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Rating History

Around the World in 80 Days
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

(For some stupid reason this won't let me rate anything, so I'll do it some other time.)

Around the World in 80 Days (1956) **
Laborious, leaden travelogue based on the famous Jules Verne story is notable only for its gargantuan array of cameos and dubious reputation as one of the worst Best Picture winners of all time. David Niven steps into the role of Phileas Fogg, a wealthy aristocrat who bets his fellow Reform Club members that he will go around the world in 80 days or less. He recruits the help of annoying bullfighting pervert Passepartout (Cantinflas) as his butler and whisks off to encounter a lot of "kooky" one-line characters and use every concievable transportation device known to man. The film serves mostly as a stereotyped travel brochure, showcasing beautiful locations and the stereotypes who live in them. The film's got some truly breathtaking locations and photography, but none of this can change the fact that the film is as dull as dishwater. Niven is a blank slate, completely free of charisma; Niven is usually a great actor, but here he brings an already dull character down. Nothing much happens in the movie; the characters simply go from point A to point B to point C and so on and such forth. The 40 or so cameos here are mostly expendable, although some (John Carradine, John Gielgud) provide some much needed laughs. It's an old Hollywood joke that this movie won only because everyone who was in it voted for it at the Oscars; I can't exactly think of a better reason. I haven't seen the remake, but I can bet that it's probably better than this... and when you can say that about a movie that stars Jackie Chan, Rob Schneider and Arnold...

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) ****1/2

The Coens are at it again, unsurprisingly. Never the kind to take the easy way out, America's (arguably) most reliable filmmakers tackle Homer's Odyssey, bluegrass style. Everett (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) are three convicts who escape from jail to recover a huge amount of money that Everett claims he has buried. On the road to said loot, the three escapees come across sirens, a fast-talking, one-eyed travelling salesman (John Goodman), Babyface Nelson, the KKK and legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson... amongst others. As always, the Coens manage to make a film that bears their stamp yet resembles in no way their previous efforts. If Hudsucker Proxy was Capra, then O Brother is Sturges (it's no coincidence that the title is in fact taken from Sturges' Sullivan's Travels). The dialogue here flows off the screen; its drawls, inflections and non-words form a kind of backwoods poetry. Practically every single line here is quotable. Of course the cast here is on fire, for lack of a better term. Clooney is a hugely undervalued comedic talent, and he delivers what is probably his best performance ever here. Clooney's not much of a chameleon; he pretty much always looks and talks like George Clooney. Yet he has the kind of charm to pull it off, and this is no exception. Coen regular John Turturro and professional supporting hillbilly Tim Blake Nelson have less clearly defined roles but they hold their own against Clooney. The film's sepia-tinted photography (shot, of course, by the incredible Roger Deakins) and improbably best-selling soundtrack give the screenplay ample texture.

Farenheit 9/11 (2004) ****

With Bowling For Columbine and now this, Michael Moore has perfected the art of the filmed essay. It's become useless to call this a documentary; documentaries carry the improbable responsibility to present facts objectively. But then again, objectivity in politics is an oxymoron, and it's politics Moore tackles here... more specifically, his thoughts regarding the Bush administration. Through effective collage (there's less footage shot by Moore this time around and more piecing-together of stock footage, news shows and the like) Moore pieces together his controversial views on the most powerful man in the world. It's true that the film is one-sided and it's true that unless you agree with what Moore thinks, you won't be able to stand this movie. I'm not sure if I believe the claims that Moore made up a lot of this stuff... but it doesn't really matter. The finished product here is a convincing essay by one of America's boldest filmmakers/journalists/rabble-rousers. The only technical flaw is the way in which Moore develops his point; the film doesn't always proceed obviously and sometimes takes turns that don't seem too relevant. Of course it all ties together at the end. In the end, however, even if you hated the movie, you must admit that Moore did what he wanted to do: he got people to talk about it.

