King Kong

I would have given this a fourth star if not for the fact that it was just. so. long. It was well-paced, had a lot of good action, and it was cool, but at three hours plus there's just nothing that can be done to avoid it feeling really, really long. But on to the good stuff. To begin with, I think that Peter Jackson did an amazing job with updating this film. The effects were stunning, and the action really sucked me in--and I'm not one to be won over easily by effects and action sequences. The acting was mostly good, although I'm not sure Jack Black was really the right person to cast as the director--he came off as just a little too hammy, in my opinion. What surprised me, though, was that the best acting in the movie came from Kong, himself. I would never have suspected that a computer-generated gorilla would be capable of such a nuanced, intriguing, moving performance, but that is exactly how I would describe it. I would definitely recommend this one, with the small caveat that it's probably not right for anyone with a short attention span.

Viewed: 12/19/2005 | Released: 12/4/2005 | Score: B

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The Family Stone

This one actually had me questioning whether I'm a snob about comedy or if I just have a bad sense of humor. The rest of the audience--including all three of the people who I saw it with--laughed at just about every joke in the movie. I laughed at one. I think part of this is just my sensitivity to humiliation; like most films of this genre, there were many moments that fall into the category I call "the part of the movie I can't watch." I do have to give this film credit for being well-written, though. There's a lot more to it than just your typical meet-the-family comedy. In fact, there's enough meat to the script that it gives the cast a chance to really act, which they mostly do quite well. I even thought Rachel McAdams did a respectable job. The only one I wasn't sure about was Ty Giordano. He does OK, but I don't know if he really has much range as an actor--he seemed more or less exactly the same as he did in A Lot Like Love. If you're looking for a good holiday date movie, this one will probably do the trick.

Viewed: 12/18/2005 | Released: 12/15/2005 | Score: C

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Brokeback Mountain

It's hardly surprising that Brokeback Mountain is one of the most talked-about films of the year--you couldn't really expect otherwise with a "gay cowboy movie." I'm not quite sure it completely lives up to the hype, but it is a very good film. To begin with, it's visually stunning. You expect that from a Western--landscapes are an integral part of the genre--but what impressed me was how well Ang Lee, who was born and raised in Taiwan, was able to capture such an American feeling in his movie. The combination of lean, spare dialogue with the vast scope of the visuals lends this sort of stripped-down, rugged feeling, at once haunting and empty, but also raw and passionate. That more or less also describes Heath Ledger's performance, which would have been perfect if not for the fact that he had so much trouble with the accent. As for Jake Gyllenhaal, well, I'm starting to be a little unsure if he's quite as good as I've given him credit for being. I think it's just that he's a little too young and doesn't have the range to play a fully mature character. That's fine for movies like Donnie Darko and Jarhead, but by the end of Brokeback Mountain he's supposed to be approaching middle age, with a teenaged son and a wife of nearly twenty years, and I just didn't buy it. The supporting cast was good, and I especially thought the three main women (Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, and Linda Cardellini) did well, but really it was all about Ledger and Gyllenhaal. I don't know if I think this one really deserves a Best Picture or Best Actor win, but I think the nominations it's gotten so far are quite appropriate. And it's been kind of a lean year for movies--in my book, at least--so maybe some wins wouldn't be so bad after all.

Viewed: 12/17/2005 | Released: 12/8/2005 | Score: A

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Never Let Me Go

By Kazuo Ishiguro

I had a really hard time finding free moments in which to read this book, which was a real shame because it grabbed me from the start. When I finally got a chance to really sit and read it, I ended up staying awake until three in the morning to finish it. This was my first time reading Ishiguro and, despite what I had heard, I found his writing to be very accessible. More to the point, I found it to be beautiful, the sort of haunting beauty that is all the more powerful for its seeming simplicity. My one regret about the book is that the review that led me to read it gave too much away. I think the book would have been even more effective if I hadn't known the twist ahead of time. That's why I'm not going to tell you much about the story itself. (And, by the way, if you happen to follow the Barnes & Noble link above, don't read the School Library Journal review.) What I will say is that the blurb on the jacket cover is a bit deceptive--the book goes in a very different direction from the normal lit-fic stuff you'd expect. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that it's by such a recognized literary author, I imagine a lot of those snooty lit-fic readers out there would turn up their noses at it. Trust me, though, it's good.

Started: 11/10/2005 | Finished: 11/27/2005

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