Serious CecilyFinally...a movie review or two. Please keep in mind that most of these reviews (which have been previously broadcast in 35 radio markets) have been written more for the purpose of entertainment than from the perspective of an expert film critic. Also, note that many of these movies were seen after drinking a number of martinis, which depending on the film (and the quality of the gin,) either helped or hurt the review. Now, someone please make me a sandwich. Enjoy!

TOP TEN BEST MOVIES OF 2009

Thought it was about time I posted a list of my favorite movies of the year. These are in no particular order and as good as all of these films are, they'll never top my love of "The Love Guru". Ahem.

1) UP
Pixar made me cry again and this time it involved balloons and boy-scouts. You’re freaking me out, Pixar!

2) UP IN THE AIR
George Clooney and his big, white teeth are delightful in this angst-ridden man’s search for the meaning of life.

3) INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (sic)
Possibly Tarantino’s best film to date. Killing Nazis has never been so fun (except when actually killing Nazis).

4) WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Childhood books and hipster directors DO mix!

5) STAR TREK
Beam me up, J.J. Never did I think I could find Spock so sexy in this perfectly paced, funny re-boot.

6) COCO BEFORE CHANEL
This French bio-pic of the woman behind the little, black dress is as charming as Coco’s style.

7) 500 DAYS OF SUMMER
It’s fun to see a relationship crumble when it’s not your relationship. Zoe Deschanel is far better in this than she is in those commercials about cotton (because let’s face it, she’s no Aaron Neville).

8) ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL
Ah, the plight of a Canadian metal band. Actually quite touching and surely the best documentary of the year.

9) BROKEN EMBRACES
Penelope Cruz, once again, serves as Pedro Almodovar’s muse in this funny dramady set in Spain.

10) THE YOUNG VICTORIA
What can I say? I’m a sucker for English royalty period-pieces. The only way this could have been better is if Ricky Gervais played Prince Albert.

 

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

Directed by the great Spike Jonze, this stars Catherine Keener and the voices of James Gandolfini, Chris Cooper, Forest Whitaker, etc. It’s based on the gorgeous children’s book by Maurice Sendak about a lost, imaginative boy who creates a world in his head full of monsters and castles and kings. The “wild things” in his mind seem to represent different aspects of his psyche and/or people he knows in his “real life.” Man, I only wish I’d had that kind of imagination as a kid. The best I could do was to pretend that Donny Osmond lived in my garage. Occasionally, I’d go talk to him and make sure his purple socks were clean. Seriously, that’s the best I could come up with and yet this young kid worked out some creative Freudian solution to his own problems. The movie, like the book, is a tad weird and a tad dark and it’s also absolutely fantastic. Lovely. A.

COUPLE’S RETREAT

This stars (and was co-written by) Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, as well as Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Kristen Davis (and the rest) about some couples who go to Bora Bora for a retreat to help strengthen their relationships. As usual, I found actor-Vince and actor-Jon to be likable and funny, but writer-Vince and writer-Jon to be out of touch. First off, why would I want to watch other people go to couples’ counseling? I’ve got my own therapy to worry about. While it has one or two cute moments, it’s chalk full of hack premises, e.g., the women all fall for the hot yoga instructor who looks like Fabio. Really? We’re still doing this Fabio thing? Granted, I find Ricky Gervais sexually attractive so maybe it is I who’s out of touch, but the muscley guy slowly getting out of the water while shaking his long hair (see every movie from the 80s) seems really played out to me. I expect more from Vince and Jon. C - -

LOVE HAPPENS

…or as I call it, “Chins Happen” because have you seen the chins on Aaron Eckhart and Jen Aniston? Granted, I’m sure they’re very nice people (and Jen is adorable) but…those…chins! Is that what they wanted in the casting office? “We need two romantic leads and they both have to have fake orange tans and really big chins.” “Jay Leno?” “No, not orange enough.” So Jen and Aaron meet…and seriously…how did they even kiss without those chins just smashing into each other? Here’s what they should have called the movie: “Sleep Happens” because that’s exactly what I did throughout. It’s slow and there’s no chemistry between the leads and oh my stars, those CHINS. Ds happen.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS

Based on a kid’s book, this stars the voices of Andy Samberg, Anna Ferris and uh yeah…Mr. T. as a cop. It’s about a young scientist who wants to please his Dad so he invents a machine that makes food fall from the sky. To be honest, they weren’t super clear with the “science” of it all and/or the ramifications of having E.Coli rain from the clouds. However, there’s a part where Mr. T saying something in a very Mr. T-sounding voice (naturally!) and I tried to convince my friend it was Richard Dreyfuss. This is the kind of stuff I do to stay entertained, but actually…the movie did a decent job of that too. There are a few sweet laughs and it’s short enough to be more than tolerable. C ++ (B- for kids.)

WHITEOUT

Let me just say it: “Liquid Paper” had a way better story-arc and character development than this. Kate Beckinsale plays a detective in Antarctica on a mission to find out who has been killing geologists. Yes murders in Antarctica, which really sucks seeing as how it’s 60 degrees below zero there. Now how are they gonna attract tourists? Their tourism commercial is gonna be like, “Sure it’s cold here and there’s no humidity. But at least there aren’t any murders! Oh wait…” This is horribly written and for what it’s worth, the audience at the press screening was laughing the whole way through…and this isn’t a comedy. Now “Liquid Paper”…that’s a comedy. F.

FUNNY PEOPLE

The latest from Judd Apatow (he says it’s his third, I have press notes that say otherwise,) starring Adam Sandler as a wildly successful, self-loathing comedian (which I’m aware is redundant). Although he makes audiences laugh, he’s literally dying so enter Seth Rogan as the young, hipster comic Sandler hires to a) be his friend and b) help him get in touch with a younger crowd. Only problem as I see it is Rogan looks like he’s pushing 50. This doesn’t make him any less delightful, but the idea that he keeps getting cast as the young, just-off-the-bus hipster (in “Knocked Up” his character was supposed to be 23) is hard to swallow. You know what? I’m gonna make a movie about teenagers called “15 Again” or “Apps for my iphone” or something and I’m going to cast Morgan Freeman in the lead. “Look at me, I’m Morgan Freeman and I’m 15! See how young and sexy I am? I must be a hep-cat, just because the producers tell me I am!” Both characters walk the hack-line with their jokes (which is a shame when there are so many comedians out there with fresh, funny material) but Jonah Hill as a fellow comic/roommate to Seth and Jason Schwartzman as the annoying actor/other roommate more than make up for it. Leslie Mann (Judd’s wife in real-life) is absolutely lovely and funny and believable as Adam’s jilted ex and while it ran a bit long and had one too many montages, I actually liked it. B.

THE UGLY TRUTH

This star Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl as the hottest woman in the world who can’t seem to ever find a date. Please. If you’re gonna cast someone to play the part of the woman who just doesn’t know how to score the hot doctor, make her look like…I don’t know…me. At least mousy her up a little. Add a frumpy dress, some orthopedic shoes. So the premise is that Katherine doesn’t know a whole lot about how to get the right guy and big, burley Gerard is uncouth, but can teach her a thing or two while also learning a little something about…blah, blah, blah. This should have been the tagline for the movie: “She knows men, he knows women, they’re back to back with their arms folded so they must feel differently.” The jokes are dirty, but in a contrived way and oh…by the way, this is the same Katherine Heigl from “Knocked Up” who insulted director Judd Apatow by claiming her character was demeaning to women. And yet, in “The Ugly Truth” there’s a scene where the remote for her vibrating underwear gets into the wrong hands. “She knows men, he knows women; in the end, both of them should just shut their cake-holes.” D-

ORPHAN

I’m just gonna ask this question: why must creepy girls in movies always have dark hair and pale skin like me? We’re not all evil ghosts or demon types and I think we need to form a union and fight this. Just once, I’d like to hear, “Hey, look at that girl at the bottom of the well. Yeah, the ghostly looking one. I really like her caramel highlights and wow, what a great rack and tan she has! Uh-oh, she seems angry!” “Orphan” has some disgusting scares and an interesting twist, but overall…c’mon. C- -

17 AGAIN

A back-in-time, gets to re-live a year of high school movie? Why…I’ve…NEVER! Zac Efron plays Matt Perry as a 17 year old after Perry announces he’d like to be young again. I love Matt Perry and all, but he’s only supposed to have aged two decades. From Zac to Matt, I think it’s safe to say he didn’t age very well. I mean, c’mon…he just got married and had kids, it’s not like he went to war! And what happened in those 17 to 20 years that made Zac’s character’s eyes get smaller and change color? I must say and I’ve fought this for a long time, that Zac is the most precious little theater nerd (only second to Clay Aiken) I’ve ever seen. If you were to cross-breed a young Rob Lowe and a soft, pile of chocolate Labrador puppies, that’s Zac. Obviously, this would have been gained points had Efron sung everything, but you can’t have it all. Tom Lennon from “Reno 911” and Leslie Mann were delightful and while this is a sweet tweener film, it’s not great. C - Quick aside: if I could go back in time to my 17th year, I’d have not joined my high school’s Mime Troupe. I don’t wish to talk about it.

FAST AND FURIOUS

Once again starring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker as a couple of guys who are, you know…fast and furious. Remember when this whole thing started and it was called THE Fast and THE Furious? Pretty soon, it’s just gonna be “Fa and Fu” and then after that, it’ll just be “Ffffff.” “Hey are y’all gonna go see “Fff” this weekend?” I know a lot of people love this stuff because it’s just a pure guilty pleasure for those who like loud, fast cars and guns and what-have-you. But for me, I have “The Real World/Road Rules Challenge”, so I don’t need these movies. If you’re into this kind of stuff, you’ve either already seen this or you should…but for the rest of us, this gets a FFFF.

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS

This versus film is exactly like “Kramer vs. Kramer” except instead of Dustin Hoffman, you get a 3-D animated Amazon woman used by the government to help guide a monster army and instead of Meryl Streep, you have a maniacal alien voiced by Rainn Wilson. Other than that, exactly like “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Ya know, now that we’re talking about it, I wish “Kramer vs. Kramer” had been in 3-D…just…ya know, for no reason. I think all “dramadies” should be re-released in 3-D, like perhaps “Spanglish” and “Gangs of New York”. Wait, what was the topic? Oh yeah…the good news is the voice acting, especially from Seth Rogan, Kiefer Sutherland and Hugh Laurie was great. Also, the animation was some of the best I’ve ever seen and I think kids will like this. The not-so-great news is that it doesn’t really cross over into the adult world as it’s really loud and kind of forgettable, much like this review. C+

I LOVE YOU, MAN

This stars Paul Rudd as a guy who’s getting married, (sans any male friends to be his groomsman) and Jason Segal as a potential new best man. So among a few other man-boy connections, these two characters mainly bond over their love of the band Rush. Yeah, what is it with guys and Rush? I have never met a guy who doesn’t defend Rush to the point that they’ll break up with their girlfriends and I know because I’ve been said girlfriend. What is it about wizards and space men that you gets you guys all riled up? So Rudd’s adorable, but it’s Jason Segal who steals this movie. Even though there are some pretty easy jokes here, I can give it a solid B.