Reality Bites (1994) ***

This TV-ish comedy/drama about Generation X benefits from top-flight cast but ultimately falls short due to the script. Lelaina (Winona Ryder) is a young filmmaker just out of college who works for an idiotic talk-show host (John Mahoney) while living in an apartment with Troy (Ethan Hawke), a long-haired slacker musician; Vickie (Janeane Garofalo), a promiscuous free spirit and Sammy (Steve Zahn), who doesn't do much aside from being gay and stand in the background. When she's not working, Lelaina films her friends and compiles a documentary about them; she's not having much luck getting anyone to see it, however... that is, until she meets Michael (Ben Stiller, who also directed), an executive for an MTV-type station who really wants to get her stuff on the air. Of course, Lelaina falls in love with Michael but also with Troy, despite the fact that he's a slacker asshole. So, here's a quick rundown of the themes and plot elements of this film: confusion about the future, MTV, aids, homosexuality, grunge, coffee... yep, this movie IS 1994. The thing is, it's not very subtle at being 1994. It wants to be a portrait of a generation, and to a certain extent it is, but it's clumsily plotted. Case in point: Zahn's character has about ten lines in the first half of the movie. We're not really properly introduced to this guy; hell, it doesn't even look like he lives there. Then, in the second half of the film, we get this long cheesy sequence in which he reveals his homosexuality to his parents. And then nothing else after that. It seems to me like the writer was more concerned in adressing as many freakin' issues as possible as opposed to crafting fully rounded characters. The dialogue and performers here are funny; it's just a damn shame that it had to be a comedy/drama. I would've gotten rid of that slash.

Human Nature (2001) **1/2

Before there was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, there was this other Gondry/Kaufman pairing, a little-seen comedy about sex, apes and table manners. Patricia Arquette is Lila Jute, a nature writer who secludes herself in the woods due to her obscenely hairy body. She begins to feel the need for affection, however, and comes back to the city where she meets Nathan Bronfman (Tim Robbins), a scientist who devotes his entire life to teaching table manners to white mice. They fall in love and lead a comfortable existance until they find an ape-man (Rhys Ifans) while hiking. Naming him Puff (after Bronfman's assistant's dog... the assistant is played by LOTR's Miranda Otto), Bronfman takes it upon himself to take the ape-man and turn him into a gentleman. He proves to be successful... maybe too much so. The major resemblance in all of Kaufman's work is that all the stories feature real, believeable characters in surreal, ridiculous situations; Human Nature, however, features surreal, ridiculous characters in surreal, ridiculous situations. This doesn't gel too well with Kaufman's brand of humor; the characters become crude sketch-comedy denizens who serve only to further a plot that's flimsy enough as it is. The film gets its point across in broad strokes and then destroys it with an anticlimatic ending that might have been clever had the film not been so obvious. Granted, nothing Kaufman will ever do can be worthless. The dialogue is sharp and there ARE laughs; the actors do fairly well considering the state of the characters. But Human Nature too often feels like it's building up to something it never reaches; both Gondry and Kaufman are brilliant, but they're not making the same film here. Call it a conflict of talents.

Dude, Where's My Car?
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

I'm getting mighty lazy with these. I've got sixteen to write before I get caught up.

Paycheck (2003) **

John Woo continues his perpetual descent from the pedestal of 'Best Action Director in the World' to the depths of second-tier sci-fi thrillers. Everything about this movie feels so familiar that it almost becomes self-effacing; you begin to forget what the movie is about while you're still watching it. Woo rapes potentially interesting material from Phillip K. Dick with the story of a programmer (Ben Affleck) who is hired to complete a project if he agrees to have his memory erased soon thereafter. When he goes to collect his paycheck, he finds out that he has forfeited the obscene sum of money for an envelope full of junk... which of course will prove useful in the long run. It plays more or less like Affleck's attempt at equalling his buddy Matt Damon's much, much better The Bourne Identity. But everything here seems low-rent; even with its prominent cast and director, the film can't avoid looking like a really good 1993 made for cable movie. The action scenes are nowhere near exciting and the lead performances are sleepy; even the explosions look like tidy, Universal-Studios-ride stuff. The only lively spots come from a lively supporting cast (including Paul Giamatti, Aaron Eckhart, Colm Feore and Joe Morton) and some unintentional laughs scattered here and there. For all of its flaws, Paycheck is not unwatchable; it's just limp, sluggish and uninvolving. It's the kind of movie you watch without paying much attention to and that, by the end, you realize that it didn't really matter wether you did or not.

