State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
"It would be convenient to slap the film as a liberal fantasy, but what Moore has to say comes off neither as the words of a blowhard with archival access nor a partisan wag."
White Chicks (2004)
"Would it have been too much to ask for it to have been a mediocre, 75-minute piffle rather than 105 minutes of torture padded with overwrought messaging and yo-mama jokes? "
Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
"It's fairly fast, zips some good zingers at the audience through Steve Coogan, and is just the sort of instantly forgettable fun parents can have with their kids. "
The Terminal (2004)
"Fortunately, it doesn't aimlessly amble for more than a few minutes after it should. But this ending separates a great film from a very good one with a ridiculous coda."
"It is perfect evidence for the obvious truth Potter fans must face. The only great Harry Potter movies will be those we create in our minds as readers."
Raising Helen (2004)
"Raising Helen is competent, commercial, square-as-square-can-be popular entertainment."
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
"A blockbuster with incredible momentum, chilling us even with shots of Doppler radar. And if Emmerich can make comic relief out of illegal immigration, his game is on. "
Shrek 2 (2004)
"Still flashy, funny and irreverent, balanced with a keen understanding of its lead characters that makes it more than just franchised eye-candy."
"Troy is a popcorn epic, focused more on entertainment than enlightenment. After the bloated boredom of The Last Samurai and The Alamo, we'll take it. "
Man on Fire (2004)
"Man on Fire shares plot, and plot twists, with Ransom, but it replaces that film's claustrophobic intensity with Michael Bay-style overkill that's unnecessary."
The Alamo (2004)
"A torturous cycle of standing, pouting, bickering and looking at the Mexican army, as irritatingly flat as the pages of the history books that taught us about the Alamo. "
The Girl Next Door (2004)
"If there were John Hughes movies (the good ones from the mid-'80s) being made today, they'd be like this."
The Prince & Me (2004)
"It's a fairy tale in the best sense of the word, though the movie is far too hip and Julia Stiles' Paige too independent the heroine for any pat, happily-ever-after endings. "
"The promise is in the premise. Next time (and after Hellboy makes millions, there will be a next time), someone just has to make good on it."
The Ladykillers (2004)
"The Ladykillers is funny. Or, as Goldthwait Higginson Dorr would say it, it's an exorbitantly capricious motion picture presentation that has a lithe, whimsical air."
"Wholly romantic, but Kaufman focuses less on the grand and sappy, and more on those moments where a heartstring tug is inexplicable to anyone besides those doing the pulling."
Taking Lives (2004)
"At a certain point, Taking Lives gives up any pretense toward sense and starts piling up insanely improbable extravagances. "
Touching the Void (2004)
"The film concentrates, in awe-inspiring detail, on the almost incomprehensible rigors of mountain climbing and evolves into a philosophical, even spiritual adventure movie. "
Secret Window (2004)
"The movie can only skate so far on Depp's charisma and a handful of gleefully bent internal monologues. It has no fun in winding to its oafish, obvious conclusion. "
Starsky & Hutch (2004)
"More about humor and hero worship than plot, which is fine, and the movie ambles along mostly at a moderate pace, both a laid-back blessing and its too-lazy curse."
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
"As it plays out, the brutality brings about more numbing revulsion than the revelatory empathy that Mel Gibson intends."
Welcome to Mooseport (2004)
"If his future film choices are anything like this, Everybody Loves Raymond won't just be Romano's hit TV show. It will have to be his mantra of daily affirmation. "
"Miracle is authentic and classy, from its impeccably edited game re-creations to its washed-out, game-film look that's akin to what you'd see on ESPN Classic. "
The Butterfly Effect (2004)
"When it's all said and done, there comes a not half-bad twist. But by this time, we've endured too many reprises of canine flambé, plus Eric Stoltz as a drooling pervert."
The Gospel of John (2003)
"In the end, The Gospel of John opts for safe ground. Jesus' lines are delivered with Shakespearean flair and the villains are all familiar."
Along Came Polly (2004)
"There is something cruelly funny about getting dumped on your honeymoon, but that was done far better in Elaine May's The Heartbreak Kid."
"Red Bull: The Movie"
"Undemanding and genial, it does what it needs to do in that it's well acted, sharply paced and has some effective romantic gets. "
Chasing Liberty (2004)
"Mandy so doesn't want to be lumped in with Hilary and Lindsay. Their names end in "y," but, like Kiss, Mandy wants to put the "x" in sex. OK, maybe not that rowdy."
The Cooler (2003)
"The Cooler has all the motifs of a Vegas movie. But at its heart, it's a gleeful romantic comedy that finds the sweetness in Sin City."
Big Fish (2003)
"Burton has a big payoff up his sleeve. In a movie practically schizophrenic in mood, he manages to present the inevitability of death with a touching beauty and elegance."
House of Sand and Fog (2003)
"For Kingsley's and Connelly's performances alone, it's worth seeing. It's far from tawdry melodrama, but its insistence on a middle-road keeps it from being more high-minded."
21 Grams (2003)
"The film knows nothing about the muscular reflex of flinching, but it's vividly knowledgeable of all other elements of the body - the physical and mental, life and death."
Calendar Girls (2003)
"Gentlemen - you whose significant other may hold the weekend movie choice card - keep a stiff upper lip. You'll get through Calendar Girls just fine."
Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)
"OK, so I haven't read the original book or seen the previous movie. But I'd bet the family dog never rooted its snout furiously in a kid-hating boyfriend's crotch."
"Doves might be symbolic for many of the classic struggles in film and literature. But something they drop from their business end embodies what "Paycheck's" all about. "
Peter Pan (2003)
"In a time when Neverland is shorthand for scandal, P.J. Hogan reclaims it. Rife with wonderful expansions from its source material, the film is alive with imagination. "
Cold Mountain (2003)
"It's a dichotomy of appearance, the forging of nature's splendor defiled by base human behavior. That said, I wish it had stayed truer to the fatalistic mood it works up. "
Stuck on You (2003)
"The Farrellys tackle something sweeter and more personal than in the past. But it doesn't mean they have to suffer any separation anxiety from what makes their films fun. "
"It sets so many standards for filmmaking in its overwhelming epic wash that many similar attempts in the future will seem like pretenders to the throne."
Something's Gotta Give (2003)
"Nancy Meyers is like some grandma who keeps hugging you harder than you want to be hugged."
The Last Samurai (2003)
"Tom Cruise and $140 million might get you a marathon movie, but The Last Samurai lacks the little things that keep it from feeling that way. "
The Human Stain (2003)
"Even when The Human Stain founders, the skill and professionalism of those trying to communicate Philip Roth's mood is undeniable. "
Bad Santa (2003)
"At its dysfunctional, hysterical conclusion, Bad Santa takes the notion of happy, puts it on puree and then pours it out - sort of how life usually is. "
The Haunted Mansion (2003)
"There's disappointingly little in its 99 minutes that's better than what the ride has been doing for years in 10. "
"Master and Commander has a full arsenal primed to wash over you, in more ways than one."
Tupac: Resurrection (2003)
"The film gives a fine sense of why Shakur's fans carry the torch for his legacy. But it's better from the perspective of that spirit on the streets, not up in the clouds. "
Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)
"As the Tasmanian Devil would move were he mainlining caffeine, so does this blend of live-action and animation. It's sweet and subversive, just like Looney Tunes should be. "
"No dread, no suspense, no surprises, just laughs - lots of them, 99 percent unintentional. A crummy horror film that turns into a crummier whodunit."
Love Actually (2003)
"An utterly charming, classy and uproarious work of romantic hopefulness."