize that this movie features Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Carla Gugina, Elijah Wood and many others, all at the top of their game and director Robert Rodriquez brings frenetic, gritty, daring edge to it all.   
Sky High- An amusing family-oriented superhero romp.  The typical misunderstood adolescent happens to be the son of superheroes yet he has no powers of his own.  How will he cope when he goes to superhero high school?  This is a fun picture, so if any of the description interests you, give it a chance and watch it.
The Squid & The Whale- A divorce drama and how it affects the kids, from the director of Kicking And Screaming (from the marvelous 1990’s movie, not the Will Ferrell vehicle from this year).  Some great performances but a so-so film.
Star Wars: Revenge Of the Sith- You have seen tons of publicity about this already so I’ll just say that it is the best of the three prequels, it is the first one of them to merit the hype, and I liked it enough to see it a couple of times.   There are several scenes that have enough resonance that they would have fit in nicely with the original trilogy.
Syriana- I haven’t really responded to any of the recent expose type movies like Traffic, Lord Of War, or Syriana.  The reason is because they are focusing more on making the point that, gasp!, there is corruption and deceit in the drug, gun and oil trade than they are on making a compelling movie.  This is not news to me and I’m not interested in watching the machinations used to “uncover” this fact.  I want to see a good story.  If it informs and educates me at the same time, that is an incidental bonus- it should not be the primary motive for a fictional piece of filmmaking.  That’s what documentaries and Steven Spielberg films are for.  That’s not to say this is a bad movie though.  It is perfectly capable and I was impressed with how George Clooney pulled off his proletariat spy role.  I actually believed he was a schlub in the spy game rather than a glamorous movie star.  The best parts of this movie though seemed to be cribbed from Clear And Present Danger.
The 40-Year Old Virgin- This movie is about….  Oh, why even bother.  It’s about exactly what it sounds like, a forty-year old who has yet to do the deed.  The trials and tribulations of said virgin and his reawakened quest for satisfaction are played for touching and comic effect.  Steven Carrell is perfect as the man-child who has given up on love and lust until his co-workers take pity on him, after their initial astonishment, and try to get him a girl.  Of course, things don’t work out quite the way everyone expects. but that just adds to the comedy.  It’s a fairly sweet film, nowhere near as crude as The Wedding Crashers but along the same lines and almost as enjoyable.  
The Island- A modern day version of Logan’s Run.  Coming from director Michael Bay, I thought it was a bit pokey but it was fun in parts, like when Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor first meet and flirt, when the cloned McGregor meets his human counterpart, the chase scene in the facility and the cockeyed optimism of McGregor before he knows the truth although we have been smirking at his sunny outlook the whole time.
Transporter 2- My review of the first movie said that it was a two part movie.  The first part was a taut crime caper with style and intelligence while the second part descended into generic action mode with lots of fighting and killing.  The sequel is a whole movie like the second part.  As a movie, it isn’t bad but based on the fact that the first half potential of first movie is again unceremoniously ignored.
Upside Of Anger- Husband leaves wife for his secretary; wife becomes bitter and angry and takes it out on everyone around.  This is not a promising premise for a movie and it is not pleasant to watch but boy is it mesmerizing.  Joan Allen is the wife and her anger is palpable.  The paint almost bubbles off the walls as she walks past.  About the only comfort she finds is when she lies on the sofa getting drunk with Kevin Costner, her slacker has-been ball-player neighbor.  I could not take my eyes of this pair- they make dysfunction engrossing.  Joan Allen never hits a false note and Costner exudes seedy charisma.  This movie barrels along on strength of some career-high, seamless acting performances.
Wallace & Gromit: Curse Of The WereRabbit- Most people who know me have gotten my screed about how Wallace & Gromit are just the greatest thing ever.  That’s what made it weird that I didn’t adore this movie- I just really liked it.  If I had never seen the three perfect Wallace & Gromit short features first, I think I would have loved this or maybe I just got tired of waiting the eight years between A Close Shave and this full-length feature.  For the record, Wallace is the clueless inventor and Gromit is his silent, long suffering and more intelligent dog.  Together, they try to stop a vegetable thief who is destroying the annual vegetable competition.  The pacing lags a bit here, but when things do kick in they match the whimsy and frenetic pace of the shorts.  I don’t care which W&G movies or shorts you see, but you must see at least one of them.