Scary Movie 3 (2003) ***

The first one was mildly funny; the second one was the comedic nadir of the 21st century and this one is... surprisingly funny. If it's even concievable, Scary Movie 3 is even more sloppy and disorganized than its predecessors: its satire is all over the place, its cultural references follow each other with little rhyme or reason... but why is it so funny? It was a wise choice to resort to the PG-13 rating; this cuts out a great deal of penis jokes (not to mention cameos by man's best friend), semen jokes and other elaborate bodily functions that sank the second film. It was also wise to bring in people who, unlike the Wayans brothers, were once capable of decent spoofing (Keenan Ivory Wayans, having directed I'm Gonna Get You Sucka, is sorta forgiven... but not really). People like director David Zucker and actors like Leslie Nielsen and Charlie Sheen bring a certain aura of experience to a series usually populated with comedic 'talents' like Shannon Elizabeth, Tori Spelling and Squiggy. Not that there aren't any of those here; the film, in fact, seems hell-bent on reaching the young, urban black male population with ridiculous cameos by Ja Rule, Master P, Method Man, Redman or Fat Joe. But, I will admit it: I laughed. I laughed long and hard. Like all stupid comedies, it misses as much as it hits and its excuse for a plot is pathetic beyond all reasons. We all have one of these that makes us laugh despite the fact that it is, in all respects, a piece of shit. Mine, to my own amazement, is Scary Movie 3.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) ***1/2

The series has found its man: Alfonso Cuaron's treatment of the third novel in the series reaches heights the Colombus-helmed films never could (of course, Cuaron's not on board for the fourth chapter... wouldn't want too much of a good thing, I suppose). Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, still the epitome of blandness) begins his third year at Hogwarts in a aura of fear; dangerous criminal Sirious Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped and ominous creatures called Dementors are found patroling outside Hogwarts. Rupert Grint still sucks as Ron; Emma Watson still continues to act circles around her male counterparts. The film is a darker, leaner film than the previous installments; the film wisely lets the high-profile supporting cast fall into the background and focuses mostly on the primary storyline. This may be frustrating for Harry Potter fans who bitch and moan at every little change from the novel, but it makes for a tighter film. Cuaron's treatment of the material is darker and more violent (in a sense; there's no gore and exploding heads) than its predecessors. The additions to the cast this time around (David Thewlis, perfectly cast as Professor Lupin; Oldman, always welcome; Emma Thompson, as a kooky, tea-reading professor; and Timothy Spall, in a small role) cement the film; the film's best scene is a very simple one featuring Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Thewlis and Spall in a haunted house. It's still not a flawless adaptation (such a thing is probably impossible when you're talking about Harry Potter, unfortunately) but it's a step in the right direction.

Dude, Where's My Car? (2000) *1/2

With this movie's mild cult following, I was lead to believe that maybe there was something to this movie other than the oft-ridiculed title and its most famous scene, in which the protagonists get tattoos that say "dude" and "sweet"; hilarity supposedly ensues. But, no... the title is pretty much the funniest thing about this poorly-made, paceless "stoner" comedy. Jesse and Chester (Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott) wake up after a night of hard partying not remembering what they did the night before... and not knowing where they left the car. They head out to find it in much the same way Beavis and Butthead set out to find their TV, except these guys aren't nearly as entertaining. Although the film's beginning sets the course for a mildly diverting stoner flick (this is called a stoner flick despite the fact that there's very little stoning going on; then again, with Kutcher and Scott headlining your picture, you'd want the PG-13 too), it devolves into a far-fetched and unfunny caper involving aliens, strippers, transvestites and very, very little laughs. The leads are limited enough as it is, but the film's complete lack of pace and timing pretty much gives them no chance at all. Cameos by Andy Dick and Brent Spiner do little to save a film (although their ad-libbed scene is by far the funniest) that never had much of a chance in the first place.

Air Bud Spikes Back (2003) *

Don't want to waste too many lines on this piece of crap. I won't try to justify the fact that I watched it, but in any case: Air Bud is back and this time he plays beach volleyball. He has less to do in the volleyball team than he ever did in his previous movies (I've actually only seen the first two, but eh) so two nitwit criminals kidnap him to go get a big diamond behind a bunch of red lasers. Cheaply made, poorly acted (makes me wonder what veteran character actors like Edie McClurg and Patrick Cranshaw are doing in this mess) and moronic even for small children. Don't try using the 'it's for kids' offensive; there's nothing good about this one.

Scary Movie 3
Scary Movie 3 (2003)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I'm getting mighty lazy with these. I've got sixteen to write before I get caught up.

