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You Can Count On Me
Some movies are all about action and plot, while a movie like You Can Count On Meis all about character development and emotions.
Laura Linney (one of the sexiest women alive!!!) stars as Samantha - a loan officer at the local, small town bank. Her new boss, Brian (Matthew Broderick) is a jerk. Her boyfriend is aloof, and her parents died when she was young. Still living in the small, upstate New York town where she grew up (Scottsville, NY. I hate it when reviewers don't identify the town. Upstate NY is a huge area with hundreds of cities.), Samantha has a quiet, bland life. In typical Hollywood fashion, one day, her younger brother, Terry (Mark Ruffalo) comes to town looking for money.
Terry is a bum and a drifter, who is in and out of trouble on a regular basis. Although his stay is only supposed to be a few days, Terry decides to hang around, develops a special relationship with Samantha's 8-year old son, Rudy (Rory Culkin), and reacquaints himself with the sister that loves him more than anyone on the face of the earth.
Will Terry be able to straighten up and fly right? Can Samantha handle the upheaval her life is about to face?
You Can Count On Me is a sweet, melancholy drama with some lighthearted comedic moments thrown in to keep it interesting. Like I mentioned before, the film is about these characters, the lives they lead, the challenges they face and the love they have for each other. Linney is very good as the young woman who has been thrust into the mother role for too much of her life. Linney doesn't over do the serious moments, and excels in the quiet, important ones. While she received an Oscar nomination for her role, I think Mark Ruffalo deserves more credit for his overlooked work.
Ruffalo creates a complex character that is both lovable and detestable at the same time. He walks a fine line between utter loser and someone who could overcome his problems. Terry is the most believable of the characters because Ruffalo seems so natural. He makes Terry child like, but worldly wise at the same time. I can't wait for his next movie.
My biggest complaint is that You Can Count On Me doesn't go anywhere. Where's the plot? Where's the action? Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan has written some great dialogue and shows wonderful character development skills. With a little work on plot development, this could have been an excellent film. Instead, it's a good female friendly film that guys can enjoy as well. Grade: B
I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into when I rented Unbreakable It is one of the few movies that doesn't give away its plot in trailers and advertising, plus I avoided reading any critiques of the film when it debuted last fall. Luckily, I was able to enjoy the surprising twists and turns, so I hope you can too.
Bruce Willis plays David - the security guard at a Philadelphia sports stadium. During a trip back from New York City, his train derails and crashes. Everyone on board is killed, except David, who emerges without a scratch, broken bone or any injury of any kind. After such an amazing occurrence, some newspapers pick up on the story, and David attracts the attention of Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson).
Elijah, a comic book collector who views comics as great art, has been plagued by a medical condition that makes his bones very brittle. It's a hard life that forces him to spend most of his time with broken arms and legs suffered with the slightest fall. Now, he thinks he has the answer as to why David was not injured.
What's the deal? Will the truth rip apart David's family? Who is this Elijah guy?
If you buy the big plot twist, Unbreakable is an interesting and enjoyable movie in the tradition of - I can't tell you what kind of movie it is. That's what makes it exciting. Shyamalan is willing to risk the entire film on one plot twist that will suck you in, or drive you away. In many ways he is trying to be the next Alfred Hitchcock and I applaud that effort. After the smashing, shocking success of The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan is starting to carve out a niche for himself as a director who can get his audience to suspend disbelief and take a journey into a mysterious place that only exists in his movies.
The film has a great, eerie tone that will keep you intrigued, and Shyamalan, like he did with The Sixth Sense, drops in clues that help the audience figure out what is going on if you are on your toes. Maybe he went to the well a little too much with some, but it takes a few to figure out that they are clues. Willis maintains a monotonous lack of emotions throughout most of the film, which hurts his performance. A little more excitement would have helped. Jackson, as always, is awesome. He brilliantly brings Elijah's physical and emotional difficulties to life, especially early in the film as his character struggles through life with a cane.
Overall, Unbreakable is a decent film that gets a little boring in the middle, but ends on a high note. Grade: B+.
Dude, Where's My Car?
Dude , I am not gonna waste my time. There are some movies where you can smell the stink before you put them in the VCR.
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Proof of Life
All that most people know about this film is that Proof of Life was the movie that broke up Meg Ryan's marriage. Don't pretend like you never heard the gossip. While filming the movie, it is alleged (I might be certain, but I don't want to be sued by rich movie stars with lawyers like Johnny Cochran), that Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan had a behind-the-scenes romance that rivaled their on-camera steaminess in this flick. After it all hit the fan, Mr. Meg Ryan (Dennis Quaid) was hiring a lawyer and getting a divorce, while Russell was moving onto the next philly he wanted to put in the stable. To make things worse, Proof of Life was not stunning the masses at the box office. Unfortunately, the scandal tainted the film, even though it is pretty good and well worth the rental fee.
Russell Crowe stars as Terry - a former Army secret service operative who now works as a hostage negotiator for a major insurance company. He is called in to help Alice (Meg Ryan) when her husband, Peter (David Morse), is kidnapped by rebel terrorist forces while working in a volatile South American country. Only Terry seems to be the only one able to rescue her husband, but even his most trusted colleagues aren't sure Peter is alive.
Will Terry save Peter? Will Terry's growing feelings for Alice distract him from the job?
Proof of Life is a throwback to great 30's and 40's thrillers. Without superfluous, loud, expensive explosions, Proof of Life gets your head into the movie with a good script, strong characters and an interesting plot. The action is always moving and writer Tony Gilroy fills the movie with plenty of interesting plot twists that keep it from getting predictable. Even the over-hyped love story between Alice and Terry is done with a sensitive touch and doesn't get in the way of the main plot. Frankly, the love story is much ado about nothing, but done in a tasteful manner that will evoke memories of Bogart and Bergman. Also, director Taylor Hackford cuts together some great scenes that show what is happening at both locations (Peter as hostage and Terry's efforts to free him) simultaneously, so the audience has a sense of how each person's actions effect the ultimate outcome. And he doesn't try to throw in one last action scene to extend the length of the movie.
Crowe is wonderful as the low key, confident negotiator with all the right answers. Best of all, he doesn't make Terry into some blow hard, macho mercenary. Crowe gives him depth and heart. Because of this, Crowe can show how Terry is conflicted about the job he does and how he balances on a thin legal and moral tightrope. Of course, this puts him in a constant brooding mood, and that's the kind of stuff that drives the women crazy! Pamela Reed is a little over-the-top as the always yelling sister, and Meg Ryan just doesn't have the gravitas to make us believe that Alice is suffering. Alice feels like a lightweight hippie who is incapable of serious thought instead of being a tough, crusading wife.
