Movies — 2004

What the Stars Mean (More or Less)
One of the best ever, I would buy the DVD
Pretty good, probably wouldn't buy the DVD
Bad with occasional redeeming features
Bad with few redeeming features
Utter Excrement
  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring [5 stars]

    A quick review before I go see Return of the King someday …

  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [5 stars]

    Continuing the pre-Return of the King review…

  3. The Wild Bunch [4 stars]

    Not as violent as I remembered, but I forgot how nasty those guys were.

  4. Seabiscuit [4 stars]

    Almost avoided this horse movie, but it's really good, of course. Plus which, it has Valerie Mahaffey in it. (Don't blink, you'll miss her.) And it's amazing how many good movies Jeff Bridges has been in.

  5. The Kids Are Alright [3 stars]

    A bunch of glued-together clips about the greatest rock band ever.

  6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [5 stars]


  7. Big Fish [4.5 stars]

    Great! Roger Ebert is an idiot!

  8. Johnny English [2.5 stars]

    Rowan Atkinson can be funny just showing up. Which is pretty much what he does here.

  9. Out of Time [3.5 stars]

    A Florida noir. Denzel Washington is great as usual; anyone who watches these things will pretty much be unsurprised, but that's OK.

  10. The Butterfly Effect [2.5 stars]

    Dragged by my son to see this one. I liked it slightly better than most of the reviewers, but Ashton Kutcher has an inherently goofy quality about him that works against the seriousness of the plot.

  11. Once Upon A Time In Mexico [2.0 stars]

    Fell asleep during critical moments of this DVD, so that's not good. I really wanted to like it more, but … I didn't. The best thing on the DVD is the cooking segment.

  12. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier [3.5 stars]

    OK, it's not that good, but better than I remembered. I did buy the DVD, simply because I bought DVDs 1-4. (What did P. T. Barnum say was "born every minute"?)

  13. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country [4.5 stars]

    Bought this one too... Almost as good as Star Trek II, marred by the painful effort at Relevance. Good news: In 1991 it was painfully obvious, nowadays maybe less so.

  14. Groundhog Day [5.0 stars]

    I think I'll make it a tradition to watch this every February Second. Time has not dimmed it. Bill Murrary deserved an Oscar nomination for this.

  15. Once Upon a Time in America [3.0 stars]

    Good acting from the leads, and what's on the screen is gorgeous. Mediocre acting by everyone but the leads, long-winded to no real purpose, the story is absurd, unpleasant, and pretentious. So it all evens out.

  16. Alex and Emma [2.5 stars]

    Mediocre romantic comedy, but Kate Hudson and Sophie Marceau are very easy to look at.

  17. Intolerable Cruelty [4.5 stars]

    Very funny and unpredictable screwball comedy from the sainted Coen brothers.

  18. The Medallion [1.0 stars]

    Just about the worst Jackie Chan movie ever. Not funny, not much action, an incoherent and silly plot. Note that Roger Ebert gave this three stars, while giving "Big Fish" two and a half, which further proves that he's just lost it.

  19. Starsky & Hutch [3.0 stars]

    I liked the old TV show, I like Ben Stiller, I like Owen Wilson. Should have known that that didn't mean I'd like the combination a lot.

  20. Long Time Dead [no stars]

    Well, this was just awful. A tedious horror movie of the bad-guys-win variety. Although the big-eyed kid from Witness is in it. He's now a big-eyed young man.

  21. Bruce Almighty [4.0 stars]

    An amusing but predictable Jim Carrey movie. Easy to look at, as always: Jennifer Aniston. Very funny Ace Ventura reference, pay attention or you'll miss it.

  22. Dead Again [4.5 stars]

    Saw a snippet of this on TV, and was reminded of how much fun it was, so rented it. Emma Thompson was never lovelier. Kenneth Branagh's American accent is amazing.

  23. Matchstick Men [3.5 stars]

    Pretty good (and pretty) movie about a con artist with amusing psychological problems.

  24. In the Cut [1.5 stars]

    Ye gods. Looks like Meg Ryan tried to play this "gritty." No perky smiles here. The setting is a nightmarish filthy Manhattan seemingly solely populated with dead-end losers and pervs, and (of course) a serial killer. Somehow the characters work up just enough motivation to move the plot to its groaning conclusion.