Paycheck (2003) **

John Woo continues his perpetual descent from the pedestal of 'Best Action Director in the World' to the depths of second-tier sci-fi thrillers. Everything about this movie feels so familiar that it almost becomes self-effacing; you begin to forget what the movie is about while you're still watching it. Woo rapes potentially interesting material from Phillip K. Dick with the story of a programmer (Ben Affleck) who is hired to complete a project if he agrees to have his memory erased soon thereafter. When he goes to collect his paycheck, he finds out that he has forfeited the obscene sum of money for an envelope full of junk... which of course will prove useful in the long run. It plays more or less like Affleck's attempt at equalling his buddy Matt Damon's much, much better The Bourne Identity. But everything here seems low-rent; even with its prominent cast and director, the film can't avoid looking like a really good 1993 made for cable movie. The action scenes are nowhere near exciting and the lead performances are sleepy; even the explosions look like tidy, Universal-Studios-ride stuff. The only lively spots come from a lively supporting cast (including Paul Giamatti, Aaron Eckhart, Colm Feore and Joe Morton) and some unintentional laughs scattered here and there. For all of its flaws, Paycheck is not unwatchable; it's just limp, sluggish and uninvolving. It's the kind of movie you watch without paying much attention to and that, by the end, you realize that it didn't really matter wether you did or not.

Scary Movie 3 (2003) ***

The first one was mildly funny; the second one was the comedic nadir of the 21st century and this one is... surprisingly funny. If it's even concievable, Scary Movie 3 is even more sloppy and disorganized than its predecessors: its satire is all over the place, its cultural references follow each other with little rhyme or reason... but why is it so funny? It was a wise choice to resort to the PG-13 rating; this cuts out a great deal of penis jokes (not to mention cameos by man's best friend), semen jokes and other elaborate bodily functions that sank the second film. It was also wise to bring in people who, unlike the Wayans brothers, were once capable of decent spoofing (Keenan Ivory Wayans, having directed I'm Gonna Get You Sucka, is sorta forgiven... but not really). People like director David Zucker and actors like Leslie Nielsen and Charlie Sheen bring a certain aura of experience to a series usually populated with comedic 'talents' like Shannon Elizabeth, Tori Spelling and Squiggy. Not that there aren't any of those here; the film, in fact, seems hell-bent on reaching the young, urban black male population with ridiculous cameos by Ja Rule, Master P, Method Man, Redman or Fat Joe. But, I will admit it: I laughed. I laughed long and hard. Like all stupid comedies, it misses as much as it hits and its excuse for a plot is pathetic beyond all reasons. We all have one of these that makes us laugh despite the fact that it is, in all respects, a piece of shit. Mine, to my own amazement, is Scary Movie 3.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) ***1/2

The series has found its man: Alfonso Cuaron's treatment of the third novel in the series reaches heights the Colombus-helmed films never could (of course, Cuaron's not on board for the fourth chapter... wouldn't want too much of a good thing, I suppose). Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, still the epitome of blandness) begins his third year at Hogwarts in a aura of fear; dangerous criminal Sirious Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped and ominous creatures called Dementors are found patroling outside Hogwarts. Rupert Grint still sucks as Ron; Emma Watson still continues to act circles around her male counterparts. The film is a darker, leaner film than the previous installments; the film wisely lets the high-profile supporting cast fall into the background and focuses mostly on the primary storyline. This may be frustrating for Harry Potter fans who bitch and moan at every little change from the novel, but it makes for a tighter film. Cuaron's treatment of the material is darker and more violent (in a sense; there's no gore and exploding heads) than its predecessors. The additions to the cast this time around (David Thewlis, perfectly cast as Professor Lupin; Oldman, always welcome; Emma Thompson, as a kooky, tea-reading professor; and Timothy Spall, in a small role) cement the film; the film's best scene is a very simple one featuring Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Thewlis and Spall in a haunted house. It's still not a flawless adaptation (such a thing is probably impossible when you're talking about Harry Potter, unfortunately) but it's a step in the right direction.

