Vanity Fair (2004) PG-13 Drama ***/*
Reese Witherspoon plays Becky Sharp, a girl who, as one character so aptly put it, "is not a social climber, but a mountaineer." Starting with nothing but the head on her shoulders, Sharp gradually ascends the tiers of English society. But each time she ascends, the path becomes more dangerous and compromising. The movie presents a cautionary tale, but might not present the moral you suspect. The movie's side plots are delightful as well and one features the superb Jonathan Rhys Meyers which makes any movie better. The movie is rather long, though, (2:20) and the plot doesn't really seem to progress until about the 1 hour mark. I think the movie would be an excellent venue for a movie discussion, but didn't quite work as just a relax-at-the-end-of-the-day sort of film.
Paycheck (2003) Pg-13 Action, Political Thriller ***/*
Ben Affleck stars in this confusing and convoluted but highly thrilling film about a man who (long story short) agrees to a secret engineering job only to find at the end of 3 years his memory erased, his paycheck forfeited, the FBI wanting him dead, and a manilla envelope of 19 seemingly random objects. The movie is essentially his quest to figure out what happened, why people want him dead, and why he chose the envelope of junk instead of a $92 million paycheck. I don't particularly like Affleck but the movie was pretty cleverly written. I appreciated the way it focused more on intrigue and clever plot twists than fights and action but rest assured there are plenty of fights. Aaron Eckhart also stars in the movie and does a smashing job like always. Uma Thurman also stars but I don't like her nearly as much as some other actresses. Altogether, though, a great movie.
The Tick: The Complete Series (2001) NR TV Comedy *****
I LOVE THE TICK. After seeing the cover I will wholeheartedly disclose I had serious reservations, but the first episode completely shattered those. The humor is slapstick, goofy, witty and I don't even know how to describe it. The Tick is, well, The Tick, a blue bug committed to defending justice. Arthur (the dude in the white moth suit) is his sidekick but sometimes still has trouble adjusting from civilian to superhero life. Batmanuel is plain awesome, and Lady Liberty is just about as bad ass as they come. I really can't say much more than don't judge the TV show by its cover and also stay away from the animated Tick series because the live action is really much better.
Carolina (2003) PG-13 Romantic Comedy *****
Right, so this is basically my new most favorite romantic comedy. Julie Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You, Bourne Series) stars as Carolina Mirabeau, an LA game show assistant who lives in an adorable little apartment and has the craziest extended family around. Although gorgeous, talented, funny, and did I mention gorgeous? she still has not managed to get past the 4th date with any guy. Her neighbor and best friend, Albert Morris (Alessandro Nivola,) is secretly a romance novelist and not only loves Carolina, but also understands her family. When she meets Heath Pearson (Edward Atterton), though, Albert seems to grow jealous as Carolina falls in love with the attractive and rich Englishman. The movie isn't just about her romance, though, it's about her family and past and trying to move beyond her terrible upbringing while being sucked back into the Mirabeau way of life in a sometimes frustrating but always humorous way. Shirley MacLaine also plays a key role as her Grandma and adds so much to the movie. Stiles is one of my all-time favorite actresses and Nivola is, well, ridiculously good looking. All this together makes a great romantic comedy with a bit more to it than most.
Flash of Genius (2008) PG-13 Drama ***
Flash of Genius was a very interesting and thought-provoking movie. Greg Kinnear plays professor, husband, and father of 6 Robert Kearns. Kearns is an average suburban dad who one day invents the intermittent windshield wiper - a feat which all the major auto companies had struggled to accomplish for years and never succeeded. Naively, he shows the plans to one auto manufacturer which at first can't use his invention fast enough. Suddenly, however, they cut off all contact with him and within a year role out intermittent windshield wipers on all their cars - without recognizing their true inventor. What was first a brilliant invention turns into a bane and heartrending quest for Kearns. After facing defeat, mental instability, and the prospect of tackling the insurmountable obstacle of Ford by himself, he faces a choice of whether to pursue justice or raise his family. His decision gives the movie an almost eerie feel, and each member of my family had very strong opinions about his decision by the end. I disagreed strongly with his decision, but the David vs. Goliath aspect of the movie makes agreement desirable. The movie ends on a triumphant and joyous note, but left me feeling sad and angry. At first I considered my reaction atypical, but the movie ends in such a way as to make the viewer stop and think. Excellent movie for a discussion afterward. The movie is based on a real story, so the next time you use the windshield wipers think for just a second about the man and story behind their invention. Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) also stars as his wife.