War Of The Worlds- A summer popcorn movie from Steven Spielberg that adapts the H.G. Wells book as a metaphor for war and terrorism, something he does more explicitly in Munich, his other movie this year.  Clearly he has something he wants to say about the subject.  This is the subtler of the two by virtue of it being less overt but it certainly isn’t the more restrained of the two.  Once the ground remains of the human captives are sprayed over the ground as fertilizer for the aliens’ food source, I kind of got the hint that using death and destruction as the basis of a civilization is not a good idea.  There are several nice scenes in here but also a bunch of “Why are they doing something so stupid?” moments.  Visually, it is a very grim, dark landscape that demolishes almost all hope of optimism.  The only sanctuary is found within the context of family, another point driven home repeatedly.  A very creepy movie but worth a look.
Weather Man- Nicholas Cage goes back to actually acting with this morose drama about a day in the life of a weatherman.  He takes abuse from everyone who feels it is his fault that the weather is different than he predicted, refusing to understand that it is unpredictable, just like life itself.  Naturally, unexpected things happen to him.  This is very downbeat and it is not one of those that suddenly springs a happy ending on you.  It maintains its’ winter gloom throughout.   
The Wedding Crashers- Raunchy, wild, off-beat and surprisingly sweet.  Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are cads who charm, lie and weasel their way into stranger’s weddings so that they can meet and seduce women who have let their guard down because the sentimentality of the wedding ceremony has clouded their judgment.  Everything goes swimmingly for them until Vince falls for one of his conquests.  Considering that the girl is crazy (kudos to Isla Fisher) makes things a bit complicated, as does the fact that Owen starts to fall her normal sister (the disarmingly charming Rachel McAdams) who is already engaged.  Throw in a bizarre Will Ferrell appearance and you have one strange movie.  It’s also an incredibly funny one.
Wedding Date- This wedding movie is not though.  Debra Messing hires Dermot Mulroney as her escort to her sister’s wedding.  Feelings emerge but what will the result be?  It’s kind of like Pretty Woman in reverse.  By reverse, I also mean “not good” but you already knew that when I mentioned Dermot Mulroney.  If I was a real reviewer needing a blurb for the caption, I’d say “Don’t make a date for this wedding”.
Richard’s 10 Worst Movies Of 2005
10) The Longest Yard
9)   The Bad News Bears
8)   Fever Pitch
7)   Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous
6)   Fun With Dick & Jane
5)   Dukes Of Hazzard
4)   Bewitched
3)   Aeon Flux
2)   Wedding Date
1)   Doom
Richard’s 25 Best Movies Of 2005                                       
25)  Finding Neverland
24)  Upside Of Anger
23)  Assault On Precinct 13
22)  Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
21)  Family Stone
20)  Hitch
19)  Crash
18)  King Kong
17)  Four Brothers
16)  Wallace & Gromit: Curse Of The Wererabbit
15)  40-Year Old Virgin
14)  Shopgirl
13)  History Of Violence
12)  Fantastic Four
11)  Just Friends
10)  Million Dollar Baby
9)   Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith
8)   Batman Begins
7)   Pride & Prejudice
6)   Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
5)   Mr & Mrs Smith
4)   Hustle & Flow
3)   Serenity
2)   Wedding Crashers
1)   Sin City
 Top Grossing Movies Of 2005
1 Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith  $380,270,577
2 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire  $276,908,000
3 War of the Worlds  $234,280,354
4 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the
   Witch and the Wardrobe  $224,839,000
5 The Wedding Crashers  $209,218,368
6 Charlie And the Chocolate Factory  $206,459,076
7 Batman Begins  $205,343,774
8 Madagascar  $193,202,933
9 Mr. and Mrs. Smith  $186,336,279
10 Hitch  $179,495,555
11 King Kong  $174,324,000
12 The Longest Yard  $158,119,460
13 Fantastic Four  $154,696,080
14 Chicken Little  $132,268,000
15 Robots  $128,200,012
16 The Pacifier  $113,086,868
17 The 40-Year-Old Virgin  $109,289,008
18 Walk the Line  $92,495,000
19 Flightplan  $89,036,640
20 Saw II Lions Gate $86,883,372
21 Monster-in-Law  $82,931,301
22 Are We There Yet?  $82,531,160
23 The Dukes of Hazzard  $80,270,227
24 March of the Penguins  $77,437,223
25 The Ring Two  $76,231,249
26 Constantine  $75,567,648
27 The Exorcism of Emily Rose  /  $75,072,454
28 Four Brothers  $74,494,381
29 Sin City Dimension $74,103,820
30 The Interpreter  $72,554,855
31 Guess Who  $68,777,685
32 Sahara  $68,671,925
