May '06




All Reviews by Jason Aaron


Some actors seem to get rewarded with Oscars too late or even too early in their careers. But Philip Seymour Hoffman is receiving his acclaim at just the right time.

Hoffman has rarely been the name above the marquee during his fifteen-year film career, but instead has made his mark as a top-notch character actor in films like Boogie Nights and The Talented Mr. Ripley. His leading role in Capote, as the manipulative, self-obsessed novelist Truman Capote, has finally earned him the credit he has always deserved and cemented his place as one of the greatest actors of his generation. It’s simply impossible to imagine any other actor in this part, let alone giving such a convincing performance, especially considering the real-life Capote’s distinctive vocal patterns.

Hoffman delivers one of those rare performances, which gives us a character who’s utterly despicable, yet still so fascinating that we can’t look away. His performance drives what was easily one of 2005’s best films. (R) Rating: 5

King Kong

With his landmark Lord of the Rings trilogy, director Peter Jackson crafted a sweeping, action-packed epic that also delivered on an emotional level. He was obviously hoping for a similar result with his remake of the 1933 monster classic King Kong, but Jackson’s uneven finished product hits wide of the mark.

Sure, the digital effects are dazzling as you might expect, and the action scenes are thrilling, though you have to wait through a painfully boring first hour before things get moving. And Jackson even does a great job breathing life into the giant ape and making him a sympathetic character.

But unfortunately, the film consistently shoots itself in the foot by overdoing the melodrama, especially during the climactic scenes in New York City. A bit with Kong mimicking sign language is a particularly painful groaner. And then there’s the horribly miscast Jack Black, who’s always been entertaining as a comedic actor but here, as the ambitious movie producer who brings Kong to America, Black’s performance seems to vacillate from comedic to straight, never convincingly achieving either. (PG-13) Rating: 3

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

No doubt Disney executives have been praying that this fantasy epic, based on the classic children’s books by C.S. Lewis, would spark a whole series of films and become the same type of cash-cow for them that Harry Potter has been for Warner Brothers and The Lord of the Rings was for New Line. Unfortunately, this first Narnia film fails to emerge from the shadow of those other two series, and instead comes across like a cheaper, tamer, less imaginative imitation.

Disney made the right move in hiring director Andrew Adamson, who previously helmed the surprise animated hits Shrek and Shrek 2, but they really should’ve poured more money into the film’s production design, which turned out awfully bland and uninspired, right down to the ridiculous looking icicles that Tilda Swinton’s (The Deep End) evil White Witch is forced to wear atop her head. Add to that some uninspired battle scenes and flat performances, and you’ve got a rather dull, waste of a film that does little justice to its beloved inspiration. (PG) Rating: 2

Howl’s Moving Castle

With modern classics like Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc., the computer geniuses at Pixar stand head and shoulders above their American competitors in the field of animated features films. Their only true peers anywhere in the world today are at Japan’s Studio Ghibli, home of director Hayao Miyazaki, the man many have long-since dubbed a Japanese version of Walt Disney.

Miyazaki has been making hand-drawn animated features with inspiring themes and eye-popping visuals since the 1980s. His most recent films, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, are two of the three highest grossing films in Japanese history (alongside Titanic). Spirited Away also took home the Oscar in 2002 for Best Animated Feature.

Miyazaki’s newest film is Howl’s Moving Castle, a romantic adventure about Sofi, an 18-year-old girl cursed with an 80-year-old body, who lives in a wheezing, walking contraption of a castle. As usual, Miyazaki has crafted a world of amazing beauty, inhabited by a cast of wildly imaginative characters, including the enigmatic wizard Howl (voiced by Christian Bale), the feisty fire demon Calcifer (voiced by Billy Crystal) and the disgustingly villainous Witch of the Waste (voiced by Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall). (PG) Rating: 4

Jason Aaron can be contacted at


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