KNOWING

Nic Cage stars in this thriller about a professor who, in a nutshell, finds some apocalyptic predictions (of course) and tries to stop them from coming true. Let me ask this question: how come in every movie where there’s supposed to be an OCD crazy person, they always show them cutting out newspaper clippings and putting them all over the wall? Pretty soon, that’s gonna be tough to do because newspapers are going out of business and then how are they gonna show crazy people? What then, screenwriters? You’re gonna show their internet history on Firefox? “Ooh, they have a few articles on who shot Kennedy listed in their internet favorites. They must be craaaazy!” Cool CGI, okay premise, but movie-wise? Blah. C- -

INKHEART

This stars Brendan Fraser, which rhymes with “razor” and he apparently gets very upset when people say “Frazier” (as in “I hear the blues a’callin’, tossed salad and scrambled eggs.”) Guess what? I’ve been saying it wrong for years. Whatcha gonna do, Brendan? Wanna throw down? If you want people to say your name right, then don’t be named things like Brendan Fraser or for that matter Cecily Knobler. I was called “Celery Kanobs” for much of my life and you don’t see me yelling. So yeah, back to “Inkheart.” This is yet another magical fantasy movie with ferries named Dustfinger and Capricorn Based on the book, it involves Brendan FRASER as a father to a daughter who can make books come to life. Kind of fun if you’re a fan of the book but it’s missing something: what is it…hmmm, whatever could it be? Oh yeah, it’s missing Harry Potter. C - -

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD

Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio star in this Sam Mendes’ directed period piece about a couple in the late 1950s who fight…and fight…and fight. Basically, this is what would have happened to the characters in “Titanic” if the boat hadn’t sunk. Remember how sad you were when Leo (Jack) gave his raft to Kate (Rose?) After seeing Rev-Road, (as it will now be called) you’ll wish neither of them had gotten a raft. Actually, I kind of liked the film. It feels, unsurprisingly, a lot like “American Beauty” but without the humor. Leo is fantastic, although I feel Kate always tries a bit too hard to have an “American accent”. She’s one of those Brits (bless them) who thinks if she talks this: “I eeeam speeeeaking A-mayree-can” that we’ll buy it. “I-eee just won eee Goooldeeen Glow-b.” You get the idea. Bring your Zoloft though, this one’s depressing. B-

HOTEL FOR DOGS

Here’s the tale of a gaggle of adorable stray dogs, who somehow galvanize and move into an abandoned hotel in the middle of NYC. Ya know, like dogs do. Before we get into this, I have some questions: 1) Why wouldn’t these dogs just stay at a motel, where they could howl and chew stuff, whereas at a HOTEL, they have to be on better behavior? 2) How do they even BOOK these stays? Let’s say they somehow figured out how to use a travel agent: how do the travel agents know how to speak beagle (or whatever breed they happen to be?) 3) Do the dogs, after their hotel stays, then feel the need to blog about it on Trip Advisor and if so, how do they type? They don’t and those are exactly the kind of plot holes you’ll find in this film. The dogs are precious, although you don’t really get a lot of back-story about how they even FOUND an abandoned hotel with working electricity and clean bedding STILL IN IT! “Ya know what, we don’t really need this hotel anymore. Let’s just leave it here and maybe some Chihuahuas will move in?” Where the story really goes wrong is focusing so much attention on the kids. Imagine if 90210 took place in a kennel. That’s this movie and it gets a K for Kennel Cough.

PAUL BLART: MALL COP

And now for some reason, Kevin James is a mall-cop. Let me just say the best thing about this movie is…it ended. Trust me. C- - - -

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

If you’ve always wanted to see Brad Pitt as a creepy old-man-baby without first overdosing on Vicodin, here’s your chance. Written by Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump”) this has a bit of a gumpy feel, but is saved from being too sappy by director David Fincher at its helm. Cate Blanchett shines, as does the city of New Orleans. I loved this movie for its oddness and simplicity and even though it’s three hours, I highly recommend it. Think of this way: it’s like seeing “Paul Blart” three times in the row, but without all the suckiness. A-

MARLEY AND ME

Let me just start out by saying that I cried from the opening credits to the outtakes of this film. And I don’t just mean a sniffle here or there. I mean, I BAWLED from the second Jen Aniston and Owen Wilson pick out that delightful yellow Lab from a litter. This was the GOOD kind of cry though, not the kind of cry you have when your football team loses. F-ing Romo. You don’t have to be a dog lover to appreciate this, but I’m sure it helps. B+

VALKYRIE

Tom Cruise plays a German, (Col: Claus von Stauffenberg) who’s part of an operation attempting to assassinate Hitler in this Hollywood-ized version of an incredible true story. Let me put a spot-light on two important words in the previous sentence: German and Hitler. And yet…Cruise doesn’t have a German accent and instead opts for a slightly Mid-western American “news anchor” voice. Tom does, however, don an eye patch so I kind of thought it would be cool if he did the entire film using a pirate accent. But no, it’s just crazy ole’ Tom Cruise voice. He might as well have said “You complete me Hitler”, or “Help me help you, Adolf.” While I assume it was the director who made the choice to tell the story in English, the only worse casting I can think of for this role would be Tom Arnold. D.

STEP BROTHERS

This is, perhaps Judd Apatow’s 200th produced film this month, so obviously he’s lagging a bit. Jesus, Judd…get to work! The Apatow/Ferrell/McKay concoction stars the delightful John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell as two 40 year olds who still live at home and become step-brothers when their parents get married. Okay, ya know how you get all excited when you get free tickets to a comedy show, but then you get there and it’s Gallagher 2 so you’re bummed? But then Dave Chappell shows up and you’re all happy again? Ya know how when that happens? That’s what this movie felt like. One minute, it was pure genius hilarity and the next it was just gross and wrong. That said, it’s far better than “Semi-Pro” and a dash superior to “Talladega Nights,” but not nearly as hilarious as “Anchorman,” (which for the record, is tough to beat.) There are some great laughs (and plenty of gross-outs) and Richard Jenkins (“Six Feet Under”) as the dad makes it worthwhile. B- - -

X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE

David Duchovny (Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (Scully) reunite for the second film based on the wildly popular 90s television show. I think the best way to explain my feelings about this movie is to relay my favorite scene (and honestly, this isn’t a spoiler…nothing could spoil this film more than it has already been spoiled.) So, Scully (who as you probably know is both an agent AND a doctor) is fighting some sort of religious figure to help save a very sick little boy (who oddly looks exactly like Winona Ryder in “Girl, Interrupted.”) Clearly at a frustrated loss, she says something like “There is ONE experimental procedure I’d like to try.” She then proceeds to go to her computer’s home Google page, wherein she types in the words…ready? “STEM CELL RESEARCH.” Really? REALLY? She’s a doctor and yet relied on what I’m pretty sure was Wikipedia for her studies! Aren’t there some sorts of medical journals she could have turned to? She, THEN, PRINTS OUT her findings and a few scenes later, we see her trying out her newly learned data on Winona, ahem, the poor little boy. This is probably the best-written scene in the film, if that tells you anything. This gets a D+ instead of an F because Duchovny grew a little beard and I’m giving him “beard-points.”

THE DARK KNIGHT

This long-awaited Christopher Nolan follow-up to “Batman Begins” of course stars Meryl Streep as Batman and this time, Batman expresses his feelings using fun and uplifting Abba sings. Wait, no…that’s ANOTHER movie opening the same weekend. Oh, right, this stars Christian Bale as the title character and while he looks the part…THAT VOICE! I GET that he has to disguise that he’s Bruce Wayne, but why opt for the low, raspy CREEPY voice modulator? It would have been so much more fun to use a HIGH voice as a disguise. Imagine if you will, a wee, perhaps even effeminate voice screeching, “Hey Joker, I ain’t mad atcha!” The obvious question, perhaps best posed by The Joker is: “Why so serious, Christian Bale?” Speaking of The Joker, Heath Ledger’s flawless performance truly deserves an Oscar and this has nothing to do with his untimely passing. It is, in my opinion, the best portrayal of a comic-book character in cinematic history. Now that we have that out of the way, I should mention that Katie Holmes was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal in the same character, without really explaining why she aged 15 years. It would be like if they just took Gary Coleman out of “Diff’rent Strokes” one day and replaced him with a heavy Asian guy. That said, she’s a much better choice than Katie and once again, Nolan proves he knows how to make a gorgeous film. While it’s not flawless, it’s pretty darn good. B+

MAMMA MIA

Remember, back in the day, those sorority girls who shamelessly sang “I Will Survive” on pub table-tops on karaoke night? (And for the record, I can’t escape innocence here). Well, imagine every last one of them singing it at exactly the same time around the world. Now, replace “I Will Survive” with “Dancing Queen” and that is the amount of estrogen that flows throughout this film. In fact, if you’re a guy (and I can’t prove this) and you see this, you will actually grow breasts, according to some studies, (enjoy!) And as annoying as its unrelenting optimism (and lack of story) can be, it’s worth seeing for leading woman, Meryl Streep’s “Winner Takes it All” scene. The rest of the film is shallow and forgettable (although I did love Colin Firth)…but Meryl, as she always seems to do, somehow brings it home. (Oh, P.S., if you don’t care for Abba songs, you should probably skip this.) C++

HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY

Ron Perlman reprises his role as Hellboy and is once again torn between worlds. Now I love director Guillermo del Toro, mainly because he envisions creatures no one else could possibly imagine. But ya know, it gets a little exhausting in these kinds of films. I mean, first he has to fight the bone-ferries and then the forest-wizards and then the wiggle-wamps; (I’m kind of making those things up, but you get the idea.) When does Hellboy ever get the chance to just like, do Yoga or something? Actually, this was stunning visually and although a bit loud, it was pretty funny at times. And if you’re a fan of “The Family Guy” (and if you’re not…you should be) listen for the voice of Seth MacFarlane as Krauss, the German dude made of gas. Yeah, you heard that right. B-

MEET DAVE

Oh good. Eddie Murphy finally embraces the ‘role of a lifetime,’ as a spaceship who takes human form and has thousands of microscopic aliens living in it, (otherwise known as ‘The Paris Hilton Story.’) Right, so Eddie comes to earth to get some sort of space rock and he meets a family who for some reason love him even though he drinks ketchup. OH ALIENS! WILL THEY EVER LEARN? Sure they’ve conquered intergalactic travel, but they just can’t figure us humans out! The thing is this: I will always love Eddie Murphy because of “Raw,” (and “Trading Places” and the first “Beverly Hills Cop.”) And while he is ultra charming and has proven that he actually is a fine actor (e.g., “Dreamgirls”) he can’t pick a script for shit. He deserves better material and so do we. (P.S., the CGI was better in the old Mr. Bill sketches on SNL.) C--

