In Good Company
Some of you who go to see this film may be a little surprised to find a little more substance than you were expecting. But then again, you could say similar things about writer-director Paul Weitz's last project, About a Boy. The trailers for In Good Company make it look like either a light-hearted romantic drama or a somewhat serious romantic comedy. Either way, you expect the movie to be mainly about the romance between Topher Grace and Scarlett Johansson's characters. Really, though, the movie is about Topher Grace's character taking on Dennis Quaid's character as a father figure and becoming an adult in the process. Overall, the picture is pretty good, with the only real flaws centering around Johansson. She's not a particularly great actor to begin with and her role was rather underwritten to boot. But since the movie focuses so much more closely on Quaid and Grace--who were, in my opinion, perfectly cast--these are forgivable flaws.
Viewed: 1/15/2005 | Released: 12/5/2006 | Score: B
Despite the fact that The Aviator has a very good chance of winning Best Picture this year, I didn't think it was that great. It's not the fact that the film changed some of the historical facts. Not only should that be expected from a Hollywood biopic, but it makes for a better, more cohesive story. I didn't have a real problem with the acting. True, Kate Beckinsale still lacked any personality and I found Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Katharine Hepburn a little stilted, but I'm finally starting to respect Leonardo DiCaprio as an actor. I might even think he deserves a Best Actor nomination (the win obviously going to Jamie Foxx). No, the real problem with this movie is that it's so long. Any film would feel long at 170 minutes, but long stretches of The Aviator limp by with almost nothing happening. This is not to say that the movie didn't have it's moments, but so much time passed between those moments that it got kind of boring.
Viewed: 1/8/2005 | Released: 12/13/2004 | Score: C
With all the buzz about this movie, I felt I had to see it before the Academy Awards. Still, I'd heard enough personal reviews that I wasn't expecting real greatness. Sure enough, Sideways didn't live up to the hype. The film follows two friends, Miles and Jack--played by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, respectively--through a week-long wine-tasting trip leading up to Jack's wedding. The characters were interesting and the principal actors all did a good job--though I don't think the role was that much of a departure from Giamatti's previous work--but I just didn't find any real profundity in the story. Moreover, all of the wine talk kind of turned me off, even while simultaneously being interesting to me. Now, people who know me know that I like wine. I even like talking about wine. But in Sideways it just made me feel like the filmmakers were pretentious. Still, the wine provides the background and sets the tone for the whole film; it wouldn't have been the same story without it.
Viewed: 1/7/2005 | Released: 10/11/2004 | Score: B
The Da Vinci Code
By Dan Brown
I'm sure by now that everyone has either read this book or been told about it by a friend. But if you're reading this review, I guess you want my opinion. So here it is: If you're into fast-paced books about conspiracies and secret societies with lots of action, and you don't much care about good writing or the Christian religion getting trashed then you'd probably enjoy this book. On the other hand, if you prefer your novels to be written by someone with a good narrative voice and strong characterization, or if you find overly sensationalist books distasteful, you may want to avoid this one. If you do decide to read The Da Vinci Code, though, just keep in mind that it's a work of fiction.
Started: 1/1/2005 | Finished: 1/5/2005
Meet the Fockers
I hated Meet the Parents. You see, there's a certain style of humor involving humiliation that makes me physically uncomfortable that, unfortunately, is a big part of many comedy films and most sitcoms. For example, just about every scene in Friends that centers on Ross. I call that "the part of the show that I can't watch." When it starts, I know immediately, and I avert my eyes and start squirming in my seat. I usually have to leave the room. This meant that more or less the entire 108 minutes of Meet the Parents was completely unwatchable for me. I expected Meet the Fockers to be much the same, but Juliette wanted to see it so badly that I saw it anyway. And you know what? With one glaring exception, the movie was quite watchable. In fact, I found a lot of it hilarious. Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand were perfect as Ben Stiller's uninhibited parents. Sure, much of what they did would have embarrassed me horribly, but they were so well-meaning that it didn't really bother me. Additionally, they provided a much-needed contrast to Robert De Niro's character. In the first movie, De Niro's ex-CIA father figure is contrasted with Ben Stiller's Greg Focker, making Stiller look even more bumbling than he would on his own. Here, the Fockers make De Niro's Jack Byrnes look much less sympathetic. All of that added up to a movie that I was actually able to laugh at instead of running away screaming in agony.
Viewed: 1/2/2005 | Released: 12/15/2004 | Score: B
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Life Aquatic may be the Wes Anderson film that I liked most on the first viewing. It took me a couple of tries to warm up to Rushmore, and although I liked The Royal Tenenbaums immediately, I didn't laugh out loud until the second time I saw it. Something about this one, though, really worked for me. Maybe it was the whole campy documentary thing. Maybe it was Bill Murray. Maybe it was the Portuguese David Bowie songs. I don't really know. Whatever it was, I loved it.
Viewed: 1/1/2005 | Released: 11/19/2004 | Score: A