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i am sam (2001) - ***1/2
Once again, Sean Penn impresses me with his talent for playing such diverse roles. He's played a stoner, gang cop, prisoner on death row, and now a retarded father. And he's played them all so well. There are a lot of good actors, but I'd be hard pressed to think of someone else who has played such diverse characters, so differently, and so well! This is the most touching movies I've seen in a long time.
Rank: #8 in
2001

The Ice Storm (1997) - ***
This movie takes place during Thanksgiving time in the early 70s with the Watergate scandal and Vietnam for a backdrop. It follows two families that are struggling with the sexual freedom of the time. Both the adults and the teens are experimenting to figure things out and it takes a major ice storm for them to realize what's really important to them. This is easily a movie I could have enjoyed less if it weren't for the excellent cast (Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood) who all played their quirky characters well.
Rank: #7
Thanksgiving Movie

Identity (2003) - ** 1/2
A decent psychological thriller, but it falls a little short of being really good. It borrows from some excellent sources with some bits of Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, and The Twilight Zone. Unfortunately it's got a bit of slasher film which is what keeps me from recommending it higher. If you can handle some genuinely grotesque scenes and jump cuts galore, the rest of the movie is definitely worth checking out. For that reason, I won't say too much more about it to avoid spoiling any parts of the movie. It's well acted, well directed, and a good story. I think having seen so many of these kind of movies, some of it was slightly predictable...but there are plenty of surprises for everyone.

igby goes down (2002) - **
Apparently there's a run on dysfunctional family movies recently...Royal Tenenbaums, Tadpole, and now Igby. I found this movie pretty unenjoyable. I know they were going for a dark tone, but it went too far. At least in The Royal Tenenbaums, there were some nice bits of humor to lighten up the story. I couldn't relate to any of the characters in this movie and thought they were all a bunch of losers. The acting was okay, but nothing special and nothing they could do to help this story.

I Spy (2002) - **
I haven't seen the original 60's TV series, so I can't compare it to this movie. The movie itself is just a run of the mill spy comedy, pairing unlike partners Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy. This movie is highly unbelievable, has a plot that is meaningless...yet, it's not a complete waste. There are a few moments between the characters that are entertaining. That's not nearly enough though. The premise that the government would use a boxer as an agent is silly. Not sure why the rush on these type of films, because none of them have been very good. I Spy, Bad Company, Showtime are all interchangeable...and generally not worth the price of admission.

The Italian Job (2003) - ***
The best way to describe this movie is "fun". It's a quality heist flick with a very nice cast...and the mini coopers! You might say there's nothing really new here, but it's all done well. I've easily seen a dozen heist movies in the past few years, but this one is one of the best of the bunch. All of the actors played their characters well and really brought them to life with their little quirks. And the stunt work was phenomenal. From the minis to the boat chase in the canals of Venice, it was all very believable with the actors doing most of their own stunt work. This movie is a remake and I've been a little down on the large quantity of remakes in recent years. But the term remake is pretty loose here. The only real similarities are that it's a heist film that uses mini coopers for the getaway cars. The story is very different. With all due respect to the 1969 original, which I also enjoyed, this movie stands on it's own.
Rank: #5 in
2003, Honorable Mention Car Movie

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) (TV) - ***
I've been watching the classic Charlie Brown specials my whole life. It's still a little hard to see just how cruel everyone treats poor Charlie Brown and this is one of the worst in that department. Still, these specials are near and dear to me and essential holiday viewing. Even knowing the outcome, I still root for Linus to have the Great Pumpkin show up...one of these years I'm sure he will find the most sincere pumpkin patch.
Rank: #2 TV Special in
1966, #1 Halloween Special

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