The Fountain

The trailers had me expecting a more straightforward science fiction premise, but considering that writer-director Darren Aronofsky's previous films included Pi and Requiem for a Dream, perhaps I should have known better. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about The Fountain. On the one hand, the artistry of it was quite obvious to me. If nothing else, the visual style was really interesting. The leads--Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz--were also very good. (I didn't used to like Jackman much but this movie and The Prestige have done a lot to change my mind.) I also liked the story, which I think was largely Aronofsky's reflection on mortality. Still, I don't know if I loved it. It was a little pretentious and I haven't yet made up my mind on whether I think it succeeded on being as profound as it intended to be. I also can't figure out whether or not I think it was depressing. I'm interested in discussing it, though, so if you're at all into artsy, somewhat gloomy movies check it out for yourself and drop me a line (or start a thread in the forum) and let me know what your impressions were.

Viewed: 11/23/2006 | Released: 11/21/2006 | Score: B

IMDb Page | Purchase from Amazon

A Good Year

My one-word summary: boring. Not because it was a "chick flick"--I like all kinds of movies as long as they are done well. Besides, Juliette agreed with me. There just wasn't anything compelling about this movie--not the story, the acting, the setting. Nothing. The whole thing just seemed forced and mediocre. Like so many other movies of this genre, the plot centers around a career-driven asshole who has to realize that money and success aren't as important as love and family and what have you. We've all seen this story before but that's fine because we don't come to movies like this for originality. The problem with this iteration is that the protagonist's transformation really wasn't believable. The mechanism for change involved him rediscovering childhood memories, but it almost seems like the guy would have had to have had some sort of amnesia-inducing head trauma to forget the stuff he forgot--and, of course, that wasn't the case. It's too bad, too, because I've generally had a very high regard for both Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott. Hopefully their next projects will be more worthwhile.

Viewed: 11/18/2006 | Released: 11/9/2006 | Score: D

IMDb Page | Purchase from Amazon

Flags of Our Fathers

I'm still not sure why I'm quite so fascinated by World War II but, be that as it may, I'm the sort of guy that will like just about any movie in that setting. Still, this one was only so-so. It didn't do much for me that other movies or shows hadn't already done better. What I did like about it wasn't so much the story as the framing--the book that the film is based on is the product of a man's attempt to learn about his father's life. That's a subject that's been resonating with me lately and on that level the movie worked really well for me. It's not really the focus of the film, though, so I'd say that unless you're a diehard Eastwood fan or war buff you can probably safely skip this one.

Viewed: 11/11/2006 | Released: 10/19/2006 | Score: B

IMDb Page | Purchase from Amazon

Stranger Than Fiction

Most everyone who I've heard talking about this movie has been talking about how surprised they were by Will Ferrell. Honestly, he did do a good job. Not only did he manage to rein in his shrill, needy tendencies but he actually managed to imbue his performance with a sort of quiet, noble dignity. Still, he wasn't really what made the movie. Neither were Emma Thompson or Dustin Hoffman, though they were, unsurprisingly, excellent. No, the shocking thing is that what I really loved about this movie was the voiceovers. Normally I'm not a big fan of voiceovers, but Stranger Than Fiction is one movie that used them perfectly. Of course, it wouldn't have worked had the writing not been up to snuff but, fortunately, the monologues had this wonderful lyrical quality to them that I kept wanting to hear more of.

Viewed: 11/10/2006 | Released: 11/9/2006 | Score: B

IMDb Page | Purchase from Amazon

The Departed

To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio that I've loved. Sure, he's come a long way since Titanic (which, to this day, has always baffled me as to how anyone could like it), but even his more recent critical successes like Catch Me If You Can and The Aviator were only OK for me. So when I say that I loved this movie and, moreover, that I loved him in it, well, that should tell you something. This was definitely the best crime thriller I've seen in a long time. The acting was superb across the board. Heck, even Mark Wahlberg was great. No, really. He was. And as for the story, well, you have here a movie about an Irish Mafia gang and the Massachussetts State Police, each with a mole in the other's organization who needs to figure out who his opposite is without being found out himself. Does that sound intense to you? Well, it is. I had only two complaints with this movie, both about the writing. First, the ending was more than a little abrupt. Second, a somewhat minor plot point failed to get resolved. Those two things, though, were not enough to make me not love this movie and I suspect that while this one will not be the one to end Scorsese's losing streak at the Oscars it has a very strong possibility of adding another title to his list of nominations.

Viewed: 11/9/2006 | Released: 10/5/2006 | Score: A

IMDb Page

Running with Scissors

I seem to be in quite the lazy streak lately. In fact, I'm not even sure this movie is still playing. On the off chance that it is and you're thinking about seeing it, I should warn you that it's not quite what the previews make it out to be. On my way in, I was expecting an absurd sort of comedy in the vein of The Royal Tenenbaums. It might have been just that except for one thing: it's based on a memoir. A lot of scenes that might have been funny were instead made kind of horrifying by the idea that they could actually have happened. So despite the fact that I did laugh a few times I actually spent most of the movie cringing. Moreover, apart from the shock value I didn't think there was much to the story. The performances were mostly adequate and while Annette Bening did a brilliant job of portraying the protagonist's psychotic, narcissistic mother, her excellent performance made her that much more difficult to watch. On the strength of Bening's performance I expect there will be some Oscar buzz, but apart from that I don't know that I can really recommend this one.

Viewed: 10/26/2006 | Released: 10/19/2006 | Score: C

IMDb Page

Dreams from My Father

By Barack Obama

If this book had been entirely fictional, I would have found it very moving. The fact that it's an autobiography leaves me a little confused. On the one hand, I found a lot I could relate to in the story Obama tells of his life. At the same time, the cynicism I've long felt toward politics and politicians predisposes me to distrusting it. It really did resonate with me, though. The more obvious part that drew me in was the portrait of a young man coming to terms with his mixed heritage. What really struck a chord with me, though, was the search for the stories of his own past. Reading about Obama's discoveries about his father made me think about how little I know about my own parents' lives. Even the parts that I was around for meant something different to me than to them. It's a strange thing to think about, that as familiar as the people in my life might be, I really hardly know them. So I think I can say that more than anything I've read in a long time I found this book inspiring.

Started: 10/5/2006 | Finished: 10/24/2006

Purchase from Amazon