Based on actual events: The 1980 US Olympic Hockey team, the furthest thing from today's typical dream teams, trained and conditioned to true Olympic caliber, overcoming enormous odds and obstacles to ultimately defeat the four-time Olympic champion Soviet team. Kurt Russell is spectacular as Herb Brooks, the real-life-coach who himself narrowly missed playing on the 1960 US Olympic Hockey team, the last time the US beat the Soviets until 1980. Sadly, the real Coach Brooks died shortly after the completion of principal photography. Although some recent sports-based dramas/comedies (Any Given Sunday, The Replacements), have been only moderately-worthy of any mention, this one will blow you away. I went in expecting another Dull February Movie, and came out awestruck. This film is inspiring, patriotic, and utterly worth watching. And it's from Disney (gasp!). If you see nothing else that's in theaters right now, go see this movie.
Rating: 4½ out of 5

Master and Commander

Crowe and Bettany do not disappoint in this exciting spin on an old genre. The royal navy's most renowned frigate captain, "Lucky Jack" Aubrey (Crowe), finds ship and crew far from home, playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with what at first seems a ghost ship. Outgunned, but not outwitted, the challenge to identify and then overcome their adversary, following a devastating defeat upon first encounter, leads to an exciting^×swashbuckling^×tale. My only wish was that there was a bit more action (surprise) and a bit less blasé dialog, which is tedious at times, although the crew dynamics are interesting. The battle and related sequences are excellent. The photography is exceedingly good. Director Peter Weir (Fearless, Truman Show, Dead Poets Society) continues to deliver a top-notch story on the silver screen. This is an excellent adventure. Chalk up another one for the Aussies.
Rating: 4/5

Along Came Polly

Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Alec Baldwin, Debra Messing, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hank Azaria
Stiller is Reuben Feffer, an uptight yuppie risk analysist whose wife (Messing) sleeps with her Scuba instructor (a scene-stealing Hank Azaria) on Day One of their honeymoon. The ensuing tale of how Feffer meets and pursues Polly Prince (Aniston), who couldn't be much more opposite of Feffer, is amusing and mildly captivating. Polly inspires Feffer to throw caution to the wind, to forget the risks, and to begin living life with more zeal and less fear. Jsu Garcia also delivers solidly in a supporting role. Writer/Director John Hamburg has put forth a light-hearted and amusing romantic comedy which is sure to displace some of it's peers of motion-pictures in continual repetitive replay on the cable networks currently. This is Hamburg's third run with Stiller, but not his best. I'll take Meet the Parents any day over this. (Or The Transporter, which surprisingly, lacks both Hamburg and Stiller).
Rating: 2½ out of 5

The Butterfly Effect

My first impression was that this was one disturbing, twisted flick. And that's usually a good sign. However, this film tries to encompass too much, and where it could have been a fine SciFi/Drama/etc., its just painfully mediocre. Butterfly paints a dramatic and disturbing picture of two^×brace yourselves^×star-crossed lovers, in a tragedy which seems to take the time-travel/causality premise to ridiculously predictable heights (read: lows). Eventually, the gimmick just comes across as a badly-beaten cliché. Ultimately, one of the lead characters sacrifices their love, their relationship, in the ultimate symbol of^Åsomething. Don't get me wrong, I usually enjoy dark thrillers. Seven, Fight Club, anything based on Chuck Palahniuk's or Philip K. Dick's works, etc., but this one was sub-par. Ashton Kutcher is, well, the victim of his own Punk'd role. Amy Smart is fine in some scenes, and two-dimensional in others. Childhood-horrors-turned-tragic-romantic-sacrifice-fixed-by-time-travel^×AGRH! Stop there! It's another case of a good movie preview gone bad.
Grade: 2/5

5/5: Drop everything and go see it today
4/5: Definitely worth seeing in theaters
3/5: Easily worth the price of the matinee
2/5: Last Choice at Blockbuster
1/5: Keep your money, stay home & channel surf


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