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Adaptation (2002) Lord Of The Rings 2, The Two Towers, The (2002) Catch Me If You Can (2002) Gangs Of New York (2002) Holiday (1938) Solaris (1972)

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Mulholland Dr. (2001) My Lovely Week (2005) Fateless (2005) Before The Devil Knows You'Re Dead (2007) Ikiru (1952) Team America: World Police (2004)
City Of God 1 (2002) Lagaan (2001) World Without Thieves, A (2004) Spirited Away (2001) Onmyoji, The Yin Yang Master 1 (2001) Desperate Housewives, Season 1 (2004)
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2002.12.16  B-  This movie has an online cover Holiday (1938)
2002.12.01  C-  This movie has an online cover Solaris (1972)

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Adaptation (2002) reviewed on 2003.01.11Rated 4 stars. Click here for details...

After the highly original "Being John Malkovich" the combination of director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman once again have come up with a story that you have never seen before. This indulgently self-referencial story follows the efforts of the screenwriter to turn Susan Orlean's book, "The Orchid Thief," into a screenplay. The ride is wild, witty, and fascinating.

Nicholas Cage portrays the screenwriter, Charlie, and his brother, Donald, who also decides to become a screenwriter. As Charlie suffers sweeping insecurity, brother Donald with ease follows simple rules ("principals") and churns out an action-adventure screenplay which wows the agents.

We are constantly being reminded that we are watching the result of the effort we are viewing. The "story" of the book author and what she discovered is interspersed with the story of the screenwriter and his brother. When Charlie finally grasps at a straw and asks Donald to help him finish the screenplay, the story first subtly and then wildly takes a right turn into pulp fiction (the genre, not the movie).

Charlie and Donald are brilliantly portrayed by Nicholas Cage, as fine a job of acting as his Oscar winning effort in Leaving Las Vegas. The characters are always instantly identifiable with no make-up difference at all; it is all in Cage's expression. Remarkable! Meryl Streep portrays the author lovingly. Chris Cooper is brilliant in his portrayal of the flamboyant orchid thief; another high point in his career years after the wonderful "Lone Star." Tilda Swinson is luxury casting for the small role of the agent. Cameo appearances by the "Being John Malkovich" cast (and set) get the story rolling.

The only trouble I had was after the story took its abrupt "Donald-written" right turn; once it sunk in what happened, the actual playing out of this part of the story dragged... but was that the point?

The undeniable point is the Jonze and Kaufman (C) have given us another brilliant invention.

- Robert Berbec

Lord Of The Rings 2, The Two Towers, The (2002) reviewed on 2003.01.11Rated 3.5 stars. Click here for details...

Good beyond hope. This second installment is more tightly paced than the first episode which was frankly too fast for the introductory explanatory material. Here the pace is apt for the multiple plot lines. Characters fill out in depth and purpose (with the exception of Gimli who is used, sadly, only for comic relief).

The entire episode of Theoden King, Rohan and the siege at Helm's Deep is handled beautifully. Bernard Hill is a powerful Theoden and Miranda Otto is a glowing Éowyn who looks capable of melting the heart of even the Nazgul she will encounter in the next episode. The rescue of the siege by Gandalf and the men of Gondor is as powerfully emotional as Tolkien could have hoped for.

The parallel journey of Merry and Pippen lead to a Treebeard of ones dreams. The only slight disappointment is that there weren't more Ents to swarm over Isengard and that there wasn't more for Christopher Lee to do in his perfect portrayal of Saruman.

The computer generated Smeagol with voice by Andy Serkis takes a while but one is ultimately convinced by the genius of the creation. One's initial fears that it is "over the top" are soon dispelled. Wood continues to be only adequate as Frodo and outperformed by the sturdy reliable Samwise of Sean Austin.

Secondary but crucial roles such as Wormtongue and Faramir are quite apt. The business of Elrond and Arwen continues to be confusingly at variance with my memory of the book but I'm going along with it for now.

