The Big Bounce

What an amazing disappointment. To begin with, Sara Foster, who played the female lead, was utterly lifeless on the screen. She really brought nothing apart from her looks, and, frankly, it wasn't enough. But that was hardly surprising. The sad thing was that the presence of people like Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Sinise was not enough to save this film. Sure, they had some good moments, but the problem with this movie is the script; it's just boring. Hopefully Starsky and Hutch will be funnier.

Viewed: 1/30/2004 | Released: 1/28/2004 | Score: D

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Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!

I saw this one for the same reason most men will: my wife wanted to see it. I expected Bye Bye, Birdie warmed over for this decade, minus the music. Actually, the film quite exceeded expectations. Topher Grace is pretty typecast these days, but only because he does that geeky boy-next-door thing so well. Yes, the film is the same romantic comedy you've seen so many times before, but the makers were overtly conscious of the genre, poking fun at it in ways that I appreciated. For many of you it will be a date movie, and it serves it's purpose as such.

Viewed: 1/29/2004 | Released: 1/22/2004 | Score: C

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The Last Samurai

Despite its many flaws, this movie inexplicably kept a lump in my throat for a surprising amount of time. Tom Cruise gives a typically self-indulgent performance, and the film has little in the way of historical accuracy. But there's something about the tranquility of the Japanese landscape and culture combined with the inexorable approach of the future that really resonates with me. The critics have all been raving about Ken Watanabe, who played the role of Katsumoto, and he was good, but many of the other Japanese actors also really impressed me. Masato Harada played Katsumoto's nemesis, Omura, extremely well, and Shin Koyamada's portrayal of Katsumoto's samurai son was amazing. But the performance that really left me breathless was Koyuki, as Katsumoto's widowed sister-in-law, Taka. She pulled off an amazingly subtle and rich performance as a young mother as well as the love interest, and, surprisingly, the script never cheapens her relationship with Cruise's Algren.

Viewed: 1/10/2004 | Released: 11/30/2003 | Score: B

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By Neil Gaiman

Before I picked up this book, I had liked everything I had ever read by Neil Gaiman. Now that I have finished it, I still do. Neverwhere held flavors of Dark City and The Wizard of Oz for me, and the fact that I've been to London (admittedly only for a very short time) only heightened the sense of magic about Gaiman's London Below.

Started: 12/29/2003 | Finished: 1/2/2004

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Cold Mountain

Americans are, as a society, quite fascinated by the Civil War. It is one of the pivotal moments in our history. It is the most studied American war. This movie brings you into that time, wraps you in its world. It's something of an American Odyssey, as we follow the journey of a deserter named Inman (played by Jude Law) as he makes his way home. The first thing that struck me about this film is the incredible landscape in which it takes place. The juxtaposition between the savage, dirty battlefields and the near-pristine forests of 1860's North Carolina is awesome. Add to that the lonely sound of a bluegrass fiddle and it makes for a haunting scenario. The performances quite lived up to the setting, as well. Of course, I always like Jude Law, and Nicole Kidman was alright, but the one who really surprised me was Natalie Portman. Portman is usually such a flat, boring actress to watch, but she managed to pull out quite an impressive performance as a young Southern widow in this film. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Renée Zellweger provided a great counterpoint to the generally solemn tone with some truly hilarious moments (although I found Zellweger to be a bit inappropriately spunky at times). I will be quite amazed if this film doesn't manage to garner several Academy Award nominations.

Viewed: 1/2/2004 | Released: 12/24/2003 | Score: A

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Big Fish

I wouldn't say that this movie was perfect, but I would say that I liked pretty much everything about it. We are given the life of Edward Bloom through the stories that he told his son, so the movie, like the stories, has to be bigger than life. And it is. Tim Burton was the perfect director for this story. Another director might have given us too much or too little, but Burton has this amazing sense of the fantastic (you can see it in all of his films) that was just right for this movie. He gives us the world as a child sees it: full of magic, color, and wonder, but also darkness and danger. And if the acting in the story sequences is a little over the top, it still fits in because that's how a young boy would have seen it in his head. Of course, I always like Ewan McGregor, but I really enjoyed Billy Crudup's portrayal of a man struggling to come to terms with his relationship with his father. I think for all of us there was a point when we realized that our parents (or grandparents or other real-life heroes) were not God, and Big Fish is about this revelation, and what comes after.

Viewed: 12/31/2003 | Released: 12/9/2003 | Score: A

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