Shaft (2000)

[These first-impression comments were published when on the opening weekend of the film in 2000.] • Some actors have the gift of disappearing into a character, so that each role becomes a new revelation. But Hollywood seems to pride itself on developing a different kind of actor, the star that usually play the same role, with a different name and a different hat each time. These actors usually spend their years trying to find the character best suited to their personality. Samuel … [Read more...]

28 Days Later (2003)

After seeing the preview for 28 Days Later, those who love violent zombie movies rushed to the theatre hoping for chaotic bloodletting and absurd violence. Most others assumed it would be  just another icky horror film, and they steered around it as if it were typical roadkill. And who can blame them? Derivative, disposable horror movies show up almost every week these days, and those worth discussing are rarities indeed. But Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) had a lot on his mind while he … [Read more...]

Shrek 2 (2004)

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This review was originally published at Christianity Today. - When we bade farewell to the happily honeymooning ogres Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz), it seemed like a "happily ever after" ending. True love had saved Fiona from the curse that bound her in the guise of a human being during the daylight. At last she was free to be her ogre-ly self, 24-7. She had learned to accept who she was, and she had discovered someone who loved her that way. Shrek had overcome his antisocial … [Read more...]

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

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I walked into The Emperor's New Groove expecting another formulaic Disney movie. I came out giddy with joy. For all of the craftsmanship of this year's smash family movie Chicken Run, The Emperor's New Groove is ten times funnier and more creative. It's one of the year's... uh... the year's best... NO! I can't make myself say it! It's a Disney movie! Aren't Disney movies just predictable, made-for-marketing, and drenched in sentiment? Sentimentality has slowly swallowed storytelling in … [Read more...]

A Mighty Wind (2003)

- Christopher Guest’s commitment to “mockumentaries” about community events is a curious thing. All three of his semi-improvisational films — Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and now A Mighty Wind — have explored and celebrated the strange behaviors of human beings as they prepare for a public spectacle. He choreographs comical collisions of ego and inanity, and the results usually cause us to wince, laugh, and groan. And somehow, in the midst of inspired improvisation, he … [Read more...]

Alien: Resurrection (1997)

2012 Update: It's been fifteen years since I posted these first-impressions on Jean-Pierre Jeunet's chapter in the Alien saga. At the time, it was a disappointment. But now that the preposterous Alien v. Predator series had trivialized these creatures and reduced the imaginings of Ridley Scott, H.R. Giger, and James Cameron to juvenile video-game fare, Alien: Resurrection looks like a movie from the good old days. I might even find myself talked into watching it again. I mean, surely a movie … [Read more...]

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

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[This review was first published at the original Looking Closer website in 2002.] - Director Kevin Reynolds, responsible for the bloated Waterworld and the misguided Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, has chosen a strong cast and a solid script for his adaptation of Alexander Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. The result is not a great film, by any means, but it reveals that Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, Frequency) can be a compelling big screen hero and Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential) … [Read more...]


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