Category Archives: Films – 3 stars

Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy

It’s the 70s, and Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is San Diego’s top news anchor. He has it all, women, friends, respect, women… But his world is turned upside down when Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), an ambitious journalist joins the news team and starts pushing for his job. It’s silly fun; full of laughs but not quite bursting with them. The focus is too strongly on Will Ferrell as Ron, when the other characters have huge reserves of comic potential. The best of the secondary characters is Brick the clueless weatherman (Steve Carrell), who catches many of the funniest moments. It’s not a classic, but highly entertaining nevertheless.


Well shot, well acted, but as a film it felt kinda perfunctory. A bunch of scenes, thrown together, to chart the rise and fall and rise of Ray Charles. A man’s life doesn’t necessarily follow the same kind of structure as a drama, but by being made into a movie, it presents itself as one. And as a drama, I found it too fragmented and arbitrary to be anything more than “merely” good.

Open Water

While on a holiday diving trip, Susan and Daniel are accidentally left behind in the middle of the ocean. There are sharks. The film watches them as they start out hopeful that they’ve just drifted out of range of the boat, but gradually come to the realization that they have truly been left behind, with little hope of rescue. Despite the horrific situation, this isn’t horror as such. It’s a tense drama about two people in the most desperate of circumstances as they try to hold mind and body together. The digital video cinematography gives the feeling of holiday footage, which makes it all seem even more real. I thought it was a good film, but I found it very uncomfortable to watch.


Alex Hitchens (Will Smith) is the “Date Doctor”. He helps men find–and create–the right opportunities to meet and hit it off with women they would otherwise be too shy or awkward to ask out. He does this quietly, though, without any publicity. All his business comes from referrals. So when the woman he himself falls in love with is a newspaper gossip columnist…it’s easy to see where this will eventually lead.

The first hour of the film is very sweet. Hitch helps a timid, clumsy accountant break the ice with a rich heiress he is madly in love with, and the two of them stumble towards romance. At the same time, Hitch and Sara (the columnist) go out on a couple of dates that, despite all of Hitch’s experience as a professional smoothie, turn out disastrously.

But the fatal misunderstanding that causes the reversal of fortune, despite being obvious, felt contrived in much the same way that How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days did. The resolution then drags on for almost another hour, which is far too long for a romantic comedy of this nature. It loses a lot of its initial charm by being wordy without saying much, and by trying to juggle too many balls at once. The parallel doctor and patient plots are fun, but the balance between them isn’t right.

Nevertheless, this is Will Smith at the top of his game again: smooth, funny, and with bags of easygoing charm. Eva Mendes and Kevin James provide quality support as Sara and the bumbling accountant. The chemistry between Smith and Mendes is good, but not electrifying. Overall, Hitch is entertaining enough, but it doesn’t rise to be anything better.

The Island

The reason I’m not giving this any more than three stars is because it is so infuriatingly, deliberately shallow. If it had just blundered on through a bunch of action sequences with no regard for the questions raised by its premiss (clones are being raised and kept in an isolated community, until their originals need them for spare parts, and two of them escape), that would simply be ordinarily shallow. But no. The screenplay places a handful of really interesting issues and questions right there in front of you–stuff that would go on to generate fascinating conflicts and emotional drama–and then completely ignores them in favour of blowing shit up.

For example, the US defense department is funding the cloning institute heavily. What are they getting out of it? How does this tie in with the President having a clone lying around? No answer. Also, the cloning institute’s scientists discover that somehow new model clones are acquiring the memories of their originals. Wow. What potential! So let’s just destroy the whole batch. And most egregiously, while on their escape run, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), whose original is lying in a coma awaiting her backup organs, gets to speak to her original’s child. The child asks, “Is that you, mommy?”

A moment like that is just begging for further exposition. Look at it: the moment is actually down on its knees weeping for attention. I believe this is known in the trade as a “heartfucker”, and you can not just ignore one. You can milk it for all it’s worth, you can twist it into a miraculously happy ending, but what you can’t do is back away from the scene and try to cover your tracks with a mighty car chase. OH WAIT YES YOU CAN APPARENTLY.

Sheesh. That’s what I mean by deliberately shallow. The production team knows there is a more intersting film here, but not only did they make a conscious choice not to make it, they also made a conscious choice to tantalize the audience with glimpses of what it could have been.

The reason I’m giving this as much as three stars is that the film they did make is still a pretty good action movie. A little slow to develop, a little implausible in the damage our heroes can sustain and still walk away, but still full of well-directed thrills and decently (if not spectacularly) acted characters. And what more could you ask for in a summer blockbuster?

No, wait…don’t get me started again….

Herbie: Fully Loaded

When I saw this, and came away thinking, “yeah, that was okay”, I started to seriously wonder if my critical faculties are being eroded by hanging out in the presence of a four-year old. Because, you know, it’s a Herbie film.

But: it sorta works. It isn’t challenging or adventurous by any means (okay, it’s downright shoehorned in), but it has charm. So many remakes and series extensions feel like cynical pocket-money grabs that it’s pleasant to see one that feels like it is just trying to be a bit of good fun. The performances felt honest, like the cast were genuinely into their characters and cared about making the film work as a whole. Lindsay Lohan is always nice to drool over watch, and Justin Long deserves to see more headline screen time. Even Matt Dillon’s bad guy over-acting was restrained and amusing rather than over-the-top and silly. And did I have a lump in my throat at the end? Yes I did. Because I’m a big softie.

I don’t think I would have gone to see it on my own, but with young kids, it’s great.


Madagascar is much more cartoonish than Dreamworks’ other recent animated features. In addition to a healthy (but not excessive) dose of slapstick violence, it plays about with cut-scene asides (the monkeys and penguins), with movie references (the American Beauty one is particularly good), and classic visual gags, such as Alex the lion seeing all of the animals around him transformed into juicy steaks. It doesn’t feature a make-it-all-better plot like Shark Tale, nor does it have a top-heavy list of stars who want their voice performances to take priority over everything else. It takes some chances, and is a better film for it.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

I fully agree with Richard that this is a very entertaining film to watch, but it fades from memory as soon as you leave the cinema. I think it’s because it’s all just a bit too slick, a bit too smooth. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have the glossy but coolly estranged couple thing down pat, but when the script calls for passion, it’s very controlled. Likewise, they look the part when it comes to showing off their gizmos and guns, but when the shooting starts, they look like they don’t care all that much. There’s no grit, no tension, no real sense of danger that things might not work out for the best. Compare this to The Bourne Identity, a masterpiece of spy thriller tension, which was also directed by Doug Liman, and I felt disappointed that Mr. & Mrs. Smith was merely good fun.