If you haven't seen Proof of Life, rent it this weekend. Grade: B+
State and Main
From the opening credits with a theme song that is not sung by Christina Aguilera or some other teeny bopper hired by the studio to invoke pimple power at the box office, the audience realizes that State and Main is a movie for adults who appreciate quick wit and intelligent conversation. If you are old enough to legally buy beer, do yourself a favor by renting State and Main this weekend.
William H. Macy stars as Director Walt Price. After being run out of a small town in New Hampshire, his production of the new movie, The Old Mill, is desperately seeking a new, quaint location before the studio shuts it down. Of course, he faces many obstacles.
The lead actress, Claire (Sarah Jessica Parker), a ditzy blonde hired for her willingness to do nudity, now refuses because she has found religion. The nerdy screenwriter, Joseph (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), feels compromised and ignored by the process. The townspeople are quickly getting jaded by the Hollywood experience and see the opportunity to take the production for a large sum of money. The producer (David Paymer) wants to force some inappropriate product placement into the film. And, of course, the leading actor, Bob (Alec Baldwin), is a loudmouth, self-centered jerk who likes the company of teenage girls.
Can Walt overcome all of the adversity and get the movie made?
Written and directed by David Mamet, State and Main is a wild departure from his more traditional and best known work. Instead of investigating the dirty underbelly of the everyman, State and Main is a good, funny comedy that is quick with the one-liner and site gag, but also very smart in its dual satire of Hollywood and small town America's infatuation with it. After portraying Waterford as a sweet, Norman Rockwell-type town, the audience is shown its changes as the movie's start date draws closer. However, does Hollywood corrupt the town, or does it revive some hidden greed? That's for you to decide after watching the movie.
Macy is fantastic as the director who is never fazed by any of the wild troubles surrounding him. He is able to show the director's cool under fire, and ambassadorial diplomacy when trying to solve all the problems. Macy's Walt Price is a man who has one purpose and never wavers from it. Parker provides some great comic relief as the airhead starlet trying to become a serious actress and Baldwin provides the biggest guffaws, many at his own expense, by creating a wonderful William Shatner-like leading man.
The film suffers during the love story between the writer Joseph and a local theater fan, Ann Black (Rebecca Pidgeon). She is supposed to inspire him, but their scenes slow down the rapid fire comedy. Also, the ending gets a little too serious as compared to the rest of the film. Instead of sticking to the silliness of it all, Mamet loses focus by forcing one of the characters to take a close look at his values system and weigh the costs of "doing the right thing". It isn't needed. Otherwise, you'll enjoy State and Main. Grade: B+
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Tom Hanks was robbed! His performance in Cast Away encompasses everything that makes him a great actor - a common man's steely resolve in the face of outstanding odds mixed with a sense of self-deprecation and modest understanding of his place in the universe. Not only should Hanks have won the Oscar for this role, but every acting student should be required to own the video and study one of the greatest acting performances of all time.
Hanks stars as Chuck - a time obsessed Fed-Ex executive and trouble shooter. He has made his reputation as a man who lives for his job and cleans up messes wherever they exist in the world. After shaping up the company's operation in Russia, Chuck is looking forward to a peaceful Christmas holiday with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt). Of course, duty calls and he is quickly shipped off to Malaysia. Unfortunately, the flight encounters difficulties and crashes into the ocean. The only passenger or crewmember to survive, Chuck washes ashore on a desert island and hopes to be rescued.
Will he ever be found? Can he survive?
What can I say about Hanks' performance that hasn't already been written? Yes, he put on weight to play Chuck before the crash. Then, production was halted for 6 months so he could lose all the weight and more to portray an emaciated cast away. Yes, he keeps the audience captivated for almost 45 minutes without any co-stars or special effects. His only companion for most of the movie is the infamous Wilson - a volleyball. Yet, through it all, the audience is captivated, can relate to the character and prays for his rescue. That is greatness.
Hanks performance also is a testimony to director Robert Zemeckis (who made What Lies Beneath during the 6-minth hiatus from production) and writer William Broyles, Jr. Zemeckis is able to capture the character's solitude with breathtaking shots of the island and eerie quiet. In the theater, you felt like you were there when the plane crashed or when Chuck stood on the beach. You could hear all the sounds and, more importantly, the silence. It is a brilliant contrast to his life before being stranded. On video, we lose that sensation, but you can still enjoy the film.
I always felt that Cast Away was one of the best films of 2000. It should have received an Oscar nomination instead of Chocolat, even though it does have problems in the final act. After an amazing first two thirds of a movie, the final resolution is not as interesting and a little disappointing. However, the rest of the movie is a masterpiece. Grade: A-
O Brother Where Art Thou?
Most of the time, the Coen brothers deliver hilarious, intelligent comedies like The Hudsucker Proxy or Fargo, but their last two films have been disappointing. O Brother Where Art Thou, after a promising beginning, ends up failing to live up to expectations and potential.
In this unlikely adaptation of The Odyssey set during the Depression, George Clooney stars as Ulysses Everett McGill - an escapee from a prison chain gang in Mississippi. Everett wants to retrieve a $1.2 Million treasure he robbed from an armored car and buried in an area that will be flooded in just a few days. He is chained to two fellow inmates, Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) and Pete (John Turturro), who agree to go along with him for a share of the money and tag along on a wild adventure.
Will they find the money in time? Can they allude the police?
After starting off as a farce, O Brother, Where Art Thou becomes a darker film that isn't as satisfying. Instead of becoming a wild romp in the style of It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, O Brother Where Art Thou tries to become larger than life, an epic that isn't. George Clooney is very good as the charming, know-it-all leader who is very particular about his hair. However, he isn't given a chance to explore more of the comedic aspects of the plot. Tim Blake Nelson is just average as the dumb Delmar, and, unfortunately, John Turturro doesn't distinguish himself as the angry Pete. Music lovers will enjoy the old time country music and the character Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King) - a certain blues guitar player the boys find at the crossroads after he has sold his soul to the devil.
Overall, the movie is uneven in tone and left me flat. Grade: D
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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Sure, it got all those Oscars. Sure, all the major critics praise it as one of the best movies of the year. But, should you spend two hours watching a foreign movie with subtitles?
I hear this complaint from many of my friends. They feel distracted by reading the dialogue. They think the print is too small on the television screen. They don't feel they can follow the actors' facial expressions and physical movements. However, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has a certain majesty to it that draws in the audience and keeps us interested, even though it is subtitled. If you can get past the fact that you will have to read the dialogue, you'll enjoy the film.
