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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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Many critics bashed this one when it came out last fall, but I liked it.
John Travolta stars as Russ Richards, a TV weatherman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Russ seems to be on top of the world because he drives fancy cars, has a snowmobile business on the side and even has a reserved parking place and booth at the local Denny's (I've been to Harrisburg. Trust me. This is a big deal). However, Russ' life is in trouble.
It's December, yet, Harrisburg is enjoying an unprecedented string of spring-like, 60-degree days. That's great for most people, but it's killing Russ' snowmobile business. He's deep in debt and can only come up with one idea to get himself out. Russ conspires with a local hood, Gig (Tim Roth) and his lottery host girlfriend, Crystal (Lisa Kudrow), to fix the lottery and walk away with the $6.4 Million prize.
Can they get away with it?
When I first read about this movie, which is based on a true story, I thought it was going to be a dark comedy along the lines of Pulp Fiction. However, Director Nora Ephron and writer Adam Lesnick have created an enjoyable screwball comedy featuring the dumbest criminals to grace the screen since Woody Allen in Take the Money and Run.
Travolta plays it over the top as the desperate, narcissistic, selfish weatherman who will use anyone to save his tail. I was surprised that it worked so well. He reduces Russ to his basest, greedy, nervous instincts to the point where the character becomes a cartoon, but it's funny. I also like Kudrow, who effectively shows the evil side of her character at all the right times, while balancing it with Crystal's dumb side.
The movie starts to get a little long towards the end as Lesnick tries to recreate the nuttiness of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, but it gets a little too silly and complicated. Overall, Lucky Numbers is worth a good laugh or two. Grade: B-
Remember the Titans
Sometimes a cliché filled movie done well is better than a groundbreaking film that doesn't live up to its potential.
Based on a true story, Denzel Washington stars as Herman Booth, the new coach of the recently racially desegregated Alexandria, Virginia high school football team. Two schools have become one, but the team and the town are still divided along the old racial lines. When Booth is chosen to be the new head coach instead of the popular, legendary white coach Bill Yost (Will Patton), this just makes his job harder. Doomed to failure, Booth has to unite the team and win every game to save his job.
Can the Titans overcome their racial prejudices to become a winning football team? Will the town unite?
It's a Disney movie, so what do you think? Of course they will overcome their problems. While the plot is not going to shock anyone, the acting makes the audience appreciate this film. Washington, who has raised the art of playing the morally righteous and outraged man to new heights, is typically fantastic as the coach who has to fight racism at every turn. Washington instills pride and strength into the character, which makes the audience root for his success. I think he should have been nominated for an Oscar. If Tom Hanks can continue to be nominated for playing characters that are nice guys (and playing them very well), why can't Denzel be nominated for playing characters who have similar traits (and playing them well)?
While we expect an amazing performance out of Denzel, the rest of the supporting cast rounds out the film instead of becoming secondary to the lead. Will Patton is wonderful as Coach Yost by filling this conflicted character with quiet dignity, yet, also a sense that he has not been treated properly. Patton could have become the bad who suddenly changes his ways at the end, but, luckily for us, reveals the Coach Yost's good side throughout the movie, so he does not a have an unbelievable transition at the climax of the film. Also, the kids give the film vitality and hold their own with the adults.
If you want to feel good this weekend, rent the overlooked (by the Academy and other critics) Remember the Titans. Grade: B+
The Tao of Steve
I took a personal interest in this film because, like many single guys, my roommate and I will always express wonder and confusion when we see a beautiful lady with a less than handsome man (and realize we are just as slovenly as him, so why aren't we getting the babes? Yes, this conversation often happens over beers on a Saturday night when we don't have dates). The Tao of Steve gives us the answer in a funny romantic comedy that wants to be an indie flick, but chickens out and goes for a traditional ending.
Donal Logue stars as Dex, a once great college lothario who still finds ways to score with the women even though he does not have any money, is overweight, is slovenly and rides around town on a beat up motorbike. The key, according to Dex, is the Tao of Steve - a way of life and attitude (based on Steve McQueen, the king of movie cool) that women cannot resist. One day, Dex runs into Syd (co-writer and director's sister, Greer Goodman), who doesn't fall for the Tao of Steve act and forces Dex to change his approach to chasing her.
Will Dex be able to persuade Syd to fall in love with him?
Logue, who went on to star in the semi-funny FOX comedy
Grounded For Life, creates a likable
scoundrel. We should be repulsed by his slacker ways and questionable lifestyle
choices, yet, Dex is a good guy who seems to have a better side to him. Maybe
that is part of the Tao of Steve (become someone the woman will want to "save"
by bringing out the good side in him?). Unfortunately, the rest of the cast
is not as talented as Logue. Goodman is too stuffy and director Jennphr (she
with the wacky spelling of the first name just to be different, however,
this need for attention makes her pitiful, don't you think?) Goodman goes
for too much of a traditional ending instead of one that stays true to the
quirky style of the film. However, there are enough fun scenes along the
way to enjoy this one.
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Back in September, Almost Famous debuted to critical acclaim, but most writers feared that it wouldn't be remembered at Oscar time due to its early release. A weak fall season and 3 Academy Award nominations later, the film is ready to break out on video and DVD.
Patrick Fugit stars as William Miller, a 15-year old San Diego teen who loves writing and rock music, so he decides to pursue his dream of writing for a magazine. Miller gets his chance, when he starts following the up-and-coming band, Stillwater. A group of good guys who don't know how to handle their impending fame or possible demise, they take in Miller like a little brother. However, he has to walk a fine line between pal and serious journalist when Rolling Stone hires the teen to write a story about Stillwater.