HANCOCK

Will Smith stars as a down and out, drunken superhero who saves people, but doesn’t really want to. Jason Bateman co-stars as a sweet PR guy who wants to change Hancock’s image, while maintaining a successful marriage to his hot wife, played by Charlize Theron. By the way Jason Bateman if you’re reading this; I sent you a letter when you were Derek on “Silver Spoons” and I’m still waiting to hear back. Ricky Schroder and Alfonso Ribeiro seemed to find the time, so, whenever you’re ready… Speaking of PR, according to this movie, Los Angeles is in constant meltdown. Like every day, there are entire streets blowing up and cops shooting at people and bank robberies. It makes it look like we live in Liberty City from Grand Theft Auto, which would simply be an unacceptable level of violence. I wish the film had stayed truer to its original tone (which I’m told was much darker and dirtier,) but overall, it’s not bad. There are twists I obviously won’t give away, except to tell you that the “Sanford and Son” theme song makes an appearance, as does “Friday Night Lights” character, Buddy Garrity. (Peter Berg sure seems to love him and so do I!) Smith struggles with remaining unlikable, (which is crucial to the film’s success) but for a fun, popcorn movie…why not? B-

WALL-E

Remember awhile back, I made a joke that Pixar could make me cry about anything?
Toys and bugs and cars and then it was rats who could cook. I had feelings about rats
who cook and yet when I had bees living in my wall, I freaked out. I’m sure those bees
could talk and dance and yet…I couldn’t see the magic. So, Wall-E is one of the last trash compactor robots on earth, until he meets a space robot and from there, adventure ensues. The film, which is a cross between “E.T.”, “Short Circuit” (in Wall-E’s appearance only,) “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Annie Hall” is truly one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. It stresses how we need to appreciate the earth and the simple things again and while super young kids might be confused by its quiet subtlety, it’s fantastic for all ages. Oh and yes…trash-robots have now officially made me cry. Thanks, Pixar. A+

WANTED

This stars James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie, ya know with her bulging eyes and cat-like prowess. (I’m still ‘Team Aniston’, which is kind of sad because I don’t think even Jen Aniston is ‘Team Aniston’ anymore.) Based VERY loosely on the graphic novel, this is quite the testosterone-driven-assassin film. And when you think of testosterone, you think (in a wimpy Scottish accent) “Let’s get little, tiny James McAvoy, that is if he’s not too busy filming a Jane Austen movie.” (Actually, I always quite like McAvoy, but let’s just say he needs to work on his ‘American accent’ a bit.) Morgan Freeman co-stars and I kept waiting for him to narrate with some little wise gem like ‘that’s the thing about assassins…” but he never did. This had elements of the awesome “Fight Club” in the sense that it’s a nerdy guy trying to make sense of his life (and you know how guys are when they’re feeling existential angst: “Bang, bang.”) However, “Fight Club” had a point and I’m not sure this did. It was beautifully shot, but I feel like we’ve seen the double-fisted gun thing in slow-mo already, haven’t we? C

GET SMART

Based on the 60s TV show of the same name, this stars the wonderful Steve Carrel as a ditsy spy, (originally played by Don Adams.) Anne Hathaway plays Agent 99 and although miscast, does a decent job alongside ‘The Rock’ and Alan Arkin as the delightful chief. Now, you know how easily distracted I am and I swear that a woman next to me at the screening (who for some reason had brought in a giant canister of cashews and a bucket of KFC) kept yelling at the screen, “Go Inspector Gadget…get em’!” That, of course, made the experience pretty awesome. The film, however, doesn’t quite commit to a style and it’s too violent compared to the original content, but Steve is so likable and there are enough fun cameos and laughs to make it worthwhile. I wanted to give this a high grade, but it missed it by THAT much. (Would ya believe, I’m only the 200thth critic to use that line?) C+

THE LOVE GURU

This stars Mike Myers wearing a very sexy beard, and by “very sexy beard”, I mean, CAN I PLEASE GET A TIME MACHINE AND ERASE HAVING EVER SEEN THIS? Co-star Jessica Alba once again proves her acting genius (ahem) and Justin Timberlake does a really great French-Canadian accent…if French Canadians all sound like Balki from “Perfect Strangers.” Oh by the way, Balki? 500 times funnier than this movie. The TV show 2-2-7 was funnier than this movie. I had my appendix taken out once and you guessed it…funnier than this movie. F

THE INCREDIBLE HULK

This NON-Ang Lee version (you wouldn’t like me when I’m Ang Lee) stars Ed Norton as Bruce Banner, Liv Tyler as Betty and quite a slue of fantastic actors who make up the supporting cast. I will say that with Hulk’s little haircut, he kind of looked like a green Tony Danza on steroids, (Mona?) There are times when he’s still ‘Shrekky,’ but I must say the CGI is, at least better in this version. I do have a few questions though: How come in every movie where there’s supposed to be “science” do they always strap someone to a gurney and then clamp little metal things to their head? Is that all science is? Also, how come when Bruce Banner is wearing jeans and he busts all into the Hulk, do the jeans still fit perfectly? I mean, yes, normally he wears stretchy pants, so it makes sense, but in the movie, he even keeps the belt on. Really? Hulk needs a belt? This version takes itself far less seriously and for the most part, stays truer to the comic. The casting is better and it’s funny when it needs to be and pretty intense, as well. B+

KUNG FU PANDA

This stars Jack Black as a panda whose dream is to master Kung Fu and help save the land from evil forces. Also starring are the voices of Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan and Angelina Jolie as the tiger. One thing though: Angelina kinda gets cast because she’s hot, not because she’s all ‘Meryl Streepy,’ so hearing her voice as an animated tiger, (which by the way, looks a lot like Tony the Tiger) is not all that sexy. In fact, the only thing less sexy would be hearing her voice Sonny the cuckoo Cocoa Puffs bird. All that said, I loved the film, as it has laughs and a wonderful message for all ages. A- -

YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN

Adam Sandler stars as an Israeli counter-terrorist with dreams of becoming a NY hairdresser. There are a lot of jokes about Adam making sweet love to women over 70… oh and tons of dog reaction shots, (thank you, Dennis Dugan. What WOULD we do without your insightful ‘pet’ reactions?) Despite having some great writers and the fact that I actually like Sandler, this movie made me hiss at the press screening. I went directly to the bookstore after the film to buy a book on curses. Yes, I’m cursing the director, so all I really need now is a chicken bone and a lock of Alan Thicke’s hair. This gets no grade, but the following picture: A grumpy face standing on a boat that is sinking into the fiery pits of Hades.

SEX AND THE CITY

This of course stars Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie, Kim Cattrall as trampy and about 2500 pairs of shoes…because what girl can’t relate to living on 500 dollars a week and spending 2000 of it on Jimmy Choos? Oh, right the ones of us who EAT can’t relate to that. So, I’m a fan of the TV show. Yep, bought the box set and watched about ten episodes a day and what’s sad is that’s not even the guiltiest pleasure I have. I’d say that was my addiction to Funyons and watching “Judge Judy.” (I know that’s guilty but is that even a pleasure?) As per usual, finding love is a central theme here and I’ll tell you what it is: It’s watching the audience gasp every time a Louis Vuitton showed up on screen. It’s basically six episodes of the TV show in a row and if you’re a fan, like I am…that’s fabulous. Now I will point out that it’s a little materialistic and I did struggle with the fact that when Carrie moves, her friends help her pack for literally 12 hours. Maybe NY friends are like that, but here in LA, I don’t even think my friends would show up if I were in jail let alone assist me in boxing up my overpriced purses. Despite the mixed reviews, (and the fact that I, myself, had had some Apple-tinis beforehand,) I enjoyed myself. B-

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

So, ya know how when you eat a whole box of like two dozen donuts and then wash it
down with a bottle of Jack Daniels and then watch 40 episodes of “Sex and the City” in a row? Ya know how when you do that, you feel a little guilty? Doesn’t everyone do this? Well, that’s how I felt watching this fabulous guilty pleasure and I’m okay with it. Harrison Ford is back and he…is…still…hot. I love that in his older age, he’s willing to revisit an old role, although I hope this doesn’t mean he’s gonna make “Working Girl 2,” because I have no desire to see what became of Trask Industries and that two-timing Melanie Griffith. (Side note: I never understood why were supposed to root for her in a film wherein her character steals accounts from Sigourney Weaver and then sleeps her way to the top.) Back to Jones, the film is so very Spielberg with just an unfortunate dash of George Lucas, (i.e., the third act.) But Spielberg has so many nods to some of his other films, I’m surprised they didn’t shoot a scene where Indiana hangs out with Jaws. Cate Blanchett is fun, Shia Labeouf is fine and it was nice to see Karen Allen, although the green screen really is a better actor than she is. Even though most of the movie is silly and ridiculous, it’s so much fun. I don’t know if it was the nostalgia or the Speilbergisms or Harrison’s Fedora, but I do know I really liked it. B.

SPEED RACER

Based on the 60s Japanese cartoon, this stars Christina Ricci and Emile Hirsch and is written and directed by the Wachowski brothers, otherwise known as ‘the Matrix guys.’ Now the rumor is that one of them (Larry) had a sex change and let me just say, whether it’s true or not, he needs to ease up on those hormone injections because this movie was insane and not in a good way. It’s loud and disjointed and while I get they’re going for pop-kitsch, the whole thing was like “The Fast and the Furious” meets “Mario Kart” meets a vat of Pepto Bismol. To be fair, Emile was pretty good casting, but the most sincere performance was from the monkey who played Chim Chim. I say ‘Don’t Go, Speed Racer, Don’t go’. This gets a Mach 5 out of 100 Stars. (What?)

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS

This stars Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz as two New Yorkers who meet in Vegas and stupidly get married. So this time we’re supposed to believe that Cameron is a ‘commodities trader.’ Yeah, the only the things Cameron has ever traded are purple unicorn stickers. (I mean, I guess that’s a commodity.) I will say that Cameron is pretty likable in these kooky roles, even though it’s yet another romantic comedy where we have to watch two people pretend to hate each other until the end, when they realize they loved each other ALL ALONG, (or DO they?) C-

IRON MAN

This stars Robert Downey Junior as, ya know…Iron Man (AKA Tony Stark.) When I first heard of this comic book as a kid, I always thought it was ‘Iron’, like the nutrient, not the metal, and I thought well, “Where’s Riboflavin Man or Vitamin D man?” I’m an idiot. Downey is perfect as Tony Stark and Jeff Bridges plays a villain flawlessly, (even though he’s now bald and can no longer relentlessly run his fingers through his hair, as he is known to do.) The first time Iron Man puts on his little suit…it shows it in parts, like, ‘Ooh, there’s the red metal and now the head is on and there’s the chest armor.’ I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if after the whole montage, they pan back and it’s Batman? I think both fans of the comic and just regular movie-goers will have a great time. B++.