There is so much going on in this movie that this synopsis can never do it justice, but I'll try. Michelle Yeoh stars as Shu Lien - a security officer in ancient China. A terrific fighter, she has always been deeply in love with Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat), but their love has always remained unspoken. The man of her dreams, Li Mu Bai, is a revered warrior who faces death at every turn, but he has grown weary of the fight. As he prepares to give up the warrior life and spend his life with Shu Lien, he asks her to give his prized, legendary sword to a friend. Unfortunately, this leads to great danger and upheaval. The sword is stolen, and Li Mu Bai must face his nemesis - The Jade Fox, a bitter woman who killed Li Mu Bai's master, stole secret training manuals from a scared training school, and teaches a secret super fighter in her attempt to defeat the warriors.
Will Li Mu Bai avenge his master's death? Can he escape the warrior life and find true love with Shu Lien? What's the deal with Shu Lien's new friend, Jen (Zhang Ziyi)?
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a sweeping epic that deals with all the big themes - life, love, death, honor, truth, and justice. Every character has an extensive backstory and secret desires, which are well explained to the audience by director Ang Lee. Aside from an extended flashback about Jen and the man she loves, the movie moves along at an interesting pace and keeps the audience wondering what will happen next.
For a wonderfully crafted story, the action scenes are some of the greatest fight scenes ever recorded. You often don't think of love stories having great fight scenes, but this combination makes for a great movie. Characters fly across the screen, defy gravity and fight at breakneck speed. Luckily, Lee captures all of it on film with exquisite mastery. Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi engage in a marathon battle that makes the guys look wimpy, while Chow Yun Fat effortlessly displays skills that would make him a great adversary for Bruce Lee.
One of the most surprising performances comes from Zhang Ziyi as the rebellious daughter of a powerful government figure. The family has arranged her marriage to another, but she loves a renegade criminal who lives in the desert. Also, she dreams of living the warrior's life, which seems very exciting compared to her humdrum existence. Yeoh brilliantly shows tenderness as she plays an older sister role to the girl and makes the point to her that the life appears more glamorous than it is.
One great love story, one average one, a wonderful tale of revenge and a tribute to honor make this film well worth your money.
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Shadow of the Vampire
Like last week's Requiem for a Heavyweight, you probably didn't see this film when it was released last fall, but you probably heard about Willem Dafoe's Academy Award nomination. Unfortunately, the rest of the film isn't as entertaining and exciting as his performance.
John Malkovich stars as F.W. Murnau - an eccentric German filmmaker obsessed with his latest project. Forbidden by Bram Stoker's estate from making a Dracula film, Murnau has decided to change a few things around to make a similar, vampire-themed film - Nosferatu. However, to make the film bigger and better than any before it, Murnau has made a secret deal to hire a real vampire (Willem Dafoe) to play the role of Nosferatu.
To hide his true identity from the cast and crew, Murnau claims the vampire is a German method actor, Max Schreck, who demands that he remain in costume at all times, shoot all his scenes at night, and always be addressed by his character's name. Soon, the vampire cannot hold back his natural impulses, and the crew faces grave danger. Worse yet, Murnau is only worried about the film, not the crew.
Will the vampire kill everyone involved with the film? Can Murnaw finish his masterpiece? What was the secret deal?
Those familiar with film history will remember that Nosferatu was a real film from the silent-era (1922). The real Max Schreck (who played Nosferatu), considered to give one of the greatest performances ever captured on film, only had two movies to his credit - Nosferatu and a 1928 version of Dracula. This gives writer Steven Katz the opportunity to take some dramatic license and play with the idea that Schreck was so good at the role that he must have been an actual vampire. The idea is a novel one, and gives us a movie that is different from most of the typical fare at your local video store.
Director E. Elias Merhige creates a creepy, eerie old-fashioned horror film with some witty dialogue, but, unfortunately, the movie is too emotionally flat. The tone gets stuck on eerie and never wavers. This lack of tension and release bores the audience as we move to a conclusion that we have partly figured out. Luckily, the actors provide some fascinating performances to keep you interested until the end.
Dafoe is amazing as he gets lost in the makeup and becomes a vampire. He is slimy, creepy, scary and, when necessary, funny. If you don't realize at the beginning of the film that he is playing the part, it would be very difficult to pick him out. As creepy and low key as Dafoe performs, Malkovich gives the film some energy as the obsessed director. He captures the artist's determination to complete the project and holds his own with Dafoe.
If you are a film buff, or just someone who likes horror films, you'll get some enjoyment out of an otherwise weak film. Grade: C
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Chris O'Donnell is an action hero? Well, he tries. You gotta love a guy who consistently gets ripped for his action performances, but keeps taking the roles.
O'Donnell stars as Peter - part of a mountain climbing family. He is sent by National Geographic to the Himalayas, K2 to be exact, but he gets more than he bargained for. Peter is reunited with his estranged sister, Anne (Robin Tunney), who still hates him for a horrible incident three years ago. She is climbing to the top of K2 as part of a publicity stunt to promote Elliott Vaughn's (Bill Paxton) new airline, which will fly overhead as they reach the summit. They are climbing to an altitude so high that it passes the so-called Vertical Limit, the point where your death is only a matter of time. Of course, this is dangerous, the evil capitalist Vaughn wants to continue at all costs, and they are buried by an avalanche.
What happens next? You guessed it, Vaughn, Anne, and the other climber, Tom (Nicholas Lea), are facing death and Peter sets out to save them with the help of ragtag group led by an eccentric, but talented climber, Montgomery Wick (Scott Glenn).
Will Peter, Wick and their team save Anne, Vaughn and Tom?
If you saw Cliffhanger, you've seen Vertical Limit. Director Martin Campbell doesn't offer up any new, stunning, or thrilling stories here, just the same type of stuff you have seen time and time again - family trying to save each other, men settling old scores, ethical debates about who should live or die, and a bunch of other worn out plotlines. None of the acting performances stand out and the action scenes aren't as exciting on the small screen.
If you can't get in to see Pearl Harbor this weekend, this won't be your best alternative. Grade: D-
Requiem for a Dream
While most people have never heard of Darren Aronofsky, he is one of Hollywood's up-and-coming directors. After his last effort, Pi, he won acclaim as a talented filmmaker who could be just as good as Oliver Stone or Francis Ford Coppola. Instead of getting a job helming a Julia Roberts flick or some summer blockbuster, Aronofsky took on the compelling, shocking Requiem for a Dream.
