Sunday, February 22, 2004

A Look into My Crystal Ball...(Oscars 2004)

BEST PICTURE

***Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Lost in Translation

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Mystic River

Seabiscuit

LOTR: ROTK will take home the "Best Picture" award, making it the first, third part of a trilogy to take home the Oscar. Lost in Translation is the only film that stands a chance up against Jackson’s gem—the other three can already be x-ed off of the list. I loved Lost in Translation, but unfortunately for Miss Coppola, there will be no upset here; it is hard to deny the outstanding cinematic achievement of the final chapter of one of the greatest trilogies of all time.



BEST DIRECTOR

Fernando Meirelles, City of God

***Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation

Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Clint Eastwood, Mystic River


Again, Jackson and his superb feature reign over all. If the LOTR final installment hadn’t been released this year, Lost in Translation would have picked up two more of the more important statues (director and picture). Both Coppola and Eastwood deserve to be on this list, but in all actuality, there is no contest.



BEST ACTOR

Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Ben Kingsley, House of Sand and Fog

Jude Law, Cold Mountain

***Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

Sean Penn, Mystic River

I think Sean Penn’s emotional tough-guy portrayal is undoubtedly deserving of merit. However, despite Penn’s work, I am going with my gut and say Bill Murray will triumph and give yet another acceptance speech (his first was after winning the Golden Globe). I think Sean Penn should win, but I think Bill Murray will win, and honestly either way I will agree the Academy’s selection. Murray plays his career-defining role, and will most likely never reach this caliber of acting majesty again. Penn is one of the greatest current actors available in all of cinema, alongside Johnny Depp, who also surprisingly but deservingly happens to be on this list. Penn will have many more chances over the next few years to win; I don’t believe that he has reached the pinnacle of his career just yet, and the same can go for the versatile Depp. Just for fun, I’m predicting Depp to win in the future for his role in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (remember you heard it hear first), but for this year, I think the gray-bearded Bill will take home his first.



BEST ACTRESS

Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider

Diane Keaton, Something's Gotta Give

Samantha Morton, In America

Charlize Theron, Monster

***Naomi Watts, 21 Grams

Naomi Watts is absolutely incredible in 21 Grams. Her character is as emotional as one can imagine, and she plays the part with unrelenting talent. I have heard all of the hubbub surrounding Miss “Thair-own”, as Nicholson pronounces it, and her role in Monster, but I have yet to see it. Watts is beyond deserving, but if Theron wins, as she is favored to do so, I won’t understand the selection until I am able to compare it to Naomi’s must see performance. I’m pulling for the upset. By the way where is Scarlett?



BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Alec Baldwin, The Cooler

Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams

Djimon Hounsou, In America

***Tim Robbins, Mystic River

Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai

This category is a toss-up. I think Tim Robbins will win, but I would like to honestly see any of the other four take home the award. I would rather see Watanabe’s picture-making performance, Baldwin’s career-defining tough-guy role, or Del Toro’s Jesus-loving perfect portrayal, win over Robbins. Nonetheless my prediction stands with Tim winning and Susan crying like a baby for her husband.




BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

***Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog

Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April

Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River

Holly Hunter, thirteen

Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain

Step right up; pick an actress any actress. Anyone can take home this one. I would have personally chose Scarlett Johannson for supporting Murray, or the extremely charming Alison Lohman for skillfully playing a 14-year-old girl at age 24, in support of Nicholas Cage, but neither one are even nominated. I really could care less who wins this one. I really don’t think Renee will win, due to Cold Mountain being a little less liked by the Academy than presumed, and I really don’t understand why Marcia Gay Harden is even on this list. She did have a few good scenes in Mystic River, but nothing close to even nominee-worthy in my opinion. So in light of my nominees being absent, I will go with the foreign favorite in Shohreh Aghdashloo.



BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Denys Arcand, The Barbarian Invasions

Steven Knight, Dirty Pretty Things

Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds, Finding Nemo

Jim Sheridan & Naomi Sheridan & Kirsten Sheridan, In America

***Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation


Finally a chance for Sofia to win one, because Peter Jackson cannot be found in this category. No one deserves this more than Sofia Coppola; she is genius daughter of a genius father. While some say she made have gotten a little help from her family on making this film, I say kudos to Miss Coppola for creating a flawless screenplay with an intriguing original idea.



BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

***Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman, American Splendor

Braulio Mantovani, City of God

Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Brian Helgeland, Mystic River

Gary Ross, Seabiscuit


American Splendor is a marvel of an adaptation. It spans the life and times of Harvey Pekar so skillfully and with such creativity. It is the most original adapted screenplay and the best adaptation. LOTR: ROTK is not entirely true to its text. Even though the trilogy is one of the most faithful book-to-screen adaptations, the ending of this feature changes and is not as true to the text as its predecessors. Mystic River was greatly adapted to screen as well, and you won’t see me pouting or up-in-arms if it wins. However, American Splendor will win the marbles in this category.



As for some others awards, here are my predictions with no commentary needed:

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Finding Nemo

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The Barbarian Invasions

MAKEUP: LOTR: ROTK

MUSIC SONG: Into the West: LOTR: ROTK

VISUAL EFFECTS: LOTR: ROTK


Otherwise, enjoy this year's awards, and check back for an analysis of all of the winners and losers.

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004

Friday, February 20, 2004

Movie Review: 12 Monkeys

United States, 1995
Running Time: 2:09
Rated: R (Violence, profanity, nudity)
Cast: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer, David Morse

Director: Terry Gilliam
Producer: Charles Roven
Screenplay: David Peoples and Janet Peoples, inspired by the film La Jetee
Music: Paul Buckmaster
Studio: Universal Pictures

Inspired by the 1962 short film entitled, La Jetee (The Runway), 12 Monkeys is a well-constructed, intelligent feature with both a bright basis and an emotional-gratifying climax. 12 Monkeys blends elements of drama, action, science-fiction, dark comedy and love all together to create a puzzle with many grandiose components whose effects are idyllic. Some claim that this movie is a dizzying mess that is difficult to classify as a film; however, 12 Monkeys is a perplexing joyride that keeps you paying attention, working your brain, and sitting on the edge of your seat.

The year is 2035. The United States has fallen into a post-industrial depression and depletion stage. In 1997, five billion people died from a virus, and the 1% of the entire Earth’s population who survived, fled underground to avoid the plague. While the humans fled, the viral-immune animals seized the above-ground world. Now, the remaining scientists of the underground Earth continually send “volunteers” to the surface to collect observations, research, and any living organisms that could possibly lead to finding a cure for the malignant virus. The best observers are launched back into time to help lead them to the origin of the deadly virus, which will then, in turn, help them to preserve the nature of the present world.

Bruce Willis finally escapes his cliché John McClain character here by playing James Cole, one of the men who is chosen to be sent back in time to help save the world. The character of Cole becomes incapable of deciphering between his own sanity and madness, his own sense of reality and fantasy, and his own ability to distinguish what is the past and what is the present. His scary and loony character is sometimes also seen as being heartfelt, making for an excellent lead played by an excellent actor. Brad Pitt is also exceptional is his supporting role as the crazy man, Jeffrey Gomes. His lazy-eyed manic character, with a John Henson skunk spot and all, is well-played and was well-deserving of the 1995 Oscar nomination he received.

Director Terry Gilliam (who was previously involved with such feats as all of the Monty Python productions, Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Fisher King) becomes more of a “Hollywood” director with this film, being that it is one of his most widely-viewed and well-received features. It is hard not to exclaim, after viewing this film, that Gilliam is a cinematic genius whose thoughts, when put to screen, are impeccably astounding.

This highly recommended picture juggles all kinds of profound themes and includes all kinds of keeper quotes in a science fiction format that is guaranteed to please everyone. Overall, this film is immensely entertaining and well worth two hours and nine minutes of your time. The film’s flaws are trivial; the positives greatly outweigh any petty discrepancies. 12 Monkeys creates an overall notion that warrants both of my opposable thumbs to be raised. (***1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Movie Review: Lost in Translation

United States, 2003
U.S. Release Date: 9/12/03 (limited); 9/19/03 (wider)
Running Time: 1:42
Rated: R (Profanity, mature themes, brief nudity)
Cast: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris

Director: Sofia Coppola
Producers: Ross Katz, Sofia Coppola
Screenplay: Sofia Coppola
Music: Kevin Shields, Brian Reitzell
Studio: Focus Features


Posted by Hello
Sofia Coppola’s sophomore motion-picture is a film worth hailing. The plot is so simple, yet so utterly captivating at the same time. Every aspect of the movie is truly worth applauding; be it the soundtrack, the tremendous lead performances (Murray in particular), the consummate cinematography, the wonderfully written screenplay, or the stellar direction, Lost in Translation is an instant classic that will inspire a desire to experience the intense art and emotion again and again.

Lost in Translation depictss the story of two strangers in a strange land, who feel alone and who are each in great need a comforting companion. The film proves that short-lived relationships can have life-long impacts.

Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is a fading U.S. actor, who travels to Tokyo to complete a photo shoot and a commercial for a Japanese brand of whiskey called Suntory. While feeling “lost” in this foreign land, Bob desires to feel something real and to make the best of his time in Japan. To kill his unhappiness and loneliness, he heads to the bar to sip on his favorite whiskey. “For relaxing times, make it Suntory times."

While in the bar, Bob meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a recent Yale graduate, who is unsure if she married the right man and who is stuck in one of life's ruts. Bob and Charlotte quickly relate to each other and develop a friendship. Before they know it, they are spending virtually every second together--building their friendship. However, they both know that their time together will soon have to cease.

The connection between Bob and Charlotte is the film’s core, and the actors’ portrayals of these characters escalate the film to an absolutely top-notch endeavor. Murray plays his career-defining role, and Scarlett Johansson, who complements Murray perfectly, gets to show off both her pretty looks and her huge potential as one of Hollywood’s rising stars.

Sofia Coppola has simply made her father proud, and with this feature, maybe even a little jealous. From now on, when people see or hear her name associated with a production, she will already have their attention and most likely their box-office support. With this feature, her writing and directing are both superb.

Even though the film does require some patience towards the beginning, in no way is it a bore to behold. Several key scenes will surely stay with you for weeks, including the conversation observed through the reflection of the windowpane, the comforting pillow talk, and the perfectly-executed and poignant climax. All of these sequences, along with the overall fantastical and warming aura that the picture emits, combine to create a masterpiece that should be a part of every movie buff's DVD collection.

On the cover of Lost in Translation’s Focus Feature DVD, it reads, “Over 80 four-star rave reviews!”, and unsurprisingly, it has gained yet another one. Without hesitation, I give this film my highest recommendation. (**** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004

Monday, February 16, 2004

Movie Review: 25th Hour

United States, 2002
U.S. Release Date: 12/19/02 (limited)
Running Time: 2:14
Rated: R (Profanity, sexual situations)
Cast: Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox

Director: Spike Lee
Producers: Tobey Maguire, Julia Chasman, Spike Lee, Jon Kilik
Screenplay: David Benioff, based on his novel
Music: Terence Blanchard
Studio: Touchstone Pictures


Posted by Hello
Can't Spike Lee just get a real name? His actual first name is Sherman, so why can’t he just use that? Spike Lee is the same moron who tried to sue the new TNN for attempting to use the name "Spike TV" for their newly remodeled and reformatted TV channel— as if "Spike TV" would foil the oh holy Spike Lee's image! Does he think he is the only allowable person/thing to bear the almighty name of Spike? Give me a break. When I was a kid, I had a neighbor with a dachshund named Spike. Are we going to start suing wiener dogs too, Mr. Lee? And, while I’m on a roll here, what is this, "A Spike Lee Joint" crap? Can't he just say, "Directed by Spike Lee," like every other normal director? Maybe he smoked a joint while in charge of the direction of this film; for me, that is the only logical explanation.

The main character, Monty Brogan (played by Edward Norton) only has 24 hours to live his life as a free man. After his final day is up, he is off to the big house for a seven year sentence for drug possession. The film chronologically takes you through Monty's last 24 hours of freedom, and at the end, during his 25th hour, he has to make one of three choices: he can flee, commit suicide, or serve out his sentence.

If you are looking for action, search elsewhere, because the only action in this is a nicely-done fist fight between Ed Norton and Barry Pepper and a scene where the Ukrainian Mob beats up on Tony Siragusa--that is right, the former star of the Baltimore Ravens, a.k.a. "The Goose."

The limited pluses in this movie are Anna Paquin's top-notch performance, a marvelous view of Ground Zero, Monty's shouting spree in the mirror, and a hilarious quote about Victoria's Secret. Other than that, 25th Hour is an average screenplay directed by one of Hollywood’s most over-rated. While it has its positives, in all actuality, 25th Hour doesn’t offer too much at all. If this was a freshman film, by an unheard of director, it is likely that no distributor would even pick this one up.

