Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

I was so tempted to give this one zero stars. I almost did, but I decided to give it a sympathy star only because of one particularly awesome cameo. But, seriously, this is not a good movie. Both Juliette and I were really bored the whole time--she fell asleep several times, only waking up because of loud cannon fire or some such. I had been hoping that At World's End would do better than the second movie but, if anything, it was worse. The script was just all over the place. It almost seemed like it was written by a roomful of overeager kindergarteners who were playing the game where everybody takes turns writing one sentence and then passing it on to the next kid. What's more, they didn't even really try to write any new jokes, they just kept reusing the same schtick from the first movie. I can't speak for anyone else but I'm over it by now. The worst part is that the end of the movie gives a really obvious lead-in to another sequel. Thankfully, that last part is mitigated by the fact that this movie was so bad that there's simply no way I'll see a fourth one. (Yes, I do see the irony here.) I figure that a lot of you are like me and will have to see this one just to finish things off after the cliffhanger at the end of Dead Man's Chest, but just be aware that this movie sucks.

Viewed: 5/25/2007 | Released: 5/24/2007 | Score: D-

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I don't think that Waitress quite deserves all the hype it's been getting but it is a very cute film. Afterwards, I commented to Juliette that the supporting characters were mostly written as one-dimensional and kind of over the top, almost as archetypes instead of characters. We had Cheryl Hines as the sassy friend and Adrienne Shelly as the insecure friend, Andy Griffith as the crusty old man who turns out to have a good heart, Lew Temple as the grouchy boss who turns out to have a good heart, Nathan Fillion as the sweet but bumbling new guy in town, Eddie Jemison as the plucky nerd who wants the insecure friend, and Jeremy Sisto as the evil, selfish husband. On reflection, though, I think it actually works OK for the movie's tone and style of humor. I was actually a little confused by my reaction to Nathan Fillion's character, who I found endearing despite the fact that I had some serious moral reservations about his main plot actions. I guess that means he did a good job in his performance. Juliette's only complaint was that she wished a bit for a different ending. I think that the ending she wanted--which, probably, is the ending most people will want--would have been more of a feel-good ending, but we both agreed that the movie as written made its point better. Anyway, if you're looking for a nice, cute movie to take a date to, you might want to check this one out.

Viewed: 5/17/2007 | Released: 5/24/2007 | Score: B-

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Spider-Man 3

For being a sequel to a sequel, it wasn't bad. Still, that's not setting the bar very high. The main problem, as has been noted by plenty of other people, was that the writers tried to pack too much into one movie. There were simply too many villains. A movie based around any one of the bad guys could have worked well--each had enough pathos to make a deeper exploration possible--but, as it was, the script felt very rushed. I also felt that the silly parts of the movie went over the top. I was rolling my eyes instead of chuckling. On that one, though, I was certainly in the minority in the audience at the showing I saw.

Viewed: 5/4/2007 | Released: 5/3/2007 | Score: C+

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Year of the Dog

Molly Shannon's performance in this film got a lot of hype from the critics and, truth be told, she did a pretty good job. It wasn't enough, though, to make me like the movie. The thing is, if you're not a dog person, I can't think of what you might like about the movie. And even though Juliette and I both love dogs now, the film really only appealed to us for its cute factor. It was just too weird. I think that the film probably wants or expects the audience to sympathize with PETA-style animal rights activism--it certainly treats human relationships, parenthood, and "normal" career development as shallow, annoying, stupid, or pretentious. But then, the other big animal lover in the film is portrayed as neurotic and ridiculous, and no matter what the protagonist says, by the end of the film you're still left with the feeling that her life is empty and unfulfilling. The ambivalence creates a film that neither has the strength to stand on its convictions nor the depth to create a particularly interesting character study.

Viewed: 4/27/2007 | Released: 4/12/2007 | Score: D+

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The Lives of Others

I'd been wanting to see this one since before the Oscars so I was pretty happy this past weekend when we finally got around to it. I can see why it won the Oscar--the film is freaking brilliant. I mean, not only was the acting amazing but I was fascinated by the glimpse it provides into life in East Germany. I have only some vague memories of news reports of the Berlin Wall coming down but I remember how much it affected my mom, who kept saying how she never thought it would happen in her lifetime. I was too young to appreciate the significance of it, but this movie has really sparked an interest in me to learn more about that part of history. I think that's one of the highest compliments I can give a film, really. It may be out of theaters already in your area, but if you get a chance to rent it you should definitely check it out.