MADE OF HONOR

This stars Patrick Dempsey and please let me point out that the title is spelled M- A- D- E, not M-A-I- D, as though he’s constructed of honor. Like Iron Man, except honor. He’s Honor-Man. This is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in awhile. It’s about a guy and girl, who are best friends and love each other, but are too stupid to figure it out. Kinda like “My Best Friend’s Wedding” meets “When Harry Met Sally”, if those scripts had been written by Basset Hounds. What’s even worse, there was a guy behind me at the screening and every time something ‘wacky’ would happen, he’d laugh manically and screech “Oh Lord.” Every time. This gets an M for McYucky.

BABY MAMA

Starring the delightful Amy Poehler and the charming Tina Fey, the latter of whom makes a speech about how there are two kinds of women: those, in their 30s who don’t have babies so they can focus on their fast-track careers and those who start younger and DO have babies. Um, they kind of leave out the third category that “I” fall into which is: those in their 30s, who don’t have babies so they can focus on playing Scrabulous on Facebook; (for the record: that was never the PLAN, per se. It just kinda worked out that way.) This is a cute film and while it misses the mark sometimes, it has some nice surprises in the supporting cast to help pick it up. I liked it: B-.

88 MINUTES

First off, be warned: this movie is NOT 88 minutes, but rather 107 minutes and believe me I counted every second. Al Pacino plays a forensic scientist who has to find a serial killer who has given him 88 minutes to live, which is clearly how long the screenwriter(s) took to write this. So let me make my review as short: this puts the Oooh in Oooh Rah. F.

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL

This stars Jason Segal (from the great “Freaks and Geeks” fame), Kristen Bell and many more from the Judd Apatow group including Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd. The story is about a guy who gets dumped and then goes to Hawaii to get over her, only to find the same ex there with another guy. While that’s pretty bad, can I please share with you how weird it is that I have to see my ex every week on “Celebrity Fit Club”? I mean, I really don’t need a weekly weigh-in with Dunkleman and yet…I can’t…stop…watching. This film is funny and sweet and real and I loved it, even the full frontal male nudity which happens for no reason. Other than that, it’s not as gross-out as “Superbad” or even “Knocked up”, but it’s the funniest romantic comedy I’ve seen in a long time. And look for English comedian Russell Brand, as he truly steals the movie. A-.

LEATHERHEADS

This stars the insufferably charming George Clooney, John Krasinski and Renee Zellweger also known as Squinty McSquintface. I heard they were gonna put “Special star: Squinty McSquintface” on the poster, but Renee’s agents, emphatically, said “No.” For real, at first the squinty eyes and pouty lips were cute but now, Renee just appears to have bitten into lemons dipped in horseradish, which is slightly distracting. That said, although this has gotten some so-so press, I actually enjoyed this film about football in 1925 before there were NFL rules. Ya know, back in the day when you were ALLOWED to showboat? I wish I could have taken Terrell Owens to the screening and said, “Hey, T.O. Getcha popcorn ready! No seriously, getcha popcorn and some Dr. Pepper and perhaps some Whoppers ready.” I love me some football, I love me some Clooney and I love me a good squinty mc lemon-squint-face. There are love interests and war stories and as an homage to 20s comedies, the jokes are often hit or miss, but I liked it overall. B-

DREAMGIRLS

You’ve heard about Jennifer Hudson’s amazing voice….now you should see what the fuss is about. Alongside Hudson, “Dreamgirls” stars Eddie Murphy who SHOULD have won the Oscar, but he just HAD to go and make “Norbit,” didn’t he? I’ll tell you who else should won an Academy Award: Beyonce’s hair weave. Seriously, it’s amazing! Back to Hudson: after she performed her hit song “And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going,” she got a standing ovation in the movie theater and that doesn’t happen often.  The dance numbers got a bit repetitive, but there’s so much heart and soul in this film, it’s hard to ignore its own version of “razzle/dazzle.” While the songs don’t quite linger as they did in the film “Chicago,” I enjoyed it, immensely. B

SWEET  LAND

Okay, so this is not the sequel to “Candy Land” the game…which is what I thought initially, because I am an idiot. This is actually the story of three generations of Norwegian and German immigrants who settle in Minnesota in the 1920s. Beautifully shot, it’s a simple and lovely story and a perfect reminder of just how exciting this country was to our ancestors. It does star Alan Cumming, who normally annoys me, mainly because his haircut makes him look like a cross between Moe from “The Three Stooges” and a young, hopeful Pee Wee Herman. But if you can get beyond the unfortunate haircut (and gel,) Sweet Land is a charming film and a perfect rental for a quiet evening in. B.

ALPHA DOG

This is based on the true story of Jesse James Hollywood, the California drug dealer who kidnapped his drug rival’s brother for ransom. I gotta say, my expectations were low, mainly because Justin Timberlake was one of the leads. Partially, I was biased, because every time I go into a Wet Seal or Contempo clothing store, I have to hear his song “Sexy Back.” (I guess the real question is why would a 30-something shop at Wet Seal but that’s for a different day.) The cast is good, especially Ben Foster, whose performance as a troubled speed freak is Oscar-worthy. The film is violent, dirty and extremely well-made. Plus, you get to see Sharon Stone in a fat suit for absolutely no reason. B-

BREACH

Directed by Billy Ray, (who also sat at the helm of the brilliant “Shattered Glass,) this stars Chris Cooper as the U.S. spy, Robert Hansen, who was caught selling secrets to the Russians in 2001. Here’s the thing: from now on, I want to see Chris Cooper in EVERY movie, even “Big Momma’s house 3,” because I’ll bet somehow he could make it awesome. Ryan Phillippe stars as the main agent responsible for catching Hansen and while he does a decent job, there’s just something about Ryan that I don’t like. I see him and I think FRAT GUY and I want him to be spanked with a paddle. I just kept waiting for him to turn to Cooper and say “Please Sir, can I have another?” This is an incredibly interesting, true story and simply put; excellent filmmaking. B +

ZODIAC

David Fincher’s latest stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Junior and Mark Ruffalo. Just to give you an idea of how daft some of my Los Angeles friends are, I  said to one, “Hey, I’m going to see Zodiac” and she said “What’s that?” and I said “It’s a  horror/thriller about the Zodiac killer, remember?” and she said, “Oh My G-d, Capricorns  are so scary!” Right, just so you know, Zodiac is NOT about your astrological sign, however, it is a great thriller about the unsolved case of that very clever serial killer back in the 70s. Even though it was almost three hours long, it’s gripping from start to finish   and in typical Fincher filmmaking, it infiltrates one’s mind more so than their emotions. In fact, this film gave so many theories as to who the Zodiac killer might have been, I’ve since become obsessed; (and by that, I mean, I read all about it on Wikipedia, after which I felt I had solved the case and almost called the police to offer my expertise.) A-

300

This is Frank Miller’s adaptation of a famous battle wherein 300 Spartans bravely fought a gi-normous Persian invasion. (And no, you won’t be lost if you didn’t see the first 299 movies. Har.) I’d say this movie was kind of like a cross between an X-Box fighting game and…gay porn.  It’s very manly, so ladies if you enjoy this with your guys, they must be willing to go see “Hairspray.” It’s only fair. Too violent for kids, but artistically, this one’s pretty amazing. C+

REIGN OVER ME

This surprising drama stars Adam Sandler as a man who’s down and out, after losing his entire family in 9-11. First of all, the press knew what the plot was going in and yet after the movie, I heard some idiot say, “Yeah, I just thought it would more of a comedy.” Really? I wanted to say, “Yeah, sir, they’re gonna make a comedy about terrorist attacks…right after they make a musical about the Vietnam War.” Okay, bad example, but did he really think Sandler was gonna bust into “The Hanukah song” at the World Trade Center? No. Despite a few big flaws, this film is sad and touching and one of the better performances from Sandler, although I liked him slightly more in “Punch Drunk Love.” Don Cheadle is fantastic, as always. C++

BLADES OF GLORY

This film, starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder, centers itself around two very different man-boys competing for the championship in figure ice-skating.  Now I happen to love Will Ferrell (which I have to often defend to my snooty critic friends,) but when is he going to stop making movies about sports? First there was soccer, then NASCAR, now ice-skating. What’s next? Four Square? There are laughs in this film, but not as many as previous Ferrell movies (my personal favorite being “Anchorman.”) It’s silly and forgettable, but not awful and that’s worth something. C+

SHREK THE THIRD

The whole Shrek gang is back, plus about 100 new characters and story lines, but here’s the real test: If I see a movie and become creepily obsessed with one of its characters, it means I like it. In this case, it’s the gingerbread man, whom I love so much, I’ve tried to stalk the voiceover artist on Myspace, (He declined my friend request) He’s almost as great as Antonio Banderas’s “Puss in boots” and I’m so glad McDonalds created a “Gingy” for its happy meal with the Shrek cross-promotion. Hey, at least it’s better than doing a cross promotion with a movie like “Georgia Rule.” “Hey, would ya like a happy meal? You’ll get Fonda fries and a Lindsay Lohan doll: it’ll flash you.” I liked Shrek the Third, maybe not as much as the first two, (as it wasn’t quite as funny or sweet,) but it still raises the bar for other kids’ films. Oh by the way, I took my friend’s daughter to the screening and she DID get scared. She’s 24 years old; kidding she’s 3. On the safe side, unless your child has seen the other films in the series, this is best for 5 and over. Getting mixed reviews, but I really liked it and think it’s worth renting. B

SPIDERMAN 3

Once again directed by Sam Ramie, this third installment of the popular Marvel comic has tons of fun villains, including the adorable Topher Grace as Venom, Thomas Hayden Church as Sandman and James Franco, again as the Green Goblin’s baby, (Actually, on IMDB, he was listed as “New Goblin” but “Baby Green Goblin” sounds so cute to me.) There was a bit too much CGI, which made it tough to figure out who was beating up whom during the fight scenes. I also wish they’d surprised us a little: like at one point, some villain was on the loose and the camera pulled back into a wide shot as if to say “We need Spiderman!” I thought it would be so funny if they panned up to the sky and showed the “bat symbol” and then Spiderman was like “Aw, dangit!” Bottom line, I loved it. And while a few of my comic book friends found it a bit too campy, I think it totally worked. B++

LUCKY YOU:

“Lucky You” (and I mean that if you DON’T see this film) stars Eric Bana as a professional gambler who just wants a little respect from his dad (played by Robert Duvall) and Drew Barrymore as the ditsy lounge singer who could teach him a thing or two about love. Basically, Eric revises his role as “The Hulk.” “You wouldn’t like Hulk when he’s betting.” “Hulk Smash Chips.” At one point, he asks Drew, “Do you know a lot about poker?” and she says in the typical Drew voice, “I know that three of a kind beats two of a kind.” Really? THAT’S what you know? And then, of course there’s that speech in every sports movie where the girl goes “Why do you like poker so much?” And the guy goes “Because poker is the purest sport there is.” Um, didn’t Kevin Costner say that about baseball? And Will Smith about golf? They should have a pure-off; I guarantee poker wouldn’t win. I’ve heard better dialogue in an on-line poker chat-room and that’s from people with screen-names like “Red Elvis 260.” F.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END

I think, if it’s possible, this movie gave me Rickets. The whole gang is back including Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly. And just like the last “Pirates,” I couldn’t understand a single word any of em’ said, ever, (and that goes for Snaky McSnakeface too, AKA Bill Nighy.) There are about 50 plot-lines in this three hour epic and I MAY have drifted off because I came to and suddenly, Keith Richards was on-screen, telling Depp something about a rule-book. Yeah, Keith Richards is the guy you want guarding your rule-book. “Where did I put those rules? Oh they’re under my Cocaine.” After hours more of relentless “Arrgghs,” I started thinking: “Why are we rooting for the pirates?” It’s like watching a movie for three hours from the perspective of a guy who just robbed you. I, of course was rooting for the British Imperialists, but ya know I’m always rooting for the wrong people. (I rooted for the boss in “Devil Wears Prada” and, I kid you not, I rooted for the shark in “Jaws.”) This was loud and horribly written, however, I will say that while the special effects were incredible, it didn’t make up for the excruciating script. This gets a D for “Davy Jones’s locker.”

