Catching Up, Part Two - New Year's Day 2005

I always like to ring in the New Year vegetating in front of the tv, catching up on movies that I never got to see during the year just ended (you just can't beat this for closure). The holidays this year seemed a bit more hectic than usual and not just because Anna was home, so the New Year's movie watching continued all week. Here's a quick summary.

The House of Yes (1997, Mark Waters) : Anna either rented or borrowed from the library this very unsettling story in which the perky Parker Posey plays a seriously disturbed character who dresses up like Jackie Onassis and has sex with her brother. Thumbs down.

Maria Full of Grace (2004, Joshua Marston): Easily the best of the New Year's movies, this film makes its point without preaching simply by presenting the compelling story of teenager who takes a job as a drug mule, desperate for a better life for herself and her unborn baby. Bogota Columbia born Catalina Sandino Moreno makes a stunning debut as the title character.

The Manchurian Candidate (2004, Jonathan Demme): The original movie just released in 2004 on DVD was so good it hardly needed a remake, however today's audiences can certainly relate much more easily to this updated but equally well done remake. Thumbs up for both.

Jersey Girl (Kevin Smith, 2004): The whole Bennifer fiasco and the universal panning this got upon release set up drastically lowered expectations, but as a Kevin Smith completist, I just had to see it anyway. While this may never be considered in the same league as Clerks or Chasing Amy, Jennifer Lopez bites it during the first reel and Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler actually get some chemistry going and I found Jersey Girl to be enjoyable light entertainment; none of the cutting edge dialog that we're used to from Smith, but this is no dog. Thumbs marginally up.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004, Alexander Witt): Having never seen the first Resident Evil picture, I'll have to admit to renting this based on a good looking trailer and two good looking stars (Sienna Guillory and Milla Jovovich). This was unquestionably the worst of the New Year's movies. Even two hot babes kicking butt couldn't make this dreck watchable. Thumbs way down.

Elf (2003, Jon Favreau): Bev either rented this or borrowed it from the library and in spite of lame writing the casting and characters save the day, especially Bob Newhart basically playing himself as an elf. Will Ferrell is eminently likable in the title role, and Artie Lange has a great cameo as a department store Santa who gets involved in a fistfight with Ferrell. Thumbs marginally up.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004, Adam McKay): In the wake of Elf, Anna instigated this rental and I must admit that I enjoyed this as much as one could enjoy a mindless comedy. Will Ferrell rocks as seventies news anchor Ron Burgundy and first time director Adam McKay triumphs with movie that brought a smile to my face from beginning to end. I still get nostalgic for the Starland Vocal Band everytime I remember the cast's version of "Afternoon Delight." Thumbs decidedly up.

Collateral (2004, Michael Mann): One of two Oscar nominated performances in 2004 for Jamie Fox (the other for Ray), this buddy comedy/crime drama was enjoyable mostly for the verbal interplay between Jamie Fox and Tom Cruise. The car chases and crashes were totally unnecessary with this level of acting talent on board. More talk and less action might have made this a classic; still I give it thumbs up.

Open Water (2004, Chris Kentis): Every bit as scary as advertised, maybe more so, this basically one act play takes place in the ocean as a husband and wife get stranded when their scuba boat returns to port without them. You might try to spend the 79 minutes pondering whether a tour boat operator could really make such a mistake, but you can't prevent your stomach from knotting up every time something nudges one of these two while they float endlessly in the water.

TV on DVD: Thanks to J&A for interspersing the New Year's movies with DVDs of Family Guy and Arrested Development, two excellent comedy shows that I had not previously seen.


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