Will Miller be able to produce a strong story for Rolling Stone? Will Stillwater be able to succeed? Will Miller find true love with Penny Lane (Kate Hudson)?
Based on the experiences of writer/director Cameron Crowe, who profiled Led Zepplin, Neil Young, The Allman Brothers and others for Rolling Stone, Almost Famous is a tender and funny coming of age tale filled with great acting performances. While the film is supposed to be about Miller, Kate Hudson steals the picture with her turn as the groupie Penny Lane.
Hudson is able to create a character wise beyond her years, yet still clamoring for the youth she seems to have missed. Lane is a professional groupie who feels she helps make the band better and more successful by keeping them happy. However, Penny still understands that she is being used on some level by men who view her as a prize or right of passage - all men, in her mind, except the leader of Stillwater, who is her true love.
I was also fascinated by her approach to the love story between Penny and Will. These are the moments that make you think Penny wishes she could act her age and fall for the geeky, but sweet kid. Hudson will win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress due to her stunning final scenes. Keep watching all the way to the end.
Fugit also shines in the quiet, tender moments. He is able to show how taken Miller is by Penny's beauty and knowledge, however, his love is doomed to be unrequited. You can see his heart break every time Miller seems to be getting closer to Penny, only to watch her steal away with the band leader.
Full of good writing and great acting, you'll enjoy Almost Famous. The film starts to drag at the end, and the plot isn't as well defined as I would like, but it is still a strong film worthy of your rental dollars this weekend. Grade: B+
Michael Douglas stars as Professor Tripp, and, man, does he have troubles. His wife just left him. He's fooling around with the school Chancellor, Sarah (Frances McDormand), who also happens to be his boss' wife. Oh, and she's pregnant with Tripp's kid. He wrote one fabulous novel, but has been struggling with his new one for 7 years. And his agent, Crabtree (Robert Downey, Jr) wants to see the finished product. Tripp likes to use drugs, but he continues to have these fainting spells. Finally, the sexy 19-year old student who lives at his house, Hannah (Katie Holmes) has the hots for him (OK, maybe that's not a problem. Sure wouldn't be a problem with me. Frankly, I'm jealous).
During a weekend writing conference at the university, everything unravels for Tripp as he and another student, James (Tobey Maguire) end up in the middle of a caper and need to figure a way out. Along the way, Tripp realizes James is in need of some serious help.
Will Tripp and James avoid the police? Is James lying about all of his hardships? Will Tripp get his life in order?
Wonder Boys has some good moments, but never seems to find its tone. At moments, it's a very good dark comedy and Michael Douglas shines as the overwrought loser in the middle of it all. However, at other moments, it is an uneven drama with a flat performance from Michael Douglas.
You won't waste your money if you rent Wonder Boys. Katie Holmes is fantastic as the impressionable student who wants to make it with Tripp, and Maguire is believable as the troubled boy who likes to horrify and studies celebrity death. However, the movie seems to lose its way as it swings between comedy and drama. Grade: C+
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Meet the Parents
It has been a few weeks since I have gone gaga over a movie. Unfortunately, January and February are a dry period for video rentals. However, the calendar has turned a page and we have entered the season of good video rentals. Summer blockbusters get released in time for Christmas. Surprise performers and Oscar contenders get released in March.
In Meet the Parents, male nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) is deeply in love with Pam, an elementary school teacher. She's the best thing that has ever happened to him. Pam is beautiful, smart, funny and just a pleasure to be around. Greg wants to marry Pam, but he must undergo a right of passage - he must meet her parents.
They're not just any parents mind you. Pam's parents are nuts, especially her overbearing, imposing, tough guy father, Jack (Robert De Niro). Greg and Pam travel to New York for her sister's wedding and stay at her parents' house, so they can get to know Greg better, but unfortunately, everything that can go wrong does.
Will Greg ruin the entire wedding? What is Jack hiding?
The first two acts of the film are absolutely hilarious and can match up against any of the greatest comedies of all time. While most of people who see the film will find De Niro to be the main attraction, Stiller makes the film work. In order for us to believe that Jack is as awful as we are supposed to, Stiller has to make us believe that Greg is scared to death of him. Stiller makes Greg bumble and stumble his way through several fantastic slapstick comedy moments, and he is able to instantly develop a rivalry between Jack and Greg that can only end in tragedy.
I also want to commend writers Jim Herefield and John Hamburg, as well as director Jay Roach (Austin Powers) for avoiding the kind of bathroom humor that litters films today. Yes, there are a few cringing moments, but the humor is based on the type of situations that most of the audience can identify with. The dialogue is funny, the supporting characters serve their purpose without getting in the way and the final act is sufficient (although the ending is a little weak). Overall, you're going to love this movie as much as I did. Grade: A-
If you love Bill Clinton, this movie is for you! Oh, wait. I'm not supposed to utter his name anymore since he left office. Let me try this again.
If you love our former president, this movie is for you!
Joan Allen stars as Senator Lane Hansen, the daughter of a famous governor who served in the House of Representatives, switched parties and was elected to the Senate. Now, three weeks after the Vice President's death, the President (Jeff Bridges), has chosen her to be his new Vice President, and the heir apparent to his popular legacy.
However, Senator Hansen faces a bitter confirmation hearing led by the conservative Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman) (Please don't send me e-mail on this one. I know the Senate approves Supreme Court and Vice Presidential nominees. They try to explain this mistake in the movie). Senator Hansen's nomination comes under great fire when details of her scandalous sexual history are leaked to the press and Runyon attempts to scuttle her bid.
Will Senator Hansen survive?
I realize many of you will be upset when I dwell on the partisanship and political bent of the movie, but here's the deal. The Contender is a politically charged film that was inspired by the Clinton impeachment scandal, dredges up many of those issues, and comes off as if it was bought and paid for by the Democratic National Committee. You can't ignore its political philosophy, because the film works very hard to advocate it.