Ellen Burstyn stars as Sara Goldfarb - a Coney Island senior whose drug addicted son, Harry (Jared Leto), constantly is pawning her television set for drug money. She doesn't have much in life since her husband is long gone and Harry spends most of his time selling or using drugs. Her day is spent watching television and dreaming of restoring her former life.
One day, Sara receives a phone call from a man who says that she will be getting a chance to be on a television game show. She is thrilled at the opportunity, but Sara wants to lose weight so she can look as wonderful as she did 10 years ago. Unfortunately, she receives very strong diet drugs from her doctor and becomes addicted.
Will Sara be able to survive?
Burstyn deservedly received an Oscar nomination for her stunning turn as the drug abusing Sara. She is able to masterfully portray the character's desperation and desire to have something to look forward to in life. Sara goes from the nice lady next door to a raving lunatic through the course of the film - an extremely difficult range for an actor. Burstyn's closing scenes are among the most amazing ever shot on film. However, Requiem for a Dream will be too graphic for some.
You should be aware that Aronofsky has created a harsh, realistic look at drug abuse and its devastating effects. Along with Burstyn's character, Aronofsky shows us the effects of drug abuse on three other characters - Harry, his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connolly) and his pal Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). The three decide to become sellers in addition to users when they hatch a scheme to get a pure form of cocaine, which can be processed into many different batches to be sold to many users. It is an example of how the drug life keeps luring you in until there is no escape. Leto and Connolly are average, but Wayans stands out for his ability to show his character's underlying goodness, which is compromised by his craving for drugs.
Aronofsky uses some brilliant editing to create the feeling of getting high, so we can understand why the characters continue to use something that can kill them. He also changes the pace around to show the audience how the users' minds are altered and how they see the world when under the power of narcotics. Aronofksy takes the audience right into the characters' drug induced fantasies and shows us the power of drugs to alter reality. It is a brilliantly made movie that will shock anyone into staying away from drugs, especially as we see how the users' dreams are destroyed.
I warn you that Requiem for a Dream is very difficult to watch, and probably a film for art house lovers instead of those who want to see Pearl Harbor. Grade: A-
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Pay It Forward
When it was released last fall, Pay It Forwardwas looked at as a possible Oscar contender. It had the right stuff, that's for sure. Two Oscar winners, one nominee, an intriguing idea that appealed to the liberal naivete and utopianism in all of us, and a solid director. However, Pay It Forward received a luke warm reception from film critics last fall, but I think expectations were too high. Now that a few months have passed, this is our chance to take a look at the film without all the baggage of expectations.
Haley Joel Osment stars as Trevor - an 11-year old kid in Las Vegas who feels the whole world is a lost cause. He has every right to when you realize all that the kid has gone through. His mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt) works two jobs and has a drinking problem. His father, Ricky (played by a surprise actor, I don't want to give it away), ran out on them. Finally, he doesn't quite fit in at school because he's small. All in all, the world is a cruel place for Trevor.
However, he is inspired by his social studies teacher, Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey), who challenges the class to think of an idea to change the world and put it into action. Sure, most of the kids go for the easy stuff like putting up fliers about recycling, but Trevor has a novel approach. Instead of paying someone back for helping you out, you pay it forward by doing three good deeds for three people (who would have thought that the world's noblest and most unselfish idea would emerge from a kid raised in Las Vegas?). However, the deeds have to be something that they can't do for themselves.
Will Trevor change the world?
While the big idea is the centerpiece of Pay It Forward, it's the characters that pique our interest. Spacey is amazing as Eugene Simonet, the teacher with a disfigured face who carries a deep emotional scar as well. He is able to create a memorable character who starts off as a reserved figure who grows to open up and learn how to love again. Hunt does a good job as the alcoholic mom who needs to get her life together for her kid's sake. While she might seem cold and uncomfortable in the motherly role, Hunt finds her footing in scenes with Spacey. As far as Osment's performance, he's a kid and plays a kid well.
I like Director Mimi Leder's and writer Leslie Dixon's approach to the story. Each character, big or small, gets his or her chance to steal the spotlight and shine. While some fail, like Angie Dickinson who just doesn't seem to hit the right notes as an alcoholic bag lady, others, like James Caviezel, who plays a druggie homeless man who is Trevor's first good deed, make the most of their opportunity.
The movie suffers from attempts to inject extra drama. Is everybody in the world haunted by some deep dark secret that tears him or her apart? In this flick, they do. After a while, you have to wonder how miserable the world really is. Good acting, solid plot, not a bad rental this weekend. Grade: B
Best In Show
Christopher Guest is a master of the mockumentary. His previous film, Waiting for Guffman, was a hilarious look at small town folks and their desires to be Broadway stars. Also, he was one of the stars of Spinal Tap, a satirical look at heavy metal rock and roll. However, Guest misses the mark in his latest offering, Best in Show.
Guest, with a screenplay from Eugene Levy, follows four couples and one loner as they make their way to a major dog show in Philadelphia. Levy and Maureen O'Hara are the mismatched nerd and gal-who-got-around who love terriers. Parker Posey and Hamilton Swan are two yuppie overachievers who drive each other crazy while training their wymerunner (not sure I spelled that correctly, so don't hate me). Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins are two openly gay lovers, while Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Lynch are two "close friends" who train their white poodle, Rhapsody in White. Finally, bringing up the rear is Guest himself as Harlan Pepper - a southern good old boy who trains a bloodhound.
Which of these whackos will win the competition?
You won't care. Best in Show is an absolute mess. None of the characters truly develop. Each one needs further explanation, more history, and some reason to win the competition. The script, which was mostly improvised by the actors, doesn't provide enough interaction between them to build tension and give us something interesting. Instead of making them combatants, each character pairing keeps to themselves. We are left with a flat, unfunny trip through Boringville on the way to Eject Town.
Fred Willard saves the show as the play-by-play announcer who knows nothing about dog shows, breeding or competition. His constant, inappropriate observations will get you rolling in the aisles. If you can stand the non-Willard parts of the film, you might get a half-hour of entertainment out of this dog. Grade: D+
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What Women Want
If you're looking for a fun time this weekend, you can't go wrong with Mel Gibson's latest offering - What Women Want.
Mel stars as Nick - a politically incorrect, womanizing cad who is as charming as can be. He's a traditional man's man cut from the same cloth as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and John Wayne. Women want to be with him and men want to be him. To top it all off, Nick works as a high powered ad exec in New York City who is poised to receive a new promotion. However, his world falls apart when he gets passed over in favor of Darcy (Helen Hunt) - a hot shot from a competing firm that is hired to bring in more business. Darcy has a reputation for being a tough boss and a brilliant marketer of women's products, so she is bound to butt heads with Nick, the king of T&A (can you smell the love story brewing?).