  25. Citizen Kane [5.0 stars]

    I hadn't seen this in many years. No surprise, it's still great. My only new insight is how modern the movie looks and sounds. Old insight: Orson Welles was doing the unusual-dialog-pause thing long before William Shatner.

  26. School of Rock [3.0 stars]

    To say the plot is predictable is an understatement. (The only mild surprise is that Joan Cusack's role as principal is two-dimensional instead of one.) How you feel about the movie will be governed by how you feel about Jack Black. He's OK.

  27. Duplex [3.5 stars]

    Mostly funny black comedy directed by Danny DeVito.

  28. Cheaper by the Dozen [3.0 stars]

    Kind of worth watching Steve Martin slumming.

  29. Runaway Jury [2.0 stars]

    All America's violence problems are due to gun manufacturers and their evil corporate henchmen, don'tcha know. This movie is watchable due to the sheer massiveness of acting talent, but any non-believer in the "progressive" mantras on guns and regulation-by-litigation will find this movie's theme utterly beyond contempt and the characters unbelievably cartoonish.

  30. Something's Gotta Give [3.5 stars]

    Very funny in spots, and Diane Keaton is bee-you-tiful. Plus which the old, good Starsky is in a minor role. (We're saying: is that him?) Plus which it's nice to see Keanu Reeves acting like a human being. (We're saying: is that him?)

  31. Office Space [4.5 stars]

    Wickedly funny comedy which I had previously seen only in out-of-order censored segments on Comedy Central. Probably I'm biased, as a cubicle-dweller. Still can any movie with the extremely-easy-to-look-at Jennifer Aniston merit fewer than four stars?

  32. Calendar Girls [3.0 stars]

    Not bad. Would have been more interesting with Jennifer Aniston and Catherine Zeta-Jones instead of Helen Mirren and Julie Waters. Probably a worse movie, but more interesting.

  33. Pitch Black [3.0 stars]

    Standard sci-fi horror, with fancy photography to make it "stylish".

  34. In America [4.0 stars]

    Very good drama of an (apparently) illegal-immigrant Irish family in the more-or-less modern USA. Kids are charming, mom overacts.

  35. Raiders of the Lost Ark [5.0 stars]

    I got a big Best Buy gift certificate for my birthday, so one of the things I got was the Indiana Jones collection. Good stuff.

  36. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [4.0 stars]

    A library checkout, which I'd previously seen with my daughter when it was in theatres. I knocked off a star here because I fell asleep for about 15 minutes.

  37. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom [4.0 stars]

    OK, so this is the weakest of the three Indiana Jones movies. Still worth watching.

  38. Shrek 2 [5.0 stars]

    The first summer blockbuster we've seen so far. It's wonderful. Even a half-hearted movie buff will enjoy picking out homages to other films. It doesn't forget to be funny. The graphics are fantastic; the wizards really worked overtime. (It's kind of a shame that nearly everyone has ceased being amazed by this stuff, it's just expected.)

  39. The Day After Tomorrow [3.5 stars]

    Number 2 in the summer blockbuster series. This is a big stupid movie, as stupid as Shrek 2 was smart. But it's OK, with an extra half star for the impressive destruction effects.

  40. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [4.5 stars]

    We missed this in theatres, so… it's pretty good. Fascinating plot and subplots, realistic sets and effects, thoughtful characterizations, impeccable acting. Dragged a bit in spots, unfortunately. They should do a Star Trek movie like this.

  41. Minority Report [5.0 stars]

    A quick look back at an amazing science-fiction/mystery movie. I literally can't say enough good things about it.

  42. Old School [3.5 stars]

    An off-color comedy with some very funny bits. The extra half-star is for making me laugh out loud a couple times and having the Vince Vaughn character actually display a scruple.

  43. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade [5.0 stars]

    Finishing up the Indy trilogy with a very good one.

  44. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [5.0 stars]

    Number 3 in the summer blockbuster series. Many people have noticed the switch in directors and what that means for the look of this movie. Well, that's true; even Hogwarts looks a lot less safe for Harry than in previous movies, and everywhere else is more dangerous than that. Much more edge-of-your-seat stuff here.