Throughout the film, you can easily sense the desperation in the protagonist’s character, but not anymore than your own for the movie to be over. If I was in Monty’s situation, I could literally think of 1,000 better things to do with my final 24 hours, and I could also think of an equal amount of things to do during the two-hour-and-fourteen-minute running-time.

Try again Sherman; while this one may pay for your courtside seats at The Garden, it isn’t going to earn you anymore respect in the movie business. Do the Right Thing it is not; a second-rate attempt of a film with great actors, but without a climax or conclusion, it is. (** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Movie Review: Seabiscuit

United States, 2003
U.S. Release Date: 7/25/03
Running Time: 2:25
Rated: PG-13 (Mature themes, sexual situations)
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Tobey Maguire, William H. Macy, Elizabeth Banks, Gary Stevens

Director: Gary Ross
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Gary Ross, Jane Sindell
Screenplay: Gary Ross, based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand
Music: Randy Newman
Studio: Universal Pictures


Posted by Hello
Seabiscuit is a good, heartwarming, and emotional human interest story, but it has very little action to occupy the viewer’s attention. To quote an accompanying viewer, “It was kind of boring and just about a horse.” With a two hour and twenty-five minute running time, boredom can easily occur—that is, if a slow and informative picture does not appeal to you.

If Seabiscuit was not based on a true story, viewers would be displeased with the timing, arrangement, and anticlimactic ending. The film moves way too fast, because the filmmakers pack a lot of happenings into such a short amount of time. Also, this picture isn’t oriented too well for a fidgety audience—as the beginning is more like a slow PBS documentary, rather than a drama that gradually applies character development and a plot with intensity.

The film does a superb job with its depiction of The Great Depression, the correlation between the horse, jockey, and owner hitting rock bottom just as the stock market did, and with its showing of how when all of those involved with Seabiscuit began to display a winning spirit and happiness, so did the American people. However, factually this film is slightly inaccurate; it incorrectly depicts, or even omits in some cases, several of the horse’s historical happenings.

For example, the film shows Seabiscuit easily race to the lead in the final furlong of the last race from about twenty lengths off the pace— when in reality he actually advanced from second place to win, not from dead last. However, in Hollywood, things like this must be dramatized for effect leaving the audience better able to grasp the Rocky-esque work-hard-for-the-comeback feeling that is so inevitably desired in almost all sports films these days. Also, the keen eye can observe slight differences in Seabiscuit, for it isn’t one horse playing the racing legend, but, in fact, ten different horses—some having distinct coloration and size differences. But again, multiple animal actors are just another "necessary evil." In addition, the closing sequence is borderline irksome. It just ends without filling everyone in on any of the team member’s lives, including the horse.

If there are viewers who don’t know the factual story that takes place after the credits role, here goes...

By ending the film where the movie splendidly shows the triumph and success of the heavy underdogs in a very inspirational way, the filmmakers played it safe. If they would continue on with the characters’ life stories, the movie would take a negative turn, which would obviously not fit the movie’s uplifting Americana goals.

After all of the success depicted in the film, the jockey, Red Pollard (played by Tobey Maguire), went on to retire and never ride again resorting to a life of being both a valet-parking attendant and a boot cleaner, up until his death at the age of 71. And as for Seabiscuit, he died premature at the age of 14 (horses normally live well into their twenties and sometimes into their thirties) after eventually fading out of the horse-racing business altogether. It is sad how Hollywood can show only the positive portions of the story and leave out the true story downers all for dramatic effect.

Moreover, the director tries to burn the fact into every viewer’s mind that there are parallels between Pollard and Seabiscuit, and he does it to the point of overkill to establish the link between the two. For instance, he pans from jockey to horse, jockey to horse, jockey to horse, and jockey to horse, on two separate occasions to blatantly stress this fact. One, while Seabiscuit and Red are becoming fiery and fighting everyone around them, and the other when they both possess striking cast similarities. Gary Ross, the director, could have been a lot more subtle here instead of going back and forth and back and forth making sure that even the incompetent can make the connection between horse and man. After a frame or two, everyone “gets” the point.

Seabiscuit is nowhere near being one of 2003's best pictures, as many claimed it to be. However, in the same breath, it isn't altogether worthy of a whipping.

Superb acting from both Jeff Bridges (in a strikingly similar role he played in Tucker) as Charles Howard and the always amazing Chris Cooper as Tom Smith, keep this film alive all the way through the final turn. In addition, Tobey Maguire as Red Pollard (the unexpected jockey choice) and William H. Macy as Tick-Tock McGlaughlin (who practically steals every scene he is in) both provide for a duo of excellent portrayals. In addition, it is a pleasant surprise to find performances from real-life members of the current horse-racing community in Gary Stevens, Chris McCarron, and Frank Mirahinadi the caller voice of Louisana Downs.

In truth, there are three conditions to see Seabiscuit. One: if you are an avid horse-racing fan who sees all of the Triple Crown races (The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness, and The Belmont); Two: if you are interested in well-told human-interest stories; And three: if you are unfamiliar with the racing world, this in-depth horse-racing movie will opening your eyes to a somewhat dwindling sport.

Upon exiting the theater aftering viewing Seabiscuit, some were overly teary-eyed and some even wept with intense emotion. Seabiscuit is one of those motion-pictures that grab you by the heart; likewise, it shows you how a horse with gumption helped to guide America through troubling times and put it back on its feet. (*** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004

Saturday, February 14, 2004

More Reviews: Quick Commentaries (A-Z)

The following reviews are listed in alphabetical order. These reviews were completed before I began to write full-length commentaries, so these quick commentaries will provide you with a portion of my opinion on each film. I feel that these short reviews, which were written early on in my critiquing career, do not do my reviewing justice; so here they will sit, on the "More Reviews..." page--that is until I get around to formatting and revising/redoing each and everyone of them. Enjoy!!


About Schmidt:
Out of this film, I expected a some slivers of comedy, or at least dark comedy, but the comedic aspects of this film feel forced and sometimes uncomfortable, which creates an overall awkward, sad, and depressing aura. About Schmidt does not feed off of follies, but rather its own melancholy nature.

The newly retired Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) does not know what to do with himself. Now that Warren is no longer a member of the workforce, he is searching for the meaning in his life and is unsure that he has made an impact in the lives of others. Warren simply does not want to die feeling as though he did not make a difference in another person's life. Therefore, in an attempt to find solace within himself, Warren adopts a young Tanzanian boy named Ndugu.

During the beginning of this movie, I was reminded of the great comedy classic, Groundhog Day, with both the rolling over of the old-fashioned clock digits, and with the lay-out of Warren's room. I was just waiting for the Sonny and Cher tune, "I Got You Babe" to start playing in the room that highly resembles Bill Murray's hotel. However, About Schimdt is much more glum than the riotous Groundhog Day.

Beyond its downhearted tone, About Schimdt is one of the first portrayals of the average sixty-six year old retired man who is quiet, lonesome, and unsure about his life. In films these days, it is very unique and rare to have a serious movie about the retired and elderly. Nonetheless, About Schmidt goes for originality and comes up fairly entertaining.

Although this film is equipped with a few nicely-done scenes, it really should only be recommended for Jack Nicholson's performance; his character with a bed-headed comb-over and blatant blank stares, was definitely worth his Oscar nomination. Kathy Bates, who was also nominated for an Academy Award, shows her daring sexual confidence in this film by stripping down completely--barely hiding a square inch of skin for the audience.

About Schmidt is undoubtedly a film where its lengthy running time is felt; the picture is filled with a lot of stares and silence. However, the blankness and quietness that the film emits helps to create the overall gloomy and dreary tone; so, in a way, the extra time spent on the stoicism is warranted.

Despite its overall dreariness, About Schmidt happily ends with a smile (possibly the only one throughout the entire film). However, whether or not you will share the same grin - as an overall positive approval of this different, but average film - is uncertain. (**1/2 out of ****)



Adaptation:
Adaptation is a film that can be summed in two simple words: shear brilliance. It is one of those off-the-wall artsy films that just suck in fans of the type; it is a film to admire from start to finish; it is one of those movies where I can find no flaws, but only observe the work of art laid before me.

The story starts out about nothing, there is no climax sensed, no new important occurrences, it is just about orchids and a guy trying to grasp their beauty. Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is attempting to adapt Susan Orlean's book "The Orchid Thief" and turn it into a sound screenplay. That, happens to be exactly what Charlie Kaufman (the actual screenwriter for Adaptation) did. He wrote himself into the screenplay, and by doing so, he has to deal with his twin brother (non-existent in real life) Donald Kaufman (Nicholas Cage) who tries to tell Charlie to take the easy route and write an unoriginal formulaic script. Charlie strives for a movie - based on the text of Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep), which is in turn based on the man John Luroch (Chris Cooper) - that breaks all boundaries and does not abide by the rules, but somehow Charlie can't seem to avoid all of the cinematic elements that get through his way.

Ironies occur when the film takes a spin into territory that Kauffman does not want to charter into when his screenplay becomes the movie, but it is beyond enjoyable to watch the screenwriter struggle with writing the very movie that we are watching. Did I lose you? Don't worry I'm not giving away any twists or ruining the movie to any potential viewers. It may sound confusing in word, but believe me, on screen Adaptation is an ingenious tour de force.

This movie about writing a movie about orchids turns into so much more--a powerful message to all in this world of how to find your self, and how to just be happy and content no matter what. Adaptation is hands down the most brilliantly unique film since Memento and the best picture of 2003. (**** out of ****)



American Beauty:
American Beauty is simply flawless. Everything aspect of this movie could not have been executed better (except for maybe Mena Suvari-- for some reason I just cannot stand this girl's ability as an actress or her looks). American Beauty is hilarious and intelligent, perverse but yet riveting--a fresh story with great plot, dialogue, and acting; overall a brilliant work of cinema that takes a look at the depths of the average seemingly-ordinary suburban family.

This film deserved its five Academy Awards in 1999 including Best Picture and Best Actor (Kevin Spacey), for his wonderful portrayal of a guy opening up and enjoying life. I highly recommend this film to all; if you have two hours to sit down and watch a movie, and you have any type of media to play this movie on, this is a film you must see for a truly thought-provoking experience and a heaping portion of engaging entertainment. (**** out of ****)



Anger Management:
Alas, Adam Sandler returns to his good days of humor. After Mr. Deeds, Punch-Drunk Love, and the animated Eight Crazy Nights, no one knew what to expect next. Now, with the release of Anger Management, we all can see Sandler is back to his glory days of shouting stupidly and throwing temper tantrums--although, here they are mildly managed.

Sandler is joined by a fine actor in Jack Nicholson; Nicholson plays Adam's anger management "coach", so to speak, but ironically, Nicholson's character seems to be the one who could really use the therapy. Sandler's character really didn't do anything to deserve the treatment he receives from the wild crazy-haired therapist, and there in lies the plot.

Nicholson and Sandler, one on-screen couple I thought I would never see, combines to create several instances of laughter throughout. Joining these two are an endless list of talented actors including: Lynne Thigpen (R.I.P 2003), John Turturro, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Neeley, Rudy Guliani, John McEnroe, John C. Reilly, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Bobby Knight, Woody Harrelson (in both the male and female version) and Heather Graham (the chocolate cupcake porker).

Yes, Anger Management is funny, but it also becomes a little too cliché for an average audience. Sadly, Hollywood had to take its toll on this film by incorporating a love story into the comedy. I suppose you have to attempt to please everyone, but the romance the film employs is downright unnecessary. Nonetheless, the picture will still satisfy all of the fans of Sandler's typical humor.

In addition to its inane romance, Anger Management is unnerving because of its seemingly blatant theft of the Analyze This/That soundtrack--two features that use the songs of Maria and Tony from West Side Story in a comedic sense. Strangely, the music during the end credits of Anger Management is the same end credits tune taken from Analyze This, and the whole "I Feel Pretty" West Side Story singing thing was taken directly from Analyze That.

Anger Management is funny at points, but my recommendation is to wait for it to hit the rental shelves. If you come across it, it is worth the $4.23 for a couple to rent for an enjoyable evening (if you have nothing else to do), but not the $15 (or thereabouts) for a couple to view at the theater. (** out of ****)



Being John Malkovich:
Being John Malkovich is very different from any other film out there. Charlie Kaufman's screenplay is beyond eccentric, yet it makes for an extremely intelligent comedy, as well as an off-the-wall artsy flick. Puppeteering, identity, and sex are all wonderfully woven into this weird and wooing work. Strong convincing characters, played by actors who look completely different in this film than any of their others include: John Cusack (with long hair and a beard), Cameron Diaz (with dreadfully unattractive frizzy hair), and John Malkovich (playing himself). This first attempt for Kaufman is not as good his second gift of Adaptation, but I still highly recommended this tasty treat. (***1/2 out of ****)


Black Hawk Down:

From Braveheart, Platoon, and Saving Private Ryan, to Enemy at the Gates, The Patriot, and The Deer Hunter, there are many fast-paced, gritty, and wonderfully made war movies--and Black Hawk Down is no different. It's interesting and suspenseful throughout its entire two-and-one-half-hour running time.