The audience is forced to make a choice. Do you believe that a politician's sexual history and actions are an issue? According to writer/director Rod Lurie, the answer is no and he goes to great lengths to make his point by portraying Senator Hansen, her family, the President and his staff as the good guys battling the evil Congressman Runyon, who wants to focus in on these details and make them known to the public to win a political fight. As far as the politics goes, I hate the film.
I think the portrayal of the Republican congressman as driven by questionable motives, a religious extremist, racist, anti-woman, and vindictive is an outright attack on the Republican party for its actions during the impeachment scandal (I have to mention that the film was produced by DreamWorks, which is owned and operated by three major donors to Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party). Runyon is just a thinly veiled Henry Hyde right down to representing a Congressional district in Illinois.
What do I think of the film as a movie? It's not bad. Academy award nominee Bridges is fantastic as the bombastic, always hungry President who charms everyone, but has a killer instinct when it is needed. The president is not a buffoon. Bridges is able to show all aspects of the character without becoming silly. My first Oscar night prediction is that Mr. Bridges is walking away with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Oldman is just as amazing as the slimy Congressman. He has an unmatched ability to fall into a character, so much so that you have trouble believing that Oldman is in there. My only gripe with his performance is his southern accent. Does he represent a district on the South Side of Chicago? If he didn't openly attack the film, Oldman may have received an Oscar nomination.
That's right, Oldman attacked the film for being unbalanced. A British Conservative, Oldman told Premiere magazine that the film was edited to reflect the Democratic leanings of the DreamWorks owners - Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenburg and David Geffen. The fighting between writer/director Lurie and Oldman got ugly and, reportedly, has never been resolved.
What about the other Academy Award nominee? I wasn't impressed with Joan Allen. Her series of exasperated looks and attempts to show grace and dignity under fire just didn't thrill me. Also, when jogging, she has the worst, stiffest form I have ever seen. Frankly, I think that goes for her acting performance as well.
The film's writing also leaves something to be desired. It is too heavy handed, slapping us across the face with its values system. Also, The Contender loses focus and tries to adopt a pro-feminist theme late in the movie, after laying the foundation for the previously mentioned battle over what the public has a right to know, but it's too late and only detracts from the climax and the overly-contrived ending.
If you are a Republican, grade: D-. If
you are a Democrat,
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Just in time for Ash Wednesday, Elizabeth Hurley saunters into our living rooms as The Devil in Bedazzled.
Elliot (Brendan Fraser) is a big loser. His coworkers find him annoying, he has no friends and women are totally turned off by him. Also, Elliot carries a torch for Allison (Frances O'Connor), a beautiful coworker who doesn't even know his name. In short, he is a perfect target for the devil.
Elliot agrees to give up his soul to the Devil for seven wishes. Of course, he's dealing with the Devil, and those wishes don't turn out the way he though they would.
Will Elliot get the better of the Devil? Will he get his true love?
Fraser is too handsome to be a loser. Based on the original Bedazzled starring Dudley Moore, the film needs someone unglamorous to portray our downtrodden hero. Wasn't Danny DeVitto available? Fraser is overly silly as he tries to portray pathetic. However, he has some moments where he shines comically in the wishes gone bad.
Director Harold Ramis fails to give the audience a chance to embrace and feel empathy for Elliot. Instead of showing us his plight in a sympathetic fashion, Ramis jumps right into the story after only a few obligatory scenes of Elliot stumbling through life. The film could have been structured so the audience had a chance to see Elliot's pathetic life as described by the Devil instead of cutting corners and leaving all that to a quick two-minute monologue by Hurley. Also, the film loses steam as Elliot jumps from wish to wish and the audience knows all too well what is going to go wrong. I think fewer wishes more fully explored would have filled the bill.
Surprisingly, Hurley is fantastic. She relishes her devilish ways and becomes a much more interesting character than her co-star. It's a bit of a one-note performance, but she's the adversary, so we don't expect any growth.
The movie provides some amusing moments, but there are better choices. Grade: C-
It's been a disappointing week. First, the Temptation Island finale was unfulfilling. C'mon! All the couples stayed together! No fussing? No feuding? All I know is that if my girlfriend let some guy she knew for three days lick tequila off her stomach, I'd be driving the dump truck and leaving her behind in a cloud of dust! Second, Nurse Betty is a film I have eagerly waited to see, but the final result doesn't live up to the potential of its premise.
Renee Zellwegger stars as Betty, a Kansas waitress married to the town's used car salesman. Unfortunately, her husband, Dell (Aaron Eckhart), is an unfaithful, selfish jerk who treats her badly. The only thing that brings Betty happiness is her obsession with a soap opera, A Reason To Love, and its lead character, Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear).
Her husband double crosses some bad dudes and ends up getting killed by some hitmen, Danny (Morgan Freemen) and Wesley (Chris Rock), which causes Betty to go insane. Now, she believes that A Reason To Love and Dr. David Ravell truly exist and she is Nurse Betty, Dr. Ravell's true love.
Will Danny and Wesley find Betty and get back what Dell stole? Will Betty make it to LA and meet Dr. David Ravell? Will her sanity return?
I was under the impression that the film was a zany farce, however, Nurse Betty tries to be a touching story about people who don't think their dreams can come true, and one brave soul who chases after hers. Unfortunately, the subplot involving Danny and Wesley is weak, uninteresting and ruins the film. Without that subplot, the film could have been zany and soulful, but the hitmen element tries to make the film too much like Pulp Fiction and adds misplaced violence.