  45. Fifty First Dates [4.0 stars]

    I was pleasantly surprised by this sweet and clever Adam Sandler movie.

  46. The Last Samurai [4.5 stars]

    Fantastic looking Tom Cruise movie, knocked off a mere half star for utter predictability.

  47. Secret Window [3.0 stars]

    To my shame, I didn't anticipate the ending here. However, I did fall asleep for about the first 20 minutes. Spoiler: evil triumphs; I don't like that.

  48. City on Fire [3.0 stars]

    An early Chow Yun Fat movie (spoiler: he dies), ordinary with some spots of brilliance. The dubbed dialog is occasionally ludicrous.

  49. Mystic River [4.5 stars]

    Knocked off a half-star for being so freakin depressing and the spotty Bahstan accents.

  50. The Triplets of Belleville [4.0 stars]

    A weird and wonderful animation. We need more movies about old French ladies and hand grenades. It's a negected genre.

  51. 1941 [2.5 stars]

    I had dim memories of this as a crazy funny movie. On rewatching, it's not that funny. Robert Stack is marvelous, John Belushi is funny for about five minutes, Lorraine Gary is a good frantic screamer, Eddie Deezen's dummy made me laugh. Otherwise, the movie makes a good argument that movie people should not do so much cocaine.

  52. The Professionals [3.0 stars]

    I'm ambivalent about whether I should include this in the list, since I slept through a significant portion of the movie. What I saw was pretty good. As I watched it, I thought: "Everyone in this movie is dead now, except for Claudia Cardinale." But as I type, it turns out Jack Palance is still alive! Who knew?

  53. Air Force One [4.0 stars]

    I think you can only make one movie where the President of the United States is a gritty action hero. Nobody could do it better than Harrison Ford. Marred somewhat by substandard special effects. And sure, Glenn Close as the VP sending out for a copy of the Constitution is silly.

  54. Along Came Polly [3.5 stars]

    Predictable romantic comedy. But (as you know) Jennifer Anniston is extremely easy to look at, and there are a number of genuinely funny moments.

  55. Paycheck [2.5 stars]

    Disappointing sci-fi thriller directed by John Woo. I had high hopes, but found myself nodding off during action sequences. That shouldn't happen.

  56. Spider-Man 2 [5.0 stars]

    Number 4 in the summer blockbuster series. Even Kirsten Dunst's whiny little voice won't stop me from giving this a big five stars. The big things right with this movie are well-known, so I'll mention a couple of little things: Donna Murphy as Doc Ock's wife, remembered fondly as Captain Picard's one-movie girlfriend in Star Trek: Insurrection. And one of my favorite commercial actors, Joel McHale, as an unpleasant bank officer. Doc Ock's arms … perfect.

  57. Back to the Future [5.0 stars]

    Purchased on DVD. I'm a sucker for "kid saves his family" movies, I've always loved time-travel yarns, and I like Michael J. Fox. So this wins big for me.

  58. Back to the Future Part II [5.0 stars]

    Purchased on DVD. If possible, I like this even better than the first installment. Geek alert: the DVD extras make it clearer what happened to Biff when he returns to 2015 after giving his 1955-self the sports almanac, which I'd never figured out in watching the plain old movie.

  59. Back to the Future Part III [4.5 stars]

    Guess what: purchased on DVD. The final windup chapter, perhaps a slight letdown.

  60. Kill Bill Volume II [4.0 stars]

    May not be everyone's cup of tea, but I found it intensely watchable from beginning to end.

  61. I, Robot [3.5 stars]

    OK, I was a huge Isaac Asimov fan when I was a kid, and I was prepared to be bitterly disappointed. But, hey, it wasn't awful. By which I mean you could actually detect gratifying traces of the Good Doctor here and there, in between the usual mindless special effects. (And, to tell the truth, the mindless special effects weren't that mindless, they were pretty impressive.)

  62. Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid [1.5 stars]

    One of the few times I've ever fallen asleep in a movie theater. Pretty boys and girls put selves in danger. Behave stupidly. Many die. (But not in too interesting ways, because really: how many ways can a snake kill you?) Biggest star: Morris Chestnutt, we'll give it an extra half-star for him.

