Reviews

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Road to Perdition (2002)

C | **½ | -2| Adults

Dissatisfied after the screening, I went out and bought the original 1998 graphic novel, written by novelist and "Dick Tracy" scribe Max Allan Collins and illustrated by comic-book artist Richard Piers Rayner ("Swamp Thing"), and read it in one sitting. ("Graphic novels" use comic-book storytelling for longer, and hopefully more substantial, stories than traditional comic books.) Read More >

Bad Company (2002)

C | ** | +1-2| Adults

The first hour works quite a bit better than the second hour, in part because there is a second hour. The setup: When CIA agent Kevin Pope (Rock) is murdered in the middle of an important undercover operation involving the black-market sale of a miniature thermonuclear device, Pope’s CIA mentor Gaylord Oakes (Hopkins) must convince the sellers that Pope (or rather his undercover persona) is still alive. To do this, Oakes must turn to — you guessed it — Pope’s long-lost twin brother. Read More >

The Bourne Identity (2002)

A- | ***½ | +1-1| Adults

Like the memory-impaired antihero of Memento, the protagonist of Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity (and a trilogy of Robert Ludlum novels before that) has no choice but to trust himself even though he can’t be sure he’s a trustworthy individual. Perhaps his honorable aspirations themselves are a good sign. Certainly the amazing abilities and instincts that suddenly surface when needed are clues to who and what he is. Jason may not know much, but he’s pretty sure he’s something out of the ordinary. Read More >

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002)

B- | *** | +2-2| Adults

Despite being more of the "Yo" than "Ya" persuasion, I think I’m pretty receptive toward what are commonly called "chick flicks." After all, my wife and I enjoy the same "guy movies"; why shouldn’t we enjoy the same romances and other female-targeted films? Read More >

The Sum of All Fears (2002)

B- | *** | -2| Adults*

Though constructed as an action-oriented thriller, the film’s centerpiece is a wrenching glimpse of a scenario that may be in our nation’s future, depicted in a way that’s neither sensationalized nor minimized. Read More >

Insomnia (2002)

B+ | ***½ | +1| Adults

Daylight floods Dormer’s life, relentless, ubiquitous — like the penetrating glare of the ongoing Internal Affairs probe back in LA, where Dormer may or may not have something to hide. Like the searching gaze of Alaskan local cop Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) as she investigates Dormer’s account of a second killing that occurs when an attempt to catch the killer goes tragically awry. Like "the eye of God that will not blink," as Roger Ebert describes the Arctic Circle’s midnight sun in his review of the original film. Read More >

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)

D+ | ** | -1| Kids & Up

Take a politically correct morality play about Evil White Imperialists versus Noble Oppressed Minorities Living in Harmony with Nature, dress it up as entertaining family fare with cute animal sidekicks for comic relief and catchy sing-along tunes, and you’ve got one of the cartoons of the late Disney renaissance. Now take away the comic relief and cute animal sidekicks, replace the catchy sing-along tunes with whiny, forgettable Bryan Adams rock anthems, and you’ve got DreamWorks’ Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, the story of an indomitable horse’s heroic resistance to domestication. Read More >

The Salton Sea (2002)

D | ***½ | -3| Adults*

This is not a thought Tom takes to heart. Nor is it one he struggles with, or indeed ever thinks about again. The quest for revenge is at the heart of The Salton Sea, and although in this one scene the film fleetingly acknowledges the possibility of an alternative to bitterness and hatred, it’s not in the context of any larger interest in or exploration of the moral issues. Read More >

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

A | **** | +0| Adults

The story is said to be set in 19th-century China, but its roots are older, reaching for a mythic age of larger-than-life heroes and superhuman derring-do. Heroes with paranormal abilities were also a theme of the recent Unbreakable; but Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has what was lacking in Unbreakable: a sense of wonder, of exhilaration, of mystery and beauty and hope. Read More >

Modern Times (1936)

A | **** | +1-1| Kids & Up*

Silent films were already old-fashioned and out of vogue in 1936 when Charlie Chaplin completed his last silent feature film, Modern Times, almost ten years after the sound revolution began with The Jazz Singer. A silent film consciously made for the sound era, Modern Times is a comic masterpiece that remains approachable today even for movie lovers raised on computer imaging and surround sound. Read More >

High Crimes (2002)

C- | ** | -2| Adults

Only Jim Caviezel (The Count of Monte Cristo; Frequency) brings anything new to the table, displaying even more range and subtlety than in his recent starring turn in The Count of Monte Cristo. Other than his performance, High Crimes holds few surprises. Read More >

Romero (1989)

A- | *** | +4| Teens & Up*

The first feature film from the Paulist Fathers’ moviemaking division, John Duigan’s Romero tells the true story of Latin America’s best-known and most revered modern martyr, Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Goldamez, a man whom John Paul II described as a "zealous pastor who gave his life for his flock," and at whose tomb in San Salvador Pope John Paul II has prayed when visiting El Salvador. Read More >

X-Men (2000)

A- | ***½ | +0| Teens & Up*

This is a world in which characters are not larger-than-life cardboard cutouts, but human beings with affecting problems, motives, conflicts, and interests; in which opposing ideas are at least as important as clashing super-powers or martial-arts moves; in which super-powers and special abilities are more than mere arbitrary plot shortcuts or empty pretexts for colorful special effects, but are treated thoughtfully as serious story elements with logical consequences in immediate events and also wider social implications. Read More >

Life or Something Like It (2002)

D | ** | -2| Adults

Meet Pete (Ed Burns). He’s a cameraman who dresses and behaves in slacker fashion, drinks beer on the job, sleeps around, and says rude things to Lanie. This means he’s an alright guy who Does Know How to Have Fun. Read More >