Renee Zellwegger is sweet as the woman who can't deal with her reality, but the seemingly perfect life she dreams of is not it's all cracked up to be. She makes the character into a dazzling display of naivete and earnestness as she wanders through life with the luck of Forrest Gump. Zellwegger has many heart-wrenching scenes mixed with good comedy. She creates the kind of character that wins the hearts of the audience and forces us to root for her. If the film were better, she would have been nominated for an Oscar (and almost snuck in despite the horrible mess that surrounds her in the film).
Kinnear is great as the arrogant actor who portrays Betty's dream man, and even Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock deliver the goods, but Freeman and Rock's characters don't belong here. Shame on director Neil LaBlute and writers John Richards and James Flamberg for destroying a great concept. LaBlute is best known for the controversial indie flick, In the Company of Men, where two men decide to torment a deaf woman to get back at all the women who treated them badly. He could have redeemed himself with a nice, sweet movie, but failed and will cause me to ignore his work until he puts out a better product. Grade: D
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This week is all-sexual-innuendo Friday, so kick back, relax and learn how these tantalizing titles might not be the movie you thought they would be.
Woman on Top
2000 was to be the year of Penelope Cruz. She was set to star with Matt Damon in All The Pretty Horses, considered a shoe-in for plenty of critical acclaim and Oscar nominations with Billy Bob Thornton at the helm. Woman on Top was her first lead and took advantage of all of her strengths. Instead, both movies bombed and she got more press in the gossip columns than for good acting.
Cruz plays Isabella, a Brazilian housewife who slaves away at her husband's restaurant, while he fools around with other women. One night, she catches her unfaithful hubby in the act, prays to a sea god (this happens a lot), and moves to San Francisco, where she becomes the host of a local cooking show.
Her producer falls for her, the town loves her, and the ratings are through the roof. What will she do when her husband comes back to get her?
Woman on Top has plenty of potential, but like a first round draft pick that doesn't want to practice, it fails to entertain. Writer Vera Blasi and Director Fina Tores rely on too much mysticism to move the plot along. While striving to be kooky and quirky, the constant praying to and invoking of gods simply becomes stupid. Cruz puts in a decent and spicy performance as the woman of every man's dreams, but everyone else is weak, sterotypical or over doing it. Sometimes less is more. The ending will leave you angry, but at least it is not predictable. Grade: C
Bring It On
Coyote Ugly has spent several weeks on top of the video charts with its blatant use of several scantily clad women dancing on top of a bar. Well, Bring It On is positioned to take over that crown by blatantly using 20 - 30 scantily clad cheerleaders dancing suggestively on a basketball court (and one gratuitous car wash scene). However, Bring It On is a much better movie.
Remember Kirsten Dunst, the little blonde girl in Interview With A Vampire? Well, she's a BABE now!!! She stars as Torrance, the perky new captain of the 5-time national champion cheerleading squad of San Diego's Rancho Carne Toros - an upscale, mostly white school. She has succeeded a legendary captain, and some in the squad don't think she is up to the job.
Along comes Missy (Eliza Dushku), a new gal from Los Angeles who begrudgingly joins the Rancho Carne cheerleading squad, only to be horrified. It turns out, the former captain stole all of their championship cheers from an East Compton High School. Now, the East Compton cheerleading squad is going to the regional championships to defeat Rancho Carne and get their revenge.
Will Rancho Carne continue to use stolen cheers? Who will be the champs?
I like this movie. Bring It On is a strange, yet clever mix of satire, farce, teen romp and T&A factor. It isn't Casablanca, but it kept me interested for an hour and a half.
No one performance is fantastic, but each actor knows their role and fulfills it. Dunst is compelling and charming as the perky, vulnerable and tough-when-she-needs-to-be captain. Predictably, her character undergoes a metamorphosis from weak-willed pretty face to independent and strong leader, but it's a decent ride. Dushku is funny as the wisecracking friend. Jesse Bradford doesn't get much to do, but plays Cliff, Missy's punk rock loving brother and love interest for Torrance.
Writer Jessica Bendinger swings between the obvious and some shocking plot twists that keep the film lively and interesting. Director Peyton reed gives us plenty of slow motion shots of cheerleaders in action and doesn't try to over do it with anything fancy, which keeps the movie on track. Some stuff is stupid and predictable, but not too much. Bring it on home to your house this weekend. Grade: B+
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
When I was 9 years old, Rocky and Bullwinkle were the essence of great comedy. Now that I am 29 years old, I fell asleep during the movie.
Since their TV show was cancelled, Rocky and Bullwinkle have lived a quiet life in Frost Bite Falls funded by their dwindling residual checks. In another part of cartoon world, those evil spies from Pottsylvania, Boris (Jason Alexander), Natasha (Rene Russo) and Fearless Leader (Robert DeNiro), are plotting to take over America. They have escaped into the real world and Fearless Leader has unleashed a hideous plot - he starts the Really Bad TV network to hypnotize American viewers, so he can steal the Presidential election (Is that how Dubya did it?).
Can Rocky and Bullwinkle stop them? What do you think?
Everything about the movie is elementary from Karen Sympathy's (Piper Perabo) (an FBI agent who loves the cartoon duo and enlists their help to defeat Fearless Leader) story about the little girl inside of her (and all of us. Well, little boy inside the rest of us) to Rocky the Flying Squirrel's flight plight (he can't anymore, or will he when the time is right?) to the horrible puns to the obvious ending.
I was embarrassed for Alexander and Russo. Their performances are stiffer than the 2-dimensional characters they portray. Did they do it for the money or for their kids? DeNiro seems to relish his performance and does the best he can with second rate material. His new take on the infamous "are you talking to me?" monologue is hilarious, but you probably saw that in the television commercials.
