The Flixter's Movie Reviews
movie reviews, NJ, movie critics NJ, movies, New Jersey's own, The Flixter Movie Reviews

Archive #4

movie reviews, NJ, movie critics NJ, movies, New Jersey's own, The Flixter Movie Reviews

Mr & Mrs. Smith
a la The Flixter

        How about this for some marital trust? Your spouse of three years has no clue about what you are doing... and you are an assassin. But you always make sure that you wipe off any blood that is on the clothes before you enter the house and sit down for a nice quiet meal. Well, that is the case with Mr. and Mrs. Smith. John (Brad Pitt) and Jane (Angelina Jolie) are both professional killers working for rival agencies. Somehow they both manage to keep all their weaponry in their house and both of them are both unaware of that...   Of course, things like this can't be kept secret for too long.( Actually, its been a secret for over six years.)  They find out the hard way when both of them are given the same target to eliminate. So the next logical step in their profession is to eliminate the other, so now both of them are trying to kill each other. Their tranquil suburban existence explodes as the two proceed in wrecking everything, including their own house, that gets in the way of eliminating the other. 
        Once again, expectations were the reason for my disappointment. I went in expecting an action movie with some comedy. Instead, what I got was a comedy with some action.... a big difference.  Brad Pitt is in a pretty comic mode as his John Smith comes across as more of a goof ball instead of a cold blooded assassin. Angelina Jolie actually seems more threatening than he does, and the two definitely have some chemistry that has seemingly stretched off screen.  Like I said before, there is very little in terms of action. But overall, its not such a bad time. There are some pretty funny moments. Also present is Vince Vaughn as a fellow killer. His character would have been decent if it had not been for an overkill of the joke about him living with his mom. Like I said, don't expect an action movie with comedy. Expect a comedy with some action.
RATING: THREE STARS

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Cinderella Man
a la The Flixter

        Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) was doing okay in 1935...and then the Great Depression hit the country and he is left with pretty much nothing. He's got three young kids to raise with his wife, Mae (Renee Zellweger). Jim's too proud to go on government assistance, so he starts working at the docks but has a hard time getting picked out of the hordes looking for work, and some hard time doing the heavy lifting, thanks to a hand injury. But that doesn't stop him from stepping into a boxing ring after hours. Good thing he's got a friend in Paul Giamatti's Joe Gould, who tries his hardest to get him into any possible fights happening. 
       Meanwhile, one of his kids is not feeling too healthy, his wife has to water down the milk, and bill collectors are knocking. The inability to pay the bills results in the heat getting cut off. Consequently, the poor souls are stuck in a frigid apartment and Jim's wife wants to send the kids to her parents, but Jim promised his son that they would never be split up.  Finally, his boxing career picks up and he starts bringing some money home. What he wants is to take on the reigning champ Max Baer (a hulking Craig Bierko) who has actually killed two men in the ring. Baer keeps putting off the confrontation but it eventually happens.
      What makes a movie like this great is the fact that you know what the eventual outcome will be. But you still find yourself leaning towards the screen in anticipation of the inevitable. And that is exactly how I was during the final reels. The fights get brutal but are expertly staged. Ron Howard has come a long long way from Richie Cunningham on Happy Days. He does another excellent job as director here, and, of course, Russell Crowe gives another Oscar-worthy performance. Giamatti is great, Zellweger is great, --- the whole movie is so, so great. I loved it.  Its two and a half hours long but time flies by when the film is this good..
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Madagasgar
a la The Flixter

        Marty the zebra (voice of Chris Rock) is not too happy in his NY zoo surroundings. He dreams of getting out of there and heading to Africa... and he finds the perfect allies in four penguins who themselves have a plan to tunnel to Antarctica. So this new-found coalition manages to get out of the zoo, but Marty's friends know better. They also follow him... but they do so to change his mind. Alex the lion  (Ben Stiller) is the "mane" attraction and not happy at all in this process. But he does so to get Marty back into their comfortable captivity. Also going along are Melman, a hypochondriac giraffe, and Gloria the hippo. The escape plan fails and all these animals are packed on a ship and sent off to a different zoo, but things happen and their crates wash up on the lush tropical island of Madagascar instead. This island is populated by a bunch of lemurs that know how to party, which they do most of the time.
       As you may know, I am a huge fan of cartoons. So I was really looking forward to this one.  And I deeply regret saying that I was disappointed. Maybe Shrek and its superior sequel have set the bar too high? But most of the jokes in this one fall flat. You would think that characters voiced by the likes of Chris Rock and David Schwimmer (the giraffe) would offer a lot more laughs. But, unfortunately, that doesn't happen. If anyone manages to steal the show, its the penguins with their underhanded ways and a "cute and cuddly" act designed to fool the humans. Not a classic, at all..
RATING: THREE STARS (and that's not much considering this being a cartoon)
 

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VERY BACKED-UP BUT STILL HERE
a la The Flixter...

       I think the title says it all. I am very backed up in things. The reviews are just part of it. I can blame spring time. At least its nicer out now. Anyway, I have just been lazy. Seen movies but didn't bother to critique them. So here's my attempt to do so with my last three ventures.

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: Director Ridley Scott returns to the historical epic.  He did great with Gladiator. But can he redo it? If this movie is the answer, then the answer is "NO."  The subject here is the Crusades. Balian (Orlando Bloom), a blacksmith, who becomes sucked into becoming a warrior once the war hits home and tragedy envelops his life. I will just get to the point.
     Saladin is the guy that is the main foe. There are many epic battles that do look spectacular, but Ridley Scott has mastered that part of the genre. So it doesn't seem like much, coming from him.  What was truly disappointing was how boring the movie was. Yes, its long, but if something is entertaining then it doesn't seem long. Well, this seemed pretty damn long and a bigger disappointment, for me at least, was to see two great thespians like Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons be part of the epic shenanigans.  Very spectacular to look at, but also very boring.

CRASH: Now this was a movie. So much went on in this multi-layered film about racial collisions that I could have written a huge opus on it, if I had done it after I had just seen it.  But here's a brief on it: there's a racist cop, a couple of gangsters, a TV producer and his wife, a politician running for governor, his bitchy wife, a black locksmith, and an Iranian shop owner. I think that pretty much covers it. All their lives are connected over the course of a few days. And, yes, a car crash has a lot to do with what's going on.
     The cast is just as huge. Matt Dillon, Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Thandie Newton, and Ryan Phillipe are just a few.  How things happen is beautifully done by debuting director Paul Haggis, who wrote Clint Eastwood's Oscar Winning Million Dollar Baby. Yes, there are some huge coincidences but they serve the great purpose of making a great movie.

UNLEASHED: Then this past Friday I went to see the new Star Wars movie. Of course, it was sold out, so I went and saw this instead... since I wanted to see it anyway, being a big Jet Li fan. Bob Hoskins plays Uncle Bart, a Glasgow gangster/loan shark.  He goes around with a mute and docile Danny (Jet Li). Danny has a dog collar around his neck and when that collar comes off, things change. A super fighting machine is unleashed and Bart's enemies get to pay up. But Danny's days as a leashed animal end when somebody reveals the profit potential of his fighting skills. Consequently, Danny becomes an arena fighter in duels to the death. Then there's a car accident that gives Danny a chance to leave his constant chaperone. He gets taken in by a blind American piano tuner, Sam (Morgan Freeman) and his pianist daughter. Danny starts to talk and explore his musical passions. But, of course, Uncle Bart is looking for him; He finds him and things erupt in Danny's quiet new existence. The fights are incredible. Its not everyday that I can say a movie is kick ass and poignant, but that is the case here. I loved it.

So here are my final verdicts:
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: TWO STARS
CRASH: FIVE STARS (THE ONE TO BEAT THIS YEAR, AND THERE'S PLENTY OF TIME)
UNLEASHED: FIVE STARS

And by the way,
Star Wars will be happening during this week. Let's see when the review happens..