Black Hawk Down is a heartrending war story set in 1993 Somalia that is based on the book of the same title by Mark Bowden. It tells the true story of a Black Hawk helicopter full of U.S. troops plummeting to the ground. After the chopper crashes, a battalion of fellow soldiers try to reach the crash sight in order to salvage their surviving brothers--or at least their dead bodies. Many lives are lost during the effort, as it becomes a war between a handful of soldiers versus the entire city.

Black Hawk Down's cast is mainly compiled from either Armageddon or Pearl Harbor--due to it being a Jerry Bruckheimer production. However, they all serve well in their respective parts. Josh Hartnett and Orlando Bloom conjure up the films most notable performances.

Considering this film is of the warfare variety, it is just as graphic as one would expect. The operation scene, where an artery is attempted to be clamped back into place, is surely a scene that will cause the ladies and/or squeamish gentlemen to turn away. Nonetheless, the picture depicts war honestly and does not hold back the slightest bit. The film is accurately filled with images of severed arms, fountaining blood, and spilled intestines. While Black Hawk Down's violent combat and horrific chaos are stunning, the overall feature is intriguing and captivating. (*** out of ****)


Blow:

Adapted from Bruce Porter's book, the screenplay for Blow is both intelligent and enthralling. It tells the true story of George Jung's (pronounced like Young) life as a cocaine drug lord during the 60's, 70's and 80's. Blow is an expertly concocted film that will surely stay with you in the long run.

Like Mark Bowden's book entitled "Doctor Dealer", Blow shares a similar main plot of the rise and fall of an All-American boy who became the leader of a cocaine empire. Not many films these days venture into topics of drug-dealing from the dealer's perspective, but Blow dives deep into cocaine (a.k.a. blow)--the white party powder of the intellectuals. Its true-story subject matter is attention-grabbing and striking to see played out in a cinematic format.

Blow begins its tale with the preachy lessons of George's dad (Ray Liotta) with Johnny Depp doing the voiceovers for his younger self. This is very similar to the flashback style of Goodfellas, in which Ray Liotta provides the narration for his very own earlier years. The film then follows George (Johnny Depp) through his times of buying and selling marijuana, going to jail, and later spiraling himself into being the largest cocaine supplier for the United States by providing about 85% of the U.S.'s coke.

Johnny Depp brilliantly portrays George Jung with an on-the-money Boston accent, and both the sleek and sexy Penelope Cruz and the long-haired long-nosed Paul Reubens (formerly Pee-Wee Herman) also add tremendous acting to the picture. Ethan Suplee, who formerly starred as the big, but subtle, Max from the television show "Boy Meets World", is also a pleasant part of the stellar cast.

Blow's clothes, fashions, cars, music, and hairstyles all accurately fit the times. The cinematography is marvelous, and the soundtrack, with the inclusion of Manfred Mann's Earth Band's "Blinded by the Light", is a nice touch. Also adding charisma to the film is Bobcat Goldthwaite (formerly Zed, the short guy with the squealy shaky voice, from Police Academy); his short scene at the in-house bar as the tester who is stunned by the Columbian cocaine's 186 degree melting point, is not exactly worthy of an Oscar, but still a nice inclusion.

Because Blow does not show the users' of George Jung's distributed cocaine lives getting turned upside-down, we can feel sympathetic as an audience. The calm and collective Mr. Jung is seen as an honest human being and not a demonized drug lord who just simply buys, sells, and distributes plants and powder to his addicted consumers. Oddly enough, he works as a protagonist.

The crux of the story does not focus on drugs and the wheeling an dealing (although it does give us a pleasing glimpse), but rather the relationships between George and his father and George and his daughter. By the film's end, George not only loses his high profile and highly profitable cocaine business, but also his love and respect from his parents and kin--producing a powerful and emotional ending. All in all, Blow is a great story, and with its numerous brilliant acting performances, it is an overall fantastic film that will surely blow you away. (***1/2 out of ****)


Blue Thunder (1982):

Blue Thunder is a military-owned, ultimate ground-support helicopter, equipped with cameras, guns, infrared, night vision, whisper mode, and you name it. The chopper is tested by the finest pilot in the area, Murphy (played by Shieder, who also plays the lead in Jaws). After a series of test-runs, Murphy is then joined by the rookie to the force named Lymangood (Daniel Stern). Together these two find out the secret about Blue Thunder, and discover that there is a conspiracy in the mix.

In general, Blue Thunder is one crazy ride down the ever-so popular road of unrealistic action . The film's techno/electronic score, coupled with both the persistent action and the lines, "Feeling any pressure?", "Only 15 lbs per square inch at sea level.", provide the film's only upside. Overall, the police response time in this movie is insanely improbable and some feats accomplished by the chopper are absolutely impossible--making this picture a highly impractical film that barely has enough juice to keep it off of the ground. (* out of ****)


Bringing Down the House:

Thanks to good acting and interactions by Steve Martin, Eugene Levy, and Queen Latifah, Bringing Down the House stays afloat. There are some good one-liners to be found, especially from Betty White's character and her racial commentaries, but in the grand scheme of things, Steve Martin dressing up in the Enyce wear and getting freaky with the "homegirls," is definitely the film's big payoff. Overall, Bringing Down the House is mildly enjoyable and only worth a handful of laughs. (** out of ****)


Catch Me If You Can:

This film, inspired by true events, displays the criminal life of Frank Abagnale Jr., who is played by Leonardo DiCaprio; Leo is absolutely the perfect candidate for this role because he brings such charm and energy to the screen. This somewhat comical manhunt movie is something different and offbeat for Spielberg considering some of his past works were Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, and his two newest sci-fi/action films Artificial Intelligence and Minority Report. This shows how versatile the powerful director really is by exploring so many different genres and succeeded in them all. Along with powerful direction, this film possesses an amazing score. John Williams is truly a genius--this guy wrote the scores for countless movies some of which include: Back to the Future, Batman, Home Alone, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Terminator 2, E.T., and Braveheart, and F.Y.I., John Williams even has a contract with Nintendo and he is one who wrote all the Super Mario themes and all the Zelda themes among others! Every one of Williams' scores is a household tune that can be instantly hummed upon request by the average Joe. The opening cartoon-like credits, equip with the jazzy grove and handclaps, is one of the most memorable since Signs--albeit Signs' music was written by James Newton Howard and not John Williams. Christopher Walken has a much smaller part than expected and I really don't see how he got his Academy Award nomination for this one, but Leo and Tom Hanks, with their New York almost Boston-sounding accents are flawless in form. This movie is fun and enjoyable, and hey, at the same time you learn the historic story, that most people never heard, of the young man who cashed millions upon millions of dollars worth of forged checks all before the age of 19. (*** out of ****)



Jerry Seinfeld's Comedian:

After retiring all of his old material taken from both his sit-com and his standup, which was featured on his I'm Telling You for the Last Time HBO special, Jerry Seinfeld is now coming back into the comedy scene with a whole new bag of jokes. This movie is filmed in a documentary style almost like that of MTV's The Real World. Cameras follow Seinfeld to various comedy clubs all over the nation, and the audience, being you the viewer, observes how his jokes become bits and how his act goes from being five minutes in length to a full hour in length. This film also chronicles the up-and-coming Orny Adams, a thirty-year-old comedian who is trying to make things happen for himself. Orny is the cockiest man you will ever see—I would enjoy him as a comedian, but the way he talks about nothing but striving to be a big name and having people notice his face, it is as if he is so caught up in this greedy popularity race that he is stuck in the mentality of the biggest drama queen who is still in high school. Seinfeld, who is definitely one of the funniest men alive, is great in this one alongside several cameos from Jay Leno, Colin Quinn, Robert Klein, Chris Rock, Bill Cosby, and Ray Romano. It is enjoyable to see Seinfeld get nervous before he goes on stage and then react after his act. However, you don’t get to hear more than 5 minutes, at most, of his act; most of the hour and twenty minutes of the film is following him around and hearing his and other’s opinions about the performance. I chuckled a few times and really only actually laughed maybe three or four times and the thing I enjoyed most about the film were the camera angles and the awesome, sassy jazz soundtrack. If you are thinking about becoming a stand-up comedian, this is the film for you. Otherwise, you can rent his I’m Telling You for the Last Time HBO special, or even buy it for that matter, and skip this one. (*1/2 out of ****)


Darkness Falls:

An old tale about the tooth fairy inspires this horror flick. It is said that if you peek at the tooth fairy, when she comes to take your final baby-tooth out from under your pillow, she will be forced to kill you after you glance at her porcelain face. But the tooth fairy has a kryptonite, with that being light. As long as you stay in the light, you will survive and escape your death by means of tooth fairy. So, in this movie, light is everything--the difference between life and death. This film is Pitch Black meets a cheap horror premise. I am tired of all of these non-intelligent formulaic horror films that may give you a jolt here or there, with the combination of something popping out and a load noise, and nothing more. And you know this film has to fit the formula with the killer getting a second-wind just when you think she is dead. This picture takes an elevator scene directly from the much more enjoyable, Speed. The most suspenseful scene was not even in the movie, only part of the deleted scenes. With the tooth fairy being the killer, this movie is only good to give children scares, screams, and nightmares, and it's only good to give me nightmares of the thought of never seeing a decent horror movie again. (*1/2 out of ****)


The Deer Hunter (1978):

This film is about a group of friends, who are all steel workers in Clairton, PA—three of these friends get sent off to fight for their country in Vietnam. After rousing in a crazy bachelor bar party, with the pals loudly singing, throwing back a few Rolling Rocks, and playing some pool, they then move on to an absolutely wild wedding and reception. This partying would be the last for the army-bound men (Deniro, Walken, and Savage) in a long while, before they left behind their love and friends (a very young Meryll Streep and the late John Cazale who happened to die of bone cancer right after filming the movie and while he was dating co-star Meryll Streep). The flash forward from the soft classical piano melody played in the bar, right to the action in Vietnam was wonderful and engaging to the viewer--it strapped you right in ready for the war scenes that would follow. The Russian roulette with the hand-gun scenes will definitely stick with you--for me they provided one of the most memorable sequences in all of cinema. There was also a great helicopter rescue scene in which Deniro and Savage did all the stunts themselves, including the tremendous thirty-foot fall back into the river, which they did 15 separate times in order to get the shot. I think this is one of the best performances, if not the best, from Robert Deniro, then Robert De Niro (notice the space)--he was flawless as the deer hunter with beard and hat and as the soldier with strapping metals and beret. Christopher Walken also portrayed a brilliant part and earned himself an Oscar with his break-out role. This film, being perfect in direction, earned 5 Oscars, including the Best Picture of 1978. It tells the story of courage, brotherhood, and friendship, and how it endures over extreme stress and hardship. This picture obviously displays that when you combine tremendous actors with tremendous talent, you get a truly tremendous movie. (**** out of ****)


Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988):

A remake of the 1963 film entitled, “Bedtime Story”, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels brings style to the genre of comedy. Two con-artists, named Lawrence Jamison (Michael Caine) and Freddy Benson (Steve Martin), are out to extract money from the rich folk in the town of Beaumont-sur-Mer, set on the French Rivera. When it becomes apparent the town is not big enough for the two of them, it then becomes a battle of trying to top each other, so only the strongest con-man will prevail and be able to claim the wealthy-filled town as his own territory to cover. Director Frank Oz, who also directed Little Shop of Horrors with Steve Martin, selected the ultimate dynamic duo of comedic performers to play the dueling rivals of Jamison and Benson; Oz used the suave, sophisticated, and articulate Michael Caine for verbal comedy and the hilarious faces, tones, and motions of Steve Martin for the physical comedy. Glenne Headley joins the two boisterous boys in by far her best role on the big-screen. There is an absolutely side-splitting scene where Steve Martin is playing Michael Caine's character's younger and much slower brother Ruprecht--when he stabs himself in the eye patch covered eye with the corked fork and then goes to the bathroom all while still sitting at the dinner table. This is an uproarious and well-made stylish comedy that brings a twist to the ending, which isn't so unpredictable, but fits perfectly and makes the overall picture one that is amusing and enjoyable. (**1/2 out of ****)


8 Mile:

This movie greatly depicts the urban decay of Detroit, the poverty of trailer park life, and the struggle of a white male attempting to make it in the African American dominated sport of rapping. Not a great performance by Eminem, but it was tolerable and certainly better than some of the past music artists that tried out acting. There was a lot of poor camera sequencing and shots throughout the film. For example, when Eminem (B-Rabbit) jumps off the roof of the burning house, this was the worst action shot I have seen in a long while. Overall, I was displeased with the cinematography in several places throughout the films duration. On the other hand, the final "battle sequence" was great and could not have been done better. I must give props to Marshall, for his rhymin' skillz are off the hizzook. He deserved to win awards for his "Lose Yourself" song, but an Oscar? I don't know about that. All in all this was not a very pleasing experience. I did not enjoy the movie as a whole, and it wasn't as good as I expected. At the same time, there were a few parts that weren't completely unsatisfying. (**1/2 out of ****)