Dude, Where's My Car? (2000) *1/2

With this movie's mild cult following, I was lead to believe that maybe there was something to this movie other than the oft-ridiculed title and its most famous scene, in which the protagonists get tattoos that say "dude" and "sweet"; hilarity supposedly ensues. But, no... the title is pretty much the funniest thing about this poorly-made, paceless "stoner" comedy. Jesse and Chester (Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott) wake up after a night of hard partying not remembering what they did the night before... and not knowing where they left the car. They head out to find it in much the same way Beavis and Butthead set out to find their TV, except these guys aren't nearly as entertaining. Although the film's beginning sets the course for a mildly diverting stoner flick (this is called a stoner flick despite the fact that there's very little stoning going on; then again, with Kutcher and Scott headlining your picture, you'd want the PG-13 too), it devolves into a far-fetched and unfunny caper involving aliens, strippers, transvestites and very, very little laughs. The leads are limited enough as it is, but the film's complete lack of pace and timing pretty much gives them no chance at all. Cameos by Andy Dick and Brent Spiner do little to save a film (although their ad-libbed scene is by far the funniest) that never had much of a chance in the first place.

Air Bud Spikes Back (2003) *

Don't want to waste too many lines on this piece of crap. I won't try to justify the fact that I watched it, but in any case: Air Bud is back and this time he plays beach volleyball. He has less to do in the volleyball team than he ever did in his previous movies (I've actually only seen the first two, but eh) so two nitwit criminals kidnap him to go get a big diamond behind a bunch of red lasers. Cheaply made, poorly acted (makes me wonder what veteran character actors like Edie McClurg and Patrick Cranshaw are doing in this mess) and moronic even for small children. Don't try using the 'it's for kids' offensive; there's nothing good about this one.

Paycheck
Paycheck (2003)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I'm getting mighty lazy with these. I've got sixteen to write before I get caught up.

Paycheck (2003) **

John Woo continues his perpetual descent from the pedestal of 'Best Action Director in the World' to the depths of second-tier sci-fi thrillers. Everything about this movie feels so familiar that it almost becomes self-effacing; you begin to forget what the movie is about while you're still watching it. Woo rapes potentially interesting material from Phillip K. Dick with the story of a programmer (Ben Affleck) who is hired to complete a project if he agrees to have his memory erased soon thereafter. When he goes to collect his paycheck, he finds out that he has forfeited the obscene sum of money for an envelope full of junk... which of course will prove useful in the long run. It plays more or less like Affleck's attempt at equalling his buddy Matt Damon's much, much better The Bourne Identity. But everything here seems low-rent; even with its prominent cast and director, the film can't avoid looking like a really good 1993 made for cable movie. The action scenes are nowhere near exciting and the lead performances are sleepy; even the explosions look like tidy, Universal-Studios-ride stuff. The only lively spots come from a lively supporting cast (including Paul Giamatti, Aaron Eckhart, Colm Feore and Joe Morton) and some unintentional laughs scattered here and there. For all of its flaws, Paycheck is not unwatchable; it's just limp, sluggish and uninvolving. It's the kind of movie you watch without paying much attention to and that, by the end, you realize that it didn't really matter wether you did or not.

Scary Movie 3 (2003) ***

The first one was mildly funny; the second one was the comedic nadir of the 21st century and this one is... surprisingly funny. If it's even concievable, Scary Movie 3 is even more sloppy and disorganized than its predecessors: its satire is all over the place, its cultural references follow each other with little rhyme or reason... but why is it so funny? It was a wise choice to resort to the PG-13 rating; this cuts out a great deal of penis jokes (not to mention cameos by man's best friend), semen jokes and other elaborate bodily functions that sank the second film. It was also wise to bring in people who, unlike the Wayans brothers, were once capable of decent spoofing (Keenan Ivory Wayans, having directed I'm Gonna Get You Sucka, is sorta forgiven... but not really). People like director David Zucker and actors like Leslie Nielsen and Charlie Sheen bring a certain aura of experience to a series usually populated with comedic 'talents' like Shannon Elizabeth, Tori Spelling and Squiggy. Not that there aren't any of those here; the film, in fact, seems hell-bent on reaching the young, urban black male population with ridiculous cameos by Ja Rule, Master P, Method Man, Redman or Fat Joe. But, I will admit it: I laughed. I laughed long and hard. Like all stupid comedies, it misses as much as it hits and its excuse for a plot is pathetic beyond all reasons. We all have one of these that makes us laugh despite the fact that it is, in all respects, a piece of shit. Mine, to my own amazement, is Scary Movie 3.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) ***1/2

