Reviews

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Tears of the Sun (2003)

C | **½ | +2-2| Adults

Tears of the Sun (Columbia) presents a picture of American military presence abroad that is simultaneously appealing and troubling: superheroic Navy SEALs going about doing good, rescuing refugees, battling evil ethnic-cleansing rebels, and earning the gratitude and goodwill of indigenous peoples, all in defiance of their orders and American foreign policy. Read More >

Moonlight Mile (2002)

B | *** | +1-1| Adults

This might seem an odd way to put it, but writer-director Brad Silberling’s Moonlight Mile could be thought of as a kind of backwards mirror-image of writer-star Nia Vardalos’s indie hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Read More >

The Quiet American (2002)

C+ | *** | -2| Adults*

If Greene is no longer interested in subjecting his protagonist’s guilt to judgment, he’s not interested in rationalizing it either. It’s simply a fact in a morally and emotionally complex story of two very different but flawed Westerners living in 1950s Vietnam in the last days of French colonialism and the dawn of Vietnamese Communism. Read More >

The Jungle Book 2 (2003)

C | ** | +1| Kids & Up

The voices are different, but the story is the same. Read More >

Daredevil (2003)

C+ | **½ | -2| Adults*

Ultimately, Daredevil works best as a triumph of screenwriting redaction and well-utilized effects over weak characterization and generally uninspired casting. As super-hero movies go, I rank it below Spider-Man, but above any of the films in the Batman franchise. Read More >

How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days (2003)

D+ | | -2| Adults

Now, the top of the Empire State Building is a lofty destination, an end in itself. By contrast, a bridge is only for going from one place and another. Like all of New York’s major river crossings, the Manhattan Bridge is undeniably a marvel of modern engineering; but for romance and evocative appeal, the Empire State Building surely has the edge by a considerable margin. Read More >

Chicago (2002)

C | *** | -2| Adults*

(Co-written with Emily Snyder) Like Moulin Rouge!, Chicago involves sordid goings-on in a rather seamy milieu; but where the earlier film tried to contrast its dissolute ambiance with heart-warming sincerity and idealism, Chicago is cynical to the core. Read More >

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

B | *** | +1-2| Adults

Then, after three days of rehearsals, I thought it would be fun to actually graduate. Read More >

Ice Age (2002)

B+ | *** | +1| Kids & Up*

The lion’s share of the credit for Ice Age goes to the sloth. Read More >

The Recruit (2003)

B- | *** | -2| Adults

Of course we don’t really know a whole lot about the CIA, but The Recruit has fun guessing. Directed by Roger Donaldson, who’s helmed the superior thrillers No Way Out (1987) and Thirteen Days as well as action schlock like Species and Dante’s Peak, The Recruit takes us into the Farm, thought to be the name of the CIA’s top-secret training facility, as well as the agency’s Langley, VA headquarters. Read More >

Kangaroo Jack (2003)

D- | * | -3| Teens & Up*

Though, what with jokes alluding to homosexuality and masturbation, a sequence with a man and a woman in their underthings bathing together and smooching under a waterfall (which one describes as "the most sensual, romantic moment of my entire life"), some fairly rough mobster violence, and odd talk about "testicles falling off" and "crazy-ass white boys," it’s not exactly family fare. Read More >

The Hours (2002)

F | ***½ | -4|

Still others face demons of a yet more personal and internal sort — addiction, self-destructive behavior, disordered appetites. And then there are those unhappy individuals who seem to carry suffering itself within their very psyche — those with clinical depression and other forms of mental illness. Read More >

Half Past Dead (2002)

F | * | -3| Adults*

Segal and Rule play convicts sent to Alcatraz by an FBI agent (Claudia Christian) following a chop-shop raid. For no plot-related reason at all, Segal is caught in crossfire during the raid and flatlines for what we are later told is 22 minutes, though it seems mere seconds at the time. Read More >

Solaris (2002)

D | *** | -3| Adults

This year’s Solaris from writer-director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich is part of an ongoing trend toward science fiction aspiring to the tradition of 2001. Not long ago, science fiction had become a wasteland of forgettable, mindless action flicks. The year 2000, for example, gave us Red Planet, Battlefield Earth, The 6th Day, Hollow Man, Pitch Black, and Supernova (as well as Mission to Mars, which didn’t fit the mindless-action pattern but managed to be lame anyway). Even the previous year’s The Matrix was notable primarily for its kinetic impact and craft; the story, though clever, was long on allusions and short on genuine resonance. Read More >

K-PAX (2001)

D | ** | -3| Teens & Up*

Prot pulls off these party tricks quite convincingly. Yet get him started on his theories about mankind, family, society, and the like, and the spell is broken: He’s clearly delusional. Not that I’m saying anything about the truth or falsehood of his claims. Prot may very well be an alien. That doesn’t mean he isn’t delusional. Read More >

Nurse Betty (2000)

D- | *** | -3| Adults*

In the end, how you feel about Nurse Betty will in good part depend, I suppose, upon whom you agree with, Charlie or Wesley. If you find Betty as enchanting and remarkable as Charlie does, then you may be relieved and happy when her troubles are over and she is at last able to realize her dreams. On the other hand, if like Wesley you regard her as ridiculous and pathetic, then you will find this movie a contemptuously hateful tale of cruelty and delusion, devoid of any spark of sympathy or compassion. Read More >

Adaptation (2002)

