Round Three of Summer Movies

“The Village”B-
When some smarty-pants know-it-all comes out of a thriller saying they could see the plot twists coming after the first ten minutes, I usually want to sock ’em in the kisseror at least trip them over the aisle lights. But, for shame, when I came out of “The Village” thats exactly what I was saying.

As my friend Neha pointed out, “When you go to see Shyamalan movies, you’re looking for two things: First, the holes in the story, which lead to the big ‘ah-hah’ moment. Second, Shyamalan’s cameo.” And using these criteria, neither the third act’s twist nor the director’s appearance was particularly satisfying. Which isn’t to say the movie wasn’t beautifully filmed or I wasn’t completely engrossed (especially by Ron Howard’s daughter, Bryce Dallas)it’s just that the only shocking moment, in my opinion, was when William Hurt revealed himself to be a former Penn history professor. Could this be what happens to adjuncts when they don’t get tenure?

And as for the folks who have interpreted the movie as a parable on American isolationism or Middle East isolationism or whateverYour time would be better spent deconstructing “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.”

“Collateral”A
No movie in recent memory has ravaged my cuticles as much as “Collateral.” If the post-movie pee scale is still a reliable barometer of quality, this thriller came in at an astonishing five minutes.

As a cold-blooded, sharp-tongued hitman, Tom Cruise might be the most entertaining bad guy I’ve seen on screen in a decade. Why on earth has he wasted his career playing characters like Maverick and Cole Trickle when, with his smarmy attytude, he’s so much better suited to being a villain?

Granted, the premisea hitman hijacks a taxie driver (Jamie Foxx) for the night, and proceeds to carry out his check-list of jobs with the driver in towseems, on the surface, a outlandish (and eerily similar to the upcoming Falon/Latifah movie, “Taxi”). But I was hooked throughout. The director, Michael Mann (or as I like to call him, Uncle Mike), has created some gems before (“The Insider,” “Manhunter”), but this movie tops them all.

“The Door in the Floor”A-
As a John Irving fanatic, I’m happy to report that this is probably the best adaptation of one of his novels I’ve seen. Unlike “The Cider House Rules,” this one maintained Irving’s brand of quirky humor; and unlike “Garp” (which was funny), it managed to also retain the source material’s unsettling drama. (I won’t even dignify “Simon Birch” or “The Hotel New Hampshire” by making any kind of comparison.) Maybe the key to successfully adapting an Irving novel is to only use the first 100 pages, as “Door” does, and ignore the rest.

As long as I’m pimpin’ Tom Cruise, above, might as well do the same for Jeff Bridges, who is equally on top of his game. He nails the role of grieving parent, but isn’t as rigidly stoic as Kim Bassinger. (Ana maintained that this was what her role called for; I say, pshah, boring is boring.) My only complaint with the film is that the love story between Ruth Cole (Bassinger) and Eddie (Jon Foster) didn’t seem to work. As a portrayal of the aftermath of children’s deaths, and how such events can unravel a marriage, the movie is a home run. But to counter this bitter pill, it would’ve been nice if the coming-of-age romance were at all convincing.

“I, Robot”C-
Aside from the special effects, this movie was pathetic. The plot made little to no sense, and Will Smith was only a shadow of his formerly amusing self. Don’t waste your money. Get a Robosapien instead.

“Spiderman 2”B
I don’t know if I agree with Joel Siegel that this is “the best superhero movie ever,” but I will say this: It’s much better than the first. The characters are more idiosyncratic and interesting, the love story is more developed, and the villain is infinitely freakier (that stupid goblin mask doesn’t hold a candle to those creepy mechanical arms). Rightly or wrongly, I credit much of this improvement to having Michael Chabon on the writing team. I only wish they could’ve jettisoned that whole stupid subplot with James Falco slowly evolving into the next Green Goblin. If this is the premise of “Spiderman 3,” I think I’d rather see “I, Robot, II.”

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