The series has found its man: Alfonso Cuaron's treatment of the third novel in the series reaches heights the Colombus-helmed films never could (of course, Cuaron's not on board for the fourth chapter... wouldn't want too much of a good thing, I suppose). Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, still the epitome of blandness) begins his third year at Hogwarts in a aura of fear; dangerous criminal Sirious Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped and ominous creatures called Dementors are found patroling outside Hogwarts. Rupert Grint still sucks as Ron; Emma Watson still continues to act circles around her male counterparts. The film is a darker, leaner film than the previous installments; the film wisely lets the high-profile supporting cast fall into the background and focuses mostly on the primary storyline. This may be frustrating for Harry Potter fans who bitch and moan at every little change from the novel, but it makes for a tighter film. Cuaron's treatment of the material is darker and more violent (in a sense; there's no gore and exploding heads) than its predecessors. The additions to the cast this time around (David Thewlis, perfectly cast as Professor Lupin; Oldman, always welcome; Emma Thompson, as a kooky, tea-reading professor; and Timothy Spall, in a small role) cement the film; the film's best scene is a very simple one featuring Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Thewlis and Spall in a haunted house. It's still not a flawless adaptation (such a thing is probably impossible when you're talking about Harry Potter, unfortunately) but it's a step in the right direction.

Dude, Where's My Car? (2000) *1/2

With this movie's mild cult following, I was lead to believe that maybe there was something to this movie other than the oft-ridiculed title and its most famous scene, in which the protagonists get tattoos that say "dude" and "sweet"; hilarity supposedly ensues. But, no... the title is pretty much the funniest thing about this poorly-made, paceless "stoner" comedy. Jesse and Chester (Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott) wake up after a night of hard partying not remembering what they did the night before... and not knowing where they left the car. They head out to find it in much the same way Beavis and Butthead set out to find their TV, except these guys aren't nearly as entertaining. Although the film's beginning sets the course for a mildly diverting stoner flick (this is called a stoner flick despite the fact that there's very little stoning going on; then again, with Kutcher and Scott headlining your picture, you'd want the PG-13 too), it devolves into a far-fetched and unfunny caper involving aliens, strippers, transvestites and very, very little laughs. The leads are limited enough as it is, but the film's complete lack of pace and timing pretty much gives them no chance at all. Cameos by Andy Dick and Brent Spiner do little to save a film (although their ad-libbed scene is by far the funniest) that never had much of a chance in the first place.

Air Bud Spikes Back (2003) *

Don't want to waste too many lines on this piece of crap. I won't try to justify the fact that I watched it, but in any case: Air Bud is back and this time he plays beach volleyball. He has less to do in the volleyball team than he ever did in his previous movies (I've actually only seen the first two, but eh) so two nitwit criminals kidnap him to go get a big diamond behind a bunch of red lasers. Cheaply made, poorly acted (makes me wonder what veteran character actors like Edie McClurg and Patrick Cranshaw are doing in this mess) and moronic even for small children. Don't try using the 'it's for kids' offensive; there's nothing good about this one.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

I'm getting mighty lazy with these. I've got sixteen to write before I get caught up.

Paycheck (2003) **

John Woo continues his perpetual descent from the pedestal of 'Best Action Director in the World' to the depths of second-tier sci-fi thrillers. Everything about this movie feels so familiar that it almost becomes self-effacing; you begin to forget what the movie is about while you're still watching it. Woo rapes potentially interesting material from Phillip K. Dick with the story of a programmer (Ben Affleck) who is hired to complete a project if he agrees to have his memory erased soon thereafter. When he goes to collect his paycheck, he finds out that he has forfeited the obscene sum of money for an envelope full of junk... which of course will prove useful in the long run. It plays more or less like Affleck's attempt at equalling his buddy Matt Damon's much, much better The Bourne Identity. But everything here seems low-rent; even with its prominent cast and director, the film can't avoid looking like a really good 1993 made for cable movie. The action scenes are nowhere near exciting and the lead performances are sleepy; even the explosions look like tidy, Universal-Studios-ride stuff. The only lively spots come from a lively supporting cast (including Paul Giamatti, Aaron Eckhart, Colm Feore and Joe Morton) and some unintentional laughs scattered here and there. For all of its flaws, Paycheck is not unwatchable; it's just limp, sluggish and uninvolving. It's the kind of movie you watch without paying much attention to and that, by the end, you realize that it didn't really matter wether you did or not.

