Links are to the Rotten Tomatoes Web site, where you can read what other critics and moviegoers thought of each film. Ratings are from * (stinker) to **** (absolutely wonderful). Theatrical release date is in parentheses, followed by whether we saw the movie in theatre or as a home rental.
**** About a Boy (May 2002) – Theatre
Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult. Self-absorbed 38-year-old life’s is disrupted by a 12-year-old boy.
She says: For what it is, this movie is perfect: Funny but not stupid, sweet but not sentimental, charming but still realistic. Hugh Grant is absolute perfection in this part, and the rest of the actors play off him very well.
He says: I liked this! It was a really cute movie.
**½ Across the Universe (September 2007) – Theatre
Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess. Love story set to Beatles music.
She says: Thankfully, I liked this movie as much as I expected to, finding the Beatles music giving unusual resonance to a story that would otherwise be relatively ordinary. And it all does look amazing. (I do have to pause to complain, though, about the Galaxy crowd, a number of whom seemed too young to “get it”, and whose inappropriate giggles and chattering spoiled the mood of a number of quiet scenes. It’s playing the Princess in December; do yourself a favour and wait to see it there.) Movie: *** Crowd: *
He says: Well, that was kind of slow, and they sang too much. I did like the underwater scenes, though. (Also, I don’t know what you mean about the crowd.) Movie: ** Crowd: ?
** Act of God (June 2009) – Theatre
Documentary about people who have been struck by lightening.
She says: Not as good as Manufactured Landscapes. I did get caught up in some of the stories of people’s encounters with random electricity from the sky, but others not so much. Too much spirituality, maybe. Beautiful images of lightening storms, though.
He says: I found it boring.
*** Adaptation (December 2002) – Theatre
Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper. Screenwriter struggles to adapt the book The Orchid Thief to the screen.
She says: This was the most post-modern thing I’d ever seen, as it’s about someone writing the very movie we’re watching. Sometimes we see certain scenes, and then later see how the writer came up with them. The use of the twin brother to give this unfilmable book an ending was also really interesting. I quite enjoyed this. (***½)
He says: Well, I did like it better than Chicago (**½).
** AI Artificial Intelligence (June 2001) – Rental
Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law. Robot boy has the ability to love — but can he be loved back?
She says: This movie is a failure, but it’s such an interesting failure that you may want to see it anyway. Good acting, interesting premise, and great effects, and yet the whole thing doesn’t hold together effectively.
He says: The beginning was really slow; then it tried to be an action movie, but it wasn’t good at it; then the end was really mushy.
**** Almost Famous (September 2000) – Theatre
Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup. Coming of age on a rock’n’roll tour.
She says: This was probably the best movie I saw all year. It had fun characters, a fast-moving plot, excellent dialogue, good acting, music… I can’t think of anything bad to say about it, really. Go see it! Go!
He says: That was great. I really liked it. Penny Lane was adorable.
**½ Amar (August 2008) – Theatre
Eccentric millionaire leaves his fortune to a kind rickshaw driver, as long as said driver can be found in 30 days.
She says: Nicely done small film, with twists I didn’t expect.
He says: I thought the characters were too black and white. The rickshaw driver was too good. The son was too bad. It took me out of the story.
*** Amélie (November 2001) – Theatre
Audrey Tatou. Young woman who has lived an isolated life decides to try and improve the lives of others. (French, with subtitles)
She says: Charming, funny, with engaging characters and actors playing them. I can see why this was one of the most popular movies ever in France.
He says: It was kind of weird, but I think I liked it.
*** American Pie 2 (August 2001) – Rental
Jason Biggs, Allison Hannigan, Eugene Levy. It’s the summer after college, and the gang is all back together.
She says: It’s not deep, it’s not sophisticated, but it is funny and even kind of sweet.
He says: That’s exactly the kind of movie I was in the mood for…
***½ American Splendor (August 2003) – Theatre
Paul Giametti, Hope Davis. Blend of documentary and docu-drama about Harvey Pekar, a man who writes a comic strip based on his life.
She says: Highly original and very entertaining. The style of this film—the blend of dramatic re-creation, actual footage, new (real) interviews, and animated sequences—are perfectly suited to the subject of a man who writes (but doesn’t illustrate) comics honestly based on his own life.
He says: Weird and gloomy.
Sister says: I really liked that. It was so original.
Brother-in-law says: That was great! It was very unique. (Yes, I know you’re not supposed to say anything is very unique. I did that on purpose.)
***½ American Teen (July 2008) – Theatre
Documentary follows four teenagers during their Senior year of high school.
He says: Ah, high school. Wasn’t it great?
She says: You’re insane. It was terrible.
[On the movie: We both got caught up in the stories of this inherently dramatic time in one’s lives, ending up really interested in these people who just seemed like stereotypes at first.]
