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About a Boy (PG-13, 2002) ... Average: 3.75
(Hugh Grant, Rachel Weisz, Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult, Isabel Brook)

Movie ImageRob Epler
The rare example of the movie-based-on-a-book that works better than the book itself.  The ending of the book is MUCH different, & somewhat protracted & anticlimactic.  If you read & liked Nick Hornby's novel, you'll probably enjoy the film as well.  Hugh Grant nails the shallow cad as well as -- if not better than -- the stuttering fop of "Four Weddings & a Funeral," etc.  His character here is similar to the one he plays in the Bridget Jones movies.  The kid who plays Marcus is really good, too.

Highly enjoyable.  Great soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy.  (I have similar feelings about "High Fidelity," also based on a Nick Hornby novel.)

Drew Gallagher
Nice Hugh Grant vehicle.  And he sounds so cool when he says "fuck" and "bugger".

 

Affliction (R, 1999) ... Average: 1.0
(Nick Nolte, James Coburn, Sissy Spacek, Willem DaFoe)

coverChris Mal
Clearly one of those movies where the critics and "Movie experts" were looking from a completely different direction.  The list of awards this movie received is as long as this review!  From the perspective of pure entertainment - the view of the average movie-goer - this was one of the worst movies I've seen since "Election".  Obviously well acted, and the premise of the movie - the struggle to escape a past filled with child abuse - is a good subject for a movie, but the plot is weak, the story moves unbearably slow, and the tone of movie never shifts gears from anything but mildly morbid.  A good indication of how well it keeps your attention: Bev fell asleep about 45 minutes in.

Furthermore, none of the characters are at all likeable.  Nolte's character, the main focus of the movie, is a person who tries to do the right thing occasionally but fails miserably across the board.  None of the secondary characters really added anything: Nolte's girlfriend (Spacek) has very few lines, pretty much just takes up space and then leaves him.  Nolte's brother (DaFoe) appears only for only a few brief scenes and narrates other parts of the movie - the narration was unnecessary and the final monologue was cheesy.  Many of the tertiary characters are just plain boring - all of them just mildly angry for no apparent reason.  Coburn gives a good performance as the evil father, but pretty much just spends two hours being an drunken ass hole.

What was the point of this movie?  At first I thought it was going to be a murder-mystery - nope.  Then I thought we'd get a lesson on child abuse?  Nope - unless you count "Look what happens to people who are abused - they either become jerks like their abusive father, mousy introverts, or born-again Christians."  Please don't see this movie.

 

After Life (Not Rated, 1999) ... Average: 4.0
(Arata, Erika Oda, Susumu Terasima, Sadao Abe, Kazuko Shirakawa)

Jill Hendricks

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Japanese director Hirukazu Koreeda's vision of the afterlife is one that is rather different from most others' notions of it. As a result, many in the audience thought that his film was perplexing; I, on the other hand, found it downright refreshing. In Koreeda's version, which is a sort of purgatory, the recently-deceased have one week to decide on the best and most beautiful memory of their lives. Then, a crew of scriptwriters and filmmakers (one hesitates to call them angels) re-create the memories with B-movie techniques and special effects that magically work, lifting the dead souls to their final, blissful nirvanas.

Although it looks amateurish and almost slackerish at first, Koreeda's direction actually compliments this strange premise well. The hostel-type institution where the crew and the intendant souls stay has the look of an old school or office building, aged but with some character, and it suggests the insulation of this world-between-worlds quite well.

There is almost nothing that tells us explicitly that this is "the afterlife," as there would be in any Western movie on the same subject (except for a bright and rather abstract entryway into the institution, seen only at the beginning of the movie). This is clever, because it allows the cinematography to tell us about it implicitly. When plot elements begin to occur, they seem almost intrusive to this sereneness--it doesn't help that they're not very believable. Overall, however, the idea for this movie is much more interesting than the plot, and that alone makes it worth seeing.

