New on Video for the Weekend of
You're just asking for trouble when you name the movie Flawless. The title begs the reviewer to point out every flaw just to mock the title. However, I will try to resist.
Flawless is a movie with two fantastic performances, but too many sub-plots. Robert De Niro stars as retired security guard Walter Koontz - a traditional New York tough guy like Archie Bunker. He hates the many prostitutes and cross-dressers who live in his building, but tries to ignore them. When a group of bad guys comes looking for stolen drug money, Koontz suffers a stroke trying to break up the robbery. He is partially paralyzed and loses his ability to speak.
Struggling with day-to-day life, he falls into a deep depression. Walter's only chance at regaining his speech is to seek the help of a voice therapist, Rusty (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), the cross-dresser across the hall.
Can this odd couple help each other? Will they gain a better understanding of each other's lives and problems?
It is easy to marvel at De Niro's ability to become the character. You would believe he truly had a stroke if you ran into him on the street, but Hoffman was the big surprise in this film. He has the difficult task of convincing the audience to care for a character we aren't predisposed to liking. Hoffman creates a confused, caring and troubled character that you come to understand better as the film progresses.
The film is a good, albeit strange, buddy picture. The movie shines when De Niro and Hoffman are able to interact in private during the therapy sessions, but it lost my interest with the misplaced sub-plot about stolen drug money. Director Joel Schumacher should have focused more on our two lead characters and got rid of the extraneous material. Grade: B-
What is Fight Club? Is it a grandiose statement about the repression of working class males in modern America? Is it a mind-blowing trip that seems to be fueled by illicit substances? Or is it a heaping pile of bologna? I'll take the easy way out by saying it is a little of all three.
Edward Norton stars as a working class guy who hates his boring, humdrum life. He suffers from insomnia and finds solace by observing the pain of others in support groups. He becomes a support group junkie who spends seven days a week going to AA meetings, cancer survivor groups and other places where people feel real emotion - something he longs for. He meets up with a fellow support group junkie who has a sick interest in death, Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), who drives him to seek another outlet for his rage and confusion.
Soon, he is hanging out with Tyler (Brad Pitt), an anarchist soap salesman with a love of violence. They start Fight Club, a place where young angry men join together to beat each other to a bloody pulp and fulfill some strange primal urges to be the kind of men they want to be. In real life, they remind you of the former frat brothers you see everyday in sports bars taking a game of pool or football too seriously because their lives are so pathetic that they need any kind of escape that can be found.
When Marlena ends up fooling around with Tyler, will Fight Club continue? Will it get out of hand?
Tyler becomes a messiah for these young, misdirected men, but has he simply found a new way to oppress them? That is the paradox in this dark, dreary world. Have the members of Fight Club simply substituted one oppression for another?
Brad Pitt is fantastic as the brooding leader with an agenda he refuses to share with the rest of the group. I have seen many great performances from Pitt and think that he will be mentioned in the same breath as Paul Newman when he grows old and loses his looks. Norton capably fills the role of an ordinary man in the middle of an extraordinary situation. However, you have to buy into the mood and the premise for the movie to work. Frankly, this isn't your father's movie. It is a daring examination of man's inner fear and what happens when man just won't take it anymore. You might think it is blown out of proportion or created from nothing that resembles real life. It depends on your point of view.
The ending will shock you, but I found it to be a letdown after sitting through 2 ½ hours. This is one for the daring. Grade: B-
Music of the Heart
Meryl Streep stars as a teacher using the power of music to save the children of an inner city school from a life of crime and hopelessness.
New on Video for the Weekend of
You know I like the little films that nobody has seen before, and this one fits the bill. Loren Dean stars as Doc Mumford, a mysterious man who has become Mumford Falls' leading psychologist in 4 short months. There's just one problem - he doesn't follow any of the rules that bind most psychologists. His treatments are unorthodox, he doesn't respect doctor-patient confidentiality and it appears he is in love with one of his patients, Sophie (played by the marvelous and beautiful Hope Davis, I can't blame him for falling for her).