  63. Collateral [4.0 stars]

    Swell thriller, beautiful cinematography, smart dialog, great acting. Nothing to dislike here.

  64. The Punisher [3.0 stars]

    Suprisingly good. Since the comic came out after I stopped reading comic books, I only had a vague idea of this guy. So (unlike, say, Spider-Man or Daredevil) I have no idea if they "got it right". But it's far from formulaic, and it doesn't flinch from showing his Grim Origins--no radioactive spiders, waste spills, or other trickery here; just lots of violence. Everybody's three-dimensional.

  65. The Ladykillers [3.5 stars]

    A pretty good Coen brothers film full of eccentric characters and good writing. Any week where you see two movies with Irma P. Hall is a good one.

  66. The Evil Dead [1.0 stars]

    Sam Raimi shows little inkling of future genius in this tedious gorefest.

  67. Jersey Girl [3.5 stars]

    Kevin Smith makes a conventional movie, and, gee, it turns out to be pretty conventional. Extra half-star for the grade-school Sweeney Todd production, though; that was hilarious.

  68. Man on Fire [2.0 stars]

    High hopes dashed. There's the makings of a neat little thriller in here somewhere, some great actors are in place, but there's way too much artsy-fartsy production lathered on top.

  69. Seven Samurai [4.5 stars]

    Finally got around to seeing what all the fuss was about here. Small-screen, black-and-white, a not very very sharp DVD reproduction. And it's just wonderful. Just making the connections to other films is fun. When one of the hapless farmers says they "are born to suffer. It's our lot in life" even a mild fan of Star Wars will remember C3-P0 saying the same thing.

  70. Resident Evil [0.0 stars]

    Complete waste of time.

  71. Mean Girls [3.5 stars]

    A smart and funny movie about high school girls, written by the smart and funny Tina Fey.

  72. National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze [2.0 stars]

    Ok, I'm an idiot. Looking for some, um, low-rent ribaldry, I get this instead. Actually it's not as bad as it could be, and (really) could have easily obtained a PG-13. It's kind of a Frenchy bedroom farce with the normal mistaken identities and running around, set in an American college dorm. Actually laughed in a couple places.

  73. Dirty Pretty Things [3.5 stars]

    As far as I know, this is a one-movie genre: British illegal-immigrant noir. Those folks lead pretty nasty and depressing lives (at least so the movie claims), and most of them seem to be wanting to improve their lot by becoming illegal immigrants in America. Hm, interesting.

  74. A Better Tomorrow [3.0 stars]

    Hong Kong. John Woo. Chow Yun-Fat. Say no more? Well, I was kind of disappointed. Dozed off near the end.

  75. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [3.5 stars]

    Given this movie's ratings at the IMDB, I thought I'd like this a lot more than I did. Some neat special effects. But what's the point, exactly, of the car crashing to earth and nobody noticing? Anyone notice how much Kate Winslet looks like Christa Miller?

  76. Twisted [2.0 stars]

    Spoilers: The plot hangs on an allegedly experienced cop not realizing she's being drugged. Also follows the movie cliche rule: if the cast of a thriller contains a well-known star apparently underutilized, that's the villain. Saw that coming a mile away.

  77. Shaun of the Dead [4.0 stars]

    Best. Zombie. Movie. Ever.

  78. Team America: World Police [3.5 stars]

    OK, it's funny, but not that funny. Extra half-star, however, for (a) the kitties and (b) the theme song, which I can't seem to get out of my head.

  79. The Natural [5.0 stars]

    I like this movie a lot. Everyone's good.

  80. Bubba Ho-Tep [2.0 stars]

    There's a great idea behind this movie: Elvis is alive and stuck in a nursing home. And there's a mummy involved, so that's good too. But I fell asleep every time I tried to watch it--the pacing is glacial.

  81. The Incredibles [5.0 stars]

    This is the kind of movie that makes me (at least figuratively) drop down on my knees in thankfulness that I'm alive in such a country at such a time. I imagine Brad Bird, the director and writer, is pretty happy about it too.

  82. Roxanne [5.0 stars]

    One of my favorite movies, decided to watch it again.