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XXX: STATE OF THE UNION
a la The Flixter

        Let me get this out of the way first:  I see a lot of stuff; a lot of junk.  But I don't write about everything. Sometimes I will just let it
be.... I don't put my stamp of approval, or otherwise, on it. This was almost the case here, but I figure that I should write something since I haven't had a new review in a while. So here it goes...
       In the first XXX, Vin Diesel was the super-spy of the title... and that movie was fun, unbelievable as it may have seemed. I liked it. Now we have rapper Ice Cube stepping in as the new XXX. He plays Darius Stone, a former soldier who has been in the state penitentiary for some rebellious behavior towards a general.  Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) returns to recruit Darius as the new XXX.  It seems that the general whom Darius rebelled against, played by Willem Dafoe, has some plans to oust the President and take over the country. But Augustus is put out of commission pretty early, so its up to Stone to go ahead and be the hero. He ends up recruiting some of old homies to go fight the battle on the Capitol.
     And this movie was pretty terrible. Ice Cube is just a little hard to take as an action hero. You know that its not him doing the gymnastic-type stuff in the action scenes but a body-double. Hate to sound rude but the guy is a little tubby to be doing that stuff. If they wanted a rapper, I think Ice T, though a little too old, would have been more believable in the action scenes. Plus the movie is pretty darn boring. Sure there are plenty of explosions and gun fire to keep you awake, but where is it all headed? Nowhere redeeming. When was the last time you saw a car chase a bullet train on train tracks? You probably haven't and now is hardly the time to change that..
RATING: ZERO STARS

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The Amityville Horror
a la The Flixter

        Its been, let's see, four days since I saw this movie. I was in a quandary about whether or not I should write a review for it. Today, with nothing much else happening, I figured I should write a little something about it; maybe I can save you folks a few bucks. 
      Anyway, the movie begins with a "Based on True Events" type thingee.  So the house of the title is "bad news." In 1974, apparently, Ron Defeo Jr. woke in the middle of the night and killed his parents and siblings. Why? Because voices told him to. Now, George Lutz Jr.(Ryan Reynolds), unable to pass the great bargain, moves into the house with his new wife and three step-children. Of course, he starts hearing voices and ends up splitting logs for firewood, with an ominous-looking ax, as an answer to the heating problems. His wife, model- turned-actress (yeah, another one of those) Melissa George, hangs around as the usual damsel in distress --- and one of the kids befriends the ghost of one of the kids that was killed in the original massacre. So the house isn't such a great bargain after all.
     The producer here is Michael Bay, who produced the remake of another horror classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That was a classic compared to this one, because this was pretty terrible. Who to blame? The amateurish performers or the equally amateurish direction by director Andrew Douglas. I don't know. But scary this was not. Gory, yes -- scary, no and the biggest disappointment was seeing the great Phillip Baker Hall popping in as a priest who tries to exorcise the demons from the house. But his appearance is pretty brief as he gets chased away from the house by a bunch of bugs..
RATING: ZERO STARS

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Fever Pitch
a la The Flixter

       Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon) is a Boston Red Sox fan; and when I say FAN, I am not kidding. I mean, his fandom is teetering on lunatic fanaticism. Ever since he saw the Red Sox play when he was seven years old, he has been pretty-much obsessed with baseball and that team in particular. His apartment, at age 30, is decorated with Red Sox memorabilia. On top of everything, his uncle, who took him to that first game, has left him season tickets. So every year its the same ritual as he and his likewise friends follow their team.
       Enter Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore) as a pretty straight-arrow career woman. She has had her share of failed romances in the form of her likewise peers. So she decides to give Ben the schoolteacher (like she tells her friends) a shot. Their fist date isn't such a great tone setter, as she has just acquired some food allergies and Ben just ends up cleaning her puke in her apartment. But Lindsey starts to see some hope in the guy as she sees him taking care of her apartment and dog while she is bed-ridden. Things are looking good.... Then baseball season begins and Ben gets torn between his baseball obsession and the romantic possibility of a decent relationship.  Consequently, the romantic comedy kicks in, as the two try to find a common ground.
      Is this a sports movie? Not really. In my opinion, its more of a romantic comedy with the baseball theme just acting as a driving point.  Is it funny? Hell yeah. Ben's obsession with the Sox is huge. But can he manage to find a way to let this obsession accommodate something more? Well that's where the pleasure is. To see how the two will join. You know they will but how is the trip there? Very very entertaining. The Farrelly Brothers do something different since most of their previous work has depended a lot on gross-out humor. But one thing that has been common in all their films is a good heart at the core and being New Englanders, they are obviously Red Sox fans. That is where things get a little touchy. Yankee fans will probably be against this movie without even watching it since that is the main rivalry. The Yanks vs. the BoSox. I have a few friends (Yankee fans) who have said that they will NEVER watch this movie. Thank God, I am not a sports fanatic or I would have missed this great movie...
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Sin City
a la The Flixter

       How can I define this movie?? I don't know, but the reaction pretty much during the movie, and after it ended was, "Whoa!!!". Its not just a movie --- it provides enough visceral thrills and entertainment to fill a couple of typical Hollywood movies. So what's it all about? Its based on a comic book series. Not your typical Marvel or DC Comics fare. Here it's Frank Miller's underground comic series of the same
title. There are three stories and they are not chronological; they overlap. People who die in the beginning may pop up towards the end.... and its brutally violent.
      The first is about a cop nearing retirement. Bruce Willis is great as Hartigan who rescues a young girl from the pedophile son of a Senator. That story ends with Hartigan dying -- but its not over yet.  We go to another chapter of Sin City. Mickey Rourke is Marv, a disfigured man out for revenge. His Goldie, a hooker, was killed in his bed while he slept and he is out to get whoever was responsible for his beloved's violent fate.  The third story concerns the town's prostitutes. They run their business with some involvement from the local cops. That's when Clive Owen's private eye, Dwight, enters the picture. The hookers kill Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro), not knowing that he's a cop. That's where Dwight steps in to help out his old girlfriend who is part of the group. 
      So those are basically the three stories. If the three-story-mingling and overlapping chronologically-format reminds you of Pulp Fiction, then maybe its because the director of that one, Quentin Tarantino, is the producer here. But he also gets credit here for being a guest director, plus the movie gives credit to two people as directors. One is the series creator Frank Miller and the other is the always amazing Robert Rodriguez, who also edits and has a hand in the musical score.  Anyway, prepare to be amazed, if this sounds like your type of thing. There is so so much happening in this city that sin is just the tip of the ice berg. By the way, the movie is pretty much black and white with some bodily fluids given color. And Elijah Wood is also there as a cannibal with his walls decorated with the severed heads of women that he has killed. Plus there is a samurai hooker, a boyish assassin, and a lesbian cop.  All the makings of a good piece of entertainment.
 
RATING: FIVE STARS

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The Ring Two
a la The Flixter

       I can't even remember how long it has been since the first Ring. All I can recall is that I saw it at a sneak preview and thought it was pretty good.  Anyway, we pick up with the videotape that kills anybody who watches it within seven days. No, the tape didn't physically kill the viewer, but instead the viewer ended up meeting a violent demise, one way or another.
     Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan(David Dorfman) have moved to a small town in Oregon. They think that they have escaped that tape. (At least she does.) Her son, on the other hand, is still looking freaky and creeped-out and........, surprise, the tape returns when a local teen is found dead, the dreaded look on his face and an unmarked video tape in the VCR.  Here's a quick refresher: the tape is a series of scratchy images, a "ring" being the epicenter. You watch it and you die within seven days. The only way to save yourself is to make a copy and make someone else watch it; a sort of lethal, high tech, chain letter. A novel concept that fared well in the first film. So how do we top that here? Well, we do more of the same and make the culprit behind the "evilry" (not sure if that's a word) come out of the videotaped background and into the real world. Or at least make that the driving point: Samara's (the evil and freaky chick from the video tape) attempt to enter the real world and who better to provide that
channel than
Rachel's son, Aidan.  So Rachel is trying to protect her son, even though she leaves him alone and unprotected on a number of occasions.
      There are plenty of jumpy moments. The movie will provide your money's worth in terms of jumpy moments; at least I thought so. But where is it all heading? A decent and logical windup to the scary affairs? Of course not. When was the last time a horror movie did that? Why would the studios want to kill an open-ended franchise? Hey, as long as they give me a couple of hours of shallow entertainment, I don't care.And that is exactly what this was. A couple of hours of shallow entertainment. Yes, it was stupid, illogical, and repetitive. But it was, I have to admit, a little unsettling in its scares..... Just for a while.....
 
RATING: THREE STARS

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Hostage
a la The Flixter

       Jeff Talley (Bruce Willis) used to be a hostage negotiator for the LAPD. Of course things went wrong on one of his assignments, resulting in some unnecessary bloodshed, and he becomes a scarred man.  Now he is a cop in a quiet mountain town - at least it starts off as a quiet town. That is until a few young hoodlums follow an accountant's nice truck home. They are just planning on stealing the truck but end up changing their minds when they see the accountant's luxurious home. Plus there is some cash money in the guy's place; a lot of cash money.  It seems that the guy has been helping out in some money laundering. 
     It becomes more complicated when Talley's family is taken hostage in another part of the movie. It seems that this accountant guy (played by Kevin Pollack) has some information on DVD that can grill some crooked cops and the people holding Talley's wife and kid want him to get into the house and get that DVD.  So Talley is in a tough spot, since he was planning on just turning over the situation to County Police. But now he has to stay.  And so does the audience.
      The movie is pretty damn tense, which I wasn't expecting. I thought it would be more in league with Willis' Color of Night (crappy) than his Die Hard movies. But, I am glad to say, I was wrong. Very suspenseful and actiony....and very brutally violent at times. Even though I could have done without Mr. Willis trying to be all emotional by shedding a few tears.
 
