Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009) – Meh. 3/10.
Things We Lost in the Fire (2007) – Bah, I have no use for these sorts of movies. Benicio del Toro is fine as a smoldering drug addict who moves in with a recently widowed woman. But if you’ve seen one sad drug-dealer-sees-the-light movie you’ve seen them all. 4/10.
Lady in the Water (2006) – It’s really too bad that M. Night Shyalaman’s “fairy tale” makes no sense and stumbles again and again against the fourth wall with a humor that the director can’t follow through. It’s lovely to look at, and packed with great actors (Jeffrey Wright! Jared Harris!), and I got sucked in at times, like when Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) dives into the apartment pool to grab magical healing mud for Stori (Bryce Dallas Howard). And hey, another director would have botched up this script even more. But it’s still a bad movie. 3/10.
In the Valley of Elah (2007) – I’m proud of my fellow humans for ignoring this hackish Oscar bait by Paul Haggis, and if he hadn’t co-written Casino Royale I would take a few paragraphs to argue for his extradition to Nunavut. Tommy Lee Jones, attempting to act “stolid and forlorn,” ends up acting like a zombie. The political message makes no sense. Nothing works. 2/10.
The Namesake (2007) – Is Mira Nair’s charm just lost on me? She makes lovely, meandering films with beautiful Indian actors who do stuff you’d pretty much predict they’d do. Aside from the novelty of Kal Penn putting in a great dramatic performance, this is melodrama that doesn’t let us get close enough to some of the key characters. 5/10.
The Invasion (2007) – The third remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is not the worst – the Donald Sutherland version is weak 1990s horror – and at times the momentum of Nicole Kidman’s flight out of a well-evoked D.C. (even though I could tell what wasn’t filmed here) is comparable to the momentum Children of Men. Still, it’s pretty stupid. 5/10.
The Tao of Steve (2000) – I’d seen this in 2001, on VHS, alone in my parents house and full of fear and wonder about the post-collegiate life. (Yes, I harbored this fear even when I was a freshman.) It’s exactly as good as I remembered: not great, but not bad. Jenniphr Goodman is a flavorless director, big on the walk-and-talk scene, which gives this all a washed-out feel because the characters only ever walk in a few cutesy settings – a school, a crash pad, a married friend’s house. Donal Logue found a role that fit him perfectly as Dex, the overweight, over-educated stoner whose complex wooing laws break down when he falls for a girl he hadn’t much noticed in college. Greer Goodman, the director’s sister, is brittle and memorable as the college non-fame, and I wonder whatever happened to her. The rest of the cast is either bland or bad (what’s with the spaz who can’t figure out Dex’s “Tao” rules?) and the soundtrack is dripping with sugar, but what stuck with me – why I’d recommend it anyway – was the bleached southwestern setting. I am a sucker for movies about parts of America that no one films in, unless they’re filming a cliche that fits the setting. 7/10.