 

Almost Famous (R, 2000) ... Average: 4.0
(Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Frances McDormand, Phillip Seymour Hoffman)

Chris Mal
Set in the early 1970s, Patrick Fugit plays uncool William Miller who is left his sister's rock-and-roll record collection when she moves out of the house at the age of 18 to get away from their overprotective paranoid mother (played by Frances McDormand.)  William, who at 15 is 2
coveryears younger than all of his senior classmates because he skipped 2 grades in elementary school, begins sending in essays to "Cream" magazine about his new found love of and knowledge of the music.  His brilliantly written work eventually winds up in the hands of "Rolling Stone" magazine who hires him - unaware of his age - to write a interview-story on an up-and-coming rock band called "Stillwater" which has a new hit single and is in the middle of a tour.

That story could stand on its own, but it's the mesh of personalities in this fabulous film that makes the movie.  On the surface, the basic premise of the movie is William's crash course in learning about life, growing up and learning who he is.  But on a deeper and even more interesting level, the other characters, by Patrick Fugit and Kate Hudson in "Almost Famous"being thrown together, are forced to learn the same things about themselves - from charismatic bandleader Russell Hammond (played by Billy Crudup) who is just another drug-using rock-star curmudgeon on the surface but very human underneath, to groupie "Penny Lane" (played by Academy Award nominee Kate Hudson) who is left to sort out her true feelings and perspective on reality.

The movie has a harsh-reality feel to it, but at the same time warms the audience with a dose of innocent charm and unexpected wit.

Frances McDormand is brilliant.  She's excellent in this role, and if you haven't seen her in Fargo, please go rent both movies and watch them back-to-back.  Fargo, predates my movie reviews, but would most certainly be one of the few movies I'd rate 5-stars.

 
 

Along Came a Spider (R, 2001) ... Average: 2.5
(Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Penelope Ann Miller, Michael Moriarty)

Mike Capilo
Middle of the road flick.  Interesting plot twists, but predictable.  Good cast, mediocare screen plan and script.

 

Along Came Polly (PG-13, 2004) ... Average: 4.0
(Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Debra Messing, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hank Azaria, Alec Baldwin)

Movie ImageMike Capilo
The catch phrase here is: "funny f'n movie".  Second catch phrase: "Jennifer Aniston is a hottie".  Third catch phrase: "how the heck did Hank Azaria get that body...wow!"  Forth catch phrase: "no sea bass were hurt in the making of this movie".

Wait for the rental...you'll laugh you tuccus off.

 

Amélie (R, 2001) ... Average: 4.5
(Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta, Claire Maurier)

Mike Capilo
The charming Amélie, already a hit in its native France, is bound to capture American hearts and imaginations with its whimsical fable of random acts of kindness. Its color-drenched view of Paris and stylistic camera work is a visual treat. But the most engaging aspect is the performance of 23-year-old Audrey Tautou as a kindhearted, shy waitress whose interior life is much more compelling than her day-to-day existence.
   --Taken from the movie review in USA Today.

"Amélie" opens with one of the most delightful sequences of the year, a lengthy montage full of sometimes sad, sometimes joyous images. As it unfolds, an omniscient narrator describes the obscure likes and dislikes of the people inhabiting Amélie's world. Her mother, for instance, is keen on how fingers look when they wrinkle in the bathtub, and her dad can't get enough of vacuuming and re-organizing his tool box. When she's older, Amélie will work at a café where a regular customer's favorite pastime is secretly popping bubble wrap.
   -- Chicago Times review

My new favorite movie.  The best part is the garden gnome, too funny.  It's subtitled but well worth reading.
   -- taken from my brain.

See it and enjoy.
   -- also from my brain

 

American Beauty (R, 1999) ... Average: 3.21
(Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, Thora Birch, Scott Bakula, Mena Suvari)

Bill DeHaven
This was a great movie from start to finish. It truly is the modern day version of "The Graduate" starring Dustin Huffman (which was also a great movie). This movie has it all sex, drugs, and rock & roll (good soundtrack). It reveals how "F@#& up" the lives of your neighbors Photo Galleryare when they are behind the closed door of their homes.

"Kevin Spacey 'RULED' in this movie"...raves DeHaven of the Detroit Free Press

"Extremely funny, all time great movie"...barks DeHaven's dog Galvin

Matt Tyler
American Beauty is one of the greatest films ever made.  Its photography, cinematography, directing, writing, and acting are all fantastic.  Those who give it a bad review do not understand the film's incredible depth and have no grasp of what a good film is.

Movie ImageChris Mal
They could have subtitled this movie "A World of Dysfunction". (The movie's title, if you hadn't already guessed, is meant to be ironic.)