RATING: FOUR STARS

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Be Cool
a la The Flixter

      I can't get over the fact that its been almost ten years since Get Shorty graced the big screen, and that, in my opinion, was a classic; absolutely hilarious. Now we resume with John Travolta reprising his character from that movie. Chili Palmer (Travolta) is leaving the film business and wants to give music a shot. He sees potential in nightclub singer Linda Moon, so he decides to make her his first client. The only problem is that she has a contract with somebody else. That somebody happens to be Vince Vaughn's Raji, a big white guy who goes around and acts like he is some big black guy. So there's a problem right there. Plus he's got this big hulk of a body guard who is around him constantly. And, by the way, that hulk of a protector, Eliot, (played by the wrestler The Rock) happens to be gay and has his own aspirations to do some singing and dancing.
     In case you were unaware this, like Get Shorty, is adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel; and that guy is pretty damn awesome. His novels happen to be just as hilarious as they are complicated in their crime-drenched scenarios.  Uma Thurman plays Chili's romantic interest, Edie Athens, who is his former associate's widow. Then there are these Russian mobsters out to kill, and Chili is able to get Eliot's trust by promising him some auditions. Cedric the Entertainer is there as someone who can help Linda Moon get recognized. Like I said before, Leonard's world of crime can get complicated --- but it is entertaining.
     The movie has some nice musical and dance number, but it falls short of the quality that was established by Get Shorty. Danny Devito was the "shorty" in the first film. Here he gets billing but appears for only a few minutes. But the biggest surprise in this movie is The Rock, who manages to steal the movie from his co-stars.  Not great but not too bad either..
 
RATING: THREE STARS

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Hitch
a la The Flixter

      The title character of this romantic comedy, played by Will Smith, is a date doctor. He helps guys get the women of their desire by some unusual methods. His latest client is a challenge; Albert (Kevin James) is a shy and klutzy accountant who has a crush on one of his clients, heiress Allegra. So he approaches Hitch who accepts this client and later realizes how tough things can get. Also entering the picture is a tabloid reporter Sara (Eva Mendes) who wants to do an expose on this mythical date doctor. What further complicates things is the fact that Hitch starts to develop a crush on Sara which throws him off from his usual as he starts to do the things that he is always trying to tell his clients not to do out of desperation. And the movie unfolds as a great time.
      It is really hard to tell who the movie belongs to. Smith gets top billing but the movie is pretty much stolen by Kevin James since he is able to punctuate his at with some great physical comedy as well. Hitch teaches him how to dance and how to kiss so there is a lasting impression. I have never seen James' TV show, but if its anything like his performance here than its definitely worth catching. And its nice to see Smith stray from his usual actiony roles. He shows that he can handle diversity.
      Anyway, this movie was a really really good time. Can't recall the last time a packed theater broke out in applause....
 
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Boogeyman
a la The Flixter

 
      Its been a while since I have managed to write a review.. and I can't believe that I am breaking the dry spell by writing about this piece of crap.  Anyway,...
Tim Jensen (Barry Watson) is a twenty something single living in NYC. But what he can't seem to escape are the stories of the boogeyman. You know, the ones that are told to kids to keep them on their best behavior. The only thing is, Tim has seen the boogeyman. When he was eight years old, Tim saw the boogeyman take his father away. But the story has been that Tim's father left his family and abandoned them. However, Tim knows that it is not so.  The boogeyman took his father and the only way he has of coming to
some inner peace is to go back to his childhood home and confront the monster.
     His mother dies and her funeral gives him a reason to return to his old home. He goes and his girlfriend decides to drop in. Of course she ends up meeting an unfortunate fate at the hands of the title monster. Good thing Tim runs into a childhood sweetheart to keep him company. So Tim is in the house by himself and trying to confront his demons to prove that the boogeyman isn't just some figment of his imagination.
    The movie is just such a mess. Mr. Watson goes through the entire movie with the same pained impression. And the ending, relying too heavily on special effects is just more of a yawner.  Totally awful. It makes Hide and Seek look like a classic.
 
RATING: ZERO STARS


PS: I am not going to go into details but I figure that I should go over the recent Oscar nominations. In case you don't recall the best movie
of last year, in my opinion, was
Garden State, and it is nowhere to be seen on the Academy's roster. So out of the nominees, I would go for Sideways. The Aviator was pretty decent but not the best picture of the year even though it has the makings of what may be given that status by the Academy; a great director (Martin Scorcese), a bankable star (Leonardo DiCaprio) and an epic setting based on fact. But Sideways was a lot better. Quirky, dramatic, and hilarious at the same time.... I predict a win for The Aviator. Let's see what happens.

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Hide And Seek
a la The Flixter

 
     
Emily (Dakota Fanning) and her psychologist father (Robert De Niro) decide to move after mom's death.  But mom didn't just die; she committed suicide by slitting her wrists in the bath tub. Dad tried to shield Emily from this scene, but she walked right in and saw mommy's blood-soaked body with a frantic dad over it..... so the kid is definitely scarred. She finds a little solace in one of dad's co-workers played by Famke Jenssen. Even that gets taken away when dad decides to take his little one and move to a rural area where the two start living in the middle of the woods, in a large house which is now occupied by just the two of them.
    I am no shrink but is that really a smart move? Take a young child out of her usual environment, after the emotional suffering caused by her mom's violent passing, and place her to the middle of a desolate environment populated by strangers? Anyway, that is what happens.  So Emily finds a friend in the form of Charlie; so what if it's an imaginary friend. Nothing wrong with that except that this Charlie has a violent edge to him. He doesn't like it when dad starts mingling with an attractive single mother played by Elisabeth Shue... And Charlie doesn't like it when the neighbors, who had recently lost a young child, come over and try to befriend Emily. So Charlie is not a happy camper. That becomes evident when people start getting killed and young Emily fingers Charlie. Dad has no clue how to handle this mess. Then messages start getting scrawled all over the bathroom walls. Are they warnings or are they just claims? Could Charlie not be so imaginary? 
     I sat around and awaited an appropriate explanation. But when the explanation came, it wasn't really appropriate. The movie had been slow and lagging anyway, so this was just more frustrating.  I saw it a couple of days ago and if I had written my review back then, I would have given it zero stars. So here's what bothers me: the movie has been stuck in my head since I saw it. And when I thought over it, again and again, it made sense. Yes, it all came together from what I managed to recall. And recalling was the hard part since watching the movie had been pretty boring and tedious.  A fine idea that could have been executed in a better way..

RATING:
TWO STARS

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In Good Company
a la The Flixter

 
     
Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is 51 years old and has been working for some sports magazine as an ad exec. He is looking forward to a promotion since he could really use the extra money. His wife tells him that she is pregnant and his daughter decides to go to NYU, which is a lot more expensive than some state university. Then he gets some bad news when his employers decide to down size. The good news is that he gets to keep his job; the bad news is the same, he gets to keep his job working in the same position that he has been holding. He is not getting promoted so there goes any hope of extra money. To add insult to injury, his new boss is a kid half his age. Its 26 year old Carter Duryea (Topher Grace) has been gaining a good reputation in the corporate trouble-shooting business and he is the new boss. Foreman sees many of his co-workers end up meeting a worse fate than him when they are laid off. So Foreman goes against his will by serving under Carter. He is not happy and he makes sure that everyone around him, including higher-ups and the new boss, know about it. What brings things to their limit is the knowledge that his daughter, Alex (Scarlet Johansson), is secretly dating Carter who has had a falling
out with his wife of eight months.  You can't really hate
Carter since he is a pretty decently nice guy who
starts to look at
Dan as a father-figure. Plus, he could be falling in love with Alex.
     Dennis Quaid gives another great performance and Ms. Johansson is also very good. But the movie belongs to Topher Grace. His performance is teetering on poignancy and hilarity throughout. I have never seen his TV show but will definitely try to catch it after watching him steal the show here.  The movie is an absolute pleasure. Hilarious and touching at the same time. If it sounds like your type of movie, then definitely watch it and you will most likely leave the movie theater with a smile on your face. I know I did, even though I almost had a near death experience during the movie when I almost choked on some popcorn..