Some of the lines are funny, the film is full of star cameos, but this one is not for those of you looking for Oscar worthy material this weekend. Grade: D
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Dr. T and the Women
In the immortal words of Mr. T, I pity the fool who rents this movie. Maybe they should have cast him to liven it up.
Richard Gere stars Dr. Sully Travis, Dr. T to his patients. This gynecologist has big problems. First, his wife, Kate, (Farrah Fawcett) has come down with a strange mental disorder, which makes her fall out of love with him and forces her into a metal hospital. Second, his daughter, Dee Dee (Kate Hudson) is getting married, but harbors a secret that could put a halt to that. Third, his office manager, Caroline (Shelly Long), wants to be more than friends. Finally, he meets a female professional golfer, Bree (Helen Hunt), and he falls in love.
Will he risk his marriage to be with Bree? Will Kate get better? Will Dee Dee get married? Should we care?
In typical Robert Altman style, the movie has many plots, sub-plots and supporting characters, but most just aren't worth our attention. The movie is much too heavy. I always thought Dr. T and the Women was a silly farce or a madcap comedy, which could have been very funny and enjoyable. The female patients are over the top and could have provided some entertainment instead of being pushed to the background. Unfortunately, Altman establishes a dramatic tone as he forces Dr. T to face many hardships, more than anyone should ever have to deal with. Then, he starts to move in the madcap direction in the second half of the movie, only to quickly go back to the drama. This unevenness is surprising for someone of Altman's great talent.
Gere is fine as our titular character, but he has no chemistry with Helen "The Ice Queen" Hunt. Neither one makes the romance very credible, and Hunt seems like she is sleepwalking through this one. Hudson is pretty good as the daughter with a secret, but Fawcett seems to play her character too silly and childlike.
Do yourself a favor and check out the archives for a good movie. Special note to the squeamish, the film starts with the most uncomfortable scenes in the history of movies. Then, it ends with one that ain't too pretty either. Grade: D
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Sometimes, duty forces me to put aside my personal qualms and review a movie for you, the people.
I didn't want to see Dinosaur. I'm a 29-year old single guy (ladies, he's available!). Walking into the video store to rent a kid's movie is not the most macho thing for a guy to do. I actually considered borrowing a friend's wedding ring or his kid just so I could walk up to the counter looking like I was renting this for my child. But NOOOOO! I rented it for Juan, who always wants to know what to rent for his kids. And for you, Mary, who needs to divert her kid's attention so she can balance her checkbook. So, is Dinosaur any good? It's not horrible.
D.B. Sweeney provides the voice of Aladar, a young dinosaur (an Iguanadoon, if there is really such a dinosaur) who is separated from his nest and raised by Lemurs (a monkey-like animal, which I don't think really existed during the time of the dinosaurs, and I should know because I took Anthropology in college. I didn't get an "A", so correct me if I'm wrong). Of course, he grows up and starts to wonder if there are others like him.
One night, a horrible meteor shower destroys most of the world, and the remaining dinosaurs, led by an evil Iguanadoon, Kron (Samuel E. Wright), set off on a journey to find a new place to live with food and water. Along the way, Aladar and his family of Lemurs meet up with the group and try to keep up. Aladar shows sympathy to the weaker dinosaurs and soon butts heads with Kron.
Will Aladar be driven off by Kron? Will Aladar become the new leader of the dinosaurs? Will he find true love with Kron's sister, Neera (Julianna Margulies)? Will the dinosaurs find the promised land?
This movie is going to do well on video and DVD. When I made my shameful walk to the rental counter, the other five people in line were buying or renting it. Unfortunately, the characters aren't well developed. Although, it's a Disney movie for kids, so the writers are not trying to confuse them or give them too much information to process. The love story between Neera and Aladar needs more substance. In its current form, the only reason they love each other is animal magnetism. Do we want to teach our children to love for looks or love for personality?
It's not the greatest movie, and some of the scenes are very intense for
children, but Disney should be applauded for the amazing computer graphics.
This is the first CGI film that didn't seem cold and flat to me. The look
is warm, like old time animation, with better detail.
What Lies Beneath
If you haven't seen this summer smash, rent it. Run home. Turn off the lights, and be prepared for terror.
Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Claire, a woman with trouble. She has been suffering from severe headaches, possibly the fallout from a past car accident. Soon, Claire starts to hear voices and thinks the house is haunted. Once she starts her investigation, Claire believes she has been contacted by the spirit of a missing college student.
Who is this college student? Is Claire going nuts? Will her husband, Norman (Harrison Ford), be able to help her?
By now, you have probably heard the amazing story behind this gem. For director Robert Zemeckis, this was just a job to help kill time. His number one priority at the time was Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks. They had made half of the film, but had to wait six months for Tom Hanks to lose a tremendous amount of weight, so he would look like a man stranded on an island for years. Lucky for us, he decided to make this traditional ghost story.
I happened to see this before the movie was released last summer, and, most importantly, before the plot revealing commercials started to ruin the experience for many film-goers. If you didn't see or don't remember these, congratulations and enjoy the movie.
The film takes many fun, scary plot twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Zemeckis wisely keeps the secret under wraps until the very moment that it will shock you. Pfeiffer is great as the woman in peril and Ford gets to show another side of his acting ability. The movie gets a little crazy and silly at the end, but it's an enjoyable ride. Grade: A-
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The Kid or Disney's The Kid
As if the heavy metal loving, half-brain dead kid in your local video rental store doesn't have enough trouble alphabetizing the shelves, along comes The Kid, or should it be filed under "D" for Disney's The Kid? Don't waste much time looking for it. You have better things to do with your life.
Bruce Willis stars as Russ, an evil, hard-nosed, cold-hearted image consultant approaching his fortieth birthday. Of course, all Russ has in his life is his work, money, and one much too cute and lovely co-worker who cares for him, while he treats her like dirt.