Will the town finally find out his secret?
This is another film that could be categorized as easy viewing. The characters are cute and funny. The story moves along predictably, but is enjoyable. Davis is fantastic as the depressed/chronically fatigued woman who falls for Doc Mumford. She plays the sadsack in a non-offensive, likable way. I especially like the fact that she seems to have sculpted her body to match that of her character. At the beginning of the film, she is pale and a little overweight like someone who has been sitting around the house for a few months. As the movie progresses, she gets fit and regains color in her face. Take that Robert De Niro!
Jason Lee, best known for his work with Kevin Smith, really steals the show. He plays a computer genius who employs the entire town, but can't find someone special to fill the void in his lonely life. Lee comes off like a geeky, but lovable version of Bill Gates. The character is very predictable, but he is so enthusiastic and happy that it catches on.
My biggest complaint about the film is Loren Dean, who seems to lack a
personality. He only has one good sequence, the big scene where he reveals
the truth, which is also the best part of the film. Writer/director Lawrence
Kasdan is able to tell Doc Mumford's life story in quick, but fact-filled
five-minute flashback. I wish the rest of the film was as daring and creative.
Still one worth the money.
Boys Don't Cry
Like Tumbleweeds, this is the film that most Oscar watchers missed. A small, true story indie flick with limited release, Boys Don't Cry has gained a great deal of critical support without much box office revenue.
Hillary Swank, a refugee from Beverly Hills 90210 and The Next Karate Kid, is amazing as the female posing as a male, Brandon Teena. Brandon, originally from Lincoln, Nebraska, has been troubled throughout her life with a gender identity crisis. She wants to be a man and acts out in destructive ways. Trying to avoid going to jail for stealing a car in Lincoln, Brandon gets very drunk and tags along with a new gang to a small town 70 miles away. While there, she falls in love with Lana (Chloe Sevigny).
Will Brandon's new friends discover that she is not a boy? Will her past catch up with her?
Swank won this year's Oscar for best female lead and deserves a great deal of praise for such a difficult role. The film is not a feel good movie. Playing one of the most tragic roles in recent memory, Swank, a beautiful woman, transforms into a clumsy, good old boy. It is very obvious that she won the Oscar for her performance in the last 1/3 of the film, which I won't reveal, but is amazing for its impact and frightening for its realism.
Chloe Sevigny deserves major kudos for her role as Brandon's love interest. A lost soul, she latches onto Brandon and seems to ignore all the signs that she is a he.
This film is not for anyone who is frightened by violence and turned off by touchy subjects. However, it is a gritty drama that will make you feel compassion for a person you normally wouldn't dedicate five minutes of thought to. Grade: A-
A movie about a talking mouse who is adopted by human beings is just creepy. Picking Geena Davis to play the Mom is just wrong.
End of Days
Arnold Schwarzenegger takes on the Devil (Gabriel Byrne) at the turn of the century and, possibly, the beginning of the apocalypse. My money is on Arnold.
Chris O'Donnell needs to find a wife within 24 hours in order to inherit millions of dollars. Heck, most women will marry him for free. Throw in a few bucks and try to avoid the stampede.
New on Video for the Weekend of
This movie should have been nominated for an Oscar.
Set in March 1991, right at the end of the Gulf War, American troops are in full celebration mode even though they haven't faced any real action. While accepting the surrender of Iraqi soldiers, Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) and Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) find a treasure map that, supposedly, leads to gold Saddam Hussein stole from Kuwait. The guys and their buddy, Chief Elgin (Ice Cube), decide not to report the map to their commanding officer, but the rumor is spreading throughout camp. One soldier who finds out is Major Archie Gates (George Clooney), an Army Special Forces soldier with just two weeks to go until retirement.