D | **½ | -3| Adults*

Formally, Adaptation resembles the sort of essay a clever student will sometimes pull together by taking the assigned topic as a point of departure for a composition of his own choosing, knowing that it will stand out for originality amid monotonous submissions and win points for daring and wit from a bored teacher appreciative of any show of interest. Read More >

The Four Feathers (2002)

C | **½ | -2| Adults

Monte Cristo is also the only one of the three that knows it’s essentially a comic-book movie, and has appropriately modest aspirations. Like Road to Perdition, The Four Feathers feels like a weighty epic, though neither movie weighs in at more than about two hours, and neither really knows what it’s about. Read More >

Extreme Ops (2002)

D- | * | -2| Adults

Extreme Ops (Paramount) looks an awful lot like one of those supercharged sports-themed TV commercials, with its glossy footage of daredevil athletes snowboarding down sheer ice walls, skateboarding atop trains, and throwing themselves off precipices. In fact, given that few other situations call for such extreme antics, the movie is actually about the making of a sports-themed TV commercial. Read More >

I Spy (2002)

C+ | **½ | -2| Adults

Wilson, a capable comic force in his own right, gets laughs too, but for the most part he’s content to play the laid-back straight man setting up Murphy’s punchlines. There’s an early scene in which, discussing their working relationship, Wilson uses a Harlem Globetrotters analogy to argue that he, the professional spy, should be team leader Meadowlark Lemon, and Murphy, a boxing champ, should be Fred "Curly" Neal, Meadowlark’s sidekick. Murphy, of course, ridicules this suggestion; and, whatever the ultimate relationship of their characters, which of the actors is Meadowlark and which is Curly is never in dispute. Read More >

Tuck Everlasting (2002)

B | *** | +2| Kids & Up*

The story, originally set in 1880 but moved to 1914 for the movie, concerns a sheltered young girl from a well-to-do family who is called "Winifred" by her overprotective parents and grandmother, and might be called "Winnie" by her friends if she had any. Winnie (Alexis Bledel of TV’s "Gilmore Girls") is so timid that when she decides to run away from home, she heads for the family-owned woods adjacent to her house, never actually setting foot off her parents’ property. Read More >

Spirited Away (2001)

A- | **** | -2| Teens & Up*

Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is a work of pagan imagination. So are the works of Homer and Sophocles. In all these works there is much for Christian audiences to take exception with as Christians, but also much to marvel at as audiences. Read More >

Amélie (2001)

B- | ***½ | -2| Adults*

Like the similarly acclaimed Moulin Rouge!, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie is a whimsical, hyperactive, self-aware, lavishly overdesigned fantasy-romance, set in a retro, fairy-tale Paris, about a tender young idealist who falls in love with a sex-industry employee — but there the similarities end. Read More >

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

C+ | **½ | +1-1| Adults

Unfortunately, these novel elements are tied to a human conflict between two antagonistic captains (Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson) that is not only hackneyed and uninvolving, but morally simplistic and finally flat-out insulting. It’s hard to be unmoved by what the men of the K-19 go through, but it’s equally hard to overlook the glaring flaws in the human drama — especially when the latter is directly related to the former. As an exercise in logistics and adversity, K-19 is compelling, but as a story about human decisions and moral issues, it’s full of holes and clichés. Read More >

Men in Black II (2002)

C- | ** | +0| Teens & Up

Beyond more action and bigger effects, the sequel brings nothing new to the table. You’ll wait in vain for satirical "revelations" about the presence of aliens among us to match the wit of the jokes in the original about cab drivers or the World’s Fair. Instead, we get limp gags like the one about the Post Office being staffed by aliens. (Why? Is it a joke about postal efficiency? The "going postal" stereotype? The fact that they make rounds? What?) Read More >

Stuart Little 2 (2002)

B+ | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up

Remarkably, Stuart Little 2 manages to be both more satisfying for adults and more kid-friendly than the original. Older viewers will appreciate the sequel’s stronger story and witty script; and even little kids who might have found the original film’s menacing Central Park gangster cats too intense may be able to watch this film’s villainous falcon without fear of bad dreams. Read More >

American Beauty (1999)

F | ***½ | -3|

Some movies have a moral. I say that as a mere statement of fact, with no implication that either having or not having a moral necessarily makes a movie better or worse. Some movies have a moral; American Beauty - and this is also a mere observation, not a value judgment - has an aesthetic. Read More >

Dragonfly (2002)

C- | **½ | -2| Teens & Up*

Dragonfly is a ghost story of sorts, but it isn’t a horror film (though it occasionally thinks it is). The ghost seems to be the late wife of Dr. Joe Darrow (Kevin Costner); and who would be frightened of his own best beloved, even if she happened to be a ghost? Read More >

Lilo & Stitch (2002)

B+ | ***½ | +1| Kids & Up*

Lilo & Stitch is a unique imaginative achievement that succeeds in its own right, without laying down any kind of template for future films to follow. Attempts to repeat its success, to make it into a formula, would be a dismal failure, unless perhaps the formula were to be "Give the creative people room to try something new and let them work without a safety net." What a concept. Read More >

Minority Report (2002)

A | **** | +1| Adults

Spielberg has always known how to manipulate an audience’s emotions, a knack he makes effective use of here. Humor alternates with squirming discomfort and emotional release as the director pokes fun of Cruise’s sex-symbol status in a couple of funny incidents, then leaves us wincing with a number of scenes involving eyeballs, or a character fumbling blindly for the one edible sandwich in a squalid refrigerator. Read More >

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