Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy
I actually found quite a lot of this script to be funny. Unfortunately, I didn't find Will Ferrell very funny. I know there are plenty of people out there who think he's hilarious, but about the best Ferrell ever gets for me is "not annoying." Christina Applegate, who I normally think of as having good comic timing, was also a little flat in this movie. No, the real reason to see this movie is Steve Carell. There may have been one or two lines that Carell delivered at which I didn't laugh uproariously. Maybe. The rest of the time I was laughing so hard that it brought tears to my eyes. So even though I can't give this movie a great score, I still recommend it. And don't forget to stick around during the credits for the outtakes.
Viewed: 7/17/2004 | Released: 7/8/2004 | Score: C
The Door in the Floor
John Irving is a fantastic writer--one of my favorites, in fact--but the film adaptations of his books always seem to lack something. The movie version of The Hotel New Hampshire captured some of the ridiculous quality of Irving's writing, but was pretty lacking apart from that. The Cider House Rules was pretty good, but it didn't seem to have the right feel. The Door in the Floor is another story entirely. Irving calls it the most faithful film translation of any of his books, and watching it, it's easy to see why. The movie perfectly represents the somewhat silly, somewhat magical feeling that Irving always puts in his novels. Jeff Bridges is one of my favorite actors, and his performance as Ted Cole balanced all of the facets of a character who is at once egotistical and self-loathing, a selfish man but a caring father. Jon Foster was also good, managing a subtle teenage performance that seems to totally lack pretention. And this may be Kim Basinger's best work ever. One of the best movies I've seen this year, it also leaves room for me to discover more, because it only covers the first third of the book it's based on (A Widow for One Year). I can't wait to read it.
Viewed: 7/15/2004 | Released: 6/17/2004 | Score: A
As much as I liked the previous film, Spider-Man 2 may be even better. One of the central themes of this movie--and one of the things that makes it such a compelling story for me--is the ways in which responsibility impacts the rest of a person's life. Other superheroes didn't seem to have this problem. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark were both independently wealthy. The X-Men solved the prolem by not really having secret identities; they were heroes all the time. And Clark Kent, well, I guess Kryptonians are organized enough to save the world and still hold down a job at the same time. But Peter Parker struggles with life away from the costume, which makes him all the more real and interesting. As before, Tobey Maguire was excellent in this film. Alfred Molina was the perfect Dr. Octopus as well. The end of the film sets up another installment in what looks to be the next big movie franchise, and unlike some other comic book movie series, I'm actually really looking forward to it.
Viewed: 7/6/2004 | Released: 6/29/2004 | Score: A
I sort of expected this film to beat me over the head with an anti-religious message, but it surprised me by being more complex than I thought it would be. I imagine that there are any number of people out there who would find Saved! very offensive, but I don't see it as a condemnation of all religion, not even of all Christianity. There were too many sympathetic Christian characters for me to take the film in that way. Even so, it was rather heavy-handed in the delivery of its message, which turned me off. Macaulay Culkin was the only actor that I found memorable, and he seems to have matured well. I'm interested to see more from him.
Viewed: 6/25/2004 | Released: 1/20/2004 | Score: C
The Stepford Wives
I've never seen the original film, nor have I read the book, but I have to believe that both were better than this latest version. To begin with, casting Nicole Kidman--who has all the personality and acting talent of a wet blanket--in the lead role was just ridiculous. This is a role that should be--in my opinion, anyway--played by a woman with great charisma and a normal-looking physique. Kidman just didn't cut it for me. Unfortunately, Kidman seemed to fit right into the campy tone of the film. Granted, some of the scenes and characters are meant to be cheesy, but there were also parts that were probably supposed to be edgy or suspenseful or thought-provoking, and they failed miserably. The sympathy star is awarded to Bette Midler and Roger Bart for managing reasonably good chemistry.