One fateful night, in true Hollywood fashion, Nick has an accident that gives him the power to read women's minds. Soon, he gains insights into women that are worth a million dollars, and sees an opportunity to steal Darcy's job.
Will Nick use his new found power for good or evil? Will it drive him nuts?
The movie works because Mel Gibson is believable and likable. He has always had great comedic timing and charm that won't quit. In What Women Want, he puts it all to good use with a touch of sweetness. Mel moves well between comedy, romance and drama, which makes his character a believable, lovable guy and keeps the movie interesting. Yes, his character is supposed to grow and become more sensitive as he learns more about women. While that's not a surprise, Gibson makes the movie fun to watch.
The rest of the cast is just window dressing. Helen Hunt is fine enough as his rival/love interest, but she doesn't bring anything special to the film. You rent this one for Mel, not Helen. Aside from a plotline about a female co-worker who is very depressed (which feels clunkily throw in to unnecessarily add more likability to Mel's character) the rest of the script is well constructed to show the many sides of our leading man and how he becomes a better father, lover and person. Rent and enjoy. Grade: B+
Back when they were Hollywood's IT couple, Duets was going to be Gwyneth Paltrow's and Brad Pitt's big project together. It was a Hollywood fairy tale - Gwyneth Paltrow acting with the love of her life while being directed by her father. However, real life interfered (or Brad's sound judgement made him see the light). Paltrow and Pitt broke up, which led Pitt to drop out of this clunker before it found it's way into production. Unfortunately, Gwyneth was bound by blood to make it (how do you tell Dad his movie stinks?), but not even her talent can bring this one up to par.
Duets is three stories clumsily slapped together into one out of tune movie. In our first pairing, '80's rock God Huey Lewis stars as Ricky - a karaoke singing swindler who makes his way though life with his talent and underhanded ways. When his ex-wife dies, he returns to Las Vegas to pay his final respects, but gets more than he bargained for when he meets up with his daughter, Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow) - a naïve, childish waif who wants to travel the country with him. Our second couple is Suzi (Maria Bello) a wandering chanteuse who gets by trading sexual favors for whatever she needs. However, she has a passion for karaoke, so she convinces Billy (Scott Speedman), a down-on-his-luck cab driver, to take her to Omaha. Finally, our third duet is comprised of Todd (Paul Giamatti), a salesman burned out by the grind and out of touch with his family, who meets up with ex-con Reggie (Andre Braugher) while on a drug induced meltdown that he misinterprets as his flight to freedom.
We follow each mismatched pair of characters, each DUET if you will (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), as they make their way to the National Karaoke Championships in Omaha (Do you think this event really exists? I am afraid to ask.) . However, the road trips also put each character on a journey through self-doubt, sadness, discovery and growth.
Can the Duets help each other cope with life? Do we care?
Director Bruce Paltrow and writer John Byrum are trying to accomplish so much, that they accomplish very little. They want to take a serious look at six human beings pushed to the edge by life's pressures and disappointments, but don't spend enough time with any one of them to give the audience an insight into their lives, problems and potential solutions. The characters are not developed and the audience has a hard time embracing any of them. Their "big moment" speeches feel out of place and out of context because there is no context and the plot plods along to a flat, unclimactic ending.
Although this is an all-star cast, the audience is treated to a bush league movie. Huey Lewis proves he is a better singer than actor with a stiff performance of poor material. Gwyneth doesn't have enough material to work with, Braugher is wasted and Giamatti makes a poor script even worse with an over-the-top, silly performance that should be burned. Instead of becoming a group of wacky characters who kneel at the altar of karaoke, this group just comes off as a bunch of silly, sad fools.
If you are tempted to rent Duets to hear Gwyneth sing with Huey, buy the soundtrack on CD. Grade: D
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The Emperor's New Groove
After annoying us over the past few years on television's Just Shoot Me and a few feature films, Spade gets the chance to annoy a new generation of moviegoers as he stars in Disney's The Emperor's New Groove.
Spade provides the voice for Emperor Kuzco, a young, cocky, selfish, smart alecky ruler. He has been waited on hand and foot his entire life, which gives him the belief that he should get whatever he wants. His main advisor, Iyzma (Eartha Kitt), has been secretly running the affairs of state, and, when Kuzco find out, he decides to fire her. Of course, she doesn't want to give up power easily, so Iyzma and her Guy Friday, Kronk (Patrick Wharburton), decide to poison the Emperor. However, the poison isn't mixed correctly, and Emperor Kuzco is turned into a talking llama.
Kronk is charged with getting rid of Kuzco, but he's kinda dumb and botches the job. Kuzco the Llama ends up with Pancha, a peasant who stands to lose his home because Kuzco wants to build a summer home on his land, but the peasant is a sucker, err, I mean nice guy, so he decides to help Kuzco return to the palace and get turned back into a human.
Will Pancha and Kuzco get back to the palace? Will Kuzco build his summer home on Pancha's land? Will Iyzma and Kronk succeed in their dastardly plot to kill the Emperor?
As you know, I have a standing policy of not reviewing children's films. They aren't targeted to me and it is unfair to judge them with the criteria that I would use to review a film for adults. Plus, they are too stupid to waste time watching. However, The Emperor's New Groove is entertaining enough for humans to enjoy.
Aside from Spade, the rest of the voice talent is fantastic. Eartha Kitt is sufficiently evil as Iyzma, Wharburton is hilarious as her henchman Kronk, and Goodman adds some humanity to his character that makes the audience root for his success. However, I find Spade to be annoying. He tries too hard to be hip and ironic, instead of taking the Goodman approach.
How is the animation? After years in development, I was underwhelmed. Disney doesn't try anything stylized or groundbreaking. The animators just stick to the usual, which is good enough, but pales in comparison to this year's Shrek (from DreamWorks).
Overall, you could do worse this weekend. It's a good rental - low investment, low disappointment. Grade: B-
Moviegoers have been subject to a rash of beauty pageant send-ups in the last few years. Drop Dead Gorgeous and Beautiful both flopped, but this one scored well at the box office.
Sandra Bullock stars as Gracie Hart - a tomboy FBI agent with a bad record. She's in hot water for previous mistakes, but the agency needs her. A mad bomber has threatened the Miss USA pageant, and she needs to go undercover as a contestant to crack the case. Of course, along the way, she finds out a lot about herself.
Will Gracie catch the bad guy? Who is it? Will she find love with her fellow agent, Eric (Benjamin Bratt)?