Viewed: 4/20/2007 | Released: 8/2/2006 | Score: A

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Meet the Robinsons

The people at Entertainment Weekly didn't think much of this one, but I'm inclined to disagree. Sure, it wasn't on the same level as, say, The Incredibles or Monsters, Inc. but it was certainly head and shoulders above movies like Robots or Madagascar. The voice acting was decent and the humor worked pretty well for me. And although it didn't bring anything new to the time travel genre I still thought it was better written than most stories of that sort. It's definitely a kids' movie but if I were a parent I think this would be one that wouldn't make me groan when my kids wanted to watch it over and over.

Viewed: 4/6/2007 | Released: 3/29/2007 | Score: B

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Reign Over Me

It seems pretty clear that writer-director Mike Binder is having some sort of mid-life crisis. Why else would his recent work feature so many male characters who feel stifled by their marriages? Still, he does at least seem to realize that he shouldn't be feeling that way, which I guess sort of makes it better. I found this one to be a good deal more mature on that front than I was expecting, actually. Add in Adam Sandler's best dramatic performance to date and Don Cheadle--who is always good--and you have quite a good film. It's not without its flaws--the female characters are notably one-dimensional--but I think it's worth it for what it does right.

Viewed: 3/24/2007 | Released: 3/22/2007 | Score: B+

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The Namesake

We've been seeing some great movies this year and so far this one is my favorite. For those of you who haven't heard of it, The Namesake is the story of a family of Indian immigrants. Kal Penn plays the title role, a second generation Indian-American who struggles to figure out how to reconcile his parents' culture with the one he's grown up with. Despite the fact that I'm quite a bit more removed from the country of my ancestors (even by the shortest route, I'm still third generation), Penn's identity crisis still struck a chord with me and I recognized a lot of his issues as familiar. On the other hand, as Juliette and I discussed afterwards, a lot of it would be familiar to anyone because, in a way, every family has its own separate culture. In any case, I absolutely loved this movie. Those of you used to thinking of Kal Penn in movies like Van Wilder and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle may be surprised by how good a dramatic actor he is. His performance in this film is a little rough at first but he eventually finds his groove and does some really amazing work. Even better were Irfan Khan and Tabu, who played Penn's parents. I was just blown away by how beautiful their relationship was, by the quiet love that they shared both for each other and for their children. I really can't praise this movie enough.

Viewed: 3/22/2007 | Released: 3/8/2007 | Score: A

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Juliette made an observation as we were leaving this movie that I think sums up the experience pretty well: she said that it was pretty slow, but that it was still tense and she was interested the whole time. Lack of action is a common problem for any psychological thriller but the good ones--and this is a good one--manage to maintain the tension somehow. Good performances are crucial, and that's where actors like Chris Cooper come in handy. I've liked Cooper since the first time I saw him (I believe it was in the '98 version of Great Expectations) and this one definitely continues that trend. Ryan Philippe also did a very good job as the young operative assigned to uncover Cooper's espionage. The only blip for me was Laura Linney's performance. When she's good she's really good, but at other times she can come off as a little too needy and "actorish" in her performances. Anyway, this was the first film we've seen that was released in 2007 and I'd say it's an auspicious beginning.

Viewed: 3/17/2007 | Released: 2/11/2007 | Score: B

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Pan's Labyrinth

One problem with waiting a long time to see such a highly acclaimed movie is that it gives you time to hear and absorb the hype. I really liked Pan's Labyrinth, but unfortunately I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. It's not that the film wasn't brilliant. It was. I'm just not sure that any film could really live up to the kind of hype I'd been hearing for months before I finally got around to seeing it. But enough negativity--what was good about the movie? Well, the obvious thing is that the production design was nothing short of amazing. Tim Burton at his best manages a similar sort of dark weirdness, but where Burton--even in his good moments--usually feels a little cartoonish, this one really felt more like a fairy tale come to life. Which is, of course, what they were going for. There were also some very good performances--Maribel Verdú springs to mind in her role as Mercedes. My one complaint about the movie was that there were some violent scenes that I thought could have been less graphic.

Viewed: 3/3/2007 | Released: 12/28/2006 | Score: A

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