Santa hats and digital fur

King Kong

Leathan Graves-Highsmith

Having wasted three hours and seven bucks to satiate my curiosity, I’m left with one question for director Peter Jackson: why? Why did he feel it necessary to rehash a film that has not only already been remade but was only a barely above-average FX spectacle in the first place (anyone remember Mathew Broderick’s masterpiece “Godzilla”?)

The stilted acting and almost hilariously awful script would be frustrating if they clouded even the thinnest of plots or interesting characters. Luckily they don’t.

Jackson should be hailed however for turning 200 million dollars and some of the most amazing special effects ever into a three hour nap.



Patricia Soper Speer

I saw “Rent” on Broadway in 1998. Seeing the musical come to life on the silver screen seven years later didn’t suck because the showing at Fox Tower was interrupted thrice by false fire alarms. No, it sucked mostly because someone spent millions of dollars to have Chris Columbus direct the film. If Columbus, who has directed three Harry Potter films and “The Fantastic Four,” had simply stuck with the minimalism of the Broadway production, the film would’ve been much better. However, the roles of Mark (Anthony Rapp) and Roger (Adam Pascal), both original Broadway players, made the film work even when it wasn’t really working. Then there’s the musical genius of the late Jonathan Larson, the man who created the musical. Even Columbus couldn’t screw that up. Laughing hysterically throughout “Tango: Maureen” and crying like a baby throughout Mark and Mimi’s (Rosario Dawson) duet “Without You” made it worth the price of admission for me. But if you haven’t seen the musical performed live, don’t bother seeing the film.


Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Matt Petrie

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” is a case study in the production of a solidly underwhelming but palatable blockbuster. The film was carefully test screened and re-cut to the point where nobody could get mad but nobody could get wild about it either. The book isn’t nearly as cool as you remember it being when you read it as a child, and the movie isn’t nearly as cool as the book. CGI things with horns are, like, so 2004, and they’re even less interesting when you try to make them cute and cuddly. But Narnia does have one major redeeming quality: It inspired “Lazy Sunday,” Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell of Saturday Night Live produced a rap video, which is possibly one of the funniest things you’ll see on the web this year, just Google “Lazy Sunday.”



Owen Smith

Based on one time Portlander Anthony Swofford’s book about his experience in the first Gulf War, “Jarhead” was one of numerous powerful and important movies to come out in 2005. Before his performance as a gay cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain,” Jake Gyllenhaal turned in a fine and at times unnerving performance as a jarhead. His character Swofford is an elite U.S. Marine sniper with nothing to do except for getting drunk and dancing naked at Christmas. When “Swoff” finally has a chance to use his training (that is, kill someone) and validate the hell he has been through, some desk-jockey robs him of his chance. Crushing stuff. Maybe war is pointless. Yet director Sam Mendes doesn’t seem willing to take a political stance here. It’s clear this story is about Swofford and the men he served with, not an anti-war rant. Jamie Foxx and Peter Sarsgaard are excellent in their supporting roles as Swofford’s commanding officer and best friend, respectively. Much like “Good Night and Good Luck,” “Syriana” and “Munich,” “Jarhead” is one of a slew of recent films that should give moviegoers some hope that Hollywood still makes intelligent, meaningful films.



Patricia Soper Speer

Philip Seymour Hoffman was born to play the role of author and eccentric raconteur, Truman Capote. “Capote” chronicles the author’s research of the 1959 killings of a family in Holcomb, Kansas, for the New Yorker. What begins as an article for the magazine rather quickly evolves into Capote’s egomaniacal obsession to write a book and consciously pioneer an entirely new genre of literature: the non-fiction novel. The end result is the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “In Cold Blood.” Capote’s methodical patience enables him to uncover all of the details of the killings and creates a rollercoaster of suspense. Catherine Keener gives a stellar performance as Harper Lee, Capote’s research assistant and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Chris Cooper is way under-utilized as the town’s police chief, Alvin Dewey, but it would be difficult for anyone to stand out on the same screen as Hoffman. Watching the film was something akin to seeing Capote reincarnated. Hoffman seamlessly portrays all of the literary giant’s real-life eccentricities. Hoffman’s uncanny ability to portray all of Capote’s idiosyncrasies – his effeminate and diminutive voice and kinesthetic, his ability to manipulate the killers into telling their story, his seemingly vapid episodes of depression, and perhaps the most devastating of all traits, his unabashedly self-absorbed nature, make Hoffman a true contender for the Oscar.