33 Coach Carter  $67,264,877
34 Herbie: Fully Loaded  $66,023,816
35 The Amityville Horror MGM $65,233,369
36 Fun With Dick and Jane  $64,568,000
37 Sky High  $63,946,815
39 Bewitched  $62,252,415
38 Jarhead  $62,378,160
40 Cinderella Man  $61,649,911
41 Red Eye  $57,891,803
42 White Noise  $56,386,759
43 Be Cool $56,046,979
44 Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit  $55,811,560
45 Cheaper by the Dozen 2  $55,127,000
46 Crash Lions Gate $53,404,817
47 Corpse Bride  $53,359,111
48 Kicking & Screaming  $52,664,450
49 Hide and Seek  $51,100,486
50 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy  $51,085,416
The Year In Movies (2006)
American Dreamz- This is a satire that bit off more than it could chew.  It went a bit darker than necessary for a sarcastic look at a) reality television, especially American Idol, b) the isolating nature of fame, c) presidential incompetence- a barely disguised Bush clone- and, d) terrorism.  Yes, the last two imply a darker tone but then the script sends the main terrorist to live in California with a standard-issue dysfunctional Beverly Hills family so you know that it isn’t meant to serious.  Then many of the potential humorous situations of the reality genre were ignored and the potential social criticism of war, fame and power were played too light-heartedly.  So basically everything was botched- tone, plot, premise and punchlines.  Unlike Thank You for Smoking, a better satire from earlier this year, nothing was executed properly so the whole thing falls apart despite its’ honorable and amusing intentions.
BenchWarmers- I snuck into this after I was done watching American Dreamz.  I was not going to pay to see this because of my Roger Ebert Stance (see the review for Scary Movie 4) but figured I would try a few minutes of it to check out the quality of the movie.  For a Happy Madison Production (i.e. Adam Sandler’s company) it was about par.  Of course, my idea of par is a bit higher than film critics who don’t like previous Adam Sandler movies like Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, The Wedding Singer or Anger Management to say nothing of the non-Sandler productions like Joe Dirt, The Hot Chick and Dirty Work.  On the negative side, Happy Madison Productions is responsible for Little Nicky, The Animal and Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo.  If you look between the two extremes, you get a feel for this movie.  The Benchwarmers is slightly offbeat and crude but with an inate sweetness that hooks you in.  Here, the lovable dweebs play typical underdogs- a staple of a Happy Madison movie- that find a way to persevere in the end, with laughs and groans along the way.
Friends With Money- This was the first of four movies I saw today and it was a decent way to start.  This is an indie film starring Jennifer Aniston.  She’s a teacher who got tired of working with spoiled rich kids so now she works as a maid cleaning houses.  Her going rate for appears to be about $65 per house for a typical starter home (unless she lets a customer talk her down to $50.)  Needless to say, she isn’t getting rich doing this, unlike her other female friends who are either well-off or very, very well-off.  Some of them married rich and others have successful businesses of their own but all are doing better than Aniston, who hits up the local mall stores for free cosmetic samples.  Of course, those friends aren’t all happy-go-lucky.  They have money problems too, like what charity to donate to or how the addition to the house is bothering the other neighbors, as well as personal issues.  That’s the movie in a nutshell.  There are no grand revelations, no intricate plots, and almost no resolutions.  It’s a snapshot of a life in progress, with a little extra humor added in (but not enough to leaven all the drama.)  This is neither a good nor bad movie- it just is.  “The Good Girl” was a better dramedy by Aniston and the director here has done better in “Lovely & Amazing.”  After this movie, I went to Scary Movie 4.  Talk about a decline in quality.
Mission Impossible 3- Summer has officially arrived because here is the first of the big popcorn movies to come.  As convoluted as the plot was in the first movie, this one is contrastingly simple- people want to kill Tom Cruise and/or stop him from achieving his impossible mission.  The mission is either to rescue his wife before she is killed by the bad guy he is chasing after or to stop Phillip Seymour Hoffmann before he makes a sequel to Capote.  Since this is fiction, I guess it must be the first option.  Hoffman is quite convincing as the beyond ruthless villain, Cruise is acceptable as agent Ethan Hunt, and J.J Abrams (of television’s Lost, Felicity and Alias) is wonderful directing his first film.  There is no sub-text or plot development- the movie is all action, all espionage, all mindless fun and I’m perfectly okay with that.  I especially like the warehouse shoot-out (“Felicity” (Kerri Russell) kicks butt in her cameo scenes.) and the rooftop break in scenes.  I saw this with Mike and he hated it, stating that Hudson Hawk, from 1991, was better but I think he must have been drunk or really put-off by Tom Cruise.  He did say that Cruise’s ego got on his nerves so I think he was critiquing Tom Cruise rather than the movie as is because no way is a movie where the henchmen character’s are named after candy bars and the leading lady makes dolphin noises is better than the mindless non-stop excitement of Mission Impossible. 
