Reviews

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Planet of the Apes (2001)

C | **½ | -2| Teens & Up*

Helena Bonham Carter is also convincingly simian as the chimpanzee Ari, though less so than Thade, since she has to be visibly feminine and potentially attractive to the human lead (Mark Wahlberg). But the gorillas, like Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), are as compellingly realistic as Thade, if not quite as expressive. Read More >

Dogma (1999)

F | *** | -4|

Like the creators of Dogma, I feel the need to begin with a disclaimer of my own. This review is an exercise in film criticism and commentary informed by Christian faith. It is neither an anti-Dogma activist polemic nor a pro-Dogma apologetical treatise. I come not to praise Kevin Smith, nor to bury him, but to critique his work. I will tell you what I think is good about it, and what I think is evil, and why I think the work as a whole deserves its unacceptable rating (not only from this site but also from the ). But this is a complex film, and deserves careful evaluation. Those who are only interested in one-sided spin, whether bad or good, will not find it here. Read More >

Cats and Dogs (2001)

C+ | **½ | +0| Kids & Up*

Not that I’ve anything against cats. But there’s a particular breed of cat fancier who looks down at dogs precisely for qualities like their obedience, loyalty, and desire to please, explicitly preferring the fierce independence and proud impassiveness associated with cats. I wonder whether this kind of cat appreciation isn’t often rooted in a misguided human ideal — whether such people don’t prefer cats because they themselves like the idea of being remote and independent. Read More >

The Mighty (1998)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up*

Based on the children’s book Freak The Mighty, Peter Chelsom’s less oddly named The Mighty tells the story of a remarkable friendship between two young boys, both outcasts. Max (Elden Ratliff) is dull-witted but intimidating; Kevin (Kieran Culkin) is bright but crippled by Morquio’s Syndrome. Read More >

A Mighty Wind (2003)

B- | *** | -1| Adults

Like Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind follows a number of musicians who never actually existed, but often feel as if they might have. There’s a convincing history to the Folksmen, Mitch & Mickey, and the New Main Street Singers, developed by Guest through a combination of pseudo-archival footage, interview sequences, and period album covers that folk fans might almost remember having seen in their collections. Read More >

What a Girl Wants (2003)

C+ | **½ | +0| Teens & Up

Despite these similarities, What a Girl Wants differs from The Princess Diaries in three important respects, all of which are, as far as they go, good ideas. Read More >

The Princess Diaries (2001)

C+ | **½ | -1| Kids & Up

Everyone knows going in that Hathaway’s frizzy hair, horn-rimmed glasses, pratfalls, slouch, and puckered expressions aren’t going to hold her back for long. (Indeed, it takes a formidable effort to suspend one’s disbelief and accept that they hold her back at all. Hathaway manages to be suitably awkward in the medium shots, but every closeup blows the girl’s cover by revealing her cover-girl beauty. Casting the gorgeous 20-year-old "Get Real" actress as an 15-year-old ugly duckling is about as plausible as Jennifer Lopez playing a wedding planner who can’t get a date or Drew Barrymore playing a late bloomer who’s Never Been Kissed.) Read More >

Agent Cody Banks (2003)

C- | **½ | -2| Teens & Up*

Welcome to our second annual Spring Frankie Muniz Morally Problematic Spy Kids Rip-Off Movie, featuring hilarious hijinks offending each year against a different one of the Ten Commandments. Read More >

Maid in Manhattan (2002)

C+ | **½ | -2| Adults

He’s a wealthy, unattached scion of a political dynasty; she’s a hard-working maid whose mother and workplace "sisters" discourage her from yearning for more. An updated "Cinderella" story in the Pretty Woman mold, Wayne Wang’s Maid in Manhattan (Columbia) makes agreeably diverting viewing for most of its 105-minute running time, though after the magic runs out at midnight the movie meanders through an autopilot resolution that lacks a glass slipper. Read More >

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 >

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