"Step Brothers" -- It has its moments, but the main accomplishment here is Adam McKay's conclusive demonstration that, in his third time at the helm of a Will Ferrell vehicle, he is not a good movie director. The former head writer of "Saturday Night Live" is clearly a funny guy, but it seems to me his new strategy should be writing and executive producing his films but hiring a director he trusts to oversee the shooting and editing.
The McKay-Ferrell collaborations have declined in quality from "Anchorman" to "Talladega Nights" to "Step Brothers." All three movies are funny, but they're plagued by the same problems, primarily the abrupt or jarring shifts in tone. Too often McKay's movies feel like unrelated jokes and skits that are stitched together, rather than a cohesive story. Plus, McKay is ultimately responsible for the fact that Christina Applegate's eyebrows are inexplicably dyed yellow in "Anchorman." which I find distracting every time I see it.
"The X-Files: I Want to Go to Sleep" -- There just isn't enough going on here for a feature film. It would have worked as a regular episode at about 45 minutes, but the plot -- people are abducted for the purpose of strange science experiments in the Appalachian Mountains -- is too thin for feature film treatment, even with a lame subplot about Scully's attempt to convince two religious parents to allow her to perform a risky medical procedure on their son. And then there's the obligatory, annoying circular argument between Mulder and Scully about his re-involvement with the X-Files and whether his "wanting to believe" is a necessary impulse or a dark addiction. I'm an "X-Files" fan, but I'm kind of amazed that this is the script Chris Carter chose as the basis for a sequel.
"Hard Eight" -- I thought maybe the first Paul Thomas Anderson film would be a hidden treasure, but it's really just an uneventful movie about a guy and a girl and an older guy who helps them out and, oh my goodness, I just nodded off. I love PTA, but it's kind of amazing he went from this to "Boogie Nights" just a year later. Not a bad movie, but utterly forgettable.