Heavily theme-oriented movies tend to be problematic. Either they focus too much on the theme at the expense of plot and character or they develop the film well but fail to really delve into the theme. Babel, fortunately, manages to do both very nicely. The central idea of the film is human communication--or, more accurately, miscommunication--and what really impressed me about the movie was how when I thought back over it, nearly every single interaction between any of the characters involved miscommunication in some way. But rather than getting lost in mere ideas, the writer managed to construct a very compelling set of intertwining storylines, which were brought to life by some very skillful performances. My one complaint would be Brad Pitt. Not to say he did a bad job, it's just that I don't understand why they would pick such an iconically young and virile actor for a role and then age him with makeup. For one thing, there are plenty of older-looking actors out there who could have carried off the role as well or better, and, for another, there didn't seem to be any particular reason for his character to look old. It's a pretty minor criticism, though, and I'd definitely recommend this one.

Viewed: 2/8/2007 | Released: 10/26/2006 | Score: A

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The Queen

Let me preface this review with the statement that I have little to no interest in the British monarchy. Oh, I do find the institution to be somewhat intriguing from a historical standpoint, but I have no real interest in the actual individuals as celebrities. Despite that, I found this movie to be quite compelling. To begin with, the acting was simply flawless across the board--Helen Mirren definitely deserves all the attention she's been getting this year on the awards circuit. The film documents the reactions of the Royal Family in the aftermath of Princess Diana's death and I would imagine that people who are interested in the royals will find that aspect of it fascinating. For me, though, it wasn't so much the action of the film that drew me in as what it revealed about the characters. We're presented with a portrait of people who are so isolated by privilege, so wrapped in layers of protocol and ceremony, that they are almost completely unable to relate to the ordinary people they supposedly symbolize. It actually left me feeling kind of sorry for them--it seems like a lonely life. A film that takes a subject I don't care anything about and manages to draw me in like that, well, that's a film I can recommend.

Viewed: 2/2/2007 | Released: 10/5/2006 | Score: A

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Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

I was pretty torn on whether or not to give this one a fourth star. On the one hand, there were a number of moments in the movie that made me cringe. On the other hand, there were far fewer than I was expecting and while I didn't laugh as often as Juliette and my friends did, when I did laugh I laughed harder than I have in quite some time. And, even more than cringing, I found myself just amazed that anybody would go that far with his comedy. I mean, he's not just over the line; he can't even see the line from where he goes. One things for sure: Sacha Baron Cohen has balls. And, as anyone who sees this film will find out, so does his co-star, Ken Davitian. I do recommend this one, but with the caveat that it's easily one of the most outrageous and offensive movies I've ever seen, so it's definitely not for everyone.

Viewed: 1/19/2007 | Released: 11/2/2006 | Score: B

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By now this movie has already won three Golden Globes--Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress--so unless you don't own a television I'm sure you've already heard plenty about it. A lot of people love love loved it, including Juliette. For me, though, it was just good, not great. Yes, the music was great and I will admit that I was very impressed by Eddie Murphy's performance. The main thing that kept me from really enjoying the movie is that I absolutely hated one of the main characters, Effie. Now let me note that it was the character that I had a problem with, not the actress (Jennifer Hudson) or her performance. So it's really a writing problem, but for me it was a big one. I think it's pretty important to this movie that the audience sympathize with Effie's troubles, but I just can't bring myself to feel very sorry for a character that strikes me as a self-absorbed prima donna. I will say, though, that even I was moved by Hudson's performance of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," and considering what I thought of her character that's saying something.

Viewed: 1/13/2007 | Released: 12/14/2006 | Score: B

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Children of Men

From a certain perspective it's a little surprising that I liked this movie so much. The reason I say that is that I see so many movies that it usually takes an unusual plot, interesting characterization, or at least a couple of scenes that really showcase a great acting performance to make me love a movie, and Children of Men didn't really have any of those. The plot was a pretty straightforward "damsel in distress" type of story and none of the writing really popped for me, nor did it allow the actors much room to maneuver. What was it that grabbed me, then? The direction. Director Alfonso Cuarón did an absolutely masterful job of presenting us with a dystopian future England that felt absolutely real. What's more, he managed to convey a truly remarkable amount of detail with almost no exposition. The end effect is that the movie actually makes you stop and consider the ramifications of its premise: what would the world be like if people stopped being able to have children? This one is definitely a must-see for any fans of science fiction. No, I'll go one further--it's a must-see for anyone who's a fan of good cinema.

Viewed: 1/6/2007 | Released: 12/24/2006 | Score: A

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Night at the Museum

There isn't really much to say about this one. It's wasn't a masterpiece or anything, but, of course, it wasn't trying to be. But even if it wasn't particularly stunning, it was cute and fun with plenty of chuckles and that's exactly what I was in the mood for when I went to go see it.

Viewed: 12/28/2006 | Released: 12/21/2006 | Score: B

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The Pursuit of Happyness

At some point between the time I first saw the trailer and the time I actually walked into the theater to see this one I became a little skeptical about it. I'm not entirely certain why--maybe the story had started to seem a little clichéd, or maybe I didn't know if Will Smith could pull it off. Whatever the reason, I was wrong. The movie was very heartfelt, very touching, and Will Smith's Golden Globe nomination was well-deserved. Jaden Smith, Will Smith's on-screen and real-life son, also did a pretty good job. Child actors can be kind of hit or miss, but the fact that Will and Jaden Smith really are father and son added instant chemistry. Excellent movie.

Viewed: 12/21/2006 | Released: 12/14/2006 | Score: A

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The Holiday

This was a mostly cute movie that was pretty well wrecked by Cameron Diaz. Everybody else was pretty good--Kate Winslet did a good job as the other lead, Jude Law was charming and nice, Rufus Sewell was charming and self-absorbed, Eli Wallach was both adorable and poignant, and Jack Black was surprisingly sweet. It could have been a decent film, but Cameron Diaz was just annoying. I really don't understand why she gets work. She has almost no talent apart from a reasonable sense of physical comedy. Sure, she's good-looking, but there are plenty of good-looking actresses out there who can actually act. But enough ranting. Judging by Juliette's reaction--she thought The Holiday was "wonderful"--this one would probably be a good date movie. I'd say that it's otherwise quite skippable.

Viewed: 12/18/2006 | Released: 12/7/2006 | Score: C

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For Your Consideration

If you like the rest of Christopher Guest's mockumentaries--This is Spinal Tap, for example, or, more recently, Best in Show or A Mighty Wind--you'll probably like this one as well. This time, Guest and his cohorts take aim at Hollywood, and I'd say they found their mark. I particularly liked Guest's performance as the director of the film-within-a-film Home for Purim. It was a smaller part, but I thought he was hilarious. The film also absolutely nailed its parody of Access Hollywood. Catherine O'Hara was very good, but as the film went on her character became increasingly more difficult to watch. Anyway, it's probably out of theaters by now, but it's definitely worth a look when it comes out on DVD.

Viewed: 11/30/2006 | Released: 11/21/2006 | Score: B

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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

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