Night At The Museum - 1.5 out of 4 stars - starring Ben Stiller, among others. This pathetically formulaic "family entertainment" film was rolling along at about a 2.5 until Owen Wilson made his appearance as a cowboy using late 20th and early 21st century lingo. Wait a minute, now... wasn't this already done twice, in "Shanghai Noon" and "Shanghai Knights"? It was at this point that the movie slipped down into a large, wide, gaping comfort zone of non-thinking and went downhill from there. Lots and lots of cutish pablum to be feasted upon here. It gets more than a flat-out 1-star rating because of the scene where the monkey urinates on Stiller, but hey, if it takes urine to give a film even a partial redemption, that just about says it all, eh. Special effects are mildly amusing. Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney are wasted in their roles through their being saddled with abysmal dialog.
1408 - 2.5 out of 4 stars - starring John Cusack. If you don't mind films that can't decide if they're horror films or mindbenders, or films that are maybe a bit of both, you may find some good things in this one despite some very maudlin moments. Cusack plays an arrogant author and "ghost hunter" who finds himself stuck in a room from which there is no escape. The predicted special effects are all here. Just when I was thinking this was an abysmal movie, it sucked me in. It is a nice movie to look at, despite flaws in plot logic and a formula that seems a bit on the stale side. Interesting twists in this film aren't large, but seem to have more to do with details. There is disturbing imagery galore, not the kind of stuff for kids or for those prone to nightmares. Heh heh heh!
The Number 23 - 3.5 out of 4 stars, starring Jim Carrey and Virginia Madsen. If you like "Fight Club" and "Memento" and consider them 4-star movies, as I do, you may find this movie to be of that same general type, although possibly not quite as well-executed as the others. While I find the first two mesmerizing, I find "The Number 23" merely captivating for the most part. Still, Jim Carrey showcases his "serious" talents as a likeable but slightly unstable character who becomes increasing self-aware as his obsession with the number 23 increases. Things fall apart, inexplicable synchronicities occur, and Carrey's character seems out of control until things are explained. Madsen is good as an understanding wife who doesn't want to lose her husband. Nice cinematography, some disturbing visuals. This one may cause you to think, and hopefully it won't cause you to become obsessed with numbers.
Magic by Bruce Springsteen - 4 out of 4 stars. This is a CD I was desperate to like after not having found much stimulating material in The Boss' catalog since 1987's "Tunnel of Love". I like it, and then some. The insanely-talented Springsteen took a bit of a side trip into dusty folkdom for a while and puttered around with his music. Twenty years after "Tunnel of Love" comes "Magic", and within it there is definitely wisdom and magic afoot. Springsteen isn't singing so much now about racing in the street, meetings across the river, or glory days as much as he sings about how he has matured as a human being. He's 58 now, and years have gone by to the tune of much exploration in many areas. The track "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" may best sum up where Bruce is today; there is plenty left about which to be optimistic, but younger days are old days now. The leadoff track, "Radio Nowhere" is like many songs from "Magic" in that it can be taken on multiple levels. In an example of tour de force songwriting, what at first seems to be Springsteen's scathing criticism about our nation's radio wasteland becomes a song about searching for something with which he can identify. Kick back with this one, rock out to some great music, and just say to yourself "Wow, this is real deal. This is what it's all about."
Long Road Out of Eden by The Eagles - 3 out of 4 stars. Why did it take the Eagles so many years to put out an album of new studio material? Glenn Frey said the band never broke up, it just took a 14-year vacation from 1980 to 1994, but even then with "Hell Freezes Over" there were only a couple of new songs. Since it took them that long to put out new material, do they sound all that much different than in the old days? To my ears, they sound reassuringly like they used to. For the most part, that is a good thing. Songs like "How Long" echo the days of "Lyin' Eyes", and "Busy Being Fabulous" sounds like some of Frey's or Don Henley's best solo material. My only real complaints about this new Eagles effort are that, in the words of J. Marquis, Timothy B. Schmidt seems like he is still trying to find other ways to sing "I Can't Tell You Why". I wish Joe Walsh did more singing, because I love his whiny, nasal voice; but his guitarwork shines like it always does. If you liked the Eagles way back when, you will probably like them now. They play some funk, they play some soulful tunes, they play some straight-ahead rock and roll. Oh, and one other major complaint I have about "Long Road Out of Eden": Discerning shoppers, consider yourselves warned: I had to enter our local Wal-Mart store in order to buy it because it is only sold through Wal-Mart, at least for now.