I really hope this isn't a slice of what is really going on in the homes of our neighbors (or "beleaguered middle class America" as Kerry noted.) If it is I am quite frightened. Let's see: the  Dad (Spacey) is in a mid-life crisis and lusts after the daughter's girlfriend, the Mom (Benning) is the most
Movie Imageartificial person in the history of man and is cheating on her husband, the daughter is an awkward rebelling teen-ager who despises her parents, the neighbors on one side are gay, the neighbors on the other side: Dad is a militant ex-Marine who beats his kid, the Mom just stares into space, the son is an outcast and drug dealer. Totally realistic, maybe, maybe not; but it's the exaggeration of their dysfunctionality that makes every character entertaining and very interesting (even if it's only in a "morbid curiosity" kind of way at times.)

  Yes, perhaps there are some places they could have sped things along, but it kept my attention with its quirky drama, uniqueness and dark humor.  The story is like no other and the cast is excellent.  Normally I'm not a fan of films where every character is essentially a low-life, but in a sick way you want to fight for most of them.  This was an above-average and memorable film, but all-in-all I'm not sure why this it got quite as much press as it did.  As my friend Drew said, if Kevin Spacey wasn't in the movie, you probably would have never heard about it.

Kerry
It is quite difficult for me to provide an objective review, seeing as how I saw the movie with catgirl and Bill Bartle. They, by the way, were yawning and sighing and looking at their watches CONSTANTLY, thereby taking all the fun out of my theatre experience. But, what I can say, is that the movie stays with you for a long while after seeing it. Great characters. My friend, Suzanne loved the movie and said it was different from anything else she had seen in a long time. I felt sad for the beleaguered middle class America.

Catgirl
(Catgirl had a very witty response that used to be here, but I accidentally deleted it.  I am virtually certain that Mr. DeHaven of the Detroit Free Press had something to do with it.)

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)

Bill Bartle
And you thought Ishtar was bad!!  I've sat through root canal that passed quicker than this movie.  As it stands this is two hours of my life that I can never get back.

 

American History X (R, 1998) ... Average: 4.17
(Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Avery Brooks, Beverly D'Angelo, Elliot Gould)

Janel Pfeifer

Drew Gallagher
I came away from this film feeling the same way about Ed Norton as I did about Kevin Spacey when I first saw Usual Suspects. Very intense.

Chris Mal
Ed Norton gives a tremendous performance as a Skin Head who realizes the error of his hate-filled ways while in prison, and returns home after getting out to see his little brother going down all the wrong paths that he had traveled.

This movie is both tremendous and tremendously disturbing at the same time. It's a bit violent and the hatred oozes out of the screen at times during the movie to the point where it's frightening.  (I actually screamed out loud in mock pain during the scene in the street, and winced during the shower scene in the prison.)  I would imagine that's why this movie kind of came and went without much fanfare. Hard for me to imagine my G-rated in-laws enjoying this movie, for example, even though it's a movie that has a lot of important things to say, and says them very well.

But, let me tell you, this movie is DEFINITELY worth seeing. Every character is fantastic (particularly Norton who received a well deserved Oscar nomination for his intense performance.) The sequence in which they show you the events of the story is brilliant. The plot is incredibly moving and thought-provoking. And the ending is surprising and shocking.  VERY VERY much recommended.

 

American Pie (R, 1999) ... Average: 2.5
(Jason Biggs, Jennifer Coolidge, Shannon Elizabeth)

Mike Capilo
Don't listen to Steve Stremba...this movie is funny.

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
American Pie is a movie that, for me, did not quite live up to its reputation. There are, as you have undoubtedly heard, moments of real vulgarity--a few of them hilarious, most of them just childish and boring. On the other hand, the characters and relationships are just real and involving enough to make a movie that's at least as much John Hughes as it is John Belushi.