Finding Forrester:

This is the second movie (the first was "Diner") I had to review for our inspirational "Finding Yourself" section of my English class--kind of ironic with the similarities between the title of my current class section and the title of the movie. This film is a very well-rounded wonderfully made drama movie. From racism, basketball, and plagiarism, to life's everyday lessons and writer's block, and from critical thinking and devotion, to integrity and heart, this film covers it all skillfully and stylistically with emotion and class. A wonderful cast, made up of the always heart-warming but yet boastful Sean Connery, the new-comer Rob Brown (Jamal), and even the rapper Busta Rhymes. I must say, curse words can not sound any more manly and commanding, coming from anywhere else other than the lips of the Scottish Sir, Sean Connery--he always adds a charismatic sense to every film he chooses to star in. Some small tidbits I enjoyed from the film were the reference to the Baltimore Ravens, the quirkiness but truth of the inside-out sock hypothesis, the 2 comma kids line, how Forrester's books needed to be perfectly pushed in at all times, and the stand-off/challenge between Jamal and Professor Crawford. I also enjoyed the quote, "Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head." It was also good to see Matt Damon return to help out director Gus Van Sant after the initial success of Good Will Hunting. There was also a lot of symbolism with the window in this movie; it was Forrester's nick-name, and it was his only reason to go outside (to keep them clean). In fact, the last camera sequence goes out the window and observes Jamal playing basketball for one last time--almost as if it was William Forrester's spirit smiling down on him from behind the lens. Finding Forrester is a powerful movie about writing and finding yourself, and I recommend that you take the time to find Finding Forrester on your local rental shelf. (*** out of ****)


Finding Nemo:

After Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, and Monster's Inc., comes the newest motion picture from Pixar, and the absolute best of the five, in my opinion, Finding Nemo; notice this title continues the pattern of consisting of three words or less--this way the little ones will easily remember the short and sweet name of the movie. I must first say, that I enjoyed the pre-feature presentation entertainment consisting of a two minute short about a snowman trapped in a snow globe, which was made six years before Toy Story in 1989, and a trailer for the next Pixar/Disney collaboration, full-length feature film entitled The Incredibles--again sticking with the under three word title. After viewing Finding Nemo, and knowing The Incredibles is up next for Pixar, it seems that they are wisely moving towards a goal of entertaining the adult audiences a little more, while still immensely entertaining the young ones as well. Finding Nemo is not only a children's movie, but it is a great movie for a family, a couple, or even a group of adults--no teen/adult should be embarrassed to view this Disney picture without an accompanying child. This film is a heart-warming story about an overprotective and worrisome father, named Marlin, on a journey to find his missing one-and-only son, Nemo. With great voice casting such as Albert Brooks, Ellen Degeneres, and Brad Garrett, a subtle side of adult humor is added into the movie's playful mix. The CGI effects are so astonishing and dazzling, and it is absolutely amazing how each character possesses some of the facial features of the actual actor who provides the voice. I loved the incorporation of the biological terms, used by the teacher, Mr. Ray, such as naming all the pelagic zones and using "super-esophageal ganglion" in a joking context, and I also enjoyed the, "Here's Brucey" spoof taken from The Johnny Carson Show and also from The Shining. Also highly enjoyable for me, was the fact that the fish tank, that contained Nemo, was in a dentist's office--the team of the fish and a pelican determined the different instruments and methods for both the Aussie dentist’s extractions and root canals. Also a treat to find in the movie, is a flash of the Buzz Lightyear doll, from Toy Story, in a frame which shows the toy box sitting in the dentist's office lobby, and don't forget to remain seated after "The End" pops up to see the outcome of Gill, voiced by Willem Dafoe, and friends. Finding Nemo provides the themes: that when everyone works together than can achieve even the most unimaginable goal, and that being different, or having a disability such as a "lucky fin" or a scar, is okay--this encourages children with handicaps or disabilities to reach for the sky, and at the same time, discourages the children who don't have disabilities from making fun of those who do. Finding Nemo is a great adventure story with heart, fun, and the ability to undoubtedly please everyone. In fact, it is even possible for some of the more sappy individuals to well-up with some slightly glazed teary eyes, therefore making the computer-generated liquid on the screen not the only salty water in the theater. (**** out of ****)


Forrest Gump:

Forrest Gump is truly as passionate and as delightful as a movie can get. The film delves into the life of Forrest Gump, a man from Greenbow, Alabama who has an IQ of 75 and who lives a very experienced and heart-felt story. The only thing that remains constant throughout this movie is Forrest’s love for Jenny. We as an audience feel Forrest's strongest emotions for his girl and we sense the chemistry, or AP chemistry as I would like to call it, considering Forrest has such a spark and love for his beautiful, blonde friend. The film greatly shows how Forrest serves as the catalyst for such things as, Elvis's "hip" dancing and the discovery of the Watergate scandal. The film depicts Gump as a soldier, football player, and a shrimp boat captain just to name a few, but no matter what he was, throughout all of his life's journeys, he is seen as lucky, heart-warming, and funny. Gary Sinese, as the legless Lieutenant Dan Taylor, puts up an Oscar-worthy supporting actor role along-side Tom Hanks's Oscar-worthy lead actor role. It is also a treat seeing Haley Joel Osment (from The Sixth Sense) at such a young age, as Forrest Jr. With a film that contains so many memorable lines and scenes that everyone knows, and that has great symbolism in a feather (saying that luck and chance can strike the most unexpected person as long as they never give up and keep persisting on), you are sure to be pleased and touched by a film that is so hypnotic in nature, inspiring, and magical. (**** out of ****)


Ghosts of the Abyss:

This is a 3-D film about the Titanic--a closer look at the Titanic in its current condition sitting on the depths of the ocean floor, after it struck the iceberg 92 years ago. Director of Titanic, the movie that starred Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet--yes that huge money-making masterpiece that was put together in 1997, James Cameron, was in charge of this documentary project and brought one of Titanic's screen stars, Bill Paxton, along for the ride. After strapping on my yellow-framed 3-D glasses, I sunk down into my seat (no pun intended) and enjoyed the 3-D effects. From ropes coming right at you, to machines protruding through the screen, the minimal 3-D features are enjoyable. It was fun being submersed down into the abyss and being taken directly into various parts of the beautiful and monstrous ship. The Blues Brothers Bot rescue was great and I also enjoyed the dramatic and creative thoughts narrated by Paxton. This film was filmed during the September 11th tragedy and it shows the entire crew's melancholy reaction to the terrorism. Ghosts of the Abyss is a very informative and effective film that shows some of the same scenes from Titanic lurking in ghost-like shadows on top of the views of the murky and dark depths of the surface of the ship. The film takes you down into the abyssal zone of the ocean for about an hour--for that is all the film's running time is. You will walk out of the theatre intrigued by the information and the 3-D effects, but you may also have some yawns and a headache after a long hour with those fine-looking yellow spectacles on. (** out of ****)


Goodfellas:

Greatly entertaining. A movie is definitely not a movie unless it is over 2 hours, and this one approaches 3. I felt like this one could have been a little shorter in length, but then again it did cover 30 years in the mafia very well. A cast of Deniro, Liotta, Pesci, Sorvino, and small parts by Samuel L. Jackson and Scorsese's mother, as Pesci's mother, help this to be one of Scorsese's best. I especially loved the narration by Ray Liotta. The camera would stop rolling and you just saw one frame that captured an expression or an event while Liotta kept telling the story through voiceovers--great touch. This film has a great contrasting score of oldies. It was full of violence and bloodshed that was sudden and shocking, but typical and needed. This is definitely one of the greatest mob stories ever told on the big screen. (**** out of ****)


Grease:

The Broadway musical “Grease”, which started in 1972, inspired the musical film adaptation of the same title to the theatres six years later. In a time when there weren’t any outstanding musicals in quite some time, Grease stood out as one that impressed. It is the summer of 1958, and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) unite for a summer fling just before their senior year of high school begins--they end up falling deeply in love with each other. Instead of going back to Sydney, Australia, where Danny thinks she will go, Sandy is forced to change schools and unbeknownst to either of the two, they both are now attending Rydell High School (the same high school that would later be where Britney Spears would shoot her debut music video “Baby One More Time”). Once they realize this, Danny tries to play it cool in front of his fellow T-Bird buddies and comes off as a total jerk. Sandy and Danny then split and go their separate ways, and they then spend the rest of the movie dancing around and singing until they unite again with love in the fun and festive musical finale. After Saturday Night Fever, Travolta puts on his dancing shoes yet again to win over all of the young girl’s hearts with his pearly white charming smile in the first frame as Danny Zuko—girls everywhere flocked to the theatres to pretend as if they were in Sandy’s shoes and Danny was singing and smiling back at them. John Travolta adds a touch of his “Welcome Back Kotter” Vinnie Barbarino character to play Danny, who is as slick as the grease in his hair strutting around from side to side and always playing it cool. Olivia Newton-John stands out as the prim and proper, smooth singing, soft and subtle Sandy, and Stockard Channing, as Rizzo, the brat of the Pink Ladies, plays her character very well. With a special appearance from Frankie Avalon, who is usually seen and heard dancing and singing on the beach with Annette Funicello, singing “Beauty School Drop-Out”, and with the countless other memorable numbers such as “Grease”, “Greased Lightning”, “You’re the One That I Want”, and “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, Grease creates a soundtrack that will continue to sell and that will continue to play in a vast number of American households for decades and decades to come; as for Grease 2, the inferior sequel, I don’t know if I can say the same. Grease is a film that needs to be experienced on DVD, being digitally remastered, rather than on a poor-quality VHS. And honestly, I don’t understand why this film has maintained a PG rating, with it containing a lot of thirty-something-year-olds playing some eighteen-year-olds who use a lot of profanity and display some serious sexual content, but I can definitely say that this highly financially grossing musical movie of all-time, which is not necessarily at great movie but a good one, should be experienced by everyone at least once at some point in their lives. (*** out of ****)


The Great Escape (1963):

“This is a true story. Although the characters are composites of real men, and time and place have been compressed, every detail of the escape is the way it really happened.” This preceding text can be seen on the very first frame of the film—obviously noting that it is a story out to accurately display history’s events. This film, about the escape from a maximum security prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, stars a great cast including the very young looking and barely noticeable James Warner as The Scrounger and James Coburn as The Manufacturer. Rounding out the star-studding cast is Steve McQueen as The “Cooler” King, and Donald Pleasence as The Forger—Donald can distinctively be remembered from his role as Dr. Sam Loomis in all of the Halloween pictures, and maybe even from his role as the President of the United States in Escape From New York. I enjoyed the Tom, Dick, and Harry tunnel-naming, the brotherly cooperation and hard work throughout the entire film’s duration, and the drunken Independence party with the fermented potato moonshine drinks. You can notice hints of this film in several current pictures—in The Shawshank Redemption and Escape From Alcatraz, the digging dirt was disposed of in a similar fashion and also the sense and the desire to escape was prominent, and in the more recent Hart’s War, the film is very close in retelling the Great Escape story with just a slight spin. This film is a great, almost 3 hour, war-time motion picture—the initial escape is only part of the movie; after the flee from the camp, there is so much more of each of the escapee’s journey, trying to get out of Germany, such as various chase scenes, on both vehicle and foot, in the streets and hills of the runaway P.O.W seeking country. Considering the escape is inevitable, as the movie’s title boasts, I can say that 76 prisoners-of-war escape from the heavily guarded camp, and it is interesting and intriguing to see what actually happens to each and every one of them after their crucial getaway. The Great Escape is a radiant film that factually and perfectly captures the historical “great escape”. (*** out of ****)


Grumpy Old Men (1993):

An amusing story between Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathou, (the Odd Couple) that is full of name calling and practical jokes. This film takes place in the blustery cold and snowy Minnesota, but these two grumpy old men are hot for their new neighbor, Ann-Margret. A feud forms between the two old-timers for the charming and sexy new addition to the neighborhood, and their comedic pranks and shenanigans persist. Jack and Walter are a dynamic combo of comedy and entertainment. This film is both funny and heartwarming, and Burgess Meredith is absolutely uproarious as Jack Lemmon's horny father. The end credit outtakes are perhaps the comic highlight of the movie. This film happens to be my mom's most favorite comedy movie of all time. Although I will disagree with her favorite comedy of all-time selection, I did enjoy it and think it was very comical. (*** out of ****)


How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days:

Even though all romance/comedies inevitably end with the couple embracing and realizing that they possess true feelings for each other, this one is a joy to watch the whole way through--it doesn't matter that we know the couple will surely unite by the time the credits role, we just enjoy watching their relationship build. The combined couple of alliteration and assonance, Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) and Benjamin Berry (Matthew McConaughey), begin to date, but two opposing bets are on with each half of the couple--Andie, in order to fill her magazine "How to" article requirement, must lose a guy in 10 days (hence the title), and Ben, in order to land a big diamond advertising campaign, must win a girl's heart over and have her fall in love with him in 10 days (before the campaign party). Their bets combine to make one merry motion-picture that makes all the right moves. The chemistry in the casted couple clicks and sparks fly between the almost star-crossed characters --the bright smiles from the sweet Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, in his same studly Wedding Planner perm look, still buff from his strenuous workout sessions for his past role as Van Sant in Reign of Fire, mix to make an envied and fantastical duo. This film is fun, cute, and charming--perfect for a late night rental for couples in search of good romance and laughs. I enjoyed the incorporation of "Bull Shit"--also a family favorite card game of mine, although, not to the extreme of chalking-up the high scores on the back patio. This film beats its current romance/comedy competition now available to rent, Just Married, ten-fold, but as far as my rating goes, it will not share the same number 10, which I have already mentioned five times throughout this review, and which graces the movie's title, but it comes close and is easily recommended in its category of romance/comedy, where storylines do not matter—as long as we laugh and get caught up in the romantic aspects we are satisfied, and this film does exactly that. (*** out of ****)


The Hunted:

The Hunted begins and ends with a quote from The Bible, but in a hillbilly redneck voice saying, “God said to Abraham, ‘You gotta kill me a son.’” This quoted along with another quote from the movie, “I made him what he is, and I can stop him.” serve as the overall themes for this gory movie, very deserving of the R rating, that really is just an extended chase scene. The film begins in Kosovo in 1999, showing the Serbs pointlessly killing innocent people. American soldier Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro), witnesses all of these brutal killings before making his way into a Serbian palace and completing his mission by very graphically stabbing the leader of the palace—for this attack he is awarded a silver star, one of the highest honors given in the military. Due to the continuous PTS, battle stress, and painful flashbacks from Kosovo, Aaron goes berserk and starts killing hunters for revenge on them hunting animals. But because Aaron cannot be taken in or tried for any crime, due to his top secret military involvement, the only way to stop the insane soldier is by killing him before he kills again, and L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones), the man who trained Hallam to kill in the past, is determined to put a stop to Hallam’s future along with the help of law enforcement. This movie is like Rambo meets The Edge, but more than any movie, I was reminded of the short story, “The Most Dangerous Game”, where a human hunts other humans for sport. I enjoyed the seven stabbing attack taught in training consisting of arm, throat, heart, leg, leg, arm, lung, the well choreographed hand-to-hand combat, Hallam’s tricky hiding spots, and the car chase scene where Hallam pretty much plays bumper cars in the traffic, but more present than the parts I enjoyed from this film, are the parts I disliked. This movie is really just one big chase scene and whenever they find Aaron and have him right in front of them it is like they say, “Wait! Let him jump out that window. We still have 45 minutes left to kill (no pun intended) in this movie, and it can’t end like this, it has to be dramatic and climatic.” So, then it comes down, in the end, to an army knife versus an arrowhead in a fight to the last drop—if Tommy Lee Jones’s character would just carry a decent weapon or even a gun, then the whole process would have been so much easier. There is also a sad attempt at a CGI green screen effect that looks completely fake, when Tommy Lee is falling down the falls, and it also annoys me how much Jones’s character relies on footprints, footprints that probably wouldn’t even be there in the first place. There is also one of the worst camera editing sequences imaginable when Bonham finds the injured white wolf whose front leg had been trapped in a snare—the wolf’s leg goes from being very graphic and completely severed off in one frame, then as Bonham reaches to assist the overly calm wild animal, his leg is only mildly bloody, and then after some moss is applied to the wolf and he is freed, the wolf agilely runs off with four very clean and very white, unhurt, and well-working legs. Furthermore, the retired and old L.T. Bonham shouldn’t even have been able to compete with the young and athletic Aaron Hallam, but somehow he manages. All of this negative criticism combines to make a gruesome blood-bath so graphic that the concession stand or your kitchen probably won’t be getting a visit; the amount of on-screen bloodshed makes it almost of a slasher movie stature, and just like almost every slasher movie, this movie is average, lacking of realism, and only very mildly enjoyable. (** out of ****)


Identity:

With a cast bearing such names as Ray Liotta, John Cusack, Amanda Peet, and John C. McGinley, it is obvious that this film is not your typical slash-‘em-up, shoot-‘em-up, figure-out-the-least-likely-and-goriest-manner-to-kill-‘em motion picture.. And with that holding its truth, I can now finally say that there is a quality-made, respectable slasher movie out there with a real plot--this film combines the genres of slasher/horror and psychological thriller/suspense with style and intellect. The film starts off with clever connected flashbacks, given in somewhat of a reverse chronological order, to display how all of the characters intertwine and eventually end up at the same dark motel in the middle of Nevada. Rain pours, thunder crackles, and someone is picking off the ten characters one-by-one--it is a figure-out-the-killer type of movie, but again, it combines such flair and aptitude that it is in its own category totally separate from all of those cliché horror movies. If you are an astute viewer and you think, you may foresee the twist at the very end, but even if the entire audience isn't shocked by the ending outcome (which I think most will be), no one can ignore the fact that this is an excellent overall screenplay written by Michael Cooney. Identity constantly entertains with several twists, shocks, and scares throughout an action-packed hour and a half, and after you see it, it is sure to stay with you and spark questions and conversation. After I walked out of the theater, I wondered if I enjoyed Identity or not (I disappointingly figured out the killer five minutes into the film, which instantly effected my initial opinion of the film as a whole), but after I sat down and thought about it and broke the movie down, I realized that one cannot disregard that this is a brilliantly pieced-together picture, a true standout in its genre, and an insanely intelligent idea for a movie. Identity makes you think while you enjoy the characters and the killings, and that is why, in my eyes, it is a prize to the collection and one movie that deserves its attention, praise, and respect. (***1/2 out of ****)


The Italian Job:

This movie is a remake of the 1969 title that shares the same name, and although I can not vouch for the quality of the 1969 version, I can say that this film is quite entertaining. An awesome cast was pieced together for this ultimate heist movie including: the clean-cut Marky Mark Walberg as Charlie, the sexy Charlize Theron as Stella, the always comical Seth Green as Lyle, the computer hacker and the real inventor of Napster, the up-and-coming Jason Statham (The Transporter) as the charming speedster Handsome Rob, the sneaky Edward Norton, with some newly acquired facial hair, as Steve the friend turned foe, the elderly Donald Sutherland as John, the safecracker who is the head of the heist in the beginning and the inspiration at the end, and Mos Def as Half Ear the man who knows his explosives—can’t that guy get a real name? I enjoyed the suspense, the thoroughness with the caper plots, and the car chase with the Minis—albeit nothing compares to The Matrix Reloaded’s superb stellar chase sequence. I also enjoyed the acronym for “fine” and the smart dialogue such as: "There are those who steal to enrich their lives, and ones who steal to define their lives." Even though the exact means of the actual stealing of the goods is shown in just about every trailer of the film, The Italian Job is a fun, mildly suspenseful, enjoyable, and enriching heist film that is perfect for any male between the ages of 13 and 30 who is looking for the next action flick to see immediately after The Matrix Reloaded—this film is about the next best thing offered in theatres now after the obvious and X2. If you are looking for something to do with a bunch of guys or even with a date, go out and see this one. Otherwise, if you can think of something better to do than hit the town and spend $8 for the price of admission, then there is no need to rush out and see this one. I was somewhat surprised that there were only 6 people in the entire theater—maybe everyone is just waiting for it to come out on video like you should. (*** out of ****)


The Jerk (1979):

Steve Martin exits the S.N.L. stage to star in his feature film debut, which, to this day, is said to be his best film, bringing his wackiness and facial and physical comedy into this mildly knee-slapping motion picture. ~ How many times recently has an S.N.L. comedian put an absolutely horrible movie together?—to answer my own question, way too often (i.e. Joe Dirt, Corky Romano, A Night at the Roxbury, Superstar, Ladies Man, and Boat Trip). This one shows how much raw talent could be accurately displaced from the once absolutely hilarious but now fading Saturday Night Live—also prevalent in The Blues Brothers, Animal House, and Wayne’s World. Steve Martin has become one of the biggest names to ever come out of S.N.L. and remains as one of the most successful throughout the years by putting out his continuous, comedic, white-haired roles. ~ Starting off his film career, Martin plays Navin Johnson, a man who was raised by a Southern Black family and then unleashed out into the real world to find himself, love (in the beautiful looking and sounding Bernadette Peters, as Marie), and some success along the way—he wants to discover what his “special purpose” is, and establish a name for himself and “be somebody”. The film depicts the rise and fall of Mr. Johnson and his Opti-Grab invention with so much sheer stupidity that we find it funny. The Jerk truly paved the way for more stupid humor to follow, serving as the main inspiration for Dumb and Dumber and its pathetic prequel. In all actuality, this film is an earlier version of Dumb and Dumber, only there is only one moronic main character and not two, so you could say that this film is just “Dumb”. Dumb it may be, but, according to the American Film Institute, a timeless treasure chest of laughs it sure is. The Jerk received so many laughs over the years that it was honored on the AFI’s 100 Laughs list. I would agree that this movie is one of the 100 best comedies, just as the American Film Institute labels it, but it does not nearly deserve enough to make it into my top 100 of all-time list. So, you won’t be seeing any 1’s or 0’s, or the combination of the two digits at the end of this review, but you will see a seven, which serves as both my rating of this chuckle-provoking classic comedy, and also the assumed IQ of Steve Martin’s breakout character, “The Jerk”. (**1/2 out of ****)


Kissing Jessica Stein:

I must say that I am truly sorry for watching this film, and making others watch it with me. When asked what would be a good movie to rent for 6 of my friends and I to watch, sadly I came up with this movie. After hearing good things about it and seeing that my favorite critic put this in his top ten films of 2002, I figured it would be an excellent choice. On the box, it reads: “Delightful and romantic comedy,” and “One of the year’s best,” and “A smart movie about sex and the fun of relationships,” so I figured, hey, for a couple of couples to watch, you can’t go wrong with a romantic comedy that is about sex and relationships, right? Wrong. Little did I know that this movie was a romantic comedy about a lesbian relationship!! Sadly, the gay guys are the only good and funny roles in this entire movie. Why is it that gay men are always portrayed as hilarious? Will & Grace, The Birdcage, and countless others all have their main characters as gay and fruity as possible, and the audience absolutely loves them. Gay women on the other hand are not funny. If these two women were actually hot, then I could see this movie getting some recognition-- for there has always been a natural male attraction to completely straight women trying out lesbianism. But, these women are not hot at all, and there is no nudity whatsoever (unusual in a cheaply made movie that begs for a male crowd). There is some very intelligent dialogue between characters, and it does reveal a positive message to anyone who is struggling with homosexuality. Am I struggling with homosexuality? No. Do I know anyone who is? No. This is why no one has ever heard of this movie. If you are a homosexual (either male or female) or currently miserable with being a heterosexual, then watch this movie for a chuckle or two and maybe some confidence to help you come out. Otherwise, you can skip this movie entirely! (** out of ****)


The Last of the Mohicans:

In 1757, there was an ongoing battle between Europe and France for the outright domination of the continent of North America. This battle, during the colonial French and Indian Wars in the mid-18th century, between the French and European white men, led to the migration west and possible elimination of several Indian tribes such as the Hurons, the Mohawks, and the Mohicans—for the white Europeans eventually took over their frontier. This film shows the journey of three men (the last of the Mohican tribe) out to fight for their kind and land against the fierce and furious Magua (Wes Studi), the leader of the Mohawks. Magua wants the British leader dead and all of his children dead as well so the British General's seed cannot grow on, but Hawkeye (Academy Award Winner Daniel Day Lewis), a white man who was adopted as a Mohican at a young age, and who is one of the remaining three Mohicans, becomes in possession of the captain's two daughters and he will fight for their protection against the evil Mohawks. The chiseled Indian warrior with a masculine mane of hair, Hawkeye, falls in love with the beautiful, bold, brown-eyed Cora (Madeleine Stowe), one of the General’s daughters, to create a romance of true epic proportions. Braveheart’s story, which was made two years after this film, is similar to this film in the aspects of love, revenge, tragedy, and war, but I believe Braveheart, although easily comparable to the movie, is still a slight step above The Last of the Mohicans in terms of film quality—Braveheart gives up more memorable battle sequences with more memorable characters. I enjoyed the fine American soil scenery depictions, the heartfelt and emotional musical score, the saddening sacrifices, the intense canoe chase scene, the sensual kisses between the lovers, and although there were some mediocre battle sequences, there were some really thorough first-rate ones as well. My limited list of dislikes includes the choppy-looking waterfall scene—they could’ve done a lot better than that, and the confusion between characters during the beginning part of the picture—it was a game of who is who with many questions. Who is good and who is bad? If they are Indians why are they fighting other Indians? Is Daniel Day Lewis’s Hawkeye character, who looks nothing but white American to me, supposed to be an Indian/Mohican in this movie? All of these questions are eventually answered, but all can create a very disordered opening of the movie—some background information in the beginning would have been nice. Complaints about this film are very minimal, because in no way do they even come close to this overall magical and tremendous epic’s praises and positives. In the end, romance and love always prevails, just as this film will surely prevail in your mind as one of the best. (***1/2 out of ****)