The best way to describe Miss Congeniality is a cross between Beverly Hills Cop and My Fair Lady. Sandra Bullock is fine as Grace, but she is so beautiful that it is hard for the audience to believe the radical transformation from tomboy to beauty queen. She handles the physical comedy well and knows how to deliver a punchline. However, nothing about her performance or the film is outstanding.
Michael Caine has some funny moments as Mr. Melling, the pageant consultant tasked with making Grace into Audrey Hepburn. Shatner continues his self-parodying parade, but it's starting to get old. How many times can we see him impersonate his own pompous behavior? It was funny the first time I saw it. Finally, the plot plods along to a predictable ending. The jokes are the typical fare - the emptyheadedness of contestants, women starving themselves to be beautiful, and agents ogling women via a hidden camera. It's funny, but not hilarious.
You'll have some laughs, but this one is just average. Grade: C
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If you have seen Good Will Hunting or Dead Poets Society, you have seen Finding Forrester, except this one is not as good as those two.
Newcomer Rob Brown stars as Jamal - a talented, teen African-American basketball player who hides his love for literature. Thinking that none of his pals would understand, he purposely maintains a low GPA and secretly writes stories for himself. The way he sees it, basketball is his future. However, Jamal gets the chance of a lifetime to change that future when he is given a scholarship to attend an upscale, Ivy League, private prep school.
Along the way, his buddies dare him to sneak into the apartment of a mysterious stranger who never appears outside, but can often be caught watching them from the window. While in the apartment, Jamal accidentally leaves his backpack and journals behind. It turns out that the mysterious stranger is Pulitzer Prize winning author William Forrester (Sean Connery), a literary legend. After publishing just one book, Forrester disappeared from society, never to publish another (shades of J.D. Salinger).
Forrester likes Jamal and decides to help him grow as a writer on several conditions. First, Jamal should never reveal Forrester's whereabouts. Second, he should never ask Forrester about his book or family. Finally, anything that they write in Forrester's apartment should never leave.
Will Jamal be able to succeed at the new school after his teacher, Robert Crawford (F. Murray Abraham) decides to challenge him? Will Jamal learn all of Forrester's deep, dark secrets? Will he help Forrester re-emerge and start living again? Is Jamal's scholarship for academic potential, or basketball ability?
All the parts are there for Finding Forrester to be a good, entertaining movie. Connery does a fine job as the crusty old codger who teaches Jamal a thing or two about writing and life. Rob Brown is good as the child who needs direction to find his strength. Even Abraham is sufficiently unlikable as the evil, sadistic, petty teacher who won't give Jamal a break. However, the movie moves along at Moby Dick like pace. Slowly, methodically and boringly, Director Gus Van Sant takes the audience through a maze of plots and twists that all seem too familiar and predictable. Unfortunately, it takes a plot turn that is not consistent with the rest of the film and the ending feels tacked on in a desperate attempt to get some cheap emotions out of the audience. The story has been told many times before and, probably, will be told again. Grade: C
Viewer Challenge: Did you ever think Joey Buttofuoco and Sean Connery would ever share the screen together? See if you can spot him in this film.
After reaching stratospheric levels of success with The Waterboy, Adam Sandler was like Hollywood's Attila the Hun leading his fellow gross out, adolescent comedy stars like David Spade, Tom Green and Rob Schneider into the upper crust of movie making. Their brand of comedy was making studios millions of dollars and pushing aside more serious, mid-budget projects. Studios wanted to spend less and make more, which could be done with low budget, low brow comedies like these. However, something happened on the way to the revolution - Sandler bombed, possibly signaling the end of the line for gross out comedies.
Adam Sandler stars as Little Nicky - the youngest of Satan's (Harvey Keitel) three sons. After being hit in the head with a shovel by one of his brothers, Nicky speaks with a speech impediment due to a contorted face (this is supposed to be hilarious, now you know why the movie bombed). One day, Satan gathers his sons to announce his successor. After 10,000 years of carrying the mantle of evil, it's time for a new Satan. However, he is not satisfied that any of the three sons can handle the job, so he decides to stay in charge for another 10,000 years. Of course, this angers the ambitious duo of Cassius (Tiny Lister) and Adrian (Rhys Ifans), so they decide to close the gates to Hell and create their own Hell on earth where they will rule with an iron fist. Only Little Nicky can save Hell by coming to earth and capturing his two older brothers.
Will Little Nicky succeed? Will he be distracted by his love for Valerie (Patricia Arquette)?
Why don't I like Little Nicky? How about jokes poking fun at the blind, peeping toms, birds sexually attacking humans and Hitler getting things stuck up his X@# (yeah there). This isn't funny, and since Little Nicky is a comedy, that takes away from one's enjoyment of the film. Sandler is incomprehensible, the plot runs out of steam about half way through the movie, so they have to create a new sub-plot to fill the last 30 minutes, and the jokes are the type of stuff you would hear in a 5th grade boys locker room. Also, I think the whole idea of Satan being a hero is absurd. Rodney Dangerfield gets in some laughs as Satan's Dad, but the rest of the cast (especially Harvey Keitel playing an effeminate Satan) is misguided.
Since Little Nicky took in a disappointing $40 million (it cost $80 million to make and I can't see where they spent the money. Oh yeah, on Sandler's $20 million contract), comedies from the Farelly Brothers, David Spade and Tom Green also have flopped at the box office. Could this mean America is growing up? I hope so. Grade: D
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I have been looking forward to this movie for a few months. I have read great reviews, listened to my friends rave about it, and wondered if Billy Elliot was as good as everyone says it is. Well, it's a good movie with plenty of heart tugging scenes, but not one full of surprises.
Jamie Bell stars as Billy Elliot, an 11-year old living in a house of men who never got over the loss of their mother. Both his father, Jack (Gary Lewis), and his brother, Tony (Jamie Draven), work in the coalmines, but they are on strike and despise those who cross the picket line while they starve for their principles. Every day, the men in town go to the mines to protest, but the protests are becoming more violent by the day.
Like all the local boys, Billy is in boxing class, while the girls study ballet downstairs at the local union club. One day, Billy, a young boy who likes music and dancing, sneaks into the ballet class and enjoys it. After a few lessons, his teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters), encourages him to audition for the Royal Ballet School, but he fears that his father and brother will not understand, while others might think he is a sissy.
Will Billy be able to hide his studies from his disapproving family? Is he good enough? Will the strike destroy the family and Billy's dreams?
On the surface, Billy Elliot is a standard tale about a young boy rebelling against a strict father while he pursues his dream. It's Saturday Night Fever (also a good movie). However, the underlying family drama and the struggle each character must face enriches Billy Elliot.