The plot is tried-and-paved territory. A foursome of male high school seniors make a pact to lose their virginity by graduation, or die (of embarrassment) trying. One, a jock (Chris Klein), joins choir to impress a cute singer (the singularly charming Mena Suvari); another (Thomas
Movie ImageIan Nicholas) works on getting around the bases with a smart-but-willing longtime girlfriend (Tara Reid). The nerdiest of the four (Jason Biggs) goes after both a leggy foreign exchange student (Shannon Elizabeth) and a loquacious band member (Alyson Hannigan), while the quietest (the wonderfully deadpan Eddie Kaye Thomas) stays quiet while allowing rumors to spread about his "prowess." All this is entertaining because the situations are reasonably well-honed, and the characterizations, while not exactly what you could call deep, are at least somewhat real (far more real, for example, than anything in Can't Hardly Wait, or in most of the 80's raunch-fests like Fast Times at Ridgemont High that supposedly inspired this movie).

The pleasure one gets from these characters is enough that one wonders why most of the raunchy scenes were even necessary. Another rather unnecessary component is Natasha Lyonne, playing a wisecracking young woman who advises the other characters, especially those of Reid and Nicholas. It's never explained why she is so much more knowledgeable than anyone else-- she just seems bothersome to me. All that said, I was still able to put aside such annoyances, and ended up enjoying the film more than I expected, even if it was still a long jump short of becoming a favorite.

Steve Stremba
Everyone said "You have to rent this movie", well everyone is an idiot because this movie blows (no pun intended). The only reason it got a 1/2 star was because of the one and only line at the end of the movie that made me laugh.

 

American Wedding (R, 1999) ... Average: 1.0
(Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Eugene Levy, January Jones, Seann William Scott, Nikki Ziering)

Mike Capilo
There are a few genuinely funny scenes in the movie.  The rest is complete trash.  If you feel like laughing every twenty minutes rent it.  If you'd prefer more laughs per minute stay away.

 

Angela's Ashes (R, 1999) ... Average: 3.0
(Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Michael Legge)

Movie ImageChris Mal
Was this movie well done? Yes. Was this movie well acted? Yes. Was it eye-opening? Yes. If I was a professional film critic, this movie probably gets 4-1/2, maybe 5 stars.  But from the pure standpoint of entertainment, it just didn't do it for me.  If you break down 99.9% of all movies to their basics, the plot is naturally, "What is going to happen to the main characters?"  For "Angela's Ashes", that simple statement WAS the entire plot.  And even so, you never really find out what happened to the father, what happens to the mother or any of the surviving brothers - likely because nothing really happens to them - they just went on living their poverty stricken lives.  I felt more like I was watching a documentary about life growing up in lower class Ireland in the first half of the 20th century, than I did watching a movie.

As anyone who as read the book knows, this is not just BASED on a true story, it IS a true story.  In fact, the REAL Frank McCourt - the character which is the focal point of the movie - narrates parts of the movie.  The sheer reality of the movie, however, made it morbidly depressing and dreary - which, I admit, was the point.  It was kind of like a cross between watching "Party of Five" and MTV's "Real World" set in Limerick in 1935, if that makes any sense.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone who likes to watch 2-1/2 hours of people simply going about their depressing awful lives.  As an aside - I'm not sure the significance of this - the theater was nearly sold-out, but I would say 90% of the attendees were 50+ years old.  Also, perhaps I totally missed it, but I can't figure out what the title of the movie has to do with anything - Angela was the mother in the story, but I remember no ashes!

 

Any Given Sunday (1999) ... Average: 0.5
(Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, James Woods,
Elizabeth Berkley, Lawrence Taylor, Jim Brown, Charlton Heston)

Movie ImageDrew Gallagher
The only reason I did not give this film a "0" is because it has Elizabeth Berkley in it and she's necked.  I watched many an episode of "Saved by the Bell" wondering what she would look like as a call girl bent over, well not necessarily Al Pacino, but you probably get the point...This movie is about football and uses Jamie Foxx as its vehicle.  Sorry, not buying it and neither should you.  Flip on the XFL and you'll get the same effect at no cost to you or your video membership.

 

Arlington Road (R, 1999) ... Average: 3.25
(Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis)

Movie ImageChris Mal
If I could sum this movie up in a word: Creepy.  It is also quite gripping, one of those movies where you have no idea how long it was because it keeps your attention from start to finish.  You'll find yourself clenching your teeth through most of the movie - you'll feel the almost helplessness of the lead character (Bridges).  I'm finding it hard to give a summary of what the movie is about without giving away the entire plot - essentially it's a movie about American Terrorism, and you'll be pleasantly surprised how that fits into the movie about 1/3 of the way in, as you - and Jeff Bridges' character - start picking up terrifying clues.  The ending is shocking - again, that's all I can tell you without giving it away.