The Magnificent Seven (1960):

The Japanese film Seven Samurai (1954), serves as the basis of The Magnificent Seven--director, John Sturges, took the timeless and highly acclaimed Japanese classic and remade it as an American Old West film, and created a true Western classic. The main character, Chris (Yul Brynner), with his high cheekbones, broad shoulders, and his bald, round, head, fits the part perfectly as the talented gunmen in black who pieces together the six other pro-gunslingers to form, “The Magnificent Seven”, a group of cowboys who set out to protect a small village of peasants from evil raiding bandits. The other six in the group of seven, just to name a few, include actors Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson, who would all reunite with director John Sturges, four years later, to create the War classic, The Great Escape. Horst Bucholz’s character as the cocky kid and the last to join the group is rather distracting and doesn’t really fit the mold of all the other skilled, spurred cowboy heroes in the fine assembly of seven. Yul Brynner’s and James Coburn’s characters come off as charismatic as they possibly can and they easily become the fan favorites of the picture, but neither of them give off as much charisma and dazzling screen presence as Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday portrayal in Tombstone. The Magnificent Seven, a truly superb Western, inspired three more inferior sequels and a television show, and the original story was also adapted by the movie, The Three Amigos, which spun the Western into a Comedy, minus four “gunslingers” played by Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Chevy Chase. Although I do not intend on viewing any of the supposedly inferior sequels, I would enjoy viewing its supposedly superior, darker, and more dramatic Japanese basis. This film definitely ranks high as a Western, but when the dust settles, Elmer Bernstein’s soundtrack my stay with you a little more than the movie does. (*** out of ****)


Magnolia:

With a three-hour and eight minute running time, this film may sound a little long and intimidating time wise, but unless you have Narcolepsy or a severe case of Sleep Apnea, I cannot see how you could possibly lose interest at any point and fall asleep during this longer than average, but extremely exceptional drama—I didn’t even want to blink during any portion of the entire movie. After, hands down, the best prologue I have ever seen, my attention was absolutely grabbed and I was more than interested to see how this acclaimed film and its many characters were going to play out in the end. ~ There are 10 characters that represent the core of the story. Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) is bed-stricken with cancer and is about to die. At his bed-side is his courteous nurse Phil Parma (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), who tries to reunite the dying Earl with his son Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise), whose perverted motivational speaking and womanizing instructions give Cruise a difficult and noteworthy unlikable but also likable role. Also, there is Linda (Julianne Moore), Earl’s young wife who is having extreme trouble dealing with her husband’s condition and her own life’s regrets. In a parallel relationship to Earl, there is Jimmy Gator, a TV game-show host, who is also dying of terminal cancer and who cannot communicate with his daughter Claudia (Melora Walters). Jimmy and his wife, Rose (Melinda Dillon, who you might recognize as the mother from A Christmas Story), try to get closer to his daughter, but Rose eventually learns the reason why Claudia is so furious towards her father. And then, there is the prayerful police man, Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly), which happens to be my favorite character from the film, who plays the good guy who is out to develop a caring relationship. Meanwhile, there is also Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman), a young very intelligent kid on Jimmy’s TV show entitled, “What Do Kids Know?” which has insanely hard questions and cursing kids on the panel, who is dealing with the pressures forced upon him. And finally, there is Quiz Kid Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), a former child genius just like Stanley, who is just trying to spread his love and knowledge and earn a living at the same time. Family relationships, happiness, loving relationships, and life-long goals, are all that everyone that makes up this web wants and hopes to achieve. ~ It may appear that they are an overwhelming number of characters in this story, and that it may be just a little hard to keep track of them, but the numerous key characters are developed so well that we feel for each and every one of them, and more or less root for them to succeed in all of their situations that develop. The story’s ten main characters all have different and separate stories to share, but by the end, they will either connect directly or on a parallel level—the story is more about intertwining the people’s lives rather than having them all intersect. The film supports the “humble opinion of the narrator” who thinks that everything cannot possibly be a matter of chance, and that there is a distinct order and causality, a reason for each already-laid-out event to occur so that an intended conclusion is reached—everything happens for a reason and not by chance. I think the title, Magnolia, considering the film’s posters contain the white flower, is a way of saying that each of the beautiful flower’s petals are a metaphor for each character in this story, or each person in this world, which inevitably comes together at the center and although they may be separate entities in themselves (being a single petal), but they all belong united as a whole (being the entire flower or plant) in the overall look of things. I thought the joined break-out in song, with Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up”, was a little tasteless and unfitting while it was happening on screen (albeit her soundtrack for this film is praise-worthy), but afterwards I realized it fit well and showed that song inspires many in a time of need, and here it just happens to further support their connectedness and parallels by all of them singing together. There does come a point in this film where the unthinkable occurs, and at this point you will either dislike the film because of the totally unexpected event and laugh, or you will respectably be stunned and let the final thirty minutes of film roll and then greatly appreciate the film as a whole and as a true masterpiece like you should. One with a keen eye and a knowledge of Biblical references may have some clue (with the weather headline, sign in the audience, digits on the side of the rooftop, and writing on the side of the bus stop, etc.) as to what will come raining down on the fated individuals. After viewing this picture, I am definitely interested in seeing Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Punch-Drunk Love, the only other three movies written and directed by the young, talented, and intelligent Paul Thomas Anderson, who already has a very promising future in the business of filmmaking now at the age of 33, and who is now a name I recognize and a filmmaker I respect and enjoy. This movie is for those who enjoy unique cinematic experiences over formulaic, every-day, run-of-the-mill, films. To me, Magnolia is no longer just a type of flower you may want in your garden, but now also a brilliant motion-picture that you should want in your collection. (**** out of ****)


Major League 2:
Well, I recently purchased this dvd for only $5. I figured, hey, it is full of scenes being played at Riverside Stadium(where my hometown Harrisburg Senators play) and my old baseball coach (Barry Cochran) is the home plate umpire and actually has a small part in it, so why not. This film has a few funny parts in it. It is, however, filled with bad acting and horrible baseball representations. Charlie Sheen is ok is this, but the rest of the cast are all dreadful actors, including Corbin Bernsen. I liked him being himself, and not acting, on Celebrity Mole better than in this film. The scene changes are so random, and all of the baseball actions are totally unrealistic. I mean, the climax of the movie is the Indians winning the conference championship and making it into the World Series. The movie doesn't even show you or update you if they even won the World Series or not. A few laughs and local scenes, but other than that not much to offer. (*1/2 out of ****)


The Master of Disguise:

This film was a Happy Madison production (Adam Sandler's production company made from Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison), and knowing this, you can't expect a high quality meaningful movie with a solid plot and more. I rented this movie expected the worst, but it wasn't that bad, but not that good either; let us just say a small step up from absolutely unbearable. This is definitely oriented towards the immature children and teens of America and the die-hard Dana Carvey fans. Carvey's disguises were great, and I did laugh out loud a maybe two times-- even if it is humor that is beyond stupid. I f you can still get a kick out of the grade-school humor of someone farting then this is a film for you; otherwise, this is nothing more than a cheap venue for Carvey to show off his many voices and impressions. This There are cameos by Jesse Ventura, Jessica Simpson, and Bo Derek; these three picked the wrong movie to boost their careers and popularity with. After seeing the first movie Dana Carvey has starred in in quite some time, it is evident that the other half of Wayne’s World found success and Carvey is stuck in the current unwanted comedian/movie-star pile with Tom Arnold, Tim Allen, Norm McDonald, and Dan Akroyd. Again, this is by no means a quality, "by the book" movie that includes all the necessities; Hollywood will keep continuing to make these mindless movies as long as there is an immature audience willing to pay to view them, but as far as that goes, I guess I was immature and stupid enough to watch this myself. The plot was so ridiculously retarded that after this film's short 80 minute running time, you may have to take a trip to the restrooms, not to urinate, but rather to splash some cold water on your face in an attempt to get over the fact that you wasted your money on an absolute joke of a movie. (1/2 out of ****)


Meet the Parents:

After watching about 20 minutes of the middle of the film on T.B.S., I decided that I had to pop in the DVD and watch the film’s hilarity in its entirety—isn’t it funny how you can own a movie and never watch it, but the second it comes on TV, you’re glued to the screen? Deniro, without a doubt, shows his wide-ranged talent by taking the role of Jack Burns, the intimidating C.I.A. agent father of his little “Pamcake” played by Teri Polo. Robert Deniro is usually known for his past portrayals of gangsters, mobsters, and murderers, so there is no question, he can play a fearful and unapproachable character. Then, combine his common raucous persona with the riotous role of Paul Vitti from Analyze This, minus the gangster attitude and accent, and you arrive at the perfect lead role as the threatening father who stands in the way of Ben Stiller’s character Greg and Teri Polo’s character Pam from tying the knot—Greg’s last name, Focker, is, rightfully so, milked for all it is worth, especially when combined with his real first name, Gaylord. This has to be one of the most awkward and out-of-place characters viewed by an audience in all of cinema—Greg never does anything right and is always screwing up everything around him. Most people have experienced what it is like to feel out of place, maybe not with their significant other’s family, but by watching Greg go throw hell, the audience may feel a little sorry for him, but at the same time, they are sure to have a side-splitting and laugh-quenching experience. Some of my favorite scenes include the slow-motion volleyball spike resulting in the bride’s broken bloody nose, the flying, cheap, wine bottle cork flying across the table resulting in the soiling of Jack’s mother’s ashes, and the unforgettable lie-detector sequence which happens to grace the cover of the DVD and the VHS. Although, I still don’t understand why director Jay Roach chose Ben Stiller’s Judo chopping the camera sequence as he exclaims, “Can you deal with that?”, as the final frame—I never liked this as an ending. Nevertheless, joke after joke, and laugh after laugh—even if some lines may seem overly scripted, you are certain to get more of an abdominal workout from this than those pricy infomercial products could ever provide. (*** out of ****)


Mr. Deeds:

Adam Sandler's father's favorite movie of all-time is, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, the 1936 classic helmed from director Frank Capra. Since Sandler's dad was never genuinely proud of any of his son's teen-humored and somewhat offending films, although he was proud of his son for all of his overall accomplishments, he asked his son to use his very own production company, Happy Madison, to remake his favorite film from the 1930's. Sandler's father wanted his son to re-invent the classic with a touch of Adam's original flair, in order to present it in an enjoyable fashion for today's Sandler-crazed generation. I can't stand for this movie's likenesses toward its original, because I haven't seen the 1936 original, nor do I intend to for quite some time. Here, the Happy Madison production company, made from combining Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, the two infamous characters who got things started for the rookie to show-biz Sandler, just sputters out another one of its ill-humored and almost pointless pictures that only serves as a good movie in the laughing department. Longfellow Deeds (Adam Sandler) is the only heir to his now dead Uncle’s company worth $40 billion. He must sell his company shares and profit the forty billion or choose to save his Uncle’s company (Blake Enterprises) from Chuck Cedar’s (Peter Gallagher) cruel intentions. Reporter Babe Bennett a.k.a. Pam Dawson, tries to get the inside scoop on the new billionaire bachelor by dating him, but Deeds thinks she is in it for the right reasons, and when he finds out she really isn’t who she says she is, everything just falls apart for the two. Both have to find their back to each other and save Blake Enterprises for good. This film reminds me of Sandler's production company's latter release of Anger Management--there are similar entities in both films with the sports venues, cheesy love interests, and again, the use of the same cast over and over again--Happy Madison Productions hires the same casts for all its movies, with the exception of the always changing actresses to portray the love interest of Adam's characters. Adam Sandler is much better at playing the loud obnoxious character, which he has so often used in the past, than playing the quiet, cute, and cuddly, calm crowd-pleaser who always does the gentlemanly correct thing to do, and his love interest in this film, Winona Rider, is much better playing the role that most of America is used to seeing her in: the pale faced, spiky haired, apathetic young girl who has two deep thick rings of black eye-liner around her eyes that are like two black holes sucking you right into her usual wide-eyed blank stares with quivering lips (i.e. Beatlejuice, Alien Resurrection, etc.)--Rider just cannot pass off her character as a prissy, feminine woman in distress, especially after her unladylike shoplifting incident. There really is no chemistry at all, at any time, between Adam's and Winona's characters throughout this film—it is almost like they just took any old actress who was willing to stand in for the part and wanted to make a quick and easy buck. The only character that plays a decent role in this film is the same character that steals every scene in which he is in, Emilio (John Turturro) the Spanish butler with a foot-fetish. His sneakiness, accent, and mannerisms provides for a more interesting side-character than the most of the main characters. John Turturro is truly an quirky, but brilliant actor that happened to graduated from Yale University, and who can play just about any part, from Emilio, to Chuck in Anger Management, and from Pete in O' Brother Where Out Thou, to portraying Howard Cosell in the TNT special "Monday Night Mayhem"—his extreme talent can easily be seen throughout all of his pictures. It is his talent and comedic aspects that save this film from director Steven Brill--you can see this mastermind director's previous masterpiece in Little Nicky (oh the sarcasm is steaming off of that last half of the sentence, in case you couldn't tell). All in all, it looks like Happy Madison productions cannot head toward anything productive and exceed beyond the two Sandler comedy classics that its name is derived from, but no matter what, Adam Sandler's movies are sure to make money and entertain his crowd of followers. This movie is not "wicked-good", as Mr. Deeds over quotes throughout the picture, but sometimes it is good to just turn off your brain and just laugh a little at a movie's own stupidity and antics, and this film enables exactly that. (** out of ****)