Writer Lee Hall does a great job establishing the characters and giving each his or her own subplot, showing the audience how their lives are effecting by the strike. It defines the entire town, each character and is the determining factor in Billy's desire to leave. He doesn't want to live in the middle of this violence and uncertainty. Billy wants something better than his father and brother are stuck with.
Even though Walters and Bell received Oscar nominations, I don't think any of the performances stand out as amazing. The cast works well as an ensemble and give the characters depth. Bell does a fine job as the rebellious young man fighting for his dreams in the face of insurmountable odds. Walters is the crusty teacher getting the best out of her pupil, and Lewis is the father who needs to open his mind to accept his son. Frankly, I thought Draven put in the best performance as the angry young man who wants to fight his way out of the sorry predicament because he doesn't know how to face his life and possible failure. He steals the show with his powerful stand against his father and subsequent act of unconditional love. I don't want to give away the plot, so you'll have to see it for yourself.
Overall, Billy Elliot is your best bet this weekend. Grade: B
This is a fine film that went nowhere in theaters, but it's a good video rental.
Mark Wahlberg stars as Leo, a parolee returning home to his mother after a jail term for auto theft. He took the fall for his buddies, including Willie (Joaquin Phoenix), who have all gone on to success. Leo is on probation, so his Uncle Frank (James Caan), a railroad service company executive, offers to give him a job and enroll Leo in a training program. The money isn't very good, but it's honest work and Uncle Frank promises to help Leo make ends meet. However, Willie has other plans.
Willie has been making a good living carrying out dirty deeds for Uncle Frank. He bribes all the right government officials to ensure that the company wins lucrative contracts, and oversees the company's dirty tricks squad. One night, when Willie and the gang are trying to sabotage a competitor, something very bad goes wrong, which puts Leo and Willie in danger with the police and Uncle Frank.
Will the two young men be able to fix it? Will Leo go back to jail? Who will Willie protect, Leo or himself?
Written by Mike Reeves and director James Gray, The Yards is a traditional, but quiet film noir. If you like mob movies, this will entertain you. While Mark Wahlberg is just passable with his emotionally flat and uninteresting turn as the convict just trying to get on the straight and narrow, the rest of the cast is superb. Ellen Burstyn continues a stretch of great acting performances as Leo's ailing, caring mother who desperately wants her boy to live an honest life. James Caan shines as a grown up version of Sonny Coreleone from The Godfather by providing a commanding presence. Most of all, Phoenix is great as the tortured, yet morally bankrupt pal who can save Leo by telling truth. However, he must live with his guilt as he takes another approach.
The Yards doesn't have many surprises, but it's a solid rental with good performances and an interesting plot. Grade: B
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This movie came out last fall, but most people missed their chance to see it in the theater. However, you get a chance at redemption with its release on video and DVD this week.
Ben Affleck stars as Buddy - a cocky, hot shot, playboy ad executive stuck in Chicago during a Christmas snow storm. He meets up with Mimi (Natasha Henstridge) and Greg (Tony Goldwyn) at the airport bar, and spends the evening carousing with them. It turns out that Greg has a wife, Abbey (Gwyneth Paltrow), and kids back in LA, but Buddy and him can't get their scheduled flight out due to the storm. Buddy has gotten a ticket to the next available flight, but gives it up to Greg, when he hears that the father is going to miss a very important family event.
Unfortunately, that flight crashes and everyone, including Greg, dies. The next day, Buddy realizes that fate has gotten him out of harm's way, but his life falls apart and he starts to drink heavily, while blaming himself for sending Greg to his death. Finally, to come to terms with what has happened, Buddy decides he wants to meet Abbey. Of course, they fall in love.
Will their relationship bloom? Will she ever discover that Buddy was supposed to be on the plane instead of her husband?
Time and time again, Ben Affleck surprises me with his acting ability. He was great in Shakespeare in Love, stole the show in Boiler Room, and outshines Gwyneth in Bounce. Affleck creates an utter jerk at the beginning of the movie, but becomes a sympathetic charismatic guy who falls for Abbey and wins the heart of the audience. And he does all this while coming off like a regular guy who is faced with extraordinary circumstances. From the opening scenes when his character is grappling with alcoholism to the love story scenes to the big, high pressure problems he faces at the end of the film, Affleck is a winner. I'm a very heterosexual guy, but he was so damn charismatic that I almost fell for him.
Paltrow smartly picks her moments to shine, while letting the dialogue and plot flow along. She is a great overstressed, nervous, broken soul trying to piece her life together after the great tragedy. It's a great role for her, and she doesn't miss a step nor does she over do it.
While the plot is a little overdramatic with the type of twists and turns that make you wonder if you are watching a soap opera, writer/director Don Roos strikes a good balance between sweet humor and the sappy love story. Johnny Galecki also puts in a good performance as the wise cracking assistant who sets Buddy on the straight and narrow. Overall, you have to be heartless not to like this hidden beauty. Grade: A-
Men of Honor
I rented the DVD with the intention of watching it, however, the clerk at my Hollywood Video forgot to remove the security strip, which means I can't open the DVD to watch it (I smell a free rental!). I am left to just tell you what the movie is about.
Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars as true-life hero Carl Brashear. Brashear, the son of poor sharecroppers, didn't have much in life, so he joined the Navy. Once there, he is inspired to be all that he can be, but faces opposition from his racist diving instructor, Chief Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro), when he sets out to be the first African-American to be awarded the rank of Master Chief Diver.
Based on a true story.
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The Legend of Bagger Vance
This film was supposed to be THE can't miss Oscar nominee of the fall. The legendary Robert Redford directing, Oscar winner Matt Damon starring, the always-wonderful Will Smith supporting and the emerging superstar Charlize Theron as the female love interest sounds like a can't miss prospect. However, not every movie is the sum of its parts. Sometimes, a clinker sneaks out.
Matt Damon stars as Savannah golfer and local hero Randolph Junuh. He's got it all - great talent; a beautiful, loving and RICH wife, Adele (Charlize Theron); and a future that is destined to include a storied golf career. However, Junuh enlists in the Army to help America fight in World War I. During a horrible battle, he is the only member of his unit who survives. Junuh, unable to handle the devastation, disappears for 10 years before returning to Savannah and settling into a life of drunkenness, without his true love and unwilling to golf.