RATING:
FIVE STARS

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White Noise
a la The Flixter

 
      I feel like changing the format of my review. So let me begin with what may have usually been towards the end... As the movie went into its final reels, the packed theater audience realized that there was no hope for redemption. There was no way that this would end up being a decent venture.   Shouts of ,"we want our money back!!!" could be heard from different spots as the end credits began rolling. I am sure there were some who liked it but they were hugely outnumbered.
      So what was this all about.  Let's go there then:
      Anna Rivers (Chandra West), an acclaimed author, dies in a car accident. Her architect husband, Jonathan (Michael Keaton), is in mourning when he is approached by an old guy who claims that Jonathan can get in touch with the deceased Mrs. through EVP. Electronic Voice Phenomenon is how ghosts get in touch with the living through household electronics like TVs, VCRs, and computers. Yes, this is the point where most of the audience may turn their backs on the movie just like Jonathan does to the old guy. But, of course, he goes along... and tears come to his eyes when he realizes that he is actually getting messages from his beloved. And then the movie goes haywire like one of those appliances that is parlaying messages from the other side.
     Jonathan's new buddy, that old guy, ends up murdered and its up to Jonathan to carry on the communications on his own. There are visions of people who are going to die and he decides to step in and prevent these things from happening. He ends up being the new messenger since spirits keep getting in touch with him through his cellphone and e-mail. I wonder if a spam blocker would have worked?There is evil about and Jonathan keeps getting deeper and deeper into what he was once skeptical about.  Yes, there are a few jumpy scenes but how hard is it to surprise an audience that is on the brink of dosing off?
     A very bad movie. Disappointing to see the fine Mr. Keaton brought to such lows.

RATING:
ZERO STARS

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 A Holiday Backlog
a la The Flixter

      Like the title suggests, I am a little backed up by the holidays. So here I shall try to recollect all memories associated with three movies that I saw over and during Christmas.  First up is Spanglish, a romantic comedy type film that stars Adam Sandler in another role that is not his usual goofy self. Here he plays John Clasky, a famous Los Angeles chef. His wife, Deborah (Tea Leoni) is pretty much a nut job. Anyway, they get a new housekeeper in the form of Flor (Paz Vega), an illegal Mexican who doesn't speak a word of English. Good thing she is accompanied around by her daughter, Christina, who ends up being a translator. But Flor works miracles with her housework and she ends up being a better mother figure to John and Deborah's daughter that Deb herself.
      Since I am short on time and space, let me get to the point. The movie is pretty decent. Adam Sandler, though getting top billing, is not the real star here. The movie, pretty much, belongs to Paz Vega, who delivers a star making performance as the dedicated mother and housekeeper who tends to
be over protective of a daughter who may be getting swept away by this dreamy lifestyle she sees the
Claskys living. Adam Sandler is also pretty good but Tea Leoni is just plain annoying..... I think that does it for that one.
      Next up was Meet the Fockers. You would think that a movie with the talents of Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Barbra Streisand would be, at least, halfway decent; you would be so so wrong. Oh people were laughing, but then they were the same immature types who were cracking up asking for tickets to see Meet the Fockers. Am I so mature? Excuse me, but remember that I love cartoons and am a big fan of SpongeBob. But this was just too lame.
    Ben Stiller returns as Gaylord Focker (ha, ha). He takes his girlfriend and her parents to go meet his parents. Her dad (De Niro) is an ultra uptight, former CIA guy. His mom (Streisand) is a sex therapist
helping seniors and his dad (
Hoffman) is a nut job all his own. So the two families collide and Gaylord tries his best to maintain some decency in the whole affair. Hilarity (very relative) ensues and I sat there with mostly a frown that anticipated an upside down turn but did not get one....  Pretty darn awful.
   Then it was The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou; thank God for that one. Bill Murray is the title character, an American Jacques Cousteau type who is embarking on a quest to hunt down the Jaguar Shark (I am not really aware of their existence). "I will fight it but I'll let it live," is what he tells the people who are concerned he might harm the exotic creature.
   Another big issue is money. So along comes Ned (Owen Wilson) who claims to be Steve's son from a former girlfriend. Steve denies any such association but agrees when Ned says he has the money to finance this journey. Also coming along is British journalist Jane-Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett)
who ends up being an object of desire for both the father and son.  Then there's
Steve's engineer Klaus (a hilarious Willem Dafoe), who looks to Steve as a father figure.  I can go on and on, but the point is that the movie is so, so funny. I had an absolutely great time.  I am a huge fan of Mr. Murray and this one is just another gem from his comic vault.... Loved it.
So here are the final verdicts:

RATING:  SPANGLISH:
FOUR STARS
 
RATING:  MEET THE FOCKERS: HALF A STAR
RATING: THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU: FIVE STARS

 

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TWO DISAPPOINTMENTS
a la The Flixter

    
       A foot note to that title should be, "one expected and one REAL disappointment." Because that is how it was.
       The first movie I caught last week was Blade: Trinity. I didn't go in expecting much and that is exactly what I got. Wesley Snipes returns to his role as Blade, the half vampire and half human hero of the title. The first Blade was decent; Blade 2 was horrible, substituting some ultra-bloody gore for any attempts at mediocre entertainment; now we have Blade: TrinityBlade has become public enemy number one since he has been caught on tape doing his "killing the vampires" bit.  But people don't know about the vampire side of his seeming victims. So he gets arrested and thrown in jail. Busting him out are a group of vampire-hunters calling themselves the Nightstalkers. Included in this group are Jessica Biel (from some TV show that I have never seen) and wise-cracking Ryan Reynolds. Anyway, the vampires have turned a big warehouse into a feeding ground for their peers. There are rows of hanging people (homeless, of course) that are used as drinking fountains by the blood suckers. Then there is the return of an ancient master vampire, Drake, who supposedly has seniority on Count Dracula.
       So the battle begins and blood is shed. This wasn't as good as the first Blade but was vastly better than the second one. An okay movie, that is supposed to cap off the Blade series. 
       Then it was off to the thoroughly disappointing Ocean's Twelve. George Clooney returns as Danny Ocean, who in the first film managed to steal $160 million from Andy Garcia's casino. You would think that he and his cohorts would be enjoying a pretty nice retirement, but they have managed to blow all their money. On top of all that, Garcia's Terry Benedict tracks them down and demands his money back. So the band rejoins and crosses the Atlantic to pull off a new heist so they can pay Terry back. Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and the rest of the crew return to their respective duties. Julia Roberts is now Mrs. Ocean, and a reluctant one, of course. A new addition to the scenery is the NightFox, a European crook who considers himself the master and challenges Ocean. The grand prize is one of those jeweled egg thingees. Things happen and there are plenty of twists that keep reconfiguring what's actually going on.  Like I have said before, I love these types of movies. You know, the ones where you cheer on the crooks. But this one was a totally unnecessary sequel. They should have left good enough alone. But since the Hollywood elite can't pull off heists, they do it in a more subtle way by making movie-goers pay voluntarily. Confusing, bungled up, and not nearly as entertaining as the first one.
 

RATINGS: BLADE:TRINITY:
TWO STARS
RATINGS: OCEAN'S TWELVE: ONE STAR
__________________________________________

ALEXANDER
a la The Flixter

      Its been almost a week since I saw this movie on opening night. Yes, it was that great. So good that I have been stalling a final verdict. In case you haven't caught on, I am being sarcastic. Anyway, let me try to recollect any fond memories (yeah right) associated with this cinematic extravaganza.
      Angelina Jolie plays Olympias, who has a Romanian accent so thick that you might think she had wandered off the set of some Dracula remake that was being shot in the same vicinity. So she is Alexander's mom, which is fine in the early scenes when Alex is a young lad. But then he grows old and she stays the same. When Alexander is older and played by Colin Farrell, she seems more like his peer than his mom. Val Kilmer is the father, the one eyed Phillip, who is always so pissed off that the only reason seems to be him seeing half of what everybody else does (just kidding).  So Alexander becomes a big warrior/leader who goes around conquering much of the world; and he manages to do all this while remaining "in the closet."  Well, according to this movie Al was gay, or, at least, bisexual since he does pick up a wife in the midst of his conquering- but he also has a male lover, Hephaistion (Jared Leto). I have no idea how historically accurate this movie is..... and, frankly, after sitting through this three hour account, I didn't really care. All I knew was that my ass hurt which I am guessing is the film makers' way of letting the audience relate to Al's male lover. I am sorry if that sounds crude but you didn't suffer through this three hour ordeal like I did.
      On top of everything, the movie is boring as hell. Anthony Hopkins is around to narrate a bit and provide some insider info; and all this from director Oliver Stone who seemed to have some skills.  The battle scenes are pretty messy, as well. At least the movie is cohesive in its awfulness, if that makes any sense.  That about does it....

