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Treasure Planet (2002)

B | *** | +0| Kids & Up*

(Written by Jimmy Akin) Treasure Planet is Robert Louis Stevenson meets George Lucas. More specifically, it’s Treasure Island meets The Phantom Menace. Read More >

Two Weeks Notice (2002)

C+ | **½ | -2| Adults

(Written by Jimmy Akin) From its opening minutes, Two Weeks Notice promises to be the story of how two mismatched, lovable losers get together and fall in love. Read More >

Narc (2002)

D- | **½ | -3| Adults*

(Written by Robert Jackson) Narc is trying to be something. Really hard. It’s obvious. The question is: What is it trying to be? Read More >

Hollywood Homicide (2003)

D+ | | -2| Adults*

The only thing that makes this particular film worth noting is the melancholy milestone it marks in the career of the man who was once Hollywood’s biggest star: It has now been a full decade since Harrison Ford took on a role worth caring about. Read More >

National Security (2003)

F | | -3| Adults*

Martin Lawrence rants endlessly against the White Man and Steve Zahn tries to endure him in the obnoxious odd-couple action-comedy National Security (Columbia), directed by Dennis Dugan. Read More >

The Pianist (2002)

A+ | **** | +2| Teens & Up*

Now, almost ten years later, Polanski has finally faced his demons and made a film of almost ferocious objectivity — a film devoid of even the smell of polemicism, sentimentality, melodrama, or cliché. Not a celebration of the human spirit, resisting both deceptive moral uplift and despairing moral nihilism, neither demonizing the Germans nor lionizing the Jews, The Pianist is a work of exquisite restraint. Any misstep might have resulted in reducing the horror of genocide to a prop in a morality-play, but Polanski surefootedly avoids every trap and temptation in his path. Read More >

Bruce Almighty (2003)

C- | ** | +1-2| Adults

Theologically speaking, the question was absurd and meaningless; but the answer, I think, contained profound insight. God is both the source and the goal of our being, the meaning as well as the master of our lives. Imagine reality without God, and life becomes meaningless; imagine divine omnipotence at the disposal of anything other than divine love, and existence becomes infinite horror. Read More >

John Q (2002)

D- | | -3| Adults*

John Q, which is sort of the moviegoing equivalent of being taken hostage, was directed by Nick Cassavetes (She’s So Lovely). Cassavetes — like the film’s hero, John Q. Archibald (Washington) — has a child in need of a life-saving organ transplant. I feel for the director, and for his hero. I cannot condone the actions of either. Read More >

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

C | **½ | -2| Teens & Up*

Movie audiences reliably enjoy just about every ingredient involved in Bend It Like Beckham, an East-meets-West comedy about an Indian family living in London’s Hounslow borough. Read More >

Planet of the Apes (2001)

C | **½ | -2| Teens & Up*

Helena Bonham Carter is also convincingly simian as the chimpanzee Ari, though less so than Thade, since she has to be visibly feminine and potentially attractive to the human lead (Mark Wahlberg). But the gorillas, like Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), are as compellingly realistic as Thade, if not quite as expressive. Read More >

Dogma (1999)

F | *** | -4|

Like the creators of Dogma, I feel the need to begin with a disclaimer of my own. This review is an exercise in film criticism and commentary informed by Christian faith. It is neither an anti-Dogma activist polemic nor a pro-Dogma apologetical treatise. I come not to praise Kevin Smith, nor to bury him, but to critique his work. I will tell you what I think is good about it, and what I think is evil, and why I think the work as a whole deserves its unacceptable rating (not only from this site but also from the ). But this is a complex film, and deserves careful evaluation. Those who are only interested in one-sided spin, whether bad or good, will not find it here. Read More >

Cats and Dogs (2001)

C+ | **½ | +0| Kids & Up*

Not that I’ve anything against cats. But there’s a particular breed of cat fancier who looks down at dogs precisely for qualities like their obedience, loyalty, and desire to please, explicitly preferring the fierce independence and proud impassiveness associated with cats. I wonder whether this kind of cat appreciation isn’t often rooted in a misguided human ideal — whether such people don’t prefer cats because they themselves like the idea of being remote and independent. Read More >

The Mighty (1998)

A- | ***½ | +2| Kids & Up*

Based on the children’s book Freak The Mighty, Peter Chelsom’s less oddly named The Mighty tells the story of a remarkable friendship between two young boys, both outcasts. Max (Elden Ratliff) is dull-witted but intimidating; Kevin (Kieran Culkin) is bright but crippled by Morquio’s Syndrome. Read More >

A Mighty Wind (2003)

B- | *** | -1| Adults

Like Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind follows a number of musicians who never actually existed, but often feel as if they might have. There’s a convincing history to the Folksmen, Mitch & Mickey, and the New Main Street Singers, developed by Guest through a combination of pseudo-archival footage, interview sequences, and period album covers that folk fans might almost remember having seen in their collections. Read More >

What a Girl Wants (2003)

C+ | **½ | +0| Teens & Up

Despite these similarities, What a Girl Wants differs from The Princess Diaries in three important respects, all of which are, as far as they go, good ideas. Read More >