Scary Movie 4- It has been quite a while since I’ve had a “4 movies in one day” session, however I had a three weekend in front of me, no specific plans for it and a heap of boredom weighing on me.  Yes, it was a nice Spring day so I went for a walk, and then puttered around the house a bit but I was still bored.  That is the only explanation I can come up with for going to see Scary Movie 4.  The movie hadn’t been screened for critics to review which normally means that it is awful and the studio doesn’t want the word to getting out earlier than it has to, which could hurt their box office revenue.  After enduring several of these “Not screened in time for review” movies, most recently with the beyond atrocious Ultraviolet, I decided that I would not see any more of them.  I decided to take a Roger Ebert stance.  If a movie isn’t submitted in time for review, he doesn’t review it all.  I decided that if a movie doesn’t get offered to critics in time to get reviewed, it is awful and doesn’t deserve to be watched.  If Aeon Flux didn’t convince me of that, Ultraviolet certainly did.  So you might be wondering why I ended up watching Scary Movie 4?  Because of the Uptown Theatre.  They are a theatre in DC with one huge screen and it is devoted to the biggest spectacle or most cinematic movie currently in release.  For the last two weeks, they had Scary Movie 4 showing. 
That made me think that a) It might be good after all, and b) It was worth seeing in a theatre instead of DVD.  Plus, half the reviews online at places like rottentomatos.com were positive.  I should have known better than to trust other people since people are morons but I was surprised by the Uptown’s choice because this movie was horrible.  Considering it was only 83 minutes long, it dragged on interminably.  Worst of all, it wasn’t funny since you could see the punchlines coming a mile away, assuming you’ve ever seen a spoof movie before such as  the classic Airplane, Naked Gun or Hot Shots series.  Even recent material like Date Movie or Scary Movie 2 is vastly superior.  Maybe I should institute a further addendum to the Ebert Stance- don’t see unreviewed movies, especially ones that have a Shaquille O’Neal “can’t make a free throw” scene.  After this movie, I went home to have some food then came back to see American Dreamz.  Skip back to the top to see that review then go to Benchwarmers for the fourth movie I saw, also an unreviewed movie but one that was good enough to revise my Ebert Stance.  It is now officially this- I will not pay for a movie that has not been submitted to film critics for review but I will go see it if it is free (i.e. I sneak in after the movie I paid to see) since I can always walk out if it is bad.     
The Sentinel- A friend of mine went to see this right after reading the book it is based on.  He was quite disappointed with it in comparison, which doesn’t surprise me.  Even good adaptations rarely hold up to the book if you read it right before the movie.  I purposefully avoided re-reading The Lord Of The Rings prior to seeing the trilogy.  I re-read The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy but only after seeing the movie.  I read Thank You For Smoking after seeing the movie because I hoped it did a better job of what I was expecting from the movie- mixing acerbic comedy with serious-issue drama.  For me who didn’t even know it was a book, I liked The Sentinel.  It was a standard issue espionage thriller that was somewhat predictable, especially if you’ve seen similar movies like the Shadow Conspiracy or Murder At 1600 but it was capably done and reasonably exciting.  Sometimes that is all that is necessary to entertain me- a well-crafted movie that delivers what it promises.  Romantic comedies rarely break new ground but people adore them because they like experiencing the feelings a well-made one can evoke.  Thrillers, like this, can do the same thing with the same lack of originality.