Gates decides to team up with the guys, and they set out on a mission to take the gold for themselves. Along the way, they learn about thousands of Iraqi dissidents who think America is going to help them overthrow Saddam, but, instead, are suffering his wrath.
Will the guys find the gold? Can they stand by as Iraqi soldiers put down the uprising?
Writer/Director David O. Russell, best known for the comedy Flirting With Disaster, extensively researched America's involvement in the Gulf War to create Three Kings. Along the way, he met Sergeant Major Jim Parker, a Special Forces officer with experience from Vietnam, El Salvador, and the Gulf War, who served as a consultant on the film and as the inspiration for Archie Gates. He explained the feelings of helplessness many of the Gulf War soldiers felt while Hussein cracked down on dissident factions.
"I saw a full U.S. Army colonel in tears one night because he was born to be a good guy and soldier, and he was standing with all his weaponry, while right across a river he was watching this incredible slaughter of Iraqi civilians by their own army. And there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it because official policy said 'The war is over. Our job is done here,'" Parker said on the film's official web site.
He also explained that the film's plot is not far from fact. "When I was stationed in Vietnam," said Parker, "I felt entitled to go home with something to show for my dedication. Five guys and I knew about this six-ton gold Buddha, and we decided to steal it. While we were transporting it on a five-ton wrecker, it broke free, and we lost it off a bridge in the Perfume River." Although he made a large contribution to the film, Parker never saw the finished product. Sadly, he passed away during production.
Clooney gives a solid performance, but Wahlberg and Jonze steal the show
because we have never seen them act this well. Wahlberg is fantastic as the
typical American soldier who believes he is there for all the right reasons,
but starts to wonder as he learns more about the war. Spike Jonze, best known
for directing Being John Malkovich, shines as a country boy who has an
over-romanticized view of war. During the film, he faces the harsh reality
of armed conflict.
Three to Tango
Continuing our "Three" theme, this film stars Matthew Perry as an architect who falls in love with his client's wife (Neve Campbell). Unfortunately, she thinks he is a homosexual
Molly Shannon brings her Saturday Night Live character, Mary Katherine Gallagher, to life in this latest attempt by a SNL cast member to cash in on one of their creations. After the failure of Coneheads and Night at the Roxbury, you think they would stop.
Steve Zahn and Jeremy Northam star as ex-cons mistaken for costumers of small-town beauty pageant.
Russell Crowe stars as Jeffrey Wigand, a real life tobacco executive who risked his career and maybe his life by blowing the whistle on the industry. Al Pacino plays the 60 Minutes producer who has to fight the network when CBS, allegedly, wants to cut the story. CBS and Mike Wallace argue that this movie was not factually correct, but it didn't stop the film from being nominated for a best picture Oscar.
New on Video for the Weekend of
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
I am not a big fan of prequels. We already know all we need to know about the characters. Writers and directors never count on a sequel or prequel, so they fully develop characters in the first film, leaving little mystery as we move forward. This is the case with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
In this installment, two mysterious Jedi Knights, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) are called to mediate a trade dispute. Along the way, they run across a secret Jedi Knight splinter group intent on destroying the Knights and a young boy, Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who seems to be the messiah.
As a fan, I liked the film, but not everyone is a fan. While Liam Neeson is fantastic as the mentor to McGregor and Lloyd, the rest of the cast is just average. The special effects are amazing on the big screen, but don't impress much on the small screen. Also, where is the DVD version? Seems like George Lucas wants to milk the franchise for all it is worth by holding out on a DVD version for a little while. If you missed it in the theater, you missed the magic and spectacle that made this film a summer blockbuster. Grade: B for fans, Grade: D+ for the rest of the video renting public.
For Love of the Game
Kevin Costner stars as an aging baseball pitcher who is throwing a no-hitter. While the game progresses, he starts to reflect on his life.
Mila Jovovich, who can't act to save her life, stars as Joan of Arc.
