Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
review: The prequels get such horrible press from fans that it's tough to even suggest a different opinion, but I've always loved them. Attack of the Clones is solid top to bottom in the kind of wild imagination only hinted at in the original trilogy, in more dynamic ways than Phantom Menace. And it features the most surprising and delightful lightsaber duel of the saga to date: Yoda vs. Dooku.
Star Trek Nemesis
review: Another franchise entry with a horrible reputation, Nemesis has also long been a personal favorite, for any number of reasons, including Patrick Stewart getting to go truly dark, the kind of emotional range Picard's film appearances had been working on all along, taken to its logical zenith. But most important of all is the discovery of Tom Hardy, whose career tanked for years after Nemesis bombed at the box office. It's no fault of Hardy's. He's as compelling and memorable in this movie as could be hoped for, the most magnetic villain in the whole Star Trek canon (some day those Wrath of Khan faithful will either realize this or be replaced by more receptive and enlightened fans).
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
review: The only real problem with the first two Harry Potter films is that they by definition feature child actors, who aren't near ready to truly sell the scope of the series. So the presence of Kenneth Branagh in an engaging supporting role lifts this one as far as it can.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
review: I've never for a moment believed the second two films in Peter Jackson's trilogy lived up to the potential of Fellowship of the Ring. The same thing that makes Two Towers noteworthy at all, Gollum, is also its biggest problem, as Jackson's entire creative energy in this entry seems to have been focused on this one element. That energy previously filled up the entirety of Fellowship.
review: This was a movie I fell in love with instantly, but not particularly one I've felt terrifically to revisit. When a story's all song, either you love musicals and thus want to continue enjoying musicals and the best of them, or you love the story. If you just love the songs, you don't really need to watch the movie itself again.
review: This adaptation of Dave Barry's first work of fiction has the same problem as all of Dave's fiction, which isn't really a problem, per say, but it makes the story in his books and/or movies difficult to fully appreciate: he's so madcap and bursting with zany characters, the overall effect can easily be diluted. But this is the sort of ensemble that will be endlessly rewarding just to see all the moving pieces.
Gangs of New York
review: Leonardo DiCaprio wasn't yet ready to carry something like this entirely on his shoulders, which is why Daniel Day-Lewis so thoroughly dominates him as Bill the Butcher, a role the actor cribs excessively in the later There Will Be Blood.
Catch Me If You Can
review: Leo has the same problem here. He's still a youth actor in this movie, and it shows. Still, inherently fun to watch, which is basically the point. Includes a standout jazzy score from John Williams.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
review: Sam Rockwell in a role that should've propelled him to stardom, but he's since regressed into character roles, like Paul Giamatti.
review: M. Night Shyamalan's then-final popular hit was also Mel Gibson's swan song as a fan favorite. Lots of people try to point out how clever they are by saying the aliens would never knowingly go to a planet full of their hidden weakness. But really, don't all wars involve weaknesses like the ability of weapons to kill someone?
review: It seems easy to dismiss this early entry in the Christopher Nolan canon as he was adapting someone else's film, but Al Pacino makes it eminently watchable in its own right in one of his last standout performances. Plus, Robin Williams playing totally against type, in one of his last standout performances.
review: Speaking of swan songs, this seems to have been one of Spike Lee's last notable efforts, which just seems baffling in hindsight. Also part of the backlash against Edward Norton (I don't care how difficult the guy is to work with; he does brilliant work), which is equally baffling.
review: Spielberg and Cruise make magic out of another Philip K. Dick story. Also notable as one of several early efforts to translate Colin Farrell to mass audiences, which has proven to be tricky throughout his career. Probably doesn't help when he's the sap in a story like this.
Road to Perdition
review: Tom Hanks is marvelous in this exquisitely shot mob movie.
review: Farrell had another shot in this one, where the drawback this time is that Bruce Willis has absolutely no respect for him. Also a shame that Terrence Howard never got any respect (until Hustle & Flow, in which he seems to be more acceptable the more he plays to what a black person is "supposed" to be doing, thus revealing the hypocrisy of critics; his most recent success,TV's Empire, is much the same).