McKellan is a tower of strength as Gandalf; one's respect for Mortensen's Aragorn continues to grow. These two hold the gigantic plot afloat through everything.

Jackson's love for the helicopter shot is not wearing well but his ability to make this story move and pierce one's heart is deeply appreciated.

- Robert Berbec

Catch Me If You Can (2002) reviewed on 2003.01.11Rated 3.5 stars. Click here for details...

This delightful confection is a near-perfectly told story of a fascinating con artist whose career peaked while still a teenager. DiCaprio is perfectly cast and shows what he can do instead of (in "Gangs of New York") what he can not do. Tom Hanks is also flawless as the persistent FBI agent tracking him down (though is Boston accent comes and goes).

Christopher Walken is more luxury casting as DiCaprio's scheming Father. Amy Adams portrays the naive and lovable Brenda who offers DiCaprio a loving normal family for the first time in his life. Spielberg keeps the pace steady so there are no let-downs along the way. The only false note is a cheap trick when we are waiting anxiously to find out of DiCaprio returns from an unauthorized absence and "goes straight."

One can not help but compare this movie with the much more ambitious end-of-year "Gangs of New York;" this one succeeds completely, unlike the more ambitions but less successful effort.

- Robert Berbec

Gangs Of New York (2002) reviewed on 2002.12.27Rated 2 stars. Click here for details...

Gangs of New York

This fascinating movie has a remarkable performance by Daniel Day Lewis. You have never

encountered a character such as his portrayal of Bill the Butcher. He seethes with

righteous indignation over the Irish immigrant hoards. Unfortunately he is really the

only reason to see it. DiCaprio is a lightweight in his role of avenging Amsterdam

Vallon. Carmen Diaz is miscast and irrelevant as a predatory female. The plot sags

two thirds of the way through. Not one of Scorsese's best, thought when it is moving

it is fun to watch.

- Robert Berbec

Holiday (1938) reviewed on 2002.12.27Rated 3 stars. Click here for details...

Holiday (1938)

Directed by George Cukor

Writing credits

Philip Barry (I) (play)

Donald Ogden Stewart (screenplay) ...

Katharine Hepburn .... Linda Seton

Cary Grant .... John 'Johnny' Case

Doris Nolan .... Julia Seton

Lew Ayres .... Edward 'Ned' Seton

Edward Everett Horton .... Professor Nick Potter

Henry Kolker .... Edward Seton

This was based on a play and is just about a perfect little

movie for Hepburn and Grant. Grant, a free-thinking guy with nothing

falls in love on a cruise with wealthy Doris Nolan (blonde

and not beautiful enough to play the heroine). He is introduced

to the family including equally free-thinking Hepburn. It takes

the whole movie for Grant and Hepburn to realize how

perfectly they are matched and in the meantime we get to see

the dark side of great wealth, epitomized by perpetual drunk,

brother Lew Ayres. A wonderful treasure of a movie.

- Robert Berbec

Solaris (1972) reviewed on 2002.12.07Rated 2 stars. Click here for details...

I had not seen this movie until recently when TCM graciously showed it in conjunction with the recent opening of the Soderberg Solaris. I chose to see the Tarkovsky first.

Whatever is the source of Tarkovsky's reputation, it was not on display in this movie. I found it slow with no redeeming tension or mood which might make the pace worth tolerating. After nearly an hour (including a numbing sequence of nothing but a car driving through a city ... I kid you not), we arrive on the space station and the "plot" begins. It is an interesting premise but I was not drawn into the philosophical puzzle of the source of the love that develops between the human and the wazzit.

Having heard in the TCM intro that Tarkovsky did this in response to 2001 which he did not like, I must observe that the look of this dilapidated space station stands in stark contrast to Kurbrick's spotless sterile vessel.

In short, this exercise in mood failed to deliver the goods.

- Robert Berbec

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