Silent Hill- I snuck into this after seeing The Sentinel because I didn’t want to pay to see it (See my Roger Ebert Stance in the review of Scary Movie 4) but the previews made it look like it might be well-made and interesting.  I only stayed for half the movie because I had to get home for something but of the part I saw, it was pretty interesting.  The production values were terrific- they created a perfect mood of dread, disease and claustrophobia that made even normal events and dialogue to drip with eeriness, which is a good thing because the plot and dialogue were ludicrous.  Every character in this movie seems to know they are in the midst of a movie that is based on a videogame because otherwise there is no reason they would act the way they did.  The main actress, Radha Mitchell, would immediately turn around once the sky went dark as she descends a creepy, wet staircase rather than getting out her lighter and continuing.  The female cop would follow her after being attacked by a bizarre creature instead of wandering around by herself.  The father of the requisite “disturbed child” who goes missing would have kept his wife from talking her daughter to the town tormenting her dreams.  And so it goes.  If you have played the game, I’m sure it all makes sense.  If you haven’t, like me, it is a little unclear what is going on- unless you’ve seen lots of scary movies and can reasonably interpolate.  It is still interesting though once you get past the fact that everyone acts like they are in a videogame and not real life.  I want to go back and see the rest of it because I haven’t seen the really cool looking special effects sequences that appear in the preview.
Stick It- This is a lovable mutt of a movie, sort of Rocky meets Mean Girls, from the writer of Bring It On (who now directs as well).  If you take the rebellious character played by Eliza Dushku in Bring It On and put her in the world of elite gymnastics, that would be this movie.  There are some of the typical teen clichés but they are used so that they can be subverted.  In fact, the characters even discuss the clichés- the very attractive bad girl (who looks like a gymnast, although she’s apparently a soccer player) tells her coach not to give her the “you can do it” speech and then goes into a litany of the typical phrases used in such a speech.  The coach is much more laconic than usual for this genre, at one point telling her that if she doesn’t want to do this, then it’s fine because if you don’t care, no one else does either.  It sounds corny as I write those words but in the movie it has a much more nihilist feel.  Also, in the end she doesn’t really win the big championship and redeem her failures from the past.  Instead, the movie gives you a moral, albeit disguised enough that some airhead teens won’t even notice it.  The moral is to do things for yourself instead of pleasing others and not let others judge your worth and ability.  Like the coach says, if you don’t care, no one else will either.  In real life, there isn’t a group of supporting characters trying to motivate you to succeed.  That’s the deeper message lying beneath the glossy, spunky and clever surface of this movie. 
Descent, The- At last, a thriller/horror movie for people who don’t like lots of gore.  Six women go spelunking and run across something bad.  What this movie does very effectively is convey the claustrophobia and isolation of being deep in a cave.  It also superbly depicts the pure spike of adrenalin that occurs in extreme situations.  There is no clever plot nor surprise twists (well, one but it makes no sense), just a sheer desperate urge for survival.  It’s not great but is worth a watch- on cable.
Little Miss Sunshine- An indie-dysfunctional family comedy.  Steve Carrell (“40-Year Old Virgin”) does a great job as straight-man for the rest of the family.  There are a lot of interesting bits in this movie but they are outweighed by the number of clichés in the script. 
Click- If you really like both “It’s A Wonderful Life” and Adam Sandler, you are gonna love this movie.  Sandler’s character is given a magic remote control that lets him control his life- fast forwarding through boring stuff, until he’s skipped past a lot of his life in a sort of “what-if” way.  When he realizes what he’s missed, he has to deal with the consequences.  Of course, there are also lots of fart jokes and crude humor since Sandler isn’t exactly Jimmy Stewart, but it is amazing how sentimental this is.  I actually misted up a few times and not all those times were because of how woefully the film under utilizes the sexy Kate Beckinsale.
Nacho Libre- From the writer of School Of Rock and the director of Napoleon Dynamite.  You know things are dodgy when that is how the movie is billed.  I wished they had switched those job descriptions because the director of School Of Rock (Richard Linklater) could probably have enlivened the dry, dull story that unfurls.  If Napoleon Dynamite was a Mexican priest who moonlights as a bad pro wrestler, then he would be Nacho Libre, here played by Jack Black.  I usually dislike Black except for rare instances when he can’t sabotage an excellent script (High Fidelity, Cable Guy) and that is the case here because the casting is all wrong.  Black is spastic and over the top and the humor here is supposed to be subtle and desert-dry so he naturally fumbles what the movie depends on.
Richard’s 10 Worst Movies Of 2006