New on Video for the Weekend of
The Sixth Sense
Home video has its up and down sides. On the upside, you can catch films that you never had a chance to see in the movie theater. On the down side, you probably know all the secrets and surprises of a blockbuster film like The Sixth Sense. However, DVD offers the home viewer something new and additional information about how the movie came into being.
Haley Joel Osment stars as a young boy who everyone feels is mentally and emotionally disturbed. Everyone except Bruce Willis, a child psychologist dedicated to helping the young boy. When the kid tells Willis that "[he] sees dead people", will Bruce be able to help.
Realizing that millions of people have already seen the film (because it is a fantastic movie), Buena Vista, the film's distributor, has loaded the DVD version with plenty of goodies. With the ability to hod much more information than a video tape, DVD often offers special enhancements including interviews with the director and stars, cut footage, alternate endings and "making of" features. The Sixth Sense DVD, in addition to far superior sound and video quality, is full of these extra features. It makes for a pleasurable viewing experience even if you have seen the movie several times. Grade: A (For the film and DVD quality)
Crazy in Alabama
Directed by husband Antonio Banderas, this film features Melanie Griffith as a crazy southern woman who hopes to make it in Hollywood.
The Omega Code
Casper Van Diem stars as a man who must obtain a secret code based on the Old Testament to stop the end of the world.
New on Video for the Weekend of
Millions of movie lovers across the world will be gathered in front of their television sets this Sunday night to see who wins a coveted Oscar. However, the more interesting battle will be waged Saturday afternoon on the Santa Monica Beach when the Independent Film Project awards the Independent Spirit Awards.
In 1980, the Independent Film Project was established by a group of indie producers and directors to promote these smaller films. Soon after, they started to increase awareness and support for the independent film movement through the Independent Spirit Awards. Now, the Independent Spirit Awards have become the anti-establishment answer to the Oscars.
Since it is has more nominations than any other film, this week's best new release, The Limey, is poised to have a big night Saturday. Terrence Stamp, nominated for best actor, stars as Wilson, a mysterious Englishman out for revenge. Although he had a strained relationship with his daughter, he is distraught about her questionable death. Not convinced that her death was accidental, Wilson sets out to get the truth from the man he blames, a slick record producer named Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda). Is Valentine responsible for her death? What is Wilson running from?
This is the third Steven Soderbergh film I have promoted on the site, so you are probably getting the idea that I think he is one of the best directors in the business. In this follow up to Out of Sight, Soderbergh shows his mastery. He is able to combine flashback sequences and current action to flesh out a simple story of revenge. The flashback sequences serve to give the history of each character without slowing down the action and even advancing the plot line. Soderbergh, nominated for best director and best film at the Independent Spirit awards, will deservedly walk away with the big prizes.
Stamp is fascinating as the dangerous man with a single intent in life - revenge. For a guy in his fifties, he is the most intimidating character to grace the screen in many years. Joining him is one of Hollywood's leading rebels, Peter Fonda. A leading independent filmmaker since Easy Rider in the late sixties, Fonda has re-emerged as a fantastic actor in this film and Ulee's Gold, a movie that earned him an Oscar nomination a few years back. I'm sure his father would be proud. Grade: A
Jakob The Liar
Unfortunately for Robin Williams, this film will always be known as his futile attempt to capture the magic and heartbreaking tenderness of Life is Beautiful. Williams stars as a Jewish concentration camp prisoner who tells stories and lies about the war to inspire his fellow inmates to keep hope that the Nazis will be defeated.
Pokemon: The First Movie
Have you ever read a more ominous and threatening title? Yes, there will be another one. If you are five years old, watch as Ash and friends must defeat the super-Pokémon, Mewtwo.
New on Video for the Weekend of
Many years before Rhode Island's Peter and Bobby Farrelly created the smash comedy hit There's Something About Mary, Peter wrote a novel about his teenage years, growing up in the 70's and trying to survive puberty. His own life provided the inspiration and his creative mind added the rest.