Unless I missed something, the title, "Arlington Road", really has nothing to do with the movie - it's just the street that all the characters live on.  This is a quality movie, with great casting, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.  It definitely deserved much more attention than it got in the box office.

Bev Mal

 

Artificial Intelligence (PG-13, 2001) ... Average: 2.2
(Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, Sam Robards, William Hurt, Jake Thomas, Ashley Scott)

Haley Joel Osment and Judy Law in "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence"Robin Hanson
The movie looked very pretty at times, and was entertaining enough not to be boring.  But what I really want from science fiction, this movie delivered: it was thought-provoking.

Sure, there were some conceptual flaws.  Robots did not seem to need a power source, ever, and while they worked just fine underwater, a little spinach in their mouth could seriously hurt them.  And global warming supposedly raised sea levels far beyond anything plausible.

The one thing the movie does very well was what it was apparently trying to do, it makes us care deeply and emotionally about a single robot.  I suppose its similar to the way Spielberg's E.T. made many people care about aliens for the first time.

For me, this is also what was most thought-provoking, and saddening.  You see, the movie portrays people as very morally shallow.   A stadium of people gleefully massacre robots, robots who could not do what they did without having complex internal lives, great knowledge, a will to live, and at least some rudimentary understanding of and use of emotions.  And yet that same audience is horrified at the prospect of killing something that looks like a boy crying.   This boy robot will murder another similar robot, and almost kills a human boy, but all that really matters, to the people on screen and I suspect most of the audience in the theatre, is that this one robot knows how to pout and cry like a little human boy.  The moral seems to be that the essence of moral worth is the feeling of strong emotions.

During most of the movie it looks like it is going to be a tragedy of human hubris gone terribly wrong.  But at the end we find a more positive scenario.  But then they invoke some silly mysticism to shy away from the natural really positive scenario.  It should have been easy to create a robot mother who loves him as much as he loves her, and let them both live forever. Instead, they create a mother that can only last a day, at which point they both die.  What a crying shame.
Movie ImageMike Capilo
I've given this movie some thought since I saw it.  It's a bit disturbing, a bit too vague and a bit entertaining.  I've never claimed to comprehend movies that aren't in your face action or obvious in their intention.  This movie has a message, but it was lost on me.  One review I read likened the movie to Pinocchio and the Wizard of Oz...sort of a robotic boy, David, trying to become human.  While on this quest he meets his Oz-like guide who helps him in finding the grail. 

The movie can be broken into distinct parts.  First, the boy meets the family, bonds with the mother and after a series of events is abandoned, in New Jersey.  Never a good situation even today.  At this point the second part arrives, he meets Joe, a robot gigolo, who becomes his guide.  Together, they try to find a way to make David human.  More interesting situations occur and eventually they find their way to Rouge City, formally known as Philadelphia.  As an aside, I hope I live long enough to see this transformation, very nice.  Again, the plot, God sends us to the next and final part.  This is where it gets weird.  I won't go into what happens I'll just say this is where the movie gets disturbing and tedious.

If you have to see A.I., go for it.  However, nothing will be lost if you wait until it comes on video....except time.
(No stars) Daryl
The worst movie of the decade! If you get off on torturing androids by pouring acid on them or enjoy child abandonment and boring nothing in between, then this movie is for you.  The people that like this movie think everyone else doesn't get it and they are intellectually superior....forget it!  AI fans are losers with no life.  This move tries to find a plot and then once it does it goes down another meaningless path.  It's obvious this movie was pieced together by two directors going in opposite directions.  Don't waste your time or money on this blockBUSTER piece of crap!
 

Autumn in New York (PG-13, 2000) ... Average: 0.5
(Richard Gere, Winona Ryder, Anthony LaPaglia, Elaine Stritch, Sherry Stringfield)

Movie ImageKerry (McGuinness) Royer
At the risk of being tagged on this website as "she hates everything," I have to say this movie BROUGHT ME TO TEARS!!!! That's right. (Stop here if you haven't seen the movie) I mean, those were tears of BOREDOM, not because Winona kicks the bucket at the end. And I like Winona.

But, Richard Gere is easy on the eyes -- wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating crackers.