*** The Aristocrats (August 2005) – Theatre
100 comedians. Documentary about an utterly obscene joke.
She says: That is one obscene joke. Some versions really were hilarious (my favourites: South Park, Gilbert Gottfried at the Hugh Hefner dinner, and the mime). Many were just disgusting. And others simply fell flat. What makes the movie more than just a shocker are the insights into the nature of shock comedy, both by example and insightful commentary. But definitely not a movie for everyone.
He says: I loved the mime! And his is the only version of the joke I’d be willing to attempt repeating.
***½ Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) (June 2002) – Theatre
Inuit actors. Drama based on an ancient Inuit legend. (Inuit, with subtitles)
She says: While it’s daunting to sit down and know that you’re about to see a film almost three hours long and all in Inuit, it’s really very compelling. The characters are charismatic and the story pulls you in.
He says: That was relatively painless three hours. No really, I’ve seen some two hour movies that seemed way longer. Not exactly rivetting, but the landscape was gorgeous and the story is good.
**½ Atonement (December 2007) – Theatre
Keira Knightly, James McAvoy. Eleven-year-old Brioni misunderstands what is going on between her older sister and the housekeeper’s son, with tragic consequences for all.
She says: Very engaging, beautifully shot, and well-acted. I’d recommend it.
He says: I hated that movie. [Really?] Well, I really liked the first third. Then I hated the rest. [Because of the quality of the movie, or the story?] The story. I didn’t like how the plot went.
***½ Avatar (December 2009) – Theatre
Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana. Wheelchair-bound ex-marine finds himself on a hostile planet, charged with inhabiting an avatar body and ingratiating himself with the natives so they can be persuaded to move off the mineral riches they live on.
She says: It is visually stunning, even for the 3D-viewing impaired like me. And while the characters and plot are not exactly brimming with originality and depth, they’re still engaging.
He says: I really enjoyed that. And now I think tall women maybe aren’t so bad.
**½ The Aviator (December 2004) – Theatre
Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett. Howard Hughes’ life before his complete collapse into madness.
She says: It’s well-made, well-acted story about a man who did some pretty interesting things. Unfortunately, he’s not the most likable man (though not detestable, either), and that makes it difficult to be totally invested in his story.
He says: Well, I didn’t particularly like that.
***½ Away from Her (May 2007) – Theatre
Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent. Alzheimers forces Fiona into a nursing home, where the disease—coupled with the home’s 30-day no-visit policy—alters her relationship with husband Grant.
She says: Very touching, without forcing the weepies. Lovely performances by all and surprising touches of humour. As good as “they” say, basically.
He says: But nothing happened!
…. Kidding! No, it was very touching. I can’t imagine how hard that would be to go through.
She says: A double feature is very long to sit through, but both of these narrative-free documentaries are worth seeing for amazing images and (especially Baraka) thought-provoking concepts.
He says: I liked Baraka better. Especially the darker parts, for some reason. Microcosmos was too long for a movie about bugs.
**½ A Beautiful Mind (January 2002) – Theatre
Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelley. Brilliant math professor copes with schizophrenia.
She says: A bit sentimental, but Russell Crowe’s performance, along with the interesting way his mental problems are presented, makes this worth seeing. (***)
He says: Not bad, but I was really bored in parts. I think I might even have nodded off briefly. (**)
***½ Bend It Like Beckham (March 2003) – Theatre
Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightly. An Indo-British high school girl longs to play football (soccer) over her family’s objections.
She says: The charming performances ensure that the film never drags. The characters are funny and appealing, and seem real. Still, there is a certain repetition in the “you must follow your desires” speeches and the varied “discovery” scenes.
He says: OK. So it wasn’t a bad movie.
*** Billy Elliot (October 2000) – Theatre
Jamie Bell. Boy from working-class Irish family is drawn to ballet.
She says: A “feel-good” movie, as they say, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Good performances and an interesting treatment of Billy’s childhood friend.
He says: I just didn’t buy the whole “conversion” of the father and brother in the second act.
***½ Blow (April 2001) – Theatre
Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz. Life and times of drug dealer George Jung.
She says: The story is interesting and is told at such a clip that there is no time to be bored (or to form too many judgments). Johnny Depp is fantastic. Very unsympathetic portrayals of two major female characters, though.
He says: I had some moral objections to seeing this in the first place, but I ended up liking it. Wish I had been young in the 60s. The relationship between George and his Dad really hit home.
** Blue Crush (August 2002) – Theatre
Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez. Working-class girl tries to make good in a big surfing competition.
She says: There are elements of a good movie here, including the astounding water cinematography, the unusual sight of characters who really seem working class, and an ending that isn’t quite what you’d expect. But the total is considerably less than the sum of those parts, particularly with the clunky romance thrown in.
He says: Much as I like girls in bikinis, I was hoping this would be more. But it wasn’t.