Open Range

I have very mixed feelings about this film. On the one hand, Kevin Costner is a terrible actor. Well, perhaps that's not fair. He has done some good sports movies, and both of his previous westerns (Silverado and Dances With Wolves) were good movies. But he was pretty bad in this one. On the other hand, Kevin Costner as a director has a very good sense of epic landscape, which is crucial for a good western. The main problem with Open Range, though, was the script. The dialogue felt really forced. Robert Duvall is a terrific actor, but he just wasn't given anything to work with. Also, the movie differed in many key ways from a typical western (**SPOILERS HERE**): the heroes are freegrazing cattlemen, rather than farmers; the gunfighter finds that he can change and is brought into polite society; the good guy draws first in the climactic shootout, which is uncomfortably brutal. It was a very slow movie. Still, it had its moments, and I don't feel like it was a waste of money.

Viewed: 8/28/2003 | Released: 8/10/2003 | Score: C

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Uptown Girls

You may be able to guess that I saw this movie because my wife wanted to. Well, I've definitely seen worse. The main problem I had with this movie, apart from it's expectedly clichéd writing, was that I just couldn't sympathize that much with Brittany Murphy's character. Plus I had a hard time looking at her without thinking how unhealthy she's looking these days. Still, Dakota Fanning is a really great actor and I'm very interested to see how her career develops. There were some quite amazing moments between she and Murphy. Not surprisingly, most of these happened where there was no speaking.

Viewed: 8/21/2003 | Released: 8/14/2003 | Score: C

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Whale Rider

There are certain stories that you can just feel the truth of. Whale Rider is one of those. The storytelling is so perfect that you forget it's a story; you feel like you are looking into the lives of real people. On the one hand, it's a glimpse into the Maori culture of New Zealand. On the other hand, it's a profound coming-of-age story. It's also a deep examination of why tradition is important, but also how it can hold us back. At times the film is heartbreaking, because Keisha Castle-Hughes' performance in the lead role is so honest, so vulnerable, so real that you forget you are seeing a performance; you see only a little girl trying so hard to be loved. Yet it is also a triumphant film, one which leaves you feeling good in the end. All I can say is, wow. What an amazing movie.

Viewed: 8/14/2003 | Released: 1/17/2003 | Score: A

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

I wasn't very excited about this movie. I saw the previews and figured it would be just another over-produced, under-talented Disney disappointment. Boy, was I wrong. A tight script, swashbuckling action, and well-written, well-acted characters made this one of the best adventure movies I've ever seen. Johnny Depp, who I always enjoy, gave a marvelously quirky performance with just the right combination of comedy and depth. Orlando Bloom was, in my opinion anyway, kind of boring and stilted, but he can hardly be blamed for the script, and besides, all the girls will love him anyway. The real surprise for me was Keira Knightley, who managed to turn the normally cliché ingenue role into one that I actually cared about. And, as usual, Geoffrey Rush was a pleasure to watch; his last line was haunting.

Viewed: 8/7/2003 | Released: 7/27/2003 | Score: A

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

By J.K. Rowling

Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I intended to stay up for perhaps another hour and read another hundred pages or so; I was about a hundred pages into it. I ended up not getting to bed until I had finished the last 700+ pages at three in the morning. It's still unmistakably a Harry Potter story, but I hesitate to call it a children's book. Darker in tone and heavier in content, Rowling is definitely allowing her work to mature. The only problem I had with the book was that it became difficult to like Harry. He became too moody and self-absorbed; in short, too much of a teenager (though I can't say I wasn't that way in my own adolescence; can any of us?). One warning and mild spoiler (in case you haven't already heard): something very sad happens in the climactic scene; prepare yourself for it.

Started: 7/27/2003 | Finished: 8/2/2003

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American Wedding

Nope. Not even a sympathy star. This movie was awful. The writing was tragically unfunny, the editing was amateurish, and the direction suffered from a serious lack of timing. The story suffered from a serious lack of continuity with the previous films and the characters devolved into mere caricatures of themselves. The few scenes that might have had the capacity to be funny were destroyed by a total lack of timing and any understanding of comedy. Shallow, stupid, and simply dreadful.

Viewed: 8/2/2003 | Released: 7/23/2003 | Score: F

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