One day, through the magic of Disney, Russ shows up in his own life as the 8-year old boy he used to be, Rusty (Spenser Breslin). Russ is embarrassed by Rusty, who is fat, loud and annoying. Rusty is embarrassed by Russ who isn't married, doesn't have a dog and doesn't have a truck like he always thought he would when he grew up.
Why did Rusty show up? Will Russ get his life together?
The movie isn't very good. Bruce Willis doesn't get much material to work with, but once the crazy plot gets established, he finally shows the talent that makes him a star. He is able to take the hated character and show his soft side, which is the whole point of the movie. His child co-star, Spenser Breslin, might be the worst child actor ever.
The kid has no chemistry with Willis, has no cute quality that makes us care for him and spends most of the movie trying to convince us that yelling and screaming is a style of acting. Only when practiced by true greats like Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, not snot-nosed little brats.
The plot is very predictable, suddenly invents a reason to have a climax to end the film (and start yanking our emotional chain), and lacks that Disney charm that makes us like other films such as Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast. Grade: D
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I don't intentionally pick these movies to beat up on them. Sure, it's fun, but it's just luck (or a curse) that all these very bad movies have been coming out lately. This week, it's Battlefield Earth.
Watching Battlefield Earth is like when one of your friends says, "taste this milk. It smells funny." You know it's going to be spoiled and taste horrible, but you can't resist the temptation. You have to taste it for yourself.
Set in the Year 3000, Barry Pepper stars as Johnnie "Goodboy" Tyler (yeah, it gets worse), a young human who leaves the safety of his tribe and ends up enslaved with other humans by an evil alien race, the Psychlos. The humans are forced to mine precious metals under the masochist eye of Terl (John Travolta), a bitter, arrogant, (paunchy, but who am I to judge) security chief stuck on Earth while he would rather be somewhere else with more glory. Terl has found a secret stash of gold that he wants to mine for himself, instead of the company, but his slaves are being inspired by Johnnie to fight back and win their independence.
Will the humans defeat the Psychlos? Do we care?
Yeah, it stinks. First, Travolta stinks. I am one of his biggest fans, but this is the wrong role and the worst work I have ever seen him do. He just doesn't come off as evil enough to live up to his character's exploits. Travolta spends most of the film with the wide-eyed wonderment of a boy instead of the cold heart of a killer.
Second, the special effects are meaningless. Most of them seem to be inserted into the film to prove that the crew has the talent to do it. Director Roger Christian decides to use many slow motion sequences, which also have no relevance or meaning to the film. It's sad to watch.
Finally, the story stinks. Why does Terl continue to educate and train Johnnie, the leader of the rebel forces? Kill him instead of giving him all the information he needs to beat you. Why are the aliens so buffoonish? These are the intelligent killers who practically wipe out Earth in spite of their greed and gluttony? Can't L.Ron Hubbard come up with some original character names? Psychlos. Oh, I get it. Because they are psycho! Yeah, right.
Don't taste the milk. Grade: F
This neo-film noir was well on its way to an Oscar nomination until a stool pigeon blew the whistle and let the world know it played on Dutch television before its theatrical release (that's a big no-no according to Academy rules). How good is it? It's one of the better films I have seen in the last few months. It has been out for a few weeks, but I am glad I decided to rent it for the column.
Jack (Clive Owens) is a novelist who can't sell his work. Instead of wasting his talent ghost writing a book for some numbskull celebrity, he decides to take a job as a croupier - a casino dealer. He deals blackjack, runs the roulette table and keeps his eyes on the shady customers. Of course, we are not talking about a casino in Atlantic City where grandma smokes her Pall Malls and plays the slots all day. It's a grand, high class casino in England.
Jack knows all the rules and tricks. Don't fraternize with the gamblers. Don't accept tips. Don't have personal relationships with the co-workers. Of course, he soon breaks them all, but he is not the only one.
Will Jack get caught? Is the boss up to no good? What about his buddy? What is the sexy South African. Jani (Alex Kingston from ER looking very sexy, by the way, and you know what I mean) up to?
Owen is fantastic as the quiet, yet confident, know-it-all. Director Mike Hodges brilliantly uses Jack's internal monologue and voice over to let us know all about his past, his thoughts, his desires and his fears. It allows the audience to get better acquainted with the calm, cool dealer who has a burning temper simmering underneath. Owen brings out the big guns when he needs them, but controls his character where he needs to hold it in. Rent it, pay attention and enjoy. Grade: A
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Me, Myself and Irene
I wish that they had left the ME out of this equation, because I want this 1 hour and 40 minutes of my life back.
Jim Carey stars as Charlie, the nicest Rhode Island state trooper ever. Unfortunately, being a super nice guy allows others to take advantage of him and his gullible nature. One day, he meets and falls in love with the prettiest girl in town. They get married, but she fools around and leaves him with their (well, her) three children. Finally, Charlie snaps and develops a split personality, Hank, who wants revenge on those who wronged him and won't let others push him around.
Charlie gets ordered to transport a beautiful, young fugitive, Irene (Renee Zellwegger) back to New York when she is arrested and accused of several crimes related to her old job. Along the way, he falls in love with her, but so does Hank.
Is Irene guilty of these crimes, or has she been set up by her conniving boss? Will Hank beat Charlie for Irene's affections? Can Charlie overcome his mental problems for true love?