KNOCKED UP:

The great Judd Apatow’s latest is about a nerdy shlub who gets a hot woman, (played by “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Katherine Heigl) pregnant on a one-night stand. The nerd/slacker is played by the hilarious Seth Rogan (“40 Year Old Virgin,”) but he’s so dorky and at times MEAN in this film, even I wouldn’t date him…and I have the lowest standards in the world. Seriously, she’s like a supermodel and yet we’re supposed to believe that somehow HE’S the baby daddy? That said, Paul Rudd and Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann also star and completely steal the show. There are definitely some great laughs in this film, and while (for me) it’s not quite as solid as “Virgin,” it’s worth checking out for some very funny and surprisingly sweet moments. B.  

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER

The fantastic four (also known as the fantastically bad actors) are back and this time “the silver surfer” joins the gang.  I’ve actually always found the Silver Surfer to be an intriguing character in the Marvel universe and the film does a decent job at keeping up his “cool quotient.” (He’s voiced by Laurence Fishburne and The CGI work looks great.) That said, there are some annoying plot issues. Here’s the thing: Without giving too much away, of COURSE, there’s the scene where Mr. Fantastic trusts Dr. Doom for a moment (much to the dismay of the others.) Um, we all know Dr. Doom is bad, because his NAME is DR. DOOM! What does he have to be called “Jerko McEvil” before these guys figure it out? Also, don’t the “Fantastic Four” hear the scary, “bad guy” music every time Doom’s on-screen? The movie is actually not as bad as its predecessor, but that’s not saying much. Geared toward kids 10 and up. C + for kids/C- for adults

1408

This stars John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson and if you’re wondering, no you don’t have to see the first 1,407 films to know what’s going on. (Ah, number jokes…always funny.) This is exactly what a horror film should be: about ghosts…not some stupid saw chamber. If you’re a big fan, you can check out the two DVD set collector’s edition, which I think has an alternate ending. (Wouldn’t it be great if the alternate ending is just Patrick Swayze showing up to make a clay mud-bowl with John, while “Unchained Melody” played softly in the background?) I guess that’s a different ghost-story. This one is quite scary. B

RATATOUILLE

Pixar has made movies about bugs, fish, cars and now rats and I truly believe they’re gonna run out of ideas to animate. What’s next, a cartoon about talking trashing cans? Coming this fall, “CANZ: This winter, we’re taking out the TRASH!” And then, of course, Wanda Sykes can be one of the recycled cans, who says something like, “Who you callin’ trash? Quit staring at my cans!” (You get the idea.) This one stars the voice of the hilarious Patton Oswalt as the lead rat who wants to be a chef in the great city of Paris. Sure, a rat touching your food could give you the Hanta Virus, but this film is rated G, so I guess they’d rather not touch on the whole biohazard disease thing. This is one of those great crossover films that your kids will enjoy as much as you will. It’s beautifully animated (and at this point, we’d expect nothing less from Pixar) and it reverts storytelling back to a simpler time when cartoons could be funny AND poignant. B.

TRANSFORMERS

Okay, what’s up? Boys get their boy-toys made into movies and so I ask: where’s MY movie about “My Little Pony?” And if you tell me it was “Seabiscuit”, I want my money back. For those who don’t know, this is about alien robots who come to earth to deal with some sort of magical cube. (Kind of like what Tom Cruise believes.) The good news is this is co-produced by Steven Spielberg and he’s really good at creating wonderful back-stories and lovable dialogue for his characters. (He even has a knack for making aliens seem human!) The bad news is: it’s directed by Michael Bay and HE’S really only good at making people run in slow motion out of fireballs. This is a long one and while I loved the first half, which has a Spielberg feel, I hated the last hour, which has Bay written all over it. So let’s call it even and give it a B-  

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (HARRY POTTER 5)

The Potter gang is back for another adventure in J.K. Rowling’s always unique glimpse into a very magical world.  Daniel Radcliff (Harry Potter) is once again adorable, although he is now 40 and reminds me of a young Dudley Moore, (which is not necessarily a bad thing.) As a point of reference, I LOVED the last film, (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”) and while this one has some really strong moments and is gorgeous to watch, it just didn’t resonate as much with me. Keep in mind, it’s a much darker story and seems to serve more as an exposition for the next two films (which I hear are going to be fantastic!) Now remember, there’s a high necessity to suspend one’s disbelief during the Potter films; at one point, I kind of zoned out and I swear I heard the following: “Harry Potter mustn’t go to the blue dungeon for the locket because of the great Hasselhoff spell. And Dumbledore always says don’t Hassle the Hoff.” What? Okay, while it might not ALWAYS hold your attention, there are some fun performances (especially from Imelda Staunton and Gary Oldman) and if you’re a fan, I definitely recommend it. B.

I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY

Adam Sandler and Kevin James star as two macho firemen who have to pretend to be gay and married in order to get a pension. OK, remember in the TV show “Bosom Buddies” when Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari had to pretend to be Buffy and Hildegard to get cheap housing? Yeah, this is EXACTLY like that except without the hotness of Peter Scolari, (that’s right, I was into Henry, what of it?) I think Sandler is stronger when he plays more serious roles (e.g. “Punch Drunk Love” and the more recent “Reign over Me”) but this is a “comedy” at its lowest denominator, complete with sex jokes and bathroom humor. It even has that cliché courtroom scene wherein the judge will bang his gavel and say (complete with Southern accent) “I hereby order you two boys to kiss and show me that you’re really in love!” There are a couple of laughs, but overall, “I” now pronounce this an “F.”

HAIRSPRAY

This is a remake of the musical based on John Waters’ 80s film of the same name. And here’s something I don’t often say…I loved it! Travolta in drag might be something that many have seen behind closed doors and it was a novel idea for the film, but probably its weakest part. (Mainly because the fat-suit made him look like a Muppet and his affected accent was ridiculous.) That said, Nicki Blonksy filled Ricki Lake’s shoes fabulously and Christopher Walken and Michelle Pfeiffer were also excellent. (Pfeiffer hasn’t been this evil since Catwoman!) Remember, this is based on the musical and not the wonderfully quirky, kitschy anti-burbs Waters film, but John seemed to have endorsed this project and I’m so glad…because it’s delightful. B+

THIS IS ENGLAND

This is a movie about Italy. Kidding, no, it’s a semi-autobiographical tale about a young boy in England in the 1980s and how he struggled with the punk and (the ultimate rejection of) the skinhead movement. This acting is outstanding and while this didn’t get a lot of play in theaters, it’s definitely worth renting. A-

THE SIMPSONS

Got to attend the premiere of this one and even though I got tipsy on the “Marge-erita machines” (which was simply an ice sculpture of Marge with tequila dripping into a cup,) I was still able to enjoy the film. There are lots of laughs, especially from Albert Brooks, who guest-voices and Homer, who adopts a pig. (I promise you’ll be singing the song “Spider Pig” for days after.) It was funny and sweet and surprisingly dirty at times. There is full-frontal nudity, just so you know (but don’t worry, it’s nothing you haven’t seen in a celebrity sex-tape.) Be sure to stay for the closing credits for a special treat. B for the movie, A for “Spider Pig!”

CHARLIE BARTLETT

This unique film stars the great Robert Downey Junior, as you guessed it, an alcoholic eccentric. (Yeah, he’s really going outside of his comfort zone on this one.) His character also happens to be a school principal who takes on a clever rich kid with plans to start a school revolution. It’s a little ‘John Hughes’ (whom I blame personally for inspiring me to sing a Depeche Mode song in front of my junior high) mixed with a little of the ‘O.C.’ (sans Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows.) I have to say, I was moved by this film’s charm and ability to get into the heads of teenagers. Great acting and an endearing story. B+

UNDERDOG

Based on the popular 60s animated TV show (which I loved) this film had the potential to be adorable and a blast for kid. This, of course, added to the fact that Underdog is played by my favorite breed (the Beagle!) should have made it a sure-thing. But, casting the sarcastic Jason Lee (“My Name is Earl”, annoying Kevin Smith movies) as the voice of the beagle, to me, would be like casting Joan Rivers as the voice of the baby Jesus. But whether Lee floats your boat or not, there isn’t enough creativity in the story to recommend it for adults, (although seeing a Beagle in a cape does make me happy.) It’s absolutely fine for young kids (6 and up,) but be warned: after they see this, they may beg for a Beagle and let me tell you from experience, they will chew through your TV wires, (although with all the bad reality TV, that might be a good thing.) C (for the movie) A + (for Beagles)

BRATZ THE MOVIE

Based on the doll with the same name, this movie about four young girls who love glitter and Myspace, is, in a nutshell, everything that’s wrong with the world. I get that we’re living in 2007 and times have changed since I roller-skated to Journey songs. But if I hear the letters L…O…L or B…F….F again, I’m going to commit myself. Honestly, young ladies, you SAY you’re ROFL (rolling on floor, laughing) but I’m watching you and you’re just standing there. I can’t even give this a grade, but I AM going to ground all the actresses in the film. You hear me girls? You are grounded for making this movie. No more texting; no more glitter. I don’t recommend this for parents or their children. It gets a “G” for “Grounded.”

BOURNE ULTIMATUM

The third installment of the ‘Bourne’ movies once again stars Matt Damon as Jason Bourne or IS THAT HIS REAL NAME? Just like the second film, it’s directed by Paul Greengrass and I do have ONE suggestion for ya Paul: invest some money in a TRIPOD. After merely 12 minutes of this exciting film, I had to take a Dramamine, which I must say, does NOT go well with popcorn. The shaky camera is especially noticeable in the fighting scenes. I mean, really, who’s holding the camera? I can just hear the director, “Okay, Matt, right here is when you need to take a swing at the bad guy. But do you mind holding the camera in your left hand while you do it? I have to take a pee break.” That’s just poor planning. One more pet peeve? How come in movies when someone has to change their identity, (especially a woman,) is she always able to cut and color her hair perfectly in 45 seconds? Honestly, there’s a scene where someone colors her hair and cuts it into a shag in less than a minute and somehow she looks like Meg Ryan straight from the salon. It takes HOURS to perfect that haircut and in real life, if she did that in 20 seconds, she’d look deranged. There’s not much dialogue, but there is a lot of fighting and grunting and running around…and…it’s…awesome. B.