  83. The Clearing [2.5 stars]

    Well acted, the only thing missing is a reason to care about any of these tedious people.

  84. Dawn of the Dead [3.5 stars]

    A zombie movie remake, I haven't seen the original. But this is pretty good, with fast zombies and demented humor.

  85. Elf [3.0 stars]

    Predictable Christmas schmaltz, saved somewhat by the anarchic comic talents of Will Farrell.

  86. The Killing [3.5 stars]

    Early Stanley Kubrick noir. Slightly overrated at the IMDB, I think. The 1956 NYT review amusingly refers to "some colorful shots" at the racetrack crime scene.

  87. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning [no stars]

    Utterly by-the-numbers churn-out from the Jason franchise. For laughs check out how the devotees on the IMDB message boards argue whether this was the the worst entry in the series, or was it part 8, or part 4 …

  88. Kiss Me Deadly 2 stars

    This is supposed to be a classic, but I wasn't that thrilled. Mike Hammer is a sadistic loser, his private eye business skirting the edges of blackmail. Pat Murphy barely tolerates his presence, lifting his license and gun permit for no reason I can tell. Velda does most of the real detecting. It's nice (however) to see a young Cloris Leachman, Jack Elam, and Strother Martin. Paul Stewart is also here, a definite step down from Citizen Kane.

  89. Love Actually 4 stars

    It's probably actually difficult to throw this much acting talent on the screen and not have a decent movie. It's enjoyable but few of the relationships are believable. [Hey there, goofy-looking Alan Rickman: you're married to Emma Thompson. So instead of humbly giving thanks to the Lord each and every day for your dumb luck, you're contemplating cheating on her? Yeah, right. Idjit.]

  90. The Terminal 4 stars

    Tom Hanks gives a credible performance, and Spielberg shows that he's OK with directing a non-blockbuster. Probably could have been the same movie with third-tier actors and director, right? Well, maybe not.

  91. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story 3.5 stars

    Funny and unpretentious.

  92. Shelter Island 0.5 stars

    In case it's not obvious, sometimes other people go to the video store in this household. Gratuitous nudity gives this movie a half star. Otherwise, there are about 14,348 movies that are a better investment of your rental dollar. It's a pretentious wannabe noir.

  93. The Hitch-Hiker 1.5 stars

    Billed as some sort of noir classic, this turned out to be a standard thriller without much suspense or surprise. Although I didn't recognize Hamilton Burger out of his lawyer suit.

  94. Donnie Darko 4.0 stars

    This is (as I type) number 94 on IMDB's top 250 list, but the current highlighted user comment is: what is it doing there? Good: it's edgy and inventive. Donny is unstuck in time for some reason. Katherine Ross is in it, proving that many beautiful young women don't age all that well. Not so good: Sure, the high school is filled with borderline psychotics. Sure. Too many loose ends. I can't understand why a lot of the supporting actors are doing what they're doing. Why does the coke fiend hate Donnie so much? What happened to Gretchen's mom?

  95. The Manchurian Candidate 3.0 stars

    I kept comparing this unfavorably with the original, which I saw at An Impressionable Age. It plays into lefty paranoia about corporations; it's hard to belive Ebert's review would have been so positive otherwise.

  96. Napoleon Dynamite 4.0 stars

    Sweet film about a quirky adolescent who gains repect among his peers without compromising his incredible geekiness.

  97. Resident Evil: Apocalypse 1.5 stars

    This was an improvement over the first movie. Which doesn't mean it was good. Milla Jovovich keeps popping up at exactly the right moment to save the day, which strains credibility. That would never work for me; she'd show up a few hours after I got bitten by the zombies and proceed to blow my head off.

  98. Anchorman 2.0 stars

    Someone needs to tell these guys that improvisation is almost always not funny. ("I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch." Don't hold your breath for that screenwiting Oscar nomination, OK?) But the cats and dog were cute.

  99. Hero 4.0 stars

    Visually stunning; also contains actual acting content.

  100. Garden State 3.5 stars

    The drama/comedy mix in this movie didn't work well for me. Although the funny stuff was really funny (silent velcro), the drama was (I thought) trite.

Filmography links courtesy of The Internet Movie Database.

Last modified:

Paul A. Sand,