Viewed: 6/23/2004 | Released: 6/5/2004 | Score: D
Tom Hanks is probably Hollywood's most likeable leading man. He's so well-liked and so popular that I think it can be easy to overlook the fact that he is also an exceptionally talented actor with a good eye for picking winning scripts. And, in my opinion anyway, The Terminal is a winner. The supporting cast was great. Diego Luna, Chi McBride, and Kumar Pallana made a great team, and Catherine Zeta-Jones even managed not to irritate me. Stanley Tucci was, as usual, great; he has such a natural style that you forget he's even acting. But, really, this movie was all about Tom Hanks. His performance was incredibly nuanced. I mean, how many other actors can you think of that can be both funny and heartbreaking at the same time? I'm not sure that Hanks will get an Oscar nod for this film because the tone of the movie was a little lighter than I expect the Academy to like. Even so, I expect this one will be on the list for the next Sakeriver Movie Awards.
Viewed: 6/19/2004 | Released: 6/8/2004 | Score: A
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
So far, Dodgeball is the funniest movie I've seen this year. Vince Vaughan's low-key, cool vibe worked very well in this movie, and I think Stephen Root and Alan Tudyk are two of the best comedic character actors in the business. What really made the movie, though, was the writing. There were just so many jokes, and so many of them worked. At times it was hard to catch a breath between laughs. Indeed, Dodgeball was one of the few movies I've seen recently that managed to be consistently funny all the way through.
Viewed: 6/18/2004 | Released: 6/17/2004 | Score: B
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I think this may be the best Harry Potter film so far. The only reason I say "may" is because despite the fact that I loved it, I have to wonder whether a person who hasn't read the book would be able to follow it. At 142 minutes, Prisoner of Azkaban is a long movie, but it doesn't feel like it when you're watching it. On the contrary, there is so much to cover that the film feels rushed. With Goblet of Fire weighing in at over 700 pages (as compared to about 430 pages for the third book and 340 for the second) I have to wonder how they're going to maintain the plotline and still keep the movie to a reasonable length. But back to the film at hand. As I'm sure most people know, this installment of the series featured a different director, Alfonso Cuarón. Cuarón is a much more artistic director than Chris Columbus was, and I think that really helped this film, especially given the darker nature of the story. As far as the acting goes, Gary Oldman was, as usual, great, but the ones I find myself really thinking about are the three leads: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. They really are perfect for the roles, and they seem to have more than ample skill for portraying their maturing characters.
Viewed: 6/3/2004 | Released: 6/3/2004 | Score: A
I wasn't expecting much from this movie, but there turned out to be a lot more to it than the previews led you to believe. Yes, it is about a woman having to re-evaluate her priorities and rise to the challenges of motherhood. But it's also about how loss affects a family, how it changes or exposes the relationships between family members. There was nothing spectacular about Raising Helen, no amazing performances or stunning scenes, but it was still an interesting story that was pretty well told.
Viewed: 5/30/2004 | Released: 4/30/2004 | Score: B
The Day After Tomorrow
Disaster movies all have the same problem: they focus on the disaster. This one is no different, but going in I had such high hopes that it would tell a more interesting story: what happens after the disaster. Alas, it was not to be. The Day After Tomorrow has lots of neat special effects, but basically no plot and no real character development. A lot of the action sequences, meant to be suspenseful, were completely unnecessary and contrived. The subject matter was pedantic and alarmist. What's more, it made me re-evaluate what I think of Jake Gyllenhaal. Previously I had thought he was a very good actor, but now I think he just chose some good parts. He needs to mature a bit, get past the angsty teen roles. The only reason this movie gets any stars at all is because of Ian Holm and the characters around him. Holm is a weather researcher at a remote monitoring station in Scotland, and his subplot is wonderfully poignant. Overall, though, this film just kept making me think of how much more interesting it could have been if it had tried to tell a story instead of send a message.
Viewed: 5/27/2004 | Released: 5/27/2004 | Score: D