Mumford (1999)

D | **½ | +1-3| Adults*

It’s not hard to play connect-the-dots and pair off likable characters with one another. It’s harder to put them in a story that’s worthwhile. This is a film without conviction, about a town full of people with problems without depth, aided by a guru without soul. Mumford is a fraud. Take that in whatever sense you like. Read More >

Behind Enemy Lines (2001)

B+ | *** | +0| Teens & Up*

Read More >

Changing Lanes (2002)

C | ** | +1-2| Adults

Neither Gipson nor Banek makes much of a poster child for the danger of civilized behavior devolving into savagery, since neither of them seems quite stable from the outset. Gipson’s a recovering alcoholic with violent tendencies who seems to cause trouble wherever he goes, while Banek’s a soulless shell of a human being too shallow to realize that he’s as unprincipled as everyone else around him, including his wife (Amanda Peet). That unstable human beings can do unpredictable and terrible things isn’t exactly a dramatic revelation; yet even so the film relies so much on contrivance and arbitrary behavior that the events and their consequences seem to have little to do with the human nature of the characters involved. Read More >

Galaxy Quest (1999)

B | *** | +0| Teens & Up

Besides satirizing Star Trek’s fan base, Galaxy Quest also takes aim both at the absurdities of the show itself and also at the behind-the-scenes reality. Most of the obvious Trek conventions are targeted: the principle that any extraneous character on an away mission always dies; the shipwide crisis that requires crew members to crawl through endless ducts; the isolation of the captain on a hostile planet where he must do hand-to-hand combat with an alien monster. Read More >

Monsoon Wedding (2001)

A- | ***½ | +2| Adults

This is one feel-good film that earns its goodwill honestly — not glossing over the harder realities and transgressions that afflict family life, but instead making the case that, however exasperating and even dysfunctional one’s family may happen to be, family remains very close to the center of things. Not just "family" in the abstract, either, or as an ideal, but the reality of family as we actually experience it. Read More >

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

A- | ***½ | +2-1| Teens & Up*

John Nash goes through life making connections, but not with other people. He sees meaningful patterns where the rest of us see only unintelligible randomness. Ideas are as real as people to him. Maybe more so. Eventually the ideas become too real — or the people not real enough — and Nash withdraws inexorably into the tangles of his own incandescent mind. Read More >

Pleasantville (1998)

F | **½ | -3|

The film’s central conceit is that the process of colorization is spread through acts of exploration or self-discovery by which people step outside their customary ways into a new world. In the black-and-white world of the 1950s TV sitcom, one common means of transformation is sexual activity, which didn’t exist in "Pleasantville" until the teenagers (Jennifer in particular) introduced it. When Jennifer gently explains the facts of life to her sitcom mother (Joan Allen), the latter is certain that her prosaic husband (William H. Macy) could never be induced to engage in such activity; so Jennifer proceeds to coach her mother (offscreen) on how to commit self-abuse. The mother then proceeds to do so, with such explosive results that by a kind of sympathetic magic the tree in the front yard bursts into flame. Read More >

What Women Want (2000)

C- | **½ | -2| Adults

Women are from Venus; men are from the gutter. Read More >

A Walk to Remember (2002)

B | ** | +3| Teens & Up

Like its heroine Jamie, A Walk to Remember is pious, wholesome, and eminently open to mockery and derision. Also like its heroine, it doesn’t care what people think of it. Read More >

Unbreakable (2000)

C+ | ***½ | -1| Teens & Up*

Such “hope” as Shyamalan has to offer is less persuasive and less memorable than the fears and horrors he conjures; the overall impression created by his film is an ultimately dehumanizing, depressing one. Read More >

Training Day (2001)

C- | *** | -2| Adults*

Washington’s knockout performance is the main reason to see Training Day. It may also be the crux of the film’s moral difficulty.
Read More >

Tortilla Soup (2001)

C+ | *** | -2| Adults

Tortilla Soup isn’t the delicacy that Eat Drink Man Woman was, nor does it compare with the exquisite meals prepared by the patriarchs of either film. But on the level of comfort food this remake is enjoyable enough, unless of course you’re a purist conoisseur like Martin. Watching it, I laughed out loud any number of times, and so did others in the theater. Read More >

The Time Machine (2002)

D | * | +0| Teens & Up

The Time Machine is so sloppy that it makes Kate and Leopold look like Back to the Future. It’s also pitiful entertainment, succeeding neither as spectacle, as action-adventure, or as love story. Read More >

Thirteen Days (2000)

A- | ***½ | +1| Teens & Up

Thirteen Days is about how a few imperfect men more or less saved the world. Whatever else Kennedy and these other men may or may not have done, this was perhaps their finest hour, and the world owes them a debt of gratitude. If the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction seems remote and antiquated today, it is at least partly because of the events dramatized in this film. Thirteen Days is a fitting dramatic tribute to the deadly brinksmanship that pulled us back from the edge during the most volatile two weeks of the Cold War. Read More >

The Straight Story (1999)

A | **** | +3| Kids & Up

We hear a few anecdotes about Alvin’s life, but nothing meant to make us say, "Aha — so that’s why…" The only "explanation" comes in the very last moments of the film, when we finally see for ourselves the point of Alvin’s determination to make the journey his own way; why he couldn’t accept a kind stranger’s offer to drive him the rest of the way. Read More >

Spy Game (2001)

B- | *** | -2| Adults

“It’s kind of difficult to explain,” CIA operative Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) hedges with a wry smile. It may be the most straightforward piece of information anyone gets from him in the entire film. Read More >

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