The novel was soon forgotten and relegated to bargain bookstores, where it was found by fellow Rhode Island native and director Michael Corrente, best known for the gritty dramas American Buffalo and Federal Hill. "I bought Farrelly's novel for a buck at a used bookshop," says Corrente on the movie's official web site. "I started reading it and I went bananas. I started hollering because it was one of the funniest things I'd ever read. And immediately I thought, I am going to make it into a movie."
Shawn Hatosy stars as Tim "Dunph" Dunphy, a 70's stoner who has exhausted his single father's (Alec Baldwin) patience. After crashing into a parked police car while under the influence, Dunph is sent hundreds of miles away to Cornwall Preparatory School, where he runs afoul of the Dorm Master, Funderburke (Tim Crowe) and falls in love with Jane (Amy Smart). Is it true love with Jane? Will Dunph be able to stay out of trouble?
The film starts off in traditional Farrelly form, even though Corrente controlled the project as Director and head writer. Hatosy is a likable kid who seems to find trouble even when he is not looking for it, but Corrente tries to stuff in too many serious plotlines, when he realizes half way through the movie that the mood and characters have been established, but they lack some compelling crisis or challenge. Unfortunately, Corrente aims for serious problems instead of keeping true to the comedic beginning. All of the sudden, Dunph is confronting his father over his mother's death and the gang is in deep trouble with Funderburke. I would have preferred a silly romp, instead of the quick change of mood. The movie is not without its fill of laughs, so you might enjoy some of it, if you are not bothered by the Cheech and Chong-like humor about drug use. Grade: C+
The Bone Collector
Angelina Jolie is a cop who stumbles across clues being left behind by a serial killer. She gets the chance to investigate the crime when Denzel Washington, a quadriplegic detective, uses her as his eyes and ears through some fancy high tech equipment.
Drive Me Crazy
Melissa Joan Hart, forever known to prepubescent girls and lonely college guys as Sabrina the Teenage Witch, stars in this teen comedy about a young lady who schemes with her next door neighbor, Adrian Grenier, to pose as lovers to drive the objects of their affection crazy. However, the ruse becomes more real for them than they might be ready to handle.
New on Video for the Weekend of
Eyes Wide Shut
If you ever wanted to see Nicole Kidman naked, this is the movie for you. However, Eyes Wide Shut didn't satisfy my artistic interest. It didn't even satisfy my prurient interest.
The real life husband and wife team of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star as a married couple whose love life seems to have gone stale. They wind up in a heated, drug induced argument, where Kidman reveals to Cruise that, despite what he thinks, women have a much wilder sexual appetite than he realizes, especially her. Driven crazy by his wife's admission of longing for a stranger, Cruise can't shake images of her having sex with the man. He sets out into the Manhattan night seeking trouble, and does he ever find it.
Cruise stumbles across a weird sex party (Can I say orgy on the Internet?). Before he knows what is going on, he is in too deep and in extreme danger. Will he be able to get out alive? What will happen to his family, marriage and friends?
Having trouble following my explanation? That's because Stanley Kubrick and co-screenwriter Frederic Raphael have created a directionless, plotless film that meanders around for an hour and a half, seems to stumble across an interesting story, but quickly abandons it , thereby dashing the audience's hope for a suspenseful ending. Then, it wanders along for yet another pointless hour. The film is as dead as Kubrick.
Cruise is interesting as the average guy who finds himself in extraordinary situations, but his performance suffers when teamed with Kidman. I get the impression Kubrick creates scenes for her because she is a big star, but most of these scenes don't contribute to moving the plot along. Cut her out, add some more suspense and you might have a good film. Unfortunately, Kubrick, while a master, seems to have struck out with his last work. Grade: D
After my disappointment with Eyes Wide Shut, I thought this film would have to be better. I was only slightly correct.