THE INVASION

This remake of the 1978 “Invasions of the Body Snatchers” (which itself is a remake) stars Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman and clearly, Nicole Kidman’s Botox injector. The premise, that aliens will invade your body unless you a) stay awake and b) show no emotion is perfect for someone like Kidman, who has been unable to show emotion since approximately 2002. Of course, she still looks beautiful as she runs around pretending to be a psychiatrist, but the script is too weak and we have to suspend far too much disbelief  to make this worthwhile. (Speaking of suspension of disbelief, it’s tough to buy Kidman and Craig as doctors, as my shrink looks like Wallace Shawn, the bald guy from “Princess Bride.”) The good news is: if anyone knows what to do when creepy aliens invade, it’s Nicole Kidman.  This gets a Z for ZZZZZ. 

SUPERBAD

If you’re on-board with the recent Judd Apatow craze (“40 Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,”) this filthy coming-of-age story just might be for you. First of all, you have to have faith in your movie to call it “Superbad,” because we, critics, could have had a field day with that. Why can’t movies like “Gigli” and “The Number 23” name themselves “Superbad?” It would save us all so much heartache. This stars Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, the awesome kid from “Arrested Development” whom I believe carries the whole film. Written by Seth Rogan and his buddy Evan Goldberg (allegedly when they were 13), this is the story of two best friends in their last weeks of high school. It’s disgusting and hilarious, but made me wonder: whatever happened to Lloyd Dobbler? Remember when movies about high-school were sweet and inspiring? Yeah, this one’s not quite that…but you’ll laugh until you feel guilty for laughing. If you aren’t offended by incessant references to the male/female anatomy, this is one to check out. B+.

NANNY DIARIES

Based on the best selling book, this stars Scarlet Johansson and Laura Linney. And just so you know, (at least in the film) the reason the lead character becomes a nanny is  because in a park, when she saves a young boy from a speeding bicycle, she introduces herself as “ANNIE,” but the mom thinks she says “NANNY,” so she becomes their nanny! What?  What if her name had been Bardner? Then would she have become their family’s gardener? What about Raid; she’d be a maid? How bout Booker…are you kidding me? I enjoyed Laura Linney who plays the crazy Upper Eastside mom, but this is so dated. There’s even a scene where “Nanny” (which is what the Mom and her cute, but troubled son insist on calling her) is moving to New York and there’s a montage to the song “Freedom” by Wham, (technically it’s George Michael solo.) Ya know what? I’m putting my foot down. No more montages to Wham songs…EVER. D-

MR. BEAN’S HOLIDAY

This once again stars Rowan Atkinson as a lovable buffoon and this time, he’s won a trip to Cannes, France. Of course he finds himself in all kinds of silly situations and we have to sit there until he figures it all out. Can we just once have a movie about a vacation that goes really well? Ya know, where everyone has a great time and posts their photos on Snapfish or Myspace.com? I like Rowan, but if I wanted to see someone making bad choices and stumble around, I’d watch home videos of myself. Young kids enjoyed the physical comedy, but overall, not so good for adults. C-

3:10 TO YUMA

Starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, this is, of course, a remake of a 1957 western of the same name. The title refers to the train that comes at 3:10 and goes to Yuma and I really hope it doesn’t spawn a bunch of movies entitled with travel schedules. We had “United 93,” “310 to Yuma” and I really hope there’s no movie called “The 4:30 Bus to Harlem, with a Transfer to Queens.” I must be honest; I didn’t think I liked westerns…UNTIL NOW! This film was a pleasant surprise and re-introduced me to the genre, while adding a modern twist. And let me tell what train I’m back on: The Russell Crowe train. Choo Choo, (that’s right, I said Choo Choo.) He’s back and he looked hot as the mean, charming bandit, which is perfect for him. Bale is also excellent although Russell steals the show. Oh how I love a bad boy and I really liked this movie. B +

THE BRAVE ONE

This stars Terrance Howard and Jodie Foster as a radio DJ turned vigilante. With regard to the title, I could just hear the conversation between the screenwriters: “What should we name this?” “How about ‘The Brave Woman?’ “Yeah, but are we sure she’s a woman?” Okay, okay, how bout we just call it ‘The Brave ONE’...that way we’re not committing to a gender.” I’m kidding, of course, I love Jodie Foster, but I’m just sayin,’ she’s starting to look a bit like Jon Bon Jovi with Beck’s haircut. That said, she still shows us why she’s considered one of the finest actresses of her time. The film essentially asks the audience to question the concept of revenge and the thin line between right and wrong; justice and personal vendetta. Terrance plays a New York detective who befriends Jodie and there’s lots of clichéd cop dialogue, (e.g., they find a guy dead on the subway and the smart alecy cop says something like “Hope this was his stop.”) While the script suffered greatly, the acting’s actually pretty good and the message, quite interesting. C.

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD

This is Brad Pitt’s (he both stars and produces) new creation. With the exception of “Brokeback Mountain,” it’s certainly the artsiest Western I’ve ever seen, but well worth the director’s slight self-indulgence for the incredible performances. In fact, I never thought I’d give this many props, (do people still say ‘props?’) to an Affleck brother, but Casey Affleck (who plays Robert Ford) is Oscar-worthy, as his Sam Rockwell as his brother. Based on the novel of the same name, this portrays the character of Jesse James (Brad Pitt) in a new light…that, as perceived by a man who both idolized and feared him. I did upset a friend, by revealing that Jesse James gets assassinated, but had to point out that, yeah, the TITLE of the film KIND of gives it away. Worth checking out. B.

SYDNEY WHITE

This stars tween-favorite Amanda Bynes and although I loved her in “Hairspray,” I’m annoyed that she describes her SELF as this generation’s Lucille Ball. Yeah, she’s JUST like Lucille Ball, and Lindsay Lohan is Ethel and Kevin Federline is Ricky Ricardo, (well, that part is kind of true.) So “Sydney White,” which based on her tan should have been called “Sydney Fake Bake Orange” is supposed to be a cross between “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Snow White.” It’s about a tomboy who goes to college to pledge a sorority, but realizes it’s not for her and joins up with some “nerds” to take back the school. K, I went to college and I was friends with some nerds and let me tell you, I’ve never once seen a nerd sit around wetting his pants and experimenting with science projects. And they don’t ALWAYS have inhalers. Are we still doing this nerd =  allergy thing? In EVERY movie, the nerds have asthma. How come the nerds never have more fun diseases like Pink-eye or Ebola? One of the nerds even has a puppet because puppets are apparently hilarious. Really? This is worse than a play I wrote when I was nine, which was ironically about nerds. D.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE:

I know there are some true cynics (I’m a faux-cynic) out there who will hate me for this, but I quite enjoyed this 60s love story told entirely through Beatles songs. Come on, how cool is that? Sure, the story is thin and yes, it’s EXTREMELY cheesy, but YOU GET TO HEAR GREAT BEATLES COVERS! If you can get past the not-so-subtle campiness (e.g., there are characters named Prudence, Lucy, (Sexy) Sadie and Jude, get it?) it’s really quite lovely. I did think it would be funny if they slipped in a Hall and Oats song. All of a sudden you hear, “I can’t go for that…no…no can do.” I guarantee at least two people would think, “Wait, was that a Ringo song?” This is kind of a cross between Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” (although not as heavy) and “Moulin Rouge,” (although not as good.) B- (And if in a bad mood: C-) 

FEAST OF LOVE:

This stars Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear and although it sounds like something you might see on Skinamax, I can assure you, that this movie about intermingling love-lives is far from it. Just to give you a taste of the character development, there’s “the hippy chick” who just wants to “feel the grass under her feet” and the mean old dad who drives a truck and drinks whiskey out of the bottle. And Kinnear is just a naïve nice guy who wants to find love and we know this because he says things like “Ya know? I guess I’m just a dreamer who wants to find love.” Oh one of the free-spirits says to her boyfriend (and I’m paraphrasing,) “I know you used to be a junkie, know why? Because you’re a Pisces with Virgo rising.” Really? So she knows he’s a junkie because he was born in March? Oh and Morgan, whom I love, wanders around town narrating the whole thing (par for the course.) A few critics liked it; I guess they’re just dreamers. I’ve had break-ups that were less painful than this. F.

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL

If someone had told me that I’d love a film where the lead character falls in love with a sex-toy, I’d have asked, “Is this a Paris Hilton film?” Well, luckily for all of us, it’s not. Instead it’s Ryan Gosling topping himself as a troubled, but sweet introvert who expresses himself through the love of a doll that he orders on-line. It sounds dirty and strange and while the latter is true, there are no uncomfortable moments involving Lars and the doll. In fact, the tone of the film is so gentle and sweet, you’ll be rooting for their relationship. The supporting cast is excellent and in a time when loud, tense films seem to reign, this is a wonderful alternative. A-

DAN IN REAL LIFE

Starring the always charming Steve Carell as a lonely widower raising three girls, this all centers around a weekend family get-away. Okay, maybe I’m old fashioned, but when MY family gets together, it usually involves yelling and whiskey and did I mention yelling and usually an uncle taking off his pants at dinner, (normally right before dessert is served.) But in THIS family reunion, they have “activities,” like a talent show and aerobics in the backyard. Yeah, we have a talent show. It’s called “How fast can Uncle Morty take off his pants at dinner?” (And the only exercise WE get as a family, usually involves running from the law.) The beautiful Juliette Binoche co-stars and once again is French and quirky. Also, Dane Cook plays the naïve, self-absorbed, face mugging brother. Need I say more? The heart of this film tries desperately to be in the right place, but it just falls short. Certainly not a horrible movie, but most likely, a forgettable one. C

AMERICAN GANGSTER

This stars the great Denzel Washington as the real-life Frank Lucas, a ruthless, but complicated drug-dealer in the 60s and 70s and Russell Crowe as the cop trying to take him down. Uh, first of all, hey, I’m a fan of Russell, but in real life, the cop he plays is supposed to be kind of a do-gooding, slightly neurotic Jewish man. Really?  Russell Crowe for that? What, Bernie Mac wasn’t available to play the nice Jewish boy? Actually, based on press notes, it’s a pretty good match, but many of the other characters (and the dialogue) seemed a bit broad. Coming in at just over 2 and half hours, this had the interesting mark of great director Ridley Scott, seemingly paying homage to an even greater director, Martin Scorsese. Martin would have probably done it better, but this was a pretty good copy. B-