RATING:
 ZERO STARS

_______________________________________   

TWO MOVIES: ONE DISAPPOINTING AND ONE REDEEMING
a la The Flixter

      First up was After The Sunset; it looked promising. How can you go wrong with a movie centered around a master jewel thief going around pilfering stuff in some high-tech ways? Especially when his side-kick happens to be played by the gorgeous Salma Hayek who doesn't refrain from frolicking around in a tiny bikini?  Well, this is how it unfolded...
      Max (Pierce Brosnan) is a master jewel thief who has made a fool out of Agent Stan (Woody Harrelson) by pulling off some daring jewel heists under the latter's supervision. One thing aiding Max is that Agent Stan is "a klutzy one." He seems to be trained in the Laurel and Hardy school of Federal agents. Pratfalls are common during stakeouts under his supervision. Anyway, like I said before, Stan has been after Max for quite some time and he has failed in getting him. But Max is done with his thieving days and plans to retire to a nice Caribbean island with his honey, Lola (Salma Hayek), who like The Kinks put it, "walks like a woman but talks like a man." (That, by the way, is a reference to a great song by that great band.) So, Max does retire to that island along with Lola. The only problem is that there is a big luxury liner docked off the coast of that island and on board that ship is an exhibition of some great jewels, one of which happens to be a Napoleon Diamond that has escaped Max; sure, he's tempted and, sure, Agent Stan is aware of the whole situation and follows Max to the isle. Lola wants Max to concentrate on writing down his marital vows, but Max is distracted. So what happens?
        Well, it could have been a great heist movie. Unfortunately, it is botched. Is it a comedy of pratfalling good guys after a bad guy who doesn't really come across as being loathsome? Or is it a heist flick where the audience, inadvertently, roots for the crook instead of the cop? Like I said, it is botched, so it ends up being a little bit of both, and leaves the audience hanging over a definitive choice. There are some decent twists at the end but not decent enough.

------


      The second movie was
The SpongeBob SquarePants movie. I am a big Simpsons and South Park fan, but SpongeBob? Thank God, I have these cousins who turned me on to this show. The show is absolutely hilarious. I even have a replica of SpongeBob's residence in my room. In case you don't know, he lives in a pineapple under the sea (don't ask, just go along).
      Here we see him aspiring to be the manager at The Krusty Krab, a hugely popular undersea fast food place. That is thanks to its owner, Mr. Krab, and his delicous Krabby Patties. Business has been so good that he opens a Krusty Krab 2, right next to the original Krusty Krab. That is where SpongeBob is hoping to become a manager, but he is overlooked since Mr. Krab sees him as just a kid. His chance to prove him wrong comes along thanks to Plankton, a jealous competitor who has no business because Mr. Krab is right across from his eatery. Plankton has tried every plan, from A to Y, to undermine the Krusty Krab. So now time comes for Plan Z; he steals King Neptune's crown, which the King desperately needs to cover his bald spot, and Plankton frames Mr. Krabs. The latter has six days to come up with the crown and his only hope is in SpongeBob and his moron friend, Patrick, a tubby pink star fish........and they are off to retrieve this crown from Shell City, a forbidden and uncharted zone. Their only aid is Mindy the Mermaid, who believes in the young kid trying to prove he has what it takes.  I think that is enough about the plot.
       Scarlett Johansson is the voice of Mindy and Alec Baldwin is the biker hit-man sent to stop the two searchers of the crown. And David Hasselhoff is himself as SpongeBob and Patrick come to the surface and enter the real world. By now, you either know you want to see it or you stopped reading a while back (which means you are not reading this).  I saw this movie in theater packed with not just kids but also plenty of grown up fans..... and we had an absolutely great time. Loved it..    

RATINGS:
AFTER THE SUNSET:  2 STARS , SPONGE BOB: FIVE STARS
_______________________________________   

THE INCREDIBLES
a la The Flixter

      Yes, I am still a little behind. You don't need to remind me. So just shut up and read on, if you want to....  Bob Parr (voice of Craig T. Nelson) is also Mr. Incredible. The later super-hero, fights crime in that guise, along with some other gifted ones. They include close pal, Frozone (voice of Samuel Jackson) and Mrs. Parr, Elastigirl (voice of Holly Hunter).
     Their names pretty much say what they do: Frozone freezes stuff while Elastigirl is super-flexible and Mr. Incredible is just plain incredible. For example, in one heroic instance, while he is chasing a car he stops to help an old lady whose cat is stuck in a tree. He uproots the tree, gets the cat out, and uses the same tree to club the car he was chasing. But lawsuits against the super-ones start piling up when the ungrateful saved start suing their saviors for minor injuries. The super heroes are forced to hang up their
super-disguises and start living a life of mediocrity.
     A decade or so later, Mr. Parr is working in a tiny cubicle where he can't help but give clients some tips that undermine his boss but help the one's seeking aid. Now he and the Mrs. have three kids, also having some super powers.  Dash is super fast, which he uses to put tacks on a teacher's chair in the blink of an eye. Violet can become invisible and Jack-Jack is just Jack-Jack since he is still a baby. However, Parr gets called to an island where a giant robot has gone haywire. He goes, becomes Mr. Incredible, and finds out too late that it is all a trap. A trap set up by a brand new nemesis, Syndrome, who wants to become a hero for a land that is now empty of any super-beings there to help humans. So once again, Mr. Incredible must surface. He gets some of the old cronies together and even his kids come in handy.
     That's enough about the plot. Is it any good? It was one hell of a good time. Great action and plenty of laughs. By the way, its the latest from Pixar, so the animation isn't traditional but pretty super, high-tech.
Director
Brad Bird, who previously helmed The Iron Giant, another animated classic, does such an amazing job here that I don't think any words can do it justice.  Just the animated short, about a sheep whose faith is reinforced by a Jackalope, preceding the movie is worth the price of admission..

RATING:
FIVE STARS
_______________________________________  

TWO MOVIES WITH THREE LETTER TITLES & NOTHING ELSE IN COMMON
a la The Flixter

      Yes, I am still a little behind. Once again, I am writing about movies that came out last week. But here's my take on two movies I saw during this past week.  The first movie was Saw. The movie begins with two men (Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell) waking up at the opposite ends of a filthy bathroom. They are chained to the pipes on the wall and have a dead body lying in the middle of the floor. Seems that they have become the latest victims of the Jigsaw Killer, a serial killer who doesn't actually kill his victims. Instead he puts them in situations where they end up causing their own deaths. For example, in flashbacks we see how one of the victims had to free himself by going through a razor-sharp maze (doesn't quite work out for that poor fellow); or Jigsaw makes his victims end up killing another to save
themselves. In another flashback we see a woman with a thing locked around her face. That thing is set to explode and shatter her face; her only way out is to unlock that thing and remove it from her face. And the key is by her feet; actually its in the digestive tract of a guy lying at her feet. So she would have to kill the guy and retrieve that key. Does she do it? Of course. Now these two abovementioned fellows are facing a similar challenge. If
Elwe's Lawrence doesn't kill Adam, they will both die. Plus, the two are
provided with saws that are not sharp enough to cut the chains but they could cut through their flesh and bone if they chose to. I think by this point you should know if this is your type of movie or not.
      The premise was definitely intriguing for me, and the movie wasn't too bad. Just a little hard to take when the killer's motivations are revealed to be humanitarian. The guy just wants his victims to appreciate life and what they have. Lawrence is actually a doctor with a wife and daughter, but he
doesn't quite appreciate all he is blessed with;
Jigsaw makes him do that. There are some twists and turns as the final revelations start piling up. Also around is Danny Glover as a police detective on the case.
     This is a pretty decent concept-driven movie, with pretty mediocre acting, though and the ending is guaranteed to catch you off-guard.

 

    Then a couple of days later, I went to see Ray. The movie is based on the late Ray Charles. Here he is portrayed by Jamie Foxx who is emerging as quite a fine actor. Who could have guessed that the guy from In Living Color would become the front-runner for an Oscar?
      Here we see Charles struggle with racism and become a great musician even though he has been
blind since age seven. On his way to becoming the legend that he did, he becomes a heroin-addict, finds a woman he loves, and finds a way to hurt that woman by his womanizing ways.
      I am a pretty big music buff but never really got into Charles' music. But this movie has changed that; the soundtrack is absolutely amazing. This movie is probably the most moving and inspiring piece of cinema you will probably see this year. Equally great is the child-actor who portrays Ray in his younger days and his dealing with the loss of sight.
     I really don't know what more to say about this movie. It is just so unbelievably great. Jamie Foxx is just so great. The music is awesomely great. The supporting performances are great.  I just really really loved it. Not much to say beyond that....
PS: Its a couple of days later and I just went and picked up the soundtrack for Ray. Amazing what this great movie made me realize since I would have NEVER thought about buying any of Charles' music.