You know the movie stinks when the closing credits are funnier and wittier than the film. Jim Carey is so much better than this. His characters have no heart and are too cartoonish for the audience to care if Charlie succeeds or Hank is defeated. Carey does some great physical comedy, especially a fight scene between himself and himself that is quite reminiscent of Steve Martin in All of Me, but it's not enough to carry the film. Me, Myself and Irene suffers from a common problem with comedy in the 21st century - being silly and outrageous on it's own is not funny (I hope Tom Green and the guy from MTV's Jackass are reading this). Screaming and doing stupid things is not funny without some context or irony, yet, young comics are trying it everyday. The writers and directors, The Farrelly Brothers, try to get by on their trademark gross out humor, but forget to give it some wit and funny dialogue.
Carey's career has advanced past this stage. He should do more drama or even a romantic comedy. Carey does both so well, that I hate to see his talents wasted on something like this. Renee Zellwegger (whom I shall now refer to as THE FUTURE MRS. WILLIAM WAFFLE. Hey, she broke up with Jim Carey and she's back on the market. Come to poppa!) is appropriately cute and fetching, but she doesn't get much to do. Overall, the movie is a great disappointment. Grade: D
Survivor: Season One
Now, you get your favorite summer time hit with all the nudity and adult language CBS couldn't show you on TV!
You probably have seen all the ads promoting "Never Before Seen Footage" and "the challenge never aired" but there is a reason the tape didn't make it on the show. It's BORING!
I can't believe I watched this sad compilation of rejected footage, auditions tapes and cast interviews. Survivor was a fun, summer series with intrigue. We got to meet these eccentric strangers and try to figure out if they would be able to withstand the elements while competing in exotic challenges of strength, intelligence and will. We didn't know what was going to happen. Now, we know the outcome and get to focus on these horrible people that you would avoid in real life.
Let's face it. We're sick and tired of the survivors. I don't want to see another interview with that arrogant jerk Richard. I don't want to see another UPN television show with that lazy Gervase. Although, more Jenna and Colleen would be OK. So, the video needed something special to draw us in, but only gives us Richard's naked antics without the benefit of censorship and digital distortion of his nudity.
The two and a half-hour video is a test of strength and will just like spending 39 days on the island. If you can watch it all the way through, you deserve a million dollars. I wish the main feature included interviews with producer Mark Burnett and host Jeff Probst to give us their impressions of this project before and after all the media hype. I almost missed these interviews because they were hidden at the end of the tape AFTER the closing credits of the main feature. It was the best part of the video and contains all the behind-the-scenes info you want!
I wish the video had Probst introduce different segments to help hold it together instead of free flowing from scene to scene. Most of all, I wish the video didn't spend so much time on the lesser known survivors who were voted off the island early in the trip. If this video is designed to get me excited about Survivor II, it failed. It just reminded me how much fun and how special the first one was before all the hype. Grade: D-
New on Video for the Weekend of
Autumn in New York
Ladies and gentlemen, we have entered the dark days. All the good films were released on video during the holiday season in an attempt to separate you from your money. Of course, you want to buy Chicken Run as a Christmas present for your kids! Of course, you want to rent The Perfect Storm to watch with the gang after a huge holiday meal! Unfortunately, this leads to a feast or famine cycle of video releases. Now, we must fondly remember those salad days of a new, exciting release every week, and forge through the muck to find a diamond in the rough.
Did I do it? Did I find that little gem that has never been discovered? Maybe Autumn in New York was not as bad as all those critics said last September when it premiered? Maybe I can find the beauty in this misunderstood masterpiece? Maybe I can bring great joy to video renters everywhere? Nope.
Richard "he never had a leading lady who was born before the Nixon administration" Gere stars as Will Keane, a 48-year old confirmed, flirtatious bachelor. He's got one girlfriend, Lynn (Jill " I can't believe she left Law and Order for this piece of #!@#" Hennessey), but it's not very serious. He's also got couple of others, but they are not around much. One fateful night, he spies the lovely, vivacious, fun-loving, 22-year old Charlotte (Winona "for God's sake she is almost thirty but keeps playing college gals and teenagers" Ryder). Of course, he decides to pursue her as a new notch in the bedpost. However, he gets more than he bargained for when he falls in love with her.
Can Charlotte and Will make it? What surprising and sad facts will our hero discover about his new love?
I watched this video so you wouldn't have to. Charlotte and Will are two entirely unlikable characters who deserve each other so the rest of us aren't subject to their idiocy. The audience doesn't have one reason to believe these two dolts would fall for each other, have a hot and heavy love for each other or actually give a damn about each other when confronted with a horrible crisis. The script is full of soap opera-like twists and turns that seem extremely silly and neither actor puts in a performance that should be saved on celluloid for future acting students or fans. DON'T RENT THIS MOVIE!!!!!! Yes, I laughed, but this is a drama. Even when they are heaving hot, passionate sex, I laughed. It was funny. Not a good sign. Grade: F
The Hollow Man
Kevin Bacon stars as a scientist who has discovered a way to make himself invisible, then goes nuts! That sounds like a funny, Saturday night, "I can't get to sleep, so I'll watch this silly film" movie.
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Small Time Crooks
Woody Allen stars as a small time crook who dreams of one big score that will allow him to retire. He gets the old gang together (Jon Lovitz, Michael Rappaport, Tony Darrow) and cooks up a scheme to rob a local bank. However, the plan requires his wife, played by Tracey Ullman, and his friends to start a phony cookie shop, so they can tunnel from the basement into the bank vault.
Will they be able to rob the bank? Can they fool the cops?
Woody Allen retuns to his roots with this kooky caper movie, however, he strays from the amazing plot of the first half hour and wanders down another plot path that is not as satisfying and entertaining. The supporting cast of Rappaport, Darrow, and Lovitz is fabulously hilarious, but horribly underused, while Hugh Grant shows up and stinks up the place. Ullman carries most of the movie, with Allen playing the yin to her yang. Unfortunately, Allen strays from his best plot to surprise us with a half-baked story that disappoints. Grade: C+
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He's one bad mutha-(Shut your mouth!) Unfortunately, it's also one bad movie.