THE MARTIAN CHILD

Loosely based on the novel of the same name, this stars John Cusack and as always, his sprightly sister, Joan. He really does like Joan being in his movies, doesn’t he? As fun and likable as she is, she has become John’s Clint Howard, without the black-rimmed glasses, but with twice the quirky! Despite some really bad reviews, I was quite pleasantly surprised by this film about a single man (in the movie, he’s a widower,) trying to adopt a boy, (played excellently by Bobby Coleman.) While this is schmaltzy at times, I really liked this film, (perhaps because I could finally imagine that this is what happened to Lloyd Dobbler after age 30.) I’m surprised by some of the negative reaction, because I found this to be sweet, uplifting, odd and sad…at once. It’s excellent for the whole family. B  

BEE MOVIE

Written and starring Jerry Seinfeld, once again, we have a movie about insects that if we found in our homes, we would freak. What’s next, a movie about dust-mites? I can see it now, “Get ready to DUST…starring John Goodman as the Ionizer! So this was more for younger kids than I expected, which is not to say it isn’t sweet and doesn’t look great.  Jerry’s bee is likable, as he tries to fight the power of the Hive and Chris Rock in a small part is a wonderful addition. I will say that Michael Richards does do one of the voices (a bit part) and I feel like we’re not quite ready for him yet, (I kept hoping he’d get stung by a fire-ant or something.) This most likely isn’t going to make anyone’s best-of-the-year lists, but for the youngins, it’s awfully fun. C+

FRED CLAUSE

This stars the adorable Vince Vaughn as the black sheep brother to Santa Clause, played by Paul Giamatti. Gotta tell ya, liked the premise and the cast which also includes Kathy Bates and Kevin Spacey. But it does that thing that the movie “Little Man” did, wherein it put heads of real stars onto little people’s bodies. Really? We’re doing this? And one of the heads was rapper Ludacris. Yep, Ludacris. If having your head CGI’d onto an elf’s body won’t get you street-cred, I don’t know what will. I did laugh a few times, but this movie just doesn’t know its audience. Harmless, but average. C.

MR. MAGORIUM’S WONDER EMPORIUM

This stars Natalie Portman and greats, Dustin Hoffman (as the title character) and Jason Bateman as an uptight accountant who is hired to clean up the loose ends of Magorium’s “magic” toy store. First of all, why do we always root for the crazy people in movies? So this accountant guy comes in to do the books for “crazy wizard guy” and we’re supposed to not like him because at FIRST, he doesn’t believe that there are talking Beanie Babies. Oooh, if he only had magic in his heart. Oooh, the big bad accountant, is so big and bad and logical. What are we teaching kids? That if you don’t believe that stuffed animals can talk, you must be “square?” Believe me, they’ll learn that in their college dorm rooms.  I actually do like the premise and have loved lots of whimsical films in the past, but this one is really only good for kids between ages of 0 and two days. Actually, scratch that, it’s for unborn kids, or at least still in the womb. Okay, I’m being a bit rough. Super young ones may get a kick out of the pretty colors, but me? Not so much. D

LIONS FOR LAMBS

My what a cast! This stars the amazing Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise and Robert Redford, who also directed.  The film cuts between three scenes: a conservative senator and journalist, two soldiers in Afghanistan and a professor and his apathetic “Generation Y” student. And ALL…they…DO…is TALK! I’d imagine it’s not unlike how guys feel on a first date with ME. “Blah, blah, blah I love dogs. Blah blah, blah, I hated Junior High.” I love the effort to get people thinking about the media and the war, but COME ON! And Tom Cruise, enough with the teeth whitening. Seriously, his teeth are like the Sun, (they’re actually dangerous to look at.) Even though I agree with a lot of what this film says, it has been said so many times before…and like 3 years ago. Sadly, it’s a D+.

WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT:

I would compare this flick to a relationship that you know just isn’t working, but you can’t figure out why. I mean it has all the makings of at least a tolerable cinematic experience, including the charming Ray Ramono, the brilliant Gene Hackman, the talented Maura Tierney and a somewhat decent, albeit thin logline: An ex-President runs for Mayor of a small town against a down to earth good ole boy. But for whatever reason, the actors phone it in and the whole film relies heavily on that ANNOYING CUTSEY MUSIC, ya know the“Bum Bum Bum…Bum Bum Bum” and we’re supposed to all go, “Awwww, something clever must be happening because they’re playing that adorable music.” Well guess what? The music lied and this movie sucks. D.

AGAINST THE ROPES:

This stars Omar Epps as a boxing legend who needs help being forced back into the ring and Meg Ryan as the real-life Jackie Kallen who has the balls to force him. Meg Ryan is so cute that I just would like to take her and smash her into a little cube…no, in a GOOD way…like a cute cube. I just mean so she can’t take roles like this anymore. It’s not that Ryan was completely miscast, because the real life boxing manager babe is pretty hot. It’s that Meg Ryan never plays anything but Meg Ryan and when it comes to a biographic role, that just won’t fly. Also, that Midwestern accent is more annoying than talking to a person who claims, “I don’t even OWN a TV.” The story this movie is based on is just barely inspiring so how do they expect the movie to be? C-

EUROTRIP:

The best part of this movie was when that zany Chevy Chase made a really weird face…oh, right that was a different Eurotrip. Let me let you all in on something. Often when studios can’t get enough people to come to press screenings, they will hand out free tickets. Keep that in mind when I tell you that the homeless guy who hangs out at my local Starbucks (we call him Starbucks Larry) seemingly gives Eurotrip a thumbs up…WAY UP. He was roaring the entire time and afterwards, asked me for a ride back to his “corner” to further discuss the film. My theory on this movie is that perhaps the writers wrote it while they themselves were partaking of magic brownies in Amsterdam. Ya know, maybe a little, “Oh dude that would be hilarious to light the pope’s hat on fire…write that down,” as they burst into hysterics beyond repair. I, however, didn’t like it quite as much, but then again, I was painfully sober. C- (Keep in mind, Larry gives it an A Plus.)


HAVANNA NIGHTS: DIRTY DANCING TWO

I’m gonna make this review as short as the time seemingly put into the script. It’s exactly like “Dirty Dancing” part one except it takes place in Cuba. All I can say is, “Nobody puts Castro in a corner….” Oh right, yeah they do. D

 

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

Let me first point out I find it very odd that people are so upset with Mel Gibson for making this movie. For one, shouldn’t we REALLY be mad at him for making “Bird on a Wire” and “Air America?” When “Lethal Weapon Three” came out, where were the protestors then, I ask you…where? Ok, so surprisingly I found a lot of gaffes in the flick. I mean I know Mel wanted to bring this story to all audiences, but I think he went too far when he had Judas say he was just “keepin it real.” That couldn’t have happened, could it? Also, I’m no bible scholar, but I’m pretty sure that Pontius Pilot did not wear a scratch n sniff Swatch Watch. Did they even HAVE those back then? And the product placement people…wow! I know for a fact that diet coke didn’t exist back then and even if it DID, was it ALWAYS packaged so nicely? Kidding aside, this is a fascinating film but my main concern is that the movie focuses much more on the violence of Jesus’s death than the love preached during his life. Having said that, I will say that Mel sure does know how to make a bloody movie, but remember…IT’S JUST A MOVIE. And it’s Mel Gibson’s interpretation, at that, so let’s all get our panties out of the wad. It can only divide us if we make it the Gospel itself, so everyone ease up. WWJD? I’ll tell you THIS much. Jesus NEVER would have allowed studios to greenlight “What Women Want.” He cared about us too much. B-

WHITE CHICKS: Starring. Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans

Okay, first let me say, I’m amazed by the original premise. Two guys dress up as two
women? What? I never! But of course, the catch is that they dress up as two blonde white women, so they can impersonate two well-known rich girls. Hey, I’m no rocket scientist, but wouldn’t it be kind of tough to pull that off? Some might say, “Hey Cecily, you’ve got to suspend your disbelief…and I would say back to them, “I don’t want to…and get of my living room.” And ANOTHER thing, we get it! Comics, writers, stop with the white people are different than black people jokes. We KNOW, white people can’t dance and black men are better in bed. It’s a hacky premise with hacky jokes…and I like those guys. D Plus.

THE NOTEBOOK:

If there is one thing I hate more than a Switch movie, it’s a flash back movie. Yeah, that’s
what we all want…to go back to the 40s and watch two people who are hotter than us
make out for no reason. And let me say this, if you meet the LOVE of your life at a carnival, can’t you wait a year for him to come back from the war? It’s a YEAR! I’m so sick of these movies where some chick is like “I’m sorry, I know we were "soulmates" or whatever but I couldn’t wait forever.” And the poor guys is all, “Huh? I just went to the grocery store for an hour. I didn’t go to war…” Christ, I’ve waited 30 years for Hugh Grant, now THAT’S commitment. I love how her deepest and most secret thoughts were put into a notebook. If one looked at MY diary, they’d see, “Dear Diary. Today I ate some peas and watched the worst movie ever called “The Notebook.” Talk to you soon. Cecily.” C-


THE TERMINAL: Starring Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta Jones

In a nutshell, this movie is “CAST AWAY”, only in an airport. And speaking of Cast Away, I was surprised to see that Wilson, the ball makes a guest appearance. Oh wait that wasn’t Wilson…that was Catherine Zeta Jones. This is one of those flicks that you really have to suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to believe that someone living in an airport for nine months without a shower would REALLY be able to score with a hot flight attendant. Although Hanks is good, the film is contrived and often doesn’t make sense at all. I am told, however, if you still have a heart…which I don’t, you may like it. C+

DODGEBALL: Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn

Before screening this film, I should mention that the mere thought of this gave me severe panic attacks, .not just because Dodgeball in Junior High itself was so frightening but because my PE teacher Miss Polanski had a little crush on me. And believe me, THAT was scarier than having rubber balls thrown at your face.So, going in I was frightened and coming out, I was even MORE frightened... that I liked it so much. The script was easy and basic. The jokes were broad and silly. And I loved every second of it. Vince Vaughn is my new hero and if I could only get him to love me the way Miss Polanski did, I’d be a whole new person. Hilarious. B.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL:

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush. And Orlando Bloom

Before I get to the nitty gritty of this review, let me start by saying that I’m one of the few people who publicly admits love for Jerry Bruckheimer. Yeah, you heard me. I even liked parts of “Con-Air.” If you want to hurt me for saying that, get in line. He once again produces an over-the-top, cliché ridden action movie that everyone can enjoy. Johnny Depp, with his impish ways, helps to tone down the fact that this film was based (and I swear this is true) on the theme park ride at Disneyland. Based on the same idea, I hear Disney is in talks to make “Splash Mountain, the Movie” which will star Calista Flockhart as a tiny drop of water that gets into all kinds of trouble. Oops, nope, that’s a dream I had after taking some Vicodin. “Pirates” is sparkly and cute and word is that Depp based his wacky character on Keith Richards. I wish I were kidding. Not only did I not know that pirates played the guitar so well, who knew that the drugs available to them were so progressive? I wish I could give this movie an “A” for “Arrrgh,” but I can’t. I give it a B for “Better than Scurvy!"