Old School:

From the writer/producer/director of Road Trip, comes another immaturely based comedy, this time starring Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Will Ferrell. These three main characters start a fraternity that does not discriminate on age, race, or affiliation with the university--its main objective is to have fun, drink, and get lots of women. The two scenes, where Will Ferrell's character, Frank the Tank, goes streaking while intoxicated, and where he shoots himself with the tranquilizer gun, are absolutely hilarious--the latter of the two is absolutely uproarious with Sean William Scott, a.k.a. Stifler, joining Ferrell in the side-splitting escapade. Ferrell's career in films, after leaving SNL, is definitely now looking upwards. Old School is more than a step up from A Night at the Roxbury, but I am a little unsure of Will Ferrell's next role as one of Santa's little helpers in the movie entitled, Elf--that may throw him back into the sest-pool of horrible SNL actors with Chris Kataan; at the same time, it may also display his extreme versatility and award him more-deserving roles. This film succeeds at its primary objective: to make people laugh—even if it is all perverse and stupid humor. Personally for me, I think it all went downhill after seeing the not needed Andy Dick hosted blowjob class, but with the great cast, also including Juliette Lewis and Craig Kilborn, it stayed afloat and semi-entertaining. This movie is worth the current $4.23 Blockbuster rental charge, but is easily one film that any non-college partier will easily forget--or maybe not, considering Old School 2 is already in the works. (**1/2 out of ****)


Open Range:

With your typical gun slinging, tobacco spitting, whiskey drinking Western, you get the classic stereotypical heroes who ride into town, ruff-up some cowboys, and have at it in a one-on-one quick-drawl duel, with a few tumbleweeds a’blowin in the background, but with Open Range, you get the conventional Western aspects and so much more. The saloons, spurs, and swift horses are all present, but so are the admirable aspects of the surreal scenery, the superb character development, and the strong presence of the human element— emotion and heart seep out just as much as the sweat from the protagonists’ pores. ~It is 1882 and a tough time for free-grazers, Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall), Charley Waite (Kevin Costner, who also produced and directed the film), plus their two man team, to be crossing through the small town of Harmonville, which is ran by livid landowners, ready-to-shoot ranchers, and a hard-hearted Marshall—they absolutely despise free-grazing (where the traveling herds of the cattlemen’s cattle can feed upon whatever land they come across), because they feel that the cows should not be permitted to rob them of their hard earned land and its flourishing grasses. Boss and Charley mean peace, but are threatened and forced to defend themselves from the town’s corrupt law enforcers. Along the way, Charley happens to find love in Sue Barlow (Annette Benning), and while he fights for her safety and for a prosperous future of romance with her, he must also deal with his own internal struggles and discover who he is and where he belongs. ~ The climax of the film occurs with a very enjoyable and realistic gun fight, but the cinematography, the romance, the adventure, and the strategically placed laughs keep you glued to the splendid storyline—there is one scene with a violin and breakfast that especially cracked me up. This film is a highly satisfying, bold, and well-written Western that incorporates something to entertain all crowds. On the poster the headline reads, “No place to run. No reason to hide.” I think you should run to a near by theater, with no reason to hide or be ashamed of seeing a Kevin Costner Western with a with a well-balanced level of romance, and just witness the marvel of a classic Western style movie with a modern majestic flair, that is sure to please anyone and everyone. (*** out of ****)


Platoon (1986):

This Vietnam War story, that tells the first hand experiences of director Oliver Stone, is as powerful, moving, and realistic as a movie depicting war gets. The story is told through the point of view of the non-commanding officers (the common soldiers, the grunts, the platoon), rather than those of high rank. Not only must the platoon fight against the unrelenting force of the Viet Cong, but they must battle the fear, and gut-wrenching insanity growing inside them. The young and impressive Charlie Sheen greatly plays the focused character along side a star-studded cast consisting of: Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Forrest Whitaker, John C. McGinley, Johnny Depp, and Keith David--these may not all be known names, but I guarantee they are known faces. Filled with action, violence, drama, and intensity, this film is well deserving of its 4 Academy Awards including the Best Picture of 1986. "The first casualty of war is innocence."--a bold and accurate statement that is the film's commanding theme. Truly a great film thats realism and emotions of war, will stick with you forever-- the kind of film that you should watch more than once, the kind of film that you should own. 10 (**** out of ****)


The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976):

This is the fourth movie out of the eight in the Pink Panther series, and supposedly, according to critics, the best out of the series; I cannot confirm this, because I have yet to see any of the others. (FYI: The Pink Panther is not the cartoon character, but a pink diamond that serves as the movie's quest and motive.) I can however say that this is British slapstick comedy at its best. Peter Sellers is uproarious as the dumb and bumbling Inspector Clouseau--his accent kills me with such questions like, "Does your dog bite?" and "May I have a room?" I loved the Cato fight sequence, which surprised me considering I have not yet seen the other pictures, equip with deep slow motion moans and agile antics. I also enjoyed the attempts to cross the moat, the Quasimodo disguise, and the pulling of the tooth while using laughing gas as anesthetic. There were also several entertaining cartoon shorts thrown into the film that mocked countless successful Hollywood productions, which reminded me of my young days--watching the Pink Panther Saturday morning cartoon and playing the game on Sega Genesis. Clouseau is Inspector Gadget-esque and the film is Austin Powers meets Get Smart packed with more incompetence and cluelessness to keep the audience happy—an enjoyable recommendation from my Uncle Randy that I will now recommend to others. (*** out of ****)


The Recruit:

I must say that after viewing the trailer to this film, I knew a wanted to see it. But after reading a review of this movie, I was some what turned away from it, knowing that an acclaimed critic was disappointed in the film. When heard that one of my great friends Lisa saw the movie, and claimed, "Brandon is going to love it!", I immediately wanted to see it. I must say, Lisa you were right and the critic was wrong. I was completely into this movie, from credits to credits, and finished a whole bag of popcorn throughout the films duration. I don't think I have ever done that. Knowing the slogan, promoted by the film's trailer, "Everything is not what it seems," the film had my undivided attention the entire time. I found myself looking for clues to figure out the ending, but no matter how hard you look, you may have an idea, but the film takes so many twists and turns in all kinds of different directions, it will keep you guessing. Colin Farrell is one hell of an actor. When paired with Al Pacino, it is a must see. I don't know about Farrell's upcoming role as Bullseye in Daredevil, or in the highly anticipated Phone Booth, which has been delayed due to the D.C. sniper incident, but as James Clayton in the Recruit, he shines. I loved the cheese scrambled eggs, and also Farrell drinking whiskey and watching The Man Show promote Manpons, the male tampons. The Spartacus program, Pacino's line to the spilled coffee, the incorporation of Kurt Vonaget's Cat's Cradle, and all of the state of the art gadgets and maneuvers, were all nice little artsy added touches. All in all I would recommend this one to anyone. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it could not have ended any better. After pounding the audience with intense action and critical thinking, the last words and last frame of the movie give the audience a good feeling and allow them to leave the theater satisfied. (*** out of ****)


Remember the Titans:

This film is a wonderful, feel-good football story about the troubles of racism in the South in the early 1970's. Two Southern high schools must combine--black and white, and the players, coaches, fans, and families must all deal with the integration. Considering this is a Disney movie, the racism and racial slurs are taken down several notches from the reality that really was then. The most offending racism shown in the movie is a brick thrown into a window and some very minor name-calling--the word "nigger" is not even stated once to maintain the PG rating. Denzel Washington and Will Patton play perfect and impressive roles and build the bonds of brotherhood throughout the film in both Boone and Yoast, and Julius and Bertier. You'll enjoy when the cute and charming Hayden Panettiere, as Cheryl, steals the show and almost every frame she is in. You'll have fun with the football and the inspiring story, and even the ladies and gentlemen may have to hold back some tears through a few of the feel-good moments and the heart-warming emotional scenes. All in all, the message is we are to remember the Titans not because of football, but because of their racial impact on their team and their entire community, simply through the game of football. (*** out of ****)


A River Runs Through It:

This is a soothing and relaxing film about two brothers who grow up in a wholesome Presbyterian family in the 1930's and simply enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and the perfection of fly-fishing. Their lives center on their family and god's glorious terrain--the stunning and miraculous countryside of Montana. This film combines the calmness and ease of the cool river waters with the happiness and companionship of brotherly love, from boyhood to adulthood. Robert Redford is not only the director, but he also serves as the narrator of the deep and poetic thoughts of the older brother. A very young Brad Pitt plays the younger brother and fits the role to the "t"--this role is what got him on the right track in Hollywood. This film won Best Cinematography in 1992, and very rightfully so, for its magnificent panoramic views of the quiet and still outdoors. I enjoyed the casting with the metronome on a four-count beat between ten o'clock and two o'clock, the excellent boilermaker shot, the art and serenity put into the fly-fishing, and the question, "Why is it, the people who need the most help won't take it?" Much can be taken from this movie including the values of family ties, the wonders of a romantic relationship, and the memories of the enjoyable family time spent fishing in the early morning. This is an unpredictable and genuine story that may be a little slow and boring at some points, but it fits with the movie’s overall mystifying mood that transports you to another time and place. (***1/2 out of ****)



The Sound of Music (1965):
The Sound of Music is the film version of the successful Broadway musical which shares the same name and which happens to be based on a true story, even though the film may seem more like a fantastical fairy tale rather than a true story, but that is where the term “based on” comes into play. Maria, played by the extremely talented Julie Andrews (who would later star as the leading role in Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins), is studying to become a nun, but her fellow sisters and Reverend Mother feel that she is not yet ready to wear the black and white habit, so they send her away from the abbey to find herself and to temporarily serve as the governess for a Captain and his seven children. Christopher Plummer plays Captain von Trapp, the widowed grumpy Naval Captain who is so stiff and strict with his children that he makes them march around, always file into a straight line of ascending and descending height, and answer to the calls of his whistle. Fraulein Maria is there to obey Captain von Trapp’s orders, but she can’t help but attempt to improve the children’s relationship with their father, teach them to sing and play, and eventually win over the heart of the Captain, in this tune-filled and family-fun timeless classic. Director Robert Wise, who also directed the musical masterpiece, West Side Story, dishes out not only one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s crowning achievements, but also on of Hollywood’s. This film very deservingly won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Sound, Best Scoring of Music, Best Editing, and Best Picture, and also earned one Oscar nomination that I don’t understand, Best Supporting Actress for Peggy Wood, who played the Reverend Mother Abbess—I think her character’s acting and singing was more distracting than Oscar nomination-worthy. Set in Austria, before World War II and while Austria was trying to maintain independence from Germany during the Nazi’s reign, this film holds great historical relevance and shows the sheer beauty of the glorious green grasses and rolling hills of the Austrian Alps. The film also takes the time to give the real-life Maria, the main character that the true story is based upon, a cameo in one of the shots—she can be viewed sitting in the background of Julie Andrews on the bus and wearing a hat. This film really has a lot of time to give with a 175 minute running time, but it puts the story on screen so constructively that it never feels like a long and grueling picture, but rather a fun and dazzling endeavor. The famous and memorable musical score including the songs, “Do, Re, Mi”, “My Favorite Things”, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”, and the title theme song, is sure to delight the ears as much as the choreography delights the eyes. The film that combines the importance of family ties, romance, war, Catholicism, drama, music, and much more, creates for a wholesome family-oriented picture that will be passed down from generation to generation to come. And although soon-to-be parents will not be inspired to select any baby names from the odd and old-fashioned Austrian named cast of characters such as Liesl, Friedrich, Georg, Rolfe, Louisa, Kurt, Elsa, Gretl, Brigitta, and Marta, this family favorite and bona fide classic can surely bring out the inner-child within anyone. (***1/2 out of ****)


Swimming Pool:

Swimming Pool may have a provocative cover and trailer, but its nudity is the only "action" even worth mentioning. Without a doubt, this picture is a bit on the slow side from start to finish, and the ending is very poorly executed and therefore easily questionable. This film is definitely an off-of-the-beaten-path picture—being that it was only a limited theatrical release and is spoken in half English and half French. However, it is definitely not an artsy film which I would recommend. It takes just as much time for something to get going in the movie as it does for an unwilling insect to gradually get sucked into the filter from mid-pool. If it is a good movie you are looking for on the rental shelves…look elsewhere, and if it is an unrated feature with sex and nudity you’re craving…then go rent a decent porno, because with this feature you get your fair share of full-frontal from both a circa sixty-year-old woman and a circa sixteen-year-old girl. In summary, Swimming Pool is a near recommendation that is original but not necessarily all that innovative. (**1/2 out of ****)