RATINGS:
SAW:  3 STARS , RAY: FIVE STARS
_______________________________________        

TWO DAYS, TWO MOVIES, AND NOTHING EVERLASTING
a la The Flixter

      Life's been a little hectic, but as the title suggests, I did manage to squeeze two movies in. Not the latest releases, but better late than never. The first movie I saw was I (Heart) Huckabees. Right off the bat, this wasn't turning out too great since I interpreted the title as I Love Huckabees. Stupid me, but I thought the "heart" implied "love."  Then I learned what the real title was...... But who cares as long as the movie is good. 
     Yes, I am stupid, because the movie was a horror. It is the latest from David O. Russell who broke out with the classic, Spanking the Monkey (I hate to sound crude but the movie inevitably has the title as a major plot point that pretty much drives that ode to sexual frustration and incest), and believe it or not, that is a great movie.  Then he has shown his hand at handling some great action with Three Kings. Anyway, this one deals with Jason Schwartzman's character and his handling of certain coincidences in his life.
     Albert Markovski (Schwartzman) is a feuding environmentalist, planting trees in parking lots and trying to halt urban expansion. However, he happens to come across the same tall Sudanese man three times during the same day; why, he wonders. Then he goes into one of those eateries that require a jacket and he doesn't have one. They give him one and he finds a business card in one of the pockets. It is from a group of Existential Detectives.  Just what he needs.  He goes to them and puts his case before them. Why have these coincidences been popping up in his life? The detectives, played by Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin, get on the case.  They follow Albert all over and are determined to find the greater purpose behind those coincidences.  By the way, Huckabees is a chain of these giant stores that is headed by Jude Law's Brad Stand. He is Albert's chief rival since stopping that chain is one of Albert's main goals.
     A lot of stuff happens but the movie is a huge mess. Naomi Watts is there as well, as Huckabees chief model and Mark Wahlberg is pretty decent as Albert's "other."  But I hated the movie, even though I went through a whole existential phase myself.  Anything from Camus and Sartre was a must read; Sartre's philosophy of "Hell is other people", came in pretty hand when my misanthropic side came in contact with my existentialist side. But, thank God, I am not the same "people suck" type of person any longer. Anyway, the movie was a pretty huge, unfunny, and convoluted mess.
     Movie number two was The Grudge, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Here she plays an exchange student in Tokyo. The whole idea behind this one is that when a person dies in a state of anger, their rage lives on and kills anybody who happens to be at the place where the person died. The culprit here is Bill Pullman's character, who leaps to his death in the beginning of the movie. So he (seemingly) kick-starts this grudge thingee. Gellar's Karen also volunteers at this care center for the elderly and her new assignment is an old American lady in a pretty catatonic state. She happens to be living where Pullman's character committed suicide. Karen starts encountering the after-effects of the grudge as strange occurrences start happening. There's a freaky black cat..... and when she investigates some strange noises from the attic, she even finds a freakier little kid in that dark place. People die, police investigate, and more people die.
     This is a remake of a Japanese hit and the director is the same guy who directed the original (can't think of the name, though). When the final revelations start piling up, the movie actually seems decent. But when I thought over it, it still wasn't that good. It is kinda creepy, but that effect wore off as soon as the theater lights went on.

 

RATINGS:
I (HEART) HUCKABEES:  1/2 STAR , THE GRUDGE: ONE STAR
_______________________________________    

Team America - World Police
a la The Flixter

      Broadway star Gary is showing off his acting and musical talents in a musical titled Lease. Afterbelting out some melodies, in front of an adoring audience, he is approached by a man who tells him to get in his limo, since he has a proposition for the young thespian. Apprehensive at first, Gary decides to get in the limousine. The limo starts cruising down the road and the proposition, which Gary thought would involve something illicit or carnal, is put before him. Gary is asked to join Team America, a secret government group that fights global terrorism. Their latest would involve going into a mid-East country to hunt down some Muslim terrorists. That's where Gary's thespian qualifications would come in handy. He thinks about it and decides to join.
     The Team has a few other members including a female who has sworn off getting involved with a fellow member since she lost her last love during a dangerous mission. The there's another female who
has some psychic powers; plus one of the males hates
Gary since he had a bad experience with actors as a child. There is some basic training and a little plastic surgery for Gary and he is ready for the mission.  The team ends up going after the terrorists, seeking to find some Weapons of Mass Destruction (sound familiar??). That attempt fails but not before the pyramids and the Sphinx have been wrecked. Then it turns out that Korean mad-man Kim Jong-Il was a cohort of the mid-East terrorists and now controls the WMDs. So the Team goes after him.
     In case you didn't already know, the Team is played by puppets. Yes, this is the latest from those nuts behind South Park (I love that show, of course). The movie manages to squeeze the most out of the current global condition. But terrorists and politicians aren't the only target here. Hollywood celebs end up being the main course as puppet versions of everyone from Sean Penn, Matt Damon, Tim Robbins to director Michael Moore are literally obliterated in the goriest (in puppet sense) of ways. The movie is
soooo damn funny that I can't even begin to recall the last time I laughed so much and so hard. There are musical numbers in between including a classic from dictator
Kim Jong, I Am So Lonely (or as he sings it "Ronery").
     Yes, the movie is definitely capable of offending anybody. It has to have what may be some of the most explicit sex scenes involving puppets. Believe it or not, they had to be edited to avoid an NC-17 rating and throughout those scenes, and the fight scenes, the strings are clearly visible.  Just so funny. I can't believe how Stone and Parker (the brains behind this) managed to pitch their idea to the studios. Definitely watch it but know what you are getting into..

RATING:
FIVE STARS
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Taxi
a la The Flixter

      NYPD cop Andy Washburn (Jimmy Fallon) hears the report of a bank robbery in progress close by.  So what does he do? He tries to stop a car but ends up causing a huge, multi-vehicle wreck.  So he goes to his next option; he stops a cab. The cabby happens to be the feisty and outspoken Belle Williams (Queen Latifah).  Why, you may ask, is a cop stooping to such extremes? Well, that's because Washburn has had a bad history with automobiles. So much so, that he had his license taken away by the captain, who also happens to be a former love interest.  Anyway, Andy and Belle go after the bank robbers and they are surprised when the latter turn out to be a quartet of really hot women.  These Brazilian hotties have been going around robbing banks and further investigation reveals that they do so only on certain days of the week. (And much further investigation reveals why they do so.)
      Andy and Belle end up forming an uncomfortable alliance, as the quest to bring down these bank robbers progresses.  Belle's cab is a souped-up piece of transportation since she has dreams of competing in NASCAR. (She has managed to get her fares to their destinations in record time.) Of course, her speed-demon persona finds a reason to go after these female robbers since their driving becomes a challenge to face. Many car chases happen but the movie fails on the level of a comedy. The funny stuff is not that funny since Fallon (an SNL alumnus) starts to get pretty annoying. But the car chases and action scenes are pretty good and the finale is pretty awesome. This movie happens to be a remake of a French film from director Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Professional) who serves as producer here. 
   So how is this action-comedy? Well, there is plenty of action but you have seen most of the redundant comedy in the previews. Not too bad but not too good either..

RATING:
TWO and 1/2 STARS
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Ladder 49
a la The Flixter

      Firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) falls through the floor of a burning building he had entered to do some rescuing. He loses
consciousness, regains it, and drifts in and out of this state; he thinks back over his life with the
Baltimore Fire Department.  The movie, told in flashbacks, goes to his first day on the job. He enters the FD as a rookie under Captain Mike Kennedy (John Travolta), who has some unusual methods, including the beginning of each day with a shot of liquor.  The fellow firefighters are a pretty unruly bunch, pulling pranks on each other and bickering constantly --- but that all changes when the bells ring. Then they are seriously dedicated to their jobs as they risk life and limb to accomplish what they set out to do.  We see many instances of the team risking it all to rescue strangers from blazing buildings.  We see Jack meet a girl; we see him court her and we see him marry her. They become the parents of two kids; pretty much its life, except that here the life is constantly punctuated with hazard as Jack is always out there fighting fires, which are aplenty.
      In its final reels, the movie, pretty much, gives it all to squeeze tears out of the audience. Which was working pretty good on the lady in front of me since her sobbing was pretty clear whenever there were a few seconds of silence. Yes, firefighters are extremely heroic in doing what they do and this movie pays them a pretty well-earned homage. But the characters are not too well developed. The main ones are given some attention and the secondary players are just secondary, given zero attention beyond their surface.  Backdraft is still the one to beat when it comes to movies about  firefighters..