The Princess Diaries (2001)

C+ | **½ | -1| Kids & Up

Everyone knows going in that Hathaway’s frizzy hair, horn-rimmed glasses, pratfalls, slouch, and puckered expressions aren’t going to hold her back for long. (Indeed, it takes a formidable effort to suspend one’s disbelief and accept that they hold her back at all. Hathaway manages to be suitably awkward in the medium shots, but every closeup blows the girl’s cover by revealing her cover-girl beauty. Casting the gorgeous 20-year-old "Get Real" actress as an 15-year-old ugly duckling is about as plausible as Jennifer Lopez playing a wedding planner who can’t get a date or Drew Barrymore playing a late bloomer who’s Never Been Kissed.) Read More >

Agent Cody Banks (2003)

C- | **½ | -2| Teens & Up*

Welcome to our second annual Spring Frankie Muniz Morally Problematic Spy Kids Rip-Off Movie, featuring hilarious hijinks offending each year against a different one of the Ten Commandments. Read More >

Maid in Manhattan (2002)

C+ | **½ | -2| Adults

He’s a wealthy, unattached scion of a political dynasty; she’s a hard-working maid whose mother and workplace "sisters" discourage her from yearning for more. An updated "Cinderella" story in the Pretty Woman mold, Wayne Wang’s Maid in Manhattan (Columbia) makes agreeably diverting viewing for most of its 105-minute running time, though after the magic runs out at midnight the movie meanders through an autopilot resolution that lacks a glass slipper. Read More >

Tears of the Sun (2003)

C | **½ | +2-2| Adults

Tears of the Sun (Columbia) presents a picture of American military presence abroad that is simultaneously appealing and troubling: superheroic Navy SEALs going about doing good, rescuing refugees, battling evil ethnic-cleansing rebels, and earning the gratitude and goodwill of indigenous peoples, all in defiance of their orders and American foreign policy. Read More >

Moonlight Mile (2002)

B | *** | +1-1| Adults

This might seem an odd way to put it, but writer-director Brad Silberling’s Moonlight Mile could be thought of as a kind of backwards mirror-image of writer-star Nia Vardalos’s indie hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Read More >

The Quiet American (2002)

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

If Greene is no longer interested in subjecting his protagonist’s guilt to judgment, he’s not interested in rationalizing it either. It’s simply a fact in a morally and emotionally complex story of two very different but flawed Westerners living in 1950s Vietnam in the last days of French colonialism and the dawn of Vietnamese Communism. Read More >

The Jungle Book 2 (2003)

C | ** | +1| Kids & Up

The voices are different, but the story is the same. Read More >

Daredevil (2003)

C+ | **½ | -2| Adults*

Ultimately, Daredevil works best as a triumph of screenwriting redaction and well-utilized effects over weak characterization and generally uninspired casting. As super-hero movies go, I rank it below Spider-Man, but above any of the films in the Batman franchise. Read More >

How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days (2003)

D+ | | -2| Adults

Now, the top of the Empire State Building is a lofty destination, an end in itself. By contrast, a bridge is only for going from one place and another. Like all of New York’s major river crossings, the Manhattan Bridge is undeniably a marvel of modern engineering; but for romance and evocative appeal, the Empire State Building surely has the edge by a considerable margin. Read More >

Chicago (2002)

C | *** | -2| Adults*

(Co-written with Emily Snyder) Like Moulin Rouge!, Chicago involves sordid goings-on in a rather seamy milieu; but where the earlier film tried to contrast its dissolute ambiance with heart-warming sincerity and idealism, Chicago is cynical to the core. Read More >

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

B | *** | +1-2| Adults

Then, after three days of rehearsals, I thought it would be fun to actually graduate. Read More >

Ice Age (2002)

B+ | *** | +1| Kids & Up*

The lion’s share of the credit for Ice Age goes to the sloth. Read More >

The Recruit (2003)

B- | *** | -2| Adults

Of course we don’t really know a whole lot about the CIA, but The Recruit has fun guessing. Directed by Roger Donaldson, who’s helmed the superior thrillers No Way Out (1987) and Thirteen Days as well as action schlock like Species and Dante’s Peak, The Recruit takes us into the Farm, thought to be the name of the CIA’s top-secret training facility, as well as the agency’s Langley, VA headquarters. Read More >

Kangaroo Jack (2003)

D- | * | -3| Teens & Up*

Though, what with jokes alluding to homosexuality and masturbation, a sequence with a man and a woman in their underthings bathing together and smooching under a waterfall (which one describes as "the most sensual, romantic moment of my entire life"), some fairly rough mobster violence, and odd talk about "testicles falling off" and "crazy-ass white boys," it’s not exactly family fare. Read More >

The Hours (2002)

F | ***½ | -4|

Still others face demons of a yet more personal and internal sort — addiction, self-destructive behavior, disordered appetites. And then there are those unhappy individuals who seem to carry suffering itself within their very psyche — those with clinical depression and other forms of mental illness. Read More >

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