Men in Black II
review: I love this series, and I'm glad the second entry made Tommy Lee Jones essential to the plot, when conventional wisdom might have suggested Will Smith dominate, since he'd become and was in the midst of becoming still more of a bigger movie star.
review: This New Zealand drama was a breakthrough piece of international cinema for US audiences who typically neglect it. It was hard to overlook, and thank goodness.
review: Jason Patric has had so much trouble finding the level of quality his acting demands, but this is a rare opportunity to see both click, in Joe Carnahan's most respected film.
review: Fascinating last chance to see Nicolas Cage in a sensational, serious acting role(s).
review: For my money, it's difficult to imagine a more perfect Hannibal Lecter experience, starring Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, and Ralph Fiennes.
review: Once you realize there are eighteen thousand sequels behind it, your enthusiasm for this first entry kind of wanes.
The Quiet American
review: Rare acknowledgment that Vietnam became a mess before Americans started fighting there.
review: George Clooney in one of his least likely projects. Difficult to get through, which is the only reason I'm rating it this low.
review: Adam Sandler in a dramatic role. Seems fascinating. And it is. But in hindsight you have to wonder if he's really only capable of it because the character spends most of his time with uncontrollable rage (or at least, that's my lasting impression of the movie, anyway).
Die Another Day
review: This isn't the only Pierce Brosnan Bond flick I've seen, but it seems to epitomize them: paralyzingly slick. Not necessarily a bad thing. But I prefer the Daniel Craig interpretation.
Sweet Home Alabama
review: The first time I took Reese Witherspoon seriously.
The Four Feathers
review: There's a real problem with the perception of Hollywood when a movie that hadn't been remade since the earliest days of film is deemed redundant. More accurately, this was Heath Ledger backlash, pure and simple. The problem is really that Ledger sinks so deeply into his role that it's difficult to remember why you're rooting for him. But it's more of a testament to his skill rather than his apathy. The more time passes, hopefully the more his performances will be analyzed accordingly.
The Sum of All Fears
review: Speaking of backlash (this stuff was positively all over the place at the time, and we're still trying to clean up the mess today), Ben Affleck takes over Jack Ryan in a worthy entry in the cycle.
review: A concept that is frighteningly becoming a reality today, digital performances that take enough of something that's real but ending up with something totally different (watch Rogue One, or don't).
review: I suspect Bill Cosby nostalgia has dried up, but this update of one of his signature projects is better than its lack of reputation suggests.
K-19: The Widowmaker
review: If you can't fill your sub with actual Russians, Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson ought to be considered adequate replacements.
review: I know this was a huge, huge hit that helped kickstart Marvel as a viable contender at the box office, but it's just so...dopey.
The Scorpion King
review: Horrible initial spotlight for Dwayne Johnson, but it seems so obvious that of course it happened. Later redone in spirit by Hercules.
review: Does nothing particularly unexpected. I much prefer The Negotiator.
The Good Girl
review: Jennifer Aniston in a decent bid to be taken seriously, but it seems paper thin.
Reign of Fire
review: Seems like the talent in this movie is swallowed by all the dragon flames.
The Count of Monte Cristo
review: Serviceable but doesn't particularly say anything new.
review: Established Neil Marshall and helped him move on to more noteworthy things.
review: An American Pie wannabe that seems more and more creepy.
review: A Matrix wannabe.
review: Kind of proves it doesn't always pay to try and capitalize on a surprise success.
One Hour Photo
review: Robin Williams does creepy one too many times.
The Mothman Prophecies
review: Creepy horror trying to be prestigious.
review: Creepy horror just trying to be creepy.
review: I know this isn't the typical opinion, but once you've seen The Departed, it's hard to consider taking the source material as seriously.
review: Eminem attempting to mythologize himself.