Oscar season commences...
The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers: 4 Stars. I originally gave this 3.99 stars since I felt it's not as good as the first, which was a full four-star extravaganza, so I had to knock it down a smidgeon. Then my buddy Frank pointed out that, were that the case, I'd be saying that other films that I've rated 4 Stars this year, like Insomnia and Minority Report, were better. Which they ain't.
TTT feels like the middle of a book with the ends chopped off (which, of course, it is). There were a few changes from the text. One of which I loved...the adding of the elves to the fight at Helm's Deep. I wish the setup for that had been a bit briefer, though. The 15 minute flashback/flashforward/reflection/Galadriel/Elrond thing was such a contrast to the pace of the rest of the film that it seemed excruciatingly slow...sort of like the Ewok scenes in Jedi, but worse. Some of it was great, though, like seeing Arwen at Aragorn's death bed. The other changes I didn't really mind, although I don't know why they had Faramir bring Frodo to Osgiliath.
Gimli's dangerously close to becoming a caricature, but a little humor in such a dark tale is kind of nice. I love that they kept the counting of dead at Helm's Deep between him and Legolas...it was probably my favorite thing in the text. The same thing goes for Samwise's reflection on how future generations will tell stories about them.
All the acting was great, although Faramir seems such a little wuss next to Boromir. It's fine that he's less tortured, but let's see some feeling, some anger, something. Eowyn was fantastic. I can't wait to see her kick ass in the next movie.
The battles were, of course, spectacular. The ent battle was amazing. I loved when one ent smashed two orc's heads together. Also the one ent, aflame, running into the flood was fun.
Ok, that's enough for now. I want to see it again.
Adaptation: 3.5 Stars. I have to make a confession here. Until my girlfriend explained it to me, I didn't really understand the last 20 minutes of this movie. In my defense, I believe she read the explanation she gave in a review by a pro movie guy, so it's not like it was glaringly obvious. That revelation alone, which I'll refrain from telling you about (feel free to ask, though), bumped this amazingly weird film up a good half a star. Charlie Kaufman, the genius who wrote Being John Malkovich. Has written a movie about his attempt to write a screenplay of the book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Nicholas Cage stars as both Charlie Kaufman and his twin brother Donald, who gets co-screenwriting credit in this labyrinthine production. Cage gives two amazing performances, both of which he'll surely get Oscar nominations for. What you should know, to get you started here, is that Charlie Kaufman has no brother, twin or otherwise. He's been invented for this movie. That info alone wasn't quite enough for me, but it probably will be for you, Rachel (I'm assuming no one else reads this). Anyway, this was a damned fine movie, well acted, written, and directed. Special kudos to one of my favorite actresses, Judy Greer, for showing the world her lovely breasts.
About Schmidt: 3.25 Stars. There's a line in Adaptation from a supposed screenwriter extraordinaire played by Brian Cox where he says something like, "If you end a movie really well, the audience will forgive just about anything questionable that came before." He's totally right about that in this slice-of-life film about newly retired Warren R. Schmidt (Jack Nicholson). In a typically bravura performance, Nicholson hides all of his charm and charisma to portray a doddering, listless, bored new retiree who's life is about to head further into the shitter. This movie suffers a bit due to the pacing, which is dead-stop at times, but otherwise it's wonderful. That's all I want to say, except be prepared to see Kathy Bates naked. It's not the easiest thing in the world.
Two Weeks Notice: 3 Stars. This is a cute little fluffy tale of opposites attracting, flawlessly acted by the always-great Hugh Grant, and the great-when-not-trying-to-stretch Sandra Bullock. Perfect date film. Nice to see Robert Klein's still got some stuff. No Oscar contention here, but it managed to squeak into my schedule this weekend.