10) Cache

9)   Night At The Museum

8)   Looking For Comedy In The Muslim World

7)   The Pink Panther

6)   John Tucker Must Die

5)   Nacho Libre

4)   Date Movie

3)   Scary Movie 4

2)   Night Watch

1)   Ultraviolet

Richard’s 25 Favorite Movies Of 2006                                      

25)  X-Men 3: The Final Stand

24)  Match Point

23)  Brokeback Mountain

22)  The Departed

21)  Mission Impossible 3

20)  Stick It

19)  Apocalypto

18)  Infamous

17)  Marie Antoinette

16)  Tenacious D: The Pick Of Destiny

15)  Matador

14)  Blood Diamond

13)  Rocky Balboa

12)  Inside Man

11)  Pursuit Of Happyness

10)  Running Scared

9)   Walk The Line

8)   Thank You For Smoking

7)   16 Blocks

6)   The Illusionist

5)   Wordplay

4)   Borat

3)   The Devil Wears Prada

2)   Marilyn Hotchkiss’s Ballroom Dancing School

1)   Casino Royale

Richard’s 10 Worst Movies Of 2007

10) Dan In Real Life

9)   Lucky You

8)   Hitman

7)   Transformers

6)   Evan Almighty

5)   License To Wed

4)   Shrek 3

3)   30 Days Of Night

2)   Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem

1)   Rush Hour 3

Richard’s 25 Favorite Movies Of 2007                                      

25)  Venus

24)  Black Book

23)  Breach

22)  Zodiac

21)  Gone Baby Gone

20)  Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer

19)  Into The Wild

18)  La Vie En Rose

17)  Letters From Iwo Jima

16)  Superbad

15)  Black Snake Moan

14)  Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead

13)  The Simpsons Movie

12)  Shooter

11)  Lars & the Real Girl

10)  Knocked Up

9)   The Kingdom

8)   Little Children

7)   Waitress

6)   Talk To Me

5)   Live Free Or Die Hard

4)   Bourne Ultimatum

3)   Hot Fuzz

2)   Juno

1)   No Country For Old Men


Richard’s 25 Favorite Movies Of 2008                                      

25)  The Happening

24)  In Bruges

23)  Synedoche, New York

22)  Definitely, Maybe

21)  Swing Vote

20)  Hamlet 2

19)  Jumper

18)  Appaloosa

17)  Vantage Point

16)  Get Smart

15)  Rachel Getting Married

14)  Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

13)  Role Models

12)  Baby Mama

11)  Mama Mia

10)  Forgetting Sarah Marshall

9)   Quantum Of Solace

8)   Slumdog Millionaire

7)   Tell No One

6)   Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

5)   Wall-E

4)   Dark Knight

3)   Sex & the City

2)   Tropic Thunder

1)   Iron Man

Richard’s 10 Worst Movies Of 2008

10) Wanted

9)  The Spirit

8)  Bank Job

7)  Four Christmases

6)  Burn After Reading

5)  Transporter 3

4)  Made Of Honor

3)  Harold & Kumar Escape Quantanamo

2)  You Don’t Mess With The Zohan

1)  Max Payne

Top Grossing Movies Of 2008

Movie Title
Total Gross
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Kung Fu Panda
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Quantum of Solace
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!
Sex and the City
Mamma Mia!
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
The Incredible Hulk
Marley and Me
Get Smart
Four Christmases
Tropic Thunder
Bedtime Stories
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Eagle Eye
Step Brothers
You Don't Mess with the Zohan
10,000 B.C.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Yes Man
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Pineapple Express
What Happens in Vegas
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
Gran Torino
27 Dresses
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Vantage Point
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Fool's Gold
Seven Pounds
Role Models
Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour
The Happening
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Baby Mama


Richard’s 5 Worst Movies Of 2009

5)  I Love You Man

4)  Paul Blart: Mall Cop

3)  G.I. Joe

2)  Bruno

1)  Transformers 2

Richard’s 20 Favorite Movies Of 2009                                      

20)  The Proposal

19)  The Blind Side

18)  Julie & Julia

17)  The Hangover

16)  The Informant

15)  The Reader

14)  Inglourious Basterds

13)  Brothers Bloom

12)  District 9

11)  Gran Torino

10)  The Hurt Locker

9)   The Men Who Stare At Goats

8)   Zombieland

7)   Star Trek

6)   Taken

5)   Watchmen

4)   Terminator: Salvation

3)   It Might Get Loud

2)   The Wrestler

1)   (500) Days Of Summer





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