RATING:
TWO and 1/2 STARS
_______________________________________ 


A SHORT FLIGHT INTO THE FLIXTER'S BACKGROUND

a la The Flixter...
 

     I can't get over some of the movies I watched as a young kid. My favorite, growing up, had to be American Ninja. I must have seen it, at least fifty times. In fact, I was so obsessed with ninjas that anything with Ninja in the title was a must see. So I saw a lot of junk, which didn't strike me as junk at all, and the best actor around was Sho Kosugi, of course, since he made many movies with Ninja in the title (Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III, 9 Deaths of the Ninja, and on and on......) That convinced me about the racial inequality in Hollywood. How come that master thespian (yeah right, I say now) was never nominated for an Oscar?

     I was also pretty big on James Bond, which made me realize the gender-inequality. How come Mr. Bond just barges into the shower when some hot girl is trying to get cleaned up? And once he's there, he keeps distracting her from, what I believed was the real reason she had stepped into the shower -- to get cleaned up.  Then these hard working females were not getting enough screen coverage. You can see Bond to his belly but the poor females are cut off at the shoulders.  What an outrage!!!

    Another thing was what the parents would let the kids watch over there, since I didn't grow up in the USA. Anything with nudity or sexuality was off limits. You'd think that they would allow that in moderation since everyone wanted their kid to be a doctor. But violent stuff was okay. I guess they wanted to emphasize the circulatory system and how sharp objects and bullets can rupture the so-called system.

    Why am I talking about this? I haven't got a clue. I couldn't sleep and this came to mind. Point being, I have seen a lot of crap, and hopefully it has qualified me, so maybe now, I can tell the difference......

 And Now for the Reviews.........

The Forgotten
a la The Flixter

      Its been fourteen months since Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) lost her son in a plane crash. Her mourning goes on, but that is where the problem comes into place. Her husband, Jim (Anthony Edwards) and shrink (Gary Sinise), both tell her that she never had a son. Sinise's shrink even has a psychiatric term for it (which I forgot, of course).  But what it means and defines is a psychiatric condition where people invent these events and people, that are only in their mind, however, but Telly won't believe that. Her son, Sam,  was real and he did die in a plane crash. She finds the father of one of her son's friends who also died in that crash.  That only makes things worse since that dad has no idea who she is. Plus, he didn't have a daughter; things are not looking good. But they do manage to team up when Telly makes some revelations that surprise that father into realizing that maybe he did have a daughter. They start investigating and these Feds come in to stop. That only cements their belief that something is going on.
     A great idea. The kind of film you see in a preview and you just have to go see what the whole thing is about.  Well, the greatness of this film is limited to the preview, ...because the preview doesn't need to explain what is actually going on.  The movie, on the other hand, does, and that's what kills it.  There is all this built-up suspense and when the revelation occurs, the reaction probably won't be "Wow," but "What the hell!!!" A great idea that even the film-makers couldn't figure out how to finalize.  But there are some jumpy moments; there was, at least, one scene that made me jump.   So you decide if that's worth the price of admission.

RATING:
TWO STARS
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Sky Captain and the World of Tommorow
a la The Flixter

      The year is 1939.  Joe (Jude Law), known better as Sky Captain, is the hero called upon to get to NYC when there are troubled times.... and that time comes when the city comes under attack by some giant (and I mean GIANT) robots. It turns out that robots are also involved with the disappearances of some famous scientists. That brings reporter, Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), into the picture. She, of course, had a romantic thing with Joe a while back. So she convinces him to become a tag along, even though he is wary at first due to the dangerous nature of this expose. 
     It turns out that the robots were sent by Dr. Totenkopf (a briefly digitized Laurence Olivier --- digitized since he died fifteen years ago). So the hunt for the Doc begins with the aid of nerdy pal Dex (Giovanni Ribisi).  The hunt ends up leading the duo to the far corners of the world like China, Nepal, and even Shangri-La..... and that is the plot, which takes a back seat to the eye candy. The entire movie, NYC and all, is digitalized; all the backgrounds are computer generated. Only the actors are real, doing their jobs in front of a blue screen. The movie is unbelievably, amazing looking.  It definitely sets a precedent for the future of cinema. The director is Kerry Conran (never heard of him before) and he definitely does an amazing job.  Of course, the plane needs re-fueling since its a long flight.  That leads to another amazing stop-over. This one is on top of an air-borne, air craft carrier, which looks so damn awesome. The chief over there is Angelina Jolie, wearing an eye patch and holding a grudge against Sky Captain since she was also an old flame.  The plot, I guess, probably makes some kind of sense if you can look beyond the special effects. But that may be a little hard to do. But definitely watch this one on the big screen..

RATING:
FOUR STARS
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MR.3000
a la The Flixter

       Stan Ross (Bernie Mac) was a pretty hot player for the Milwaukee Brewers. He was hot in the sense that he was good at playing ball. His attitude towards his fans and fellow players was a whole other story. Then he gets his 3000th base hit and he quits the game, but not before he barged into the stands to get his prized ball from a fan (some little kid), then going back into the field he proceeds to insult his fellow players and fans.  Then he quits. 
      After walking out on baseball, he proceeds to capitalize on his accomplishment. He opens a whole Mr. 3000 mall where all the stores have the same theme, 3000 something or other, be it haircuts, clothes, or food. He is hoping to get into the Hall of Fame, too. Nine years later, that time comes around. They calculate all his hits and it turns out that Mr. 3000 falls a little short; he had only hit 2997 base hits. What to do but return to the game and hit those three other hits. Sounds simple but he is 47 years old now. Plus his fellow players and baseball fans haven't forgotten his old attitude. Much of the comedy results because of the former.
      The old timer has to get back in shape if he intends to get those three hits. But getting along with the fellow players is even tougher.  So the movie becomes more of a sports-drama rather than a sports-comedy, as he has to change his attitude to regain the lost allegiances.... and that is where my problem was.  Most of the funny scenes were the ones you may have seen in the previews. I was disappointed because I went expecting a comedy. But a greater part of the movie is drama as Stan tries to regain the faith of those who were once his followers and rekindle some romance with a reporter (Angela Bassett) who wasn't treated too nicely back in the day.  The movie isn't bad for a sports drama, but, once again, I was EXPECTING COMEDY. So be warned..

RATING:
THREE STARS
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Unfaithful
a la The Flixter

         Here's another analogy: George Lucas is to sci-fi extravaganzas as director Adrian Lyne is to marital dysfunction. He was involved with Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal. And now his latest ode to adulterous turmoil is Unfaithful.
        Diane Lane and Richard Gere are a seemingly happily married suburban couple.....  and one extremely windy day Lane literally bangs into French dude, Olivier Martinez. He invites her in to get cleaned up and thus begins an obsessive love affair between the two....  Gere's unknowing husband character starts to suspect something, while Lane starts to develop a guilty conscience. Some surprising developments towards the end caught me off-guard, but what caught me off-guard the most was how good this movie was; Diane
Lane
delivered another great performance.  And both Gere and Martinez are pretty good.  I didn't want to go see this but I had to and I am glad that I did.       

Rating: FOUR STARS.

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Spider-Man
a la The Flixter

         Comic books can make great movies.  Sure, they can also make bad ones (anybody remember Judge Dredd??), but in the right hands, they can be the ultimate escape. Think of Tim Burton's first Batman or Christopher Reeve in the first (or even second) Superman. Thank God, the guy chosen to finally bring Spider-Man to the big-screen was Sam Raimi (awesome, awesome director). I've been a fan of his since the first Evil Dead......and he has shown diversity by making such films as the excellent, A Simple Plan.   This is not his first time in Super-Hero turf (watch the awesome Darkman with Liam Neeson); there could not have been a better person chosen to bring the Marvel superhero to the big screen.
       I hope you know what it's about -- nerdy Peter Parker gets bitten my a mutant spider and develops super powers; consequently, he becomes Spider-Man and fights crime. Tobey Maguire is excellent in the lead...... he has to fight the usual criminals and also protect against a super-villain, the Green Goblin, who happens to be his friend's father's alter-ego (played by a mischievous looking Willem Dafoe).   And all the while he has to balance his love for the girl next door, Kirsten Dunst, and help out his adoptive parents. 
Absolute fun!!  Thank God, the escapist summer movie season has been kicked off.