Ever since I read that Samuel L. Jackson was going to play Shaft, I have been looking forward to this movie with great anticipation. However, the 2000 version of Shaft is full of the right attitude and style, but does not enough of a good script and plot.
In this flick, John Shaft (Jackson), nephew of the legendary Shaft (Richard Roundtree), is a New York City detective called in to investigate the beating of a young black man outside a local club. All the evidence and a witness point to a hate crime perpetrated by the rich, white snob, Walter Wade (Christian Bale). However, Daddy's money and a high priced lawyer get him sprung from jail on bail.
Will Shaft bring this creep to justice? Can Shaft keep the witness safe so she can testify?
One the surface, it sounds like a good movie. However, the plot is full of unexplainable actions and holes that you can drive a truck through. Why does the rich snob return from Europe two years after fleeing the country and getting away with murder? Why does the witness have to be protected when there is so much DNA, fingerprint and blood evidence at the scene? How come writer/director John Singleton sets up an interesting story line involving the victim's mother, but never fleshes it out?
Jackson is fantastic as our hero. He has the right swagger, the right devil-may-care-attitude and the right moral outrage at the system. Unfortunately, his amazing performance is wasted. Others who put in great, wasted performances include Richard Roundtree as Uncle Shaft, who is still the coolest man on the planet. Bale is good as the contemptible brat and Vanessa Williams holds up her end of the movie as Shaft's partner.
I hope they make a sequel with a better plot. Grade: C-
Keenan Ivory Wayans directs this comedic spoof of the Scream movies written by his brothers Shawn and Marlon. A new genre has been born - Satires of Satires. Do we really need it?
Fun Fact: Scream was originally titled Scary Movie. The name was changed before it was released in 1996.
New on Video for the Weekend of
Gone in 60 Seconds
Invasion of the summer movies continues, but now we are down to the bottom of the barrel.
Nicolas Cage stars in this action/adventure/comedy/drama/time-waster as a legendary car thief who's out of the business. However, every time he tries to get out, they pull him back in (see Godfather III if you don't get the reference).
His dimwitted brother, played by Giovanni Ribisi, has gotten into the car stealing game, but he brings down the heat when screws up a simple heist that is part of a big time theft ring. Now, the bad dude/mafia like leader of the gang wants him dead for blowing it. However, Nicolas Cage is given the opportunity to save his brother's life if he finished the job himself. He must steal 50 top flight, luxury cars in 4 days. Of course, Cage knows that he must do it in 24 hours to avoid getting nabbed by the cops.
Can he pull off the job and save his brother?
Whenever you describe a film as an action/adventure/comedy/drama you gotta know that the film has issues. Issues like, developing an appropriate tone that will entertain the viewers instead of repulse them. The film's biggest problem is the lack of a consistent tone. It starts off as a strong drama, but suddenly wants to be a car chase filled with snappy one liners. Unfortunately, this dissonance makes it hard for us to like. The villains are too tough to be silly. Cage and his gang are too funny to be viewed as professional thieves. Worst of all, we don't learn anything about their past to convince us that they are any good.
Ribisi puts in a good performance as the oafish brother, but it would work better if the film was a straight comedy. Angelina Jolie shows up for a few minutes, but doesn't have the huge role one would expect of a character featured so prominently in the movie's ad campaign. Unfortunately, Cage seems to fall into some sort of Keanu-Reeves-monotone and doesn't take the character into any interesting emotional places. Overall, rent something else this weekend. Grade: D (there are some cool looking cars, so I have to give it some credit)
Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps
Eddie Murphy is back as Professor Klump. This time, he has a secret formula to restore youth, but he must hide it from his evil alter ego, Buddy Love.
New on Video for the Weekend of
Remember how much you liked the baseball movie Major League, about that rag tag group of underdogs that unites to play their way into the playoffs against all odds? Rent that one this weekend instead of The Replacements.
Inspired by the 1987 NFL players' strike, this movie is about a fictional football team, the Washington Sentinels (although the film was made in Baltimore and PSINet Stadium), that replaces all of its striking players with a group of nobodies, has-beens and never will be's. Failed quarterback Shane Falco (Keanu Reaves) is recruited by Coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman), even though he has a history of failing under pressure. McGinty also finds a group of wild, but talented players to surround him with. They may lack talent, they may face adversity, but they've got heart.
Can the Sentinels unite to win some games and get into the playoffs? Will Falco get his courage back? Does anyone care? How much did John Madden and Pat Summerall get paid to appear in this? Was it enough to make them feel better about selling out?
This movie stinks. How do I hate thee, let me count the ways. First, how many times do we need to see the same tired, predictable plot where a group of misfits overcomes its shortcomings and wins as a team? Every character is one-dimensional and their actions are predictable. Second, what is with all the unexplained facts? Why do they need to recruit a new cheerleading team? Are the regular cheerleaders proud to wear the union label and refuse to cross the picket line? Did writer Vince McKewin have some great cheerleader jokes and decided to add them into the mix? How come they are bringing Coach McGinty out of retirement? Is the regular coach also a union man? C'mon!!!!!!!! Is Gene Hackman THAT needy for work? And how much did the Rolling Stones get for having their songs ripped off and used in this film?
Keanu gives his normal monotonous performance as the quarterback who acts the same when flirting with a woman, dealing with his fears or enjoying the company of his fellow teammates. Hackman does well, but has little material and even less inspiration. Everyone else is over-the-top psychotic and silly. There are a few laughs in this dog, but they're not worth the wait. Grade: D-
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