Reviews from the Movie Snob:
The Cooler. (C) The premise sounded promising. William H. Macy is a “cooler,” a guy whose luck is both bad and contagious. Thus, he is a gold mine for Alec Baldwin’s seedy Shangri-La casino, which he is proud to say is for the serious gamblers and not the “stroller crowd.” Unfortunately, the stroller crowd is where the money is, and Baldwin’s world is threatened by two developments: the owners of his casino want to modernize the Shangri-La to make it more profitable, and his cooler is suddenly red hot thanks to a new romance with a cocktail waitress played by Maria Bello. Baldwin’s character, a strange blend of sentimentality and sociopathy, reacts badly to all these developments. I didn’t find much to like about this movie. As a friend I saw it with remarked afterwards, he expected it to be more witty and less violent. I also deducted points for the frequent and gratuitous sex scenes. (Actually, I suppose the sex scenes were not entirely gratuitous, but there was way too much nudity going on.) But most of all, the movie didn’t make me want to suspend disbelief on the central premise, that Macy’s luck could turn from bad to good and back and forth so completely and so abruptly as the story unfolded. This Las Vegas fairy tale never made me believe in it.
Peter Pan (2003). (B-) I had never seen any other version of the story, stage or screen, so I can’t make any comparisons for you. I’ve read that this version is truer to the book than most of the others, and that this version departs from tradition and increases the dramatic tension by actually casting a boy as Peter instead of a girl. And this tension was the most effective part of the movie, as Peter’s defiant rejection of all “grown-up feelings” in order to stay a boy forever inevitably leads to his parting from Wendy, who loves childish adventures but is too wise to want to miss out on the adventure of growing up. The rest of the movie – the admittedly good special effects, the swordfights, the surprisingly malicious doings of Tinkerbell – left me pretty much unmoved. Still, the children who made up most of the audience seemed to enjoy it, or at least they didn’t get too restless as far as I noticed.
The Station Agent. (B+) I really liked this quiet little slice-of-life movie. Fin McBride is a taciturn and unfriendly middle-aged man who is a train enthusiast. He is also a dwarf. Through an unexpected twist, he comes to own an abandoned train depot in the tiny town of Newfoundland, New Jersey, and he wastes no time moving there, hoping to get away from people and be left alone. But it is not to be. First he meets Joe, a loud young man who runs a coffee-and-hot-dog truck that he parks near the depot every morning. Then he meets Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), a painter who is almost as withdrawn from the world as Fin is. The movie is basically the story of their friendship over several weeks or maybe months, as seen through Fin’s eyes. I really liked it.