Luke Wilson stars as our hero, Andy. He has lost his girlfriend to a slacker grunge rocker, and she has taken Andy's beloved dog with her. Lonely, Andy still hangs out at the local dog park, a singles bar for the nineties, where the neighborhood residents walk their dogs and get to know each other. All seems lost for Andy, until he meets Lorna (Natasha "The Chick From Species" Henstridge).
She is also lonely, but doesn't want to take a chance at love even though Andy seems to be a pretty great guy. Even though they end up dating other people, will true love bring them together?
Writer/director Bruce McCulloch (you might remember him from The Kids in the Hall) tries too hard with the film. Instead of focusing on the simple, but compelling plot between Andy and Lorna, McCulloch inserts too many subplots and characters, therefore, confusing the audience and weighing down the film with his attempts at creating Seinfeldian catch phrases. He gives himself a role as Jeff, the boyfriend of Jerry (Janeane Garofalo), who seems to have the best relationship. However, audiences know to always beware of the couple that seems to have the perfect relationship. Thrown in a few kooky boyfriends and girlfriends and you have a big mush of a film.
The movie isn't without some redeeming qualities. Harland Williams makes
a hilarious appearance as Cal, Lorna's date from hell. Also joining in the
madness is fellow Kids in the Hall vet Mark McKinney, who lights up the screen
as a strange dog psychiatrist. If McCulloch had focused on the relationship
between Lorna and Andy, the film could have been better, but he seems to
be driven by the idea that they shouldn't be together. In a romantic comedy,
the fun is watching our two heroes try, fail, try, fail and maybe succeed
at love. McCulloch should remember this when he writes his next film.
New on Video for the weekend of
The Best Man
Taye Diggs is the next big thing in Hollywood. Talented and good-looking, he has everything that makes you a star in the movie business.
In this film, Diggs stars as Harper, an author whose book about his college exploits has been chosen for the Oprah Winfrey book club. This will ensure the book's success, and he is starting prepare for fame and fortune. His girlfriend is talking about marriage, which scares the commitment-phobic writer. Lucky for him, he has to travel to New York to serve as the best man in his friend's wedding.
In New York, he has to face all of his friends - who don't believe his claims that the book is mostly fiction, his old flame - whose passion is ignited by her portrayal in the book, and the groom - who doesn't know Harper fooled around with the bride while in college.
Will the marriage take place? Is Harper in too deep? Will he get back together with his old flame?
Malcolm Lee has created a good screenplay. It's a realistic look at what happens as we grow older and reflect on the good old days with our friends. Like real life, each character faces regrets and mistakes, which must be confronted. The film has a slow start, but it finds its footing and voice about a half hour in. Once it gets rolling, it is an excellent film.
The performances are fantastic. Diggs is great as the man who knows he has opened a Pandora's Box. He desperately tries to hide the truth, but can only succeed when he faces it. Nia Long does a good job as the workaholic TV producer who regrets not taking her chance with Harper when opportunity presented itself. Morris Chestnut emerges as the big star in his role as the groom who used to be a wild playboy, but has found God and the perfect woman. He shines as his character starts suspecting there is some strange reason Harper is trying to keep the book away from him. Try something a little different this weekend and you will be pleasantly surprised. Grade: B
Harrison Ford plays a detective whose wife dies in a plane crash. That's bad enough, but it turns out his wife might have been having an affair with the husband of a New Hampshire Congresswoman played by Kristin Scott Thomas. Ford uses his detective skills to get to the bottom of things, but Thomas doesn't want word of the affair to ruin her re-election campaign or her daughter's image of her dead father. Of course, Ford and Thomas fall in love.
Patricia Arquette stars as an atheist who starts bleeding from the hands like Jesus Christ - a phenomenon known as Stigmata. She becomes possessed and threatens to reveal truths so dangerous that the church is trying to stop her.
An Extremely Goofy Movie
Goofy's son, Max, is off to college, but Dad is not far behind. Will Goofy ruin all the fun for his son?
Copyright 2000 - WaffleMovies.com