LEGALLY BLONDE TWO: RED, WHITE AND BLONDE

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field and Luke Wilson. Yippee! Reese is back to once again show us that blondes, if they’re hot enough can go to Washington and pass important legislation. Look at Hilary Clinton, for example…pretty hot! In the first “Legally Blonde”, I enjoyed Reese but had terrible flashbacks to sorority days when girls would say things like, “You guys, sisterhood rocks!” I felt a pang of sadness to see that the great Bob Newhart was involved, but I forgave him, realizing that even the best comic actors can’t pass up a chance to work with cute chicks and annoying dogs. Oh wait. Yes, they can. If you need to see a pretty blonde show us up, rent the first one or go back to my college and hang out on the quad. I’m sure my sorority sisters will still be there as I doubt they’ve graduated. I give it an A Plus, and by that I mean, an A PLUS a K which comes out to an F

SPELLBOUND
(Documentary)

This lovely film follows a group of fabulously precocious children competing in a (and I say this with sincerity) riveting spelling bee. Televised every year on ESPN, these competitions have become a favorite among sports-goers. The focus of this film is on a cross-section of kids from a diverse pool of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. You’ll find yourself rooting for these kids and also remembering the people you cheated off in Eighth Grade English class. A.

TERMINATOR THREE: RISE OF THE MACHINES

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Danes and Nick Stahl

One thing I’ll say about that Arnold is that he is very considerate with regard to letting people know of his planned whereabouts. You’ll often hear him say, “Hey, I’m going away for some time, but just sit tight, MFs, sit tight” Okay, I’m paraphrasing. But he has kept his promise and has come back to show us that robots, much like people, have some issues. Unlike the first two, James Cameron does not direct and it shows. The special effects are once again cool, but come on…we get it, robots hate us. Too bad the robotsthat ran the movie projector didn’t help us out by turning itself off. The whole movie is a set-up for the next one, which I’m going to shell out lots of cash…NOT to see. I did think it was interesting, to see Arnold plugging his possible upcoming race for Governor, as much like the terminator, his political interests will involve a lot of malfunctioning. I give this a “P” for “Please, Lord, make it stop.”


THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMAN

Starring: Sean Connery, Shane West

A group of well-known fictional literary characters including Dorian Gray, the Invisible Man, Dracula, Frankenberry and Booberry, (now I'm really hungry) arecalled upon to defeat the mean “Phantom.” Yawn. Maybe I didn’t like it because it reminded me of the “The X-men” which reminds me of my ex-boyfriend because the word “X” is in it. Hmm. Or maybe I didn’t like it because it wasn’t good. Either way, I give it an “R” for “Really? All the ways you could have gone with this, and this is what you come up with?” Okay, it’s kind of a long quote, but there you have it.

FREDDY VS. JASON:

So Freddy has dusted off his little hat and Jason got his goalie mask all oiled up so that the two could, for the first time, hang out….and how! The director, Ronny Yu (“BRIDE OF CHUCKY”) went for campy over terrifying which was an excellent choice, as honestly neither Freddy in his Benetton sweater, nor Jason are remotely scary. But, and this is a bitof a spoiler, I found the chemistry between them to be delightful. I’m not going to tell you who wins when they fight, but I will tell you that I was surprised to see that Freddy and Jason got married…and really with such sweet love between them, doesn’t EVERYONE win? Freddy is just so tender and he really softens up that hard edge that Jason carries around…because, as everyone knows, behind every cold blooded serial killer is a crazy surreal candy-man guy who will kill you in your dreams. Do they fight? Sure! But they argue about what all married couples argue about…who left the toilet seat up, who’s gonna finish the dishes, which one is going to get to slice up the beautiful, naive teenager? I’d like to see those two hash it out on Dr. Phil. B.

MY BOSS’S DAUGHTER:

This stars Ashton Kutcher and Tara Reid and a few other people who should have known better than to sign on. With such hits behind Ashton as “JUST MARRIED” and “DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR?” I believe the question we all have to ask now is “Dude, Where’s your agent?” or, as I asked myself while watching this, “Dude, where’s my will to live?” Turns out it had slipped out ever so quietly during the opening credits along with my soul and my love of movies. As I watched this horribly written thing I kept praying that Ashton himself would come running out from behind the screen and say, “Hey you didn’t REALLY think I’d make you watch this whole thing, did you? You’ve all just been punked!” Indeed we have been punked, Mr. Kutcher, indeed. “D” for “Did I do something to deserve this?”

MARCI X:

This stars Damon Wayans as a crazy bad-ass rapper and Lisa Kudrow as the uptight daughter of a record label president in trouble. If there were a contest for best movie, “Marci X” would win only IF the other movies in the contest were “Baby Geniuses”, “Problem Child” and “Cop and a half.” If you would like specifics of why it’s so bad, I can only tell you that Christina Baranski (you may remember her from Cybill or you may choose not to remember her at all) plays a conservative senator named Senator Spinkle. I mean, maybe Senator Spinkle is more lovable in the first nine Marcis, but I’ll have to say, “No thank you” to this one. I give it a “D” for “Don’t.”

THE SECRET LIVES OF DENTISTS

By far, the best movie to come out all year and although that’s not saying much, I highly recommend it. If someone were to tell you that watching dentists give root canals and babies throw up would make for a heartwarming and lovely tale…would you believe it? Well, ya should. Campbell Scott, Hope Davis and Denis Leary star in this dark and moving film about a family desperately trying to stay together. While there is a lot of edge, its execution is far more sweet than bitter. It almost makes me wish I could I get a cavity filled. A

GIGLI

This Mafia twisty romance stars Ben Affleck, hottie Jennifer Lopez and a young Rain man in training. Forget that the plot hardly ever makes sense and when it does, it’s offensive t quite a few people…to name a few: all men and all women. And some animals. And maybe even some minerals. I’m pretty sure I know why the filmmakers made it so hard to pronounce this title: that way, in years to come, when people say, “what was that movie that started with a “G” that was so horrible it made me want to poison my own junior mints…was it GLITTER?” No folks, GIGLI. (GLITTER just made me want to poison someone ELSE’s junior mints and that someone’s name rhymes with Bariah Barey, but I digress.) People keep asking, “What does GIGLI mean exactly? I’m not sure but I think it might be the exact sound that is made when a producer vomits after seeing the dailies. D.


THE MEDALLIAN

It has been about 42 minutes since Jackie Chan wowed up with his fancy stunts, but he’s back yet again for this little “GOLDEN CHILD” plot-stealing romp.Yes, his moves are still better than most out there, but it’s nothing new and it just isn’t good. And is it my imagination or do you think that as Chan gets older, he looks more and more like Joyce Dewitt from Three’s Company? I give this an “O” for “Oh Janet!”

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

Let me just say this about Texas and chainsaws. I,being from Texas say that the idea of a crazy guynamed Leatherface killing hundreds of scared teenagerswith his rusty old chainsaw is ridiculous. Texans would never do that. We would SHOOT them and THEN wear their skin. This movie, which of course is a remake of the brilliant 1974 horror classic, is truly disgusting and vile, just as you might imagine. The problem is that we’ve already SEEN this and it was just so much better the first time. First of all, in the original, did Leatherface have Eczema? The re-writers seem to want us to feel sorry for him because he had an icky skin condition as a child. I guess we’re supposed to relate to his inner “leatherface” and forgive him. I don’t know about you, but I think this all could have been avoided with a simple visit to the dermatologist. If ya want to be scared, rent the first one…D.

RUN AWAY JURY

Run Away Jury stars Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and John Cusack. Yes, another John Grisham novel-based flick wherein the crusty old Southern Judge bangs his gavel and yells “I WILL HAAAVE AWDA IN THIS HEYA CAWTROOM (in case you’re confused, that’s spelled in Hillbilly speak.) To save money, I think the producers should just use stock footage from every other John Grisham court scene and when the jury give their verdict, they can just should just loop in the name of the lead character and say, “We, the jury, find (looped in “Miles McGee”) guilty as charged.” While the actors are some of the best in the field, I still give this an “O” for Objection. And then I sustain that objection. Man, I should have stayed in law school.

KILL BILL, VOLUME ONE

Kill Bill, Volume One is the long anticipated Quentin Tarantino flick, starring Uma Thurman as “the bride” who wakes up from a coma and seeks revenge on the guy who tried to kill her. Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah and some other hot chicks contribute to this kick-ass kung fu extravaganza. This movie is kind of like watching the video game Donkey Kong, IF in Donkey Kong, when the monkey threw a barrel at Mario…it sliced his head off. The martial arts moves are simply spectacular and if you’re into that, you will love this film. It’s pretty gruesome so don’t eat at least four days before you see it. B-

MYSTIC RIVER

This is the much anticipated sequel to Mystic Pizza, only the three young ladies got sex changes and became Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins. It’s a good little Clint Eastwood murder mystery and of course, there were fine performances from these accomplished actors. But I found myself so bored at times that I resorted to playing six degrees of Kevin Bacon with all the characters. That got boring too when I realized that just by being IN the movie, they were all one degree away. Except for Kevin Bacon himself, who is 0 degrees from Kevin Bacon. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, C+.


CABIN FEVER

This is the best movie I’ve seen since NEVER…and by that of course, I mean that it may be one of the worst films I have ever seen. Sure, when you think of the idea of a group of cute dumb kids renting a cabin and then getting a flesh eating virus for no reason, you say, “hell yeah, sign me up!” But this movie, if one can call it that, will let you down on every turn. Despite its blatant attempts at “dark humor”, it’s clear the filmmakers were still going for scares and to be honest, I was more afraid watching “Ghost Dad.”And let me say this…other critics are LOVING this movie and whether you normally agree with me or not…trust me on this one, THEY ARE WRONG. For example, a certain critic whose name rhymes with Treter Pavers (and happens to love EVERY SINGLE movie) said, “It’s a blast of good gory fun that just won’t quit.” I have a theory that since no one has ever actually seen this man, that he’s really a two year old mute boy and studios go to him and say, “hey, did you think Cabin Fever was a blast of good, gory fun? If so, bang on this pan three times. Great, thanks!” It’s so horrible, I’m not even gonna give it a grade,
but I will put a hex on its creators.

LOST IN TRANSLATION

Finally…she’s got something nice to say and by “she”, I mean me. This movie stars Bill Murray as a washed up, middle-aged actor filming a commercial in Tokyo and Scarlett Johansson as a wise-beyond-her-years and yet, slightly jaded young newlywed. Their meeting seems inarguably serendipitous, as they both seemingly hold wisdom with regard to the other’s life questions. Sofia Coppola directs, using a soft blend of music and gorgeous shots of Japan. The tone of the film has such lovely subtlety, it’s truly meditative. And somehow mixed into all of this, is the unmistakably dry wit of Bill Murray. This is nearly a flawless film. A+.