Movie: Walk the Line
Director/Studio: James Mangold / 20th Century Fox
10 Word Review: Standard bio, buoyed by fantastic performances by Phoenix and Witherspoon.
Best Thing About It: It's almost impossible not to compare this movie to Ray -- they're so very similar to each other. I thought this movie bested Ray on at least two criteria: it was less dependent on Cash's stellar music to keep us interested. Ray tended to use Ray Charles's songs as a crutch. Also, I thought the haunted family past story arc was integrated far better in this story than it was in Ray's.
Worst Thing About It: It's still somewhat Bio-by-numbers. He's a kid, he moves out of daddy's shadow, goes to war, is poor, gets his break, career goes up, meets his lady, personal demons, career goes down, lady helps save his soul. Seen. It. Before.
Best Performance: Reese Witherspoon. Joaquin Phoenix is very good as Johnny Cash, but it's Witherspoon who gives the movie its life. I've been waiting to see her give this performance for a long time. Interestingly, with this role she steps the farthest outside her comfort zone, yet the role also makes the most of her most innate gifts -- her charisma and her (for lack of a better term) sweetness. Lady can sing country, too.
Director/Studio: Chris Columbus / Columbia/Revolution
10 Word Review: Earnest, enthusiastic musical whose winning performances trump fleeting boho annoyances.
Best Thing About It: The songs - they're catchy, packed with emotion, and belted by a uniformly excellent cast. The better ones have been playing in my brain all week.
Worst Thing About It: Oh, just the thirty or so times I wanted to yell "get a job, deadbeat!" at the screen. Maybe this is a function of the cast being ten years olden than when the play debuted, but seeing this collection of thirtysomething actors singing about not wanting to pay their rent and not wanting to "sell out" and get a job … shut up! I really should have seen this show back when I was in high school, I think.
Best Performance: Damn, this is a tough call. Jesse L. Martin is so good. Tracie Thoms crafts the most likeable character. Wilson Jermaine Heredia is a burst of energy. I was most partial to Rosario Dawson, though. I've liked her ever since 25th Hour, and she surpassed my expectations here in a big way.
Director/Studio: Anand Tucker / Touchstone
10 Word Review: Lamely conceived romantic dramady that's neither romantic, comedic, nor dramatic.
Best Thing About It: It's really quite bad, but I enjoyed the chemistry between Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman while it lasted. Two very likeable people right there.
Worst Thing About It: Oh, man. I guess the primary blame goes to the script. Because what kind of story is this? None of the characters are believable from the beginning to the end. Tangents pop up out of nowhere (Jeremy goes on tour?!). Mirabelle pretty much needs to be nuclear-blasted before she figures some pretty obvious shit out. And Steve Martin is not in any way sympathetic. Plus, the voiceover is horrid and cutesy and confusing.
Best Performance: Danes, who is begging (begging!) for the script that will let her make the leap. This wasn't it.
Movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Director/Studio: Mike Newell / Warner Bros.
10 Word Review: Exciting, fantastic, and the best of the Potter bunch. Impressive.
Best Thing About It: Steve Kloves's script rises to a serious adaptation challenge and emerged almost unscathed. Of course, Newell acquits himself quite well, also, particularly with regard to the Quiddich World Cup and the introduction of the rival magic schools.
Worst Thing About It: In a cast this big (and getting bigger every time), there's increasingly fewer opportunities for folks like Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman to shine.
Best Performance: The three young leads are improving by leaps and bounds, but I was all about Brendan Gleeson's manic, oversized Mad-Eye Moody.