Tears of the Sun:

From the director of Training Day comes this very satisfying movie with great action, gore, and bloodshed. This is the best war movie I have seen in a while, although I don’t get to see too many very often. In the theatre you can hear the bullets flying by your head, and you almost get the impression that you are there—you are running from the enemies and hiding in tall grass in fear of your own death. This movie has an awesome climax action scene and a good overall message. It gives you a lot of visual imagery and not a lot of dialogue. Plus, the African flavored score by Hans Zimmer is amazing; it brings you right into the refugee’s lifestyle and culture. The movie can be summed up with a simple quote that is flashed on the scene as the movie comes to a close: “All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for a good man to do nothing,” truly a powerful message to such a powerful movie. Hey, it is Bruce Willis! You can’t go wrong with this one! (*** out of ****)


Tombstone:

This movie greatly tells the story of the Earp brothers, Wyatt, Morgan, and Virgil, along with Doc Holliday, and how they all managed in the town of Tombstone and at the most famous gun fight at the O.K. Corral. I now have great respect for Val Kilmer after this incredible and extremely amusing role as Doc Holliday; I will now almost enjoy paying the hefty price for a meal at the steakhouse and saloon that bears his character's name. Both Kilmer and Kurt Russell (Wyatt Earp), put up great performances here--Kilmer's has now become one of the most memorable characters for me. Along with a great cast, which also includes Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Charles Heston, Sam Elliot, Michael Biehn (also seen in The Terminator), and Dana Delany, comes a wonderful representation of the facts and the depictions of the old west. After each shot of whiskey and gunfight, more whiskey and more gunfights follow. There are a few drawn-out scenes which could have easily been deleted thereby shortening the lengthy running time, and the film does seem to become a little long and anticlimactic after the Battle at the O.K. Corral, but the talented roles of both Russell and Kilmer easily make up for any of the film's flaws. (*** out of ****)


28 Days Later:

After sitting through the worst set of previews ever, as Hollywood shows us the septic-pool that make up the August releases, I was expecting just another cheesy zombie movie, but what I got was something much more. 28 Days Later takes the dark gritty feel of the Resident Evil video-game (not the poor film released based on the much better game) and adds more horror, drama, and action to keep the audience attentive and compelled throughout. This film stars out with "rage" infected chimps, whose blood and saliva can spread their "rage" into humans to create red-eyed, fury-filled zombies—these are not your average slow moving undead zombies, but these zombies can run at full speed and are more like hyperactive vampires than the slow-motion moaning disabled-looking zombie stereotypes. After the chimp attack, it then cuts to 28 days later, where it is post-disaster, post-viral infection, post-outbreak, and post-evacuation; now, the streets are absolutely clear during the daytime, and only a few uninfected humans remain. Jim, a bicycle courier, serves as the main character who finds himself all alone in a completely empty London--the entire city of London was cleared for this movie temporarily and the scenes shot are reminiscent of Stephen King's The Langoliers and the opening of Vanilla Sky with a very vacant Time Square. Jim has to find others and try to survive against the rage of "the infected". Although this "rage" virus is completely unbelievable and unrealistic, we can relate the epidemic to AIDS and the more recent SARS--of course these viruses spread on a much slower scale than the split-second rage infection. This movie was filmed with a hi-res digital video camera, a nice added touch, to both provide a more eerie appearance and to cut back on costs. I thoroughly enjoyed the family flashback followed by the immediate attack and then no hesitation scene, the world's fastest and most suspenseful tire change, the "Let's shop" sequence, the transition into the second 28 days later, and the hell to hello frames. As for dislikes, the male nudity was not needed at all, and the soundtrack/score seemed off at times like it did not even belong playing in the background of a lot the scenes--it was just too out of synch in my opinion. Also, confusion settles in at one point, where the film seems to be aimed at nothing but being a rape-fest and the audience becomes very unsure as to where the picture is going to go, but nonetheless, you sit on the edge of your seat to await the fitting resolution. The actor's accents add some flavor throughout the film to an uncommon American theatrical release that contains all of its characters speaking in a British tongue. Even though the title possesses the number of 28 days in it, the movie actually spans over 60 days, so you get a whole lot more coverage than you expected out of this post-apocalyptic picture that is definitely worth a look either now or later—just make sure to give it a chance at some point. (*** out of ****)



West Side Story:

This is the magnificent musical based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. This masterpiece won 10 Academy Awards including the Best Picture title in. Filled with fun dancing and singing numbers and superb performances by all of the leading roles, this film is solid entertainment the whole way through. From the opening 12 minute number to the final sullen scene, it is simply delightful. Of course, there is no happy ending, for it is a remake of a Shakespeare tale. I was a little confused at the end, because if this were a true portrayal of Romeo and Juliet shouldn't Maria have died as well? Well, I guess she lost her love and died metaphorically. Besides the dancing and singing, the score, in general, is one of the most memorable and musically difficult pieces to perform. Remembered by not only its score, but really just every aspect of the film, this great musical will be forever placed amongst the classics. An interesting bit of info--Both Natalie Wood (Maria) and Richard Beymer (Tony), did not do their own vocals; their singing voices were dubbed over!! Needless to say, I don't think Natalie Wood was very convincing as a Puerto Rican both in look and accent, but nonetheless, West Side Story is overall merely magical. (**** out of ****)


What About Bob?:

This is one of my top 10 comedy favorites. Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss are absolutely hilarious in this one. Murray plays Bob Wiley, a paranoid, obsessive compulsive and schizophrenic patient of Dr. Leo Marvin (Dreyfuss). Bob is in desperate need of psychotherapy and a feeling of a heart-warming family, to cure his crazed lifestyle. Bob becomes obsessed with Dr. Marvin and goes as far as following him to his vacation resort in New Hampshire. Throughout the film, Bob becomes a better and stronger person as Leo becomes crazed and stressed beyond any imagination--it is somewhat a switch between doctor and patient. A timeless classic comedy that is downright riotous, in my book. The scene where it is 6:00 am and Dr. Marvin is trying to wake up Bob, he shakes him and shakes him violently and yells cock-a-doodle-doo...........nothing, but then the alarm clock goes off and Bob is wide awake--this is on the verge of urinating one's self in the dockers (or whatever casual pant you choose to wear) comedy. I love this movie as a comedy and it is right up there with the other great Bill Murray timeless and unforgettable comedy classic, Groundhog Day. (***1/2 out of ****)


When We Were Kings:

When We Were Kings is a meaningful documentary that depicts the monumental bout, also known as, “The Rumble in the Jungle”, between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. This historic match was held on October 30, 1974 in Zaire, Africa, and not only did it hold great importance in the history of the sport, but it also served as the basis for a strong and recommendable documentary.

Don King, who initially coordinated the fight, told both Ali and Foreman that they would receive a gross sum of $5 million. After continually looking for a country to come forth and pay the $10 million fee, Zaire finally stepped up to the table. Even though it was a tremendous blow to thier economic income, Zaire figured that it would help to bring the publicity of the significant sporting event to their African country. Thus, the fight was organized and both contenders were eager to prove themselves by earning the title of the "Heavyweight Champion of the World". The fighters, their trainers, the press, and a series of famous black musicians (a.k.a. the assembly of the American black men), were all flown in to Zaire in order to promote the fight. From that point on, the experience and ego of Ali versus the strength and youth of Foreman etched its way into history books forever.

When We Were Kings shows Ali from his beginnings in the boxing world at age 18 (a cocky, talkative, but yet funny and charismatic fighting machine), to his post rumble days as an influential and almost political leader. The film illustrates George Foreman, the heavy money favorite of the bout, not only as a fierce, angry, powerful and confident contender, but also as the enemy. The Africans wanted Muhammad Ali to win this fight—for he was a kind and typical man who wanted to win the match for all of the right reasons. Ali was a hero to the Africans; he knew he had to win this all-important fight for them before he retired.

When We Were Kings also prominently features some of the standout music of the times. Music was definitely a influential aspect in both of the fighters; for example, Ali always listened to soul music for entertainment and motivation. The musicians that accompanied the boxers came to entertain the prized fighters; they included: James Brown, B.B. King, and many more. These musical geniuses provided not only grooves for the people in Zaire, but also inspiration. The musical gathering for “The Rumble in the Jungle” took its place in history as, “The Black Woodstock”. Its performers, from James Brown’s wild, screaming, soul singing and dancing, to B.B. King’s sweat dripping while he ever-so smoothly strummed on Lucille, influenced both the African people and the Americans who had traveled there. The beats and tunes provided feel-good music that united the people--black, white, or otherwise. Specifically, the sounds of the drum provided a sense of communication, and the rhythm and blues was heartfelt in not only the land of Zaire, but also everywhere else it was televised. The energy that was transported from the dancing and the percussive elements to the people, was without a doubt a strong force that fed the fighters and the country.

Since this memorable and unbelievable boxing match, the fighters have tremendously changed. The rough and tough Foreman has gone through a tremendous change of both presence and personality; now his name and smiling face can be seen alongside his grilling machine. As for Ali, he is not quite the vibrant and boastful figure he once was. He is now almost crippled with Parkinson’s disease—a far cry from the “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, energetic, and animated sports icon he is remembered as. Regardless of their current conditions and vocations, both men are timeless for their fighting, and their lasting impressions on their fans and their people will be kept in mind forever. Ali was a god in the ring and did God’s work outside the ring, and for that reason, he is deservingly a household name in almost every country and truly a hero to Africa, the African American people, and both boxing and sports fans everywhere.

When We Were Kings is a wonderful documentary filled with enjoyable information. It is a selection of cinema that everyone should watch. Its coverage of the bout, its result, and its effects nearly reigns just as supreme as the two spirited sparrers. (*** out of ****)


X-Men:

The comic and cartoon finally brought to life after being considered for several years, X-Men soars right up there with Batman and Superman. With a cast of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Anna Paquin (starred in Finding Forrester) as Rogue, Ian McKellan (Gandolf in Lord of the Rings) as Magneto, Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard in Star Trek) as Professor X, Robbeca Romjin-Stamos (Sports-Illustrated swimsuit model and husband of John Stamos, a.k.a. Jesse from Full House) as Mystique, and Academy Award winner Halley Barry as Storm, it is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. May I ask though, not being a huge comic book or X-Men fan in the past, what was that Toad character? I don't remember him being a part of the Marvel superheroes at all, and truthfully I could have easily done without him. Although, Toad was played by Ray Park, who played Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, so he adds another star's name to the mix. This film has great special effects especially with the circle-motion camera around Wolverine as he barely hangs on after slowly slicing off a spike of the Statue of Liberty's crown. The character development throughout the film is fantastic--even if you have never seen or heard anything about any of the X-Men you will be able to follow right along and enjoy the entire film and each of its characters. By the end of the film, I wanted to be a mutant and join the elite fighting force, the X-Men. My mutant power would be.........a flying acrobat with a blinding smile, oh yeah, that would be great. I can't wait to see the sequel, X2: X-Men United--I'm sucked right into the comic book-based action-packed storyline and each of the character's mind-boggling abilities. (*** out of ****)


X2: X-Men United:

I thought the first film (X-Men) was good, but now with a bigger fan-base and a bigger budget, this one blows its predecessor away. The impressive special effects are more abundant and eye-popping than ever before--there is so much eye-candy throughout the movie, there is no way to mention it all here. In between the dazzling effects, I had to chuckle many times at several one-liners and comical actions, like when Magneto taps his helmet and smirks at Jason, and when "Professor of art", Wolverine, drinks an MGD out of Bobby's parent's fridge. The returning cast was more developed and just as good in their roles, with Robecca Romjin-Stamos getting some camera time as herself through one of Mystique's morphs. Also, there were some new cameos from the X-Men, Colossus and Jubilee--was Jubilee ever Chinese? Anyways, along with a great show of Pyro's talents, we meet Deathstrike, the female version of Wolverine with Adamantine spikes coming out of the tips of her fingers. Nightcrawler, who has a huge opening scene and who is played by Alan Cumming (formerly Emcee in the 1998 award-winning Cabaret and Boris in Goldeneye), brings a new face with an amazing teleport talent and a calm and overwhelming sense of spirituality to the group. I loved the Magneto escape and the Deathstrike Wolverine fight. Despite the anti-climactic ending, only true fans of the comic book will be able to take in the ending and tell what the reflection over the water means; throughout the film, Jean Grey develops her powers and is able to control them--she may have a bright future as something a little more fiery and red. I learned two things after viewing this movie: a bigger budget makes a better motion-picture and never forget to turn your cell phone off while in the movie theater. (***1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004