Meanwhile, Adele's fortunes have taken a turn for the worse. The depression has kicked in just as her father's opulent new golf course and country club opens. Faced with the loss of everything, Adele scrapes together her last $10,000 and invites the greatest golfers of the day to participate in an exhibition match for all the money. Of course, the Savannah town elders require one golfer. Thinking he will never emerge from his funk, Savannah's top businessmen, who are trying to get the golf course from Adele for their own financial gain, demand that Randolph Junuh be one of the golfers.
Will Randolph overcome his demons to play golf once again? Does the mysterious Bagger Vance (Will Smith) hold the key to Randolph's future?
Unfortunately, Robert Redford has gone so far to create a mood that is reminiscent of a tranquil day of golf that the film is emotionally flat. None of the characters become enraged or fight for justice. They just walk around contemplating things, while Bagger hands out sage and quirky advice. Redford wants the film to be mystical, however, it becomes boring. Golf is a game best watched in real life, or at least involving Tiger Woods.
Damon is alright as the defeated man who must summon strength to fight on, but he does it with the same flatness the rest of the film suffers from. Frankly, his best scenes are early in the film, when Randolph is a drunken mess. Only once in a while do we see a spark of life in the character. Smith doesn't get much to do except mimic the performance of Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy. He just wanders along through the film without much explanation or intrigue. Theron puts in the best performance as the woman facing the loss of it all, or the return of everything she once held dear. Unfortunately, the love story between Adele and Randolph is poorly developed and I never get the inkling that these two characters love each other.
If you love golf, you'll probably get a kick out of this one, but not much here for the rest of us. Grade: D
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Cameron Diaz in a gold bikini. What else is there to say?
Just like the 70's jiggle TV show, Alex (Lucy Lui), Natalie (Cameron Diaz) and Dylan (Drew Barrymore) form the ultra-secret crime fighting force, Charlie's Angels. Although they have never met their boss, Charlie, in person (who fights crime and faces death for a boss you never met?!?!), they are aided by Bosley (Bill Murray) his trusted right hand man. The Angels have been hired to rescue software wunderkind, Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell) and his groundbreaking computer programs, which have been kidnapped by his evil nemesis, Roger Corwin (Tim Curry).
Will they find Knox? Can they stop the bad guys? Do they get naked at any point during the movie? No
Charlie's Angels is all style, but no script. It desperately wants to be a cross between The Matrix and Mission Impossible as evidenced by the shooting style of director McG (yeah, I wouldn't want anyone to know my name after this film either), super slo-mo of inhuman acrobatics, musical score and incessant shots of the ladies shaking out their long tresses. Unfortunately, the plot is too predictable and the dialogue is littered with enough double entendres to make them all meaningless and lifeless.
The acting is hot and cold. While Diaz is funny as the klutzy Natalie, Murray's typical antics seem out of place (is this why he clashed with others on the set and refused to promote the film?). Barrymore is inoffensive as Dylan, the bad-girl-with-a-heart, while Lui is a capable third wheel stuck in a role that requires her to carry the heaviest physical burden. All the over the top silliness just makes the film cartoonish, where it could have been a nice action film if the script was better.
Just goes to show that the women can make a bad action film just as easily as the guys. Grade: D
The 6th Day
Why do action films feel they have to insert smart-alecky, attitude-laden one liners to entertain us?
This one came out two weeks ago, but I promised to talk about it, and I like to keep my word. In the "near future" (isn't it so cute when filmmakers use the "near future" to make us feel like this could really happen tomorrow? No!!!!) Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Adam, the owner of an extreme charter flight service celebrating his birthday. His life is surrounded by all sorts of wild technological breakthroughs such as re-pets (if fluffy dies, you can get her cloned in under three hours, little Susie will never know the difference), holographic playtoy women, sim-pals (robotic, life like dolls for your kid to play with) and more. Adam hates all of it, but he is finding it harder to avoid getting sucked in.
Adam's partner, Hank (Michael Rappaport), agrees to fly their new client, cloning executive and rich-as-God guy Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn), so Adam can go home to celebrate with his family. However, something horrible happens and Adam arrives home to find that a clone of himself as taken his place.
How can this clone take Adam's place when cloning of humans is illegal? Will Adam be able to get his family back?
Not a bad action film, The 6th Day suffers when it tries to inject too much humor into the dialogue. Schwarzenegger is pretty good as the outraged man trying to get his family back, while uncovering the diabolical plot behind it all. The script should have helped to lay out a better foundation at the beginning of the film to explain more of Drucker's background, and, doesn't give us enough of the bad guy. Unfortunately, the audience gets to watch the dufus henchmen follow Adam around, instead of Goldwyn, who is semi-captivating as the evil businessman intent on carrying out his plan.
Nice plot twist at the end. However, how accurate is a future where the XFL, as we are told in the opening sequence of The 6th Day, is a thriving and popular football league? Grade: C+
This one was the star of the Sundance Film Festival last year, and I know why. Good acting and a good script make for a winning combination.
Michelle Rodriguez stars as Diana Guzman - a tough Bronx high school girl full of rage. Her mother died when she was young. Her father is a poor role model. And she has no hope for a bright future. Instead of becoming like the other neighborhood girls who spend their life chasing after a man who will only let them down, Diana is a tomboy who hates makeup and frilly dresses, so she doesn't fit in anywhere. Finally, she channels all of her anger into a boxing career, and tries to overcome an old school mentality that opposes women in the ring.
Can she succeed? Will her love for a fellow boxer, Adrian (Santiago Douglas) interfere with her training? Will her abusive father find out she is secretly learning how to box?
Girlfight is a good film because writer/director Karyn Kusama) makes all the right moves. She creates several great characters and a strong plot to keep the audience interested. Instead of trying to do too much with several sub-plots, Kusama keeps the focus on Diana, everything going on in her life and how it effects her struggle to become a boxer. Kusama also incorporates some great camera work of the fights that gives the audience the boxer's point of view during a match.
Rodriguez is fantastic as the young, angry woman who has to learn how to control her rage and use it to her advantage. From the tough boxing scenes to moments when her character lets her guard down to confront the growing emotions inside of her, Rodriguez makes the character come to life. It will be hard for her to top this performance.
The supporting cast also is great. Jamie Tirelli does a good job filling the role of her trainer/authority figure. We have seen the role played in many ways and many times, but Tirelli gives the role a breath of fresh air with his ability to let the trainer's love for the girl show through immediately, instead of being the tough, crusty naysayer right up until the last scene. While outclassed by Rodriguez, Douglas is good enough to make sure his character isn't buried. He has a few fine moments, but, mainly lets Rodriguez be the star.
It's a great, uplifting story for those who are daring enough to take the chance. Rent Girlfight this weekend. Grade: A
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