Scary Movie 3 (2003) ***

The first one was mildly funny; the second one was the comedic nadir of the 21st century and this one is... surprisingly funny. If it's even concievable, Scary Movie 3 is even more sloppy and disorganized than its predecessors: its satire is all over the place, its cultural references follow each other with little rhyme or reason... but why is it so funny? It was a wise choice to resort to the PG-13 rating; this cuts out a great deal of penis jokes (not to mention cameos by man's best friend), semen jokes and other elaborate bodily functions that sank the second film. It was also wise to bring in people who, unlike the Wayans brothers, were once capable of decent spoofing (Keenan Ivory Wayans, having directed I'm Gonna Get You Sucka, is sorta forgiven... but not really). People like director David Zucker and actors like Leslie Nielsen and Charlie Sheen bring a certain aura of experience to a series usually populated with comedic 'talents' like Shannon Elizabeth, Tori Spelling and Squiggy. Not that there aren't any of those here; the film, in fact, seems hell-bent on reaching the young, urban black male population with ridiculous cameos by Ja Rule, Master P, Method Man, Redman or Fat Joe. But, I will admit it: I laughed. I laughed long and hard. Like all stupid comedies, it misses as much as it hits and its excuse for a plot is pathetic beyond all reasons. We all have one of these that makes us laugh despite the fact that it is, in all respects, a piece of shit. Mine, to my own amazement, is Scary Movie 3.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) ***1/2

The series has found its man: Alfonso Cuaron's treatment of the third novel in the series reaches heights the Colombus-helmed films never could (of course, Cuaron's not on board for the fourth chapter... wouldn't want too much of a good thing, I suppose). Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, still the epitome of blandness) begins his third year at Hogwarts in a aura of fear; dangerous criminal Sirious Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped and ominous creatures called Dementors are found patroling outside Hogwarts. Rupert Grint still sucks as Ron; Emma Watson still continues to act circles around her male counterparts. The film is a darker, leaner film than the previous installments; the film wisely lets the high-profile supporting cast fall into the background and focuses mostly on the primary storyline. This may be frustrating for Harry Potter fans who bitch and moan at every little change from the novel, but it makes for a tighter film. Cuaron's treatment of the material is darker and more violent (in a sense; there's no gore and exploding heads) than its predecessors. The additions to the cast this time around (David Thewlis, perfectly cast as Professor Lupin; Oldman, always welcome; Emma Thompson, as a kooky, tea-reading professor; and Timothy Spall, in a small role) cement the film; the film's best scene is a very simple one featuring Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Thewlis and Spall in a haunted house. It's still not a flawless adaptation (such a thing is probably impossible when you're talking about Harry Potter, unfortunately) but it's a step in the right direction.

Dude, Where's My Car? (2000) *1/2

With this movie's mild cult following, I was lead to believe that maybe there was something to this movie other than the oft-ridiculed title and its most famous scene, in which the protagonists get tattoos that say "dude" and "sweet"; hilarity supposedly ensues. But, no... the title is pretty much the funniest thing about this poorly-made, paceless "stoner" comedy. Jesse and Chester (Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott) wake up after a night of hard partying not remembering what they did the night before... and not knowing where they left the car. They head out to find it in much the same way Beavis and Butthead set out to find their TV, except these guys aren't nearly as entertaining. Although the film's beginning sets the course for a mildly diverting stoner flick (this is called a stoner flick despite the fact that there's very little stoning going on; then again, with Kutcher and Scott headlining your picture, you'd want the PG-13 too), it devolves into a far-fetched and unfunny caper involving aliens, strippers, transvestites and very, very little laughs. The leads are limited enough as it is, but the film's complete lack of pace and timing pretty much gives them no chance at all. Cameos by Andy Dick and Brent Spiner do little to save a film (although their ad-libbed scene is by far the funniest) that never had much of a chance in the first place.

Air Bud Spikes Back (2003) *

Don't want to waste too many lines on this piece of crap. I won't try to justify the fact that I watched it, but in any case: Air Bud is back and this time he plays beach volleyball. He has less to do in the volleyball team than he ever did in his previous movies (I've actually only seen the first two, but eh) so two nitwit criminals kidnap him to go get a big diamond behind a bunch of red lasers. Cheaply made, poorly acted (makes me wonder what veteran character actors like Edie McClurg and Patrick Cranshaw are doing in this mess) and moronic even for small children. Don't try using the 'it's for kids' offensive; there's nothing good about this one.