Rating: FIVE STARS.

PS:  Of course, no Raimi flick can be complete without at least a cameo
from his old-time regular
Bruce Campbell.  And of course, the ending is very
open-ended, so sequels will follow. (Something to look forward to in this
case.)

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Murder By Numbers
a la The Flixter

         The movie starts off promisingly --- two rich kids, also high school outcasts, get together to pull off the perfect crime.  They will commit murder and get away with it. And they do kill someone and leave just enough clues so the police can come after them.... But do it so they won't get caught for it.
          The crime is being investigated by Sandra Bullock's homicide detective.  She gets paired with Ben Chaplin to find the killer.  Why she is so bitter and hard-assed, gets explained much later in the movie.  It is intriguing to watch the two kids do their deed and deliberately leave a trail for the cops to follow. They are a modern-day Leopold and Loeb (watch Hitchcock's classic Rope).  But in the end there is something missing....  And of course, in the end, things happen too fast as the film-makers try to tie up all the loose ends. 
          Director Barbet Schroeder directed Jeremy Irons towards an Oscar, with Reversal of Fortune. Since then he's had an iffy resume. He did do the awesome Nicolas Cage(bad guy)/David Caruso(good guy) film Kiss of Death.... But he also did the not-so-good Michael Keaton(nut case)/ Andy Garcia(cop) flick Desperate Measures. Unfortunately, this one is closer to the later in quality than the former.T.

Rating: TWO STARS.

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Changing Lanes
a la The Flixter

         These two guys are having a bad day. Samuel Jackson is on his way to a child custody hearing; Ben Affleck's ambitious attorney is on his way to turn in evidence on a big case that his firm (his father-in-law's) has handed him. They get into an accident on the highway; Affleck is in a rush to get to where he has to be....so he leaves poor Jackson in a rush and without transportation.  Jackson is late for the hearing and loses in court.  But Ben drops a very important folder which Jackson finds.  .....And thus begins what is probably going to be one of the best movies of the yearAffleck wants that important piece of evidence back while Jackson just wants his time back ---- the time which cost him his kids. The movie takes place over the course of that day and had me glued to my seat.
EXCELLENT.

Rating: FOUR STARS.

P.S. I also gave Ice Age four stars. But that was for a fun time. The
four stars here are for over-all excellence. Great script. Great acting.
Great everything..

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Frailty
a la The Flixter

          Bill Paxton has done a lot of stuff in front of the camera. He has chased
twisters (
Twister), explored sunken ships (Titanic), attempted to seduce the unknowing wife of a spy (True Lies), and on and on.....  But now he is behind the camera, as well as front, for his directorial debut.
         Matthew McConaghey walks into an FBI office and proceeds to tell about how his father killed a whole bunch of people.  We go back a few decades and see the dad (Bill Paxton), a widower, raising his two young sons in Texas.  And then he sees an angel that tells him that there are demons roaming around, as humans, and he must destroy them. So he, along with the two young boys, goes around and kills people that the angel tells him to....  The older boy sees something wrong with what his dad is doing but can't do much. An hour and fifteen minutes into the movie I left to answer the call of nature.... And I never went back because the movie I had been watching had been AWFUL. The last time I walked out of a movie was during the Demi Moore stinkfest, The Scarlet Letter..... and that was a while ago.   But this one was awful.  Watching Paxton talk so earnestly about destroying demons was laugh enducing until I realized I had paid to come see this.   As for the ending, I left before it happened.  All I know is that one heck of an ending was needed to redeem this stinker....
Thank God, Changing Lanes was so good..

Rating: ZERO STARS.

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High Crimes
a la The Flixter

         Ashley Judd and Jim Caviezel are a happily married couple planning on having a baby and expanding their family. Then one night there's a SWAT raid and Jim gets taken in......turns out that he is charged with killing civilians in El Salvador, while in the Marines, a decade or so ago. Thus begins this courtroom-ish thriller-type movie....oh yeah, Judd is a lawyer by day. But in this case, she gets aided by the great Morgan Freeman's recovering-alcoholic lawyer. I might not have used great to describe Mr. Freeman if he hadn't done great stuff (Glory, Nurse Betty, etc.) --- because this movie is not great stuff; it's not even good stuff. Its long, over-drawn, predictable, and boring. And then there's the obligatory twist towards the ending. Sucks!!! ....
         And to know that this was directed by Carl Franklin, whom I regarded as a good director. Well, he did direct the excellent One False Move. And then the very good Denzel Washington vehicle, Devil in a Blue Dress. But now this... . .

Rating: ONE STAR.

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Death To Smoochy
a la The Flixter

         Danny Devito is awesome. God knows how many times I have rented Throw Momma From the Train ---love that movie. (Sure it would have been sensible to just buy a copy but then I don't make that much sense anyway.)  He is a great director as well as producer; his production company, Jersey Films, brought out a certain talent known as Quentin Tarantino with a little film called Pulp Fiction. But this review is for his latest directorial effort.
         Robin Williams is Rainbow Randolph, a fallen kid's show host, who finds that KidNet execs, Catherine Keener and Jon Stewart have replaced him with a purple Barney-esque rhino named Smoochy. Smoochy is the labor of love of Edward Norton (another great performance). Smoochy is a true hero --- and has a lot more integrity than Rainbow Randolph --- who was busted for taking bribes from parents to get their kids front and center on his show. Smoochy becomes a huge hit and a constant reminder to Randolph about what he used to be........he wants Smoochy annihilated, thus the title.
         This movie was a riot. Poor Smoochy ends up in trouble with the Irish mob and neo-Nazis. So much happens that I would be up all night if I tried to cover everything. But it was hilarious. I loved it. .

Rating: FOUR STARS.

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The Panic Room
a la The Flixter

         Who knew that some guy directing George Michael music videos would become one of the best young movie directors around. But that is the case with David Fincher.He has been racking up an impressive resume--Seven, The Game, The Fight Club......and now to top them off, The Panic Room.
        Jodie Foster and her daughter move into their new penthouse in the city. (Of course they wouldn't have been able to afford it if her ex-husband had not been so loaded.) The place is huge and just when they are trying to get settled, Foster wakes up in the middle of the night to see intruders on the security cam....grabs her daughter and they are both in "the panic room." What is that? Well its pretty much like a bank vault, except that its even tougher to break into. Once they are in, one of the tensest movie experiences kicks off......Because the problem is that the intruders (Forrest Whittaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam) want something that is inside the panic room. Phone lines are cut so they have no possible contact with the outside.    And...just go watch this movie. It was GREAT.

Rating: FOUR STARS.

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Blade 2
a la The Flixter

          Watching this movie reminded me of taking the SATAt least the analogy part on the verbal SAT.  Because blood is to this movie as water was to TitanicDamn!!  Blood and guts everywhere.  Disgusting!!!
          The first Blade was not too bad.  It was entertaining.  Wesley Snipes reprises his role as the part human and part vampire Blade.  Good thing for the humans that he is on their side.  Kris Kristoferson also returns as his ally who hooks him up with all the weaponry to fight the hordes of vampires. That said, this movie was awful.  Awful, awful, awful.  Couldn't believe all the parents there with their young ones.  Worst part is that it was directed by Guillermo del Torro.  Who del who??  He was a good director in my opinion.  Directed the awesome Cronos.  Rent it.  Try to get the subtitled Spanish language original, though.  Then he made the not-too-bad Mimic. But this was awful.  And not even a decent soundtrack to redeem it. 
         Not a good thing to say about this one. But I don't think it deserves a one star rating.  
I give it... .

Rating: ZERO STARS.

PS:  I think that the movie theatre should have given out more than a bag of corn chips after this stinker.
PSS:  I can't believe that I have to explain my dislike for that piece of crap, Blade 2. But I will. It's my fault -- I made it sound like the gore was the turn-off. If I don't like that kind of stuff then why would I go see something of the sort? No, gore doesn't bother me. I am a big fan of gore-masters Tobe Hooper, George Romero, Dario Argento, and on and on. But I hated Blade 2 because it was just an endless exercise in how to kill vampires. You see a million ways to do it. But where the hell is the entertainment? There is none. Unless you count watching vampires getting blown up and maimed in every way imaginable as entertaining.  Vampire mood?? Rent John Carpenter's Vampires or Bram Stoker's Dracula. Or even better rent the awesome Fright Night from '87 or its inferior sequel (which is still a lot better than Blade 2) . Watch the first Blade.
Hell, go watch Blade 2 and then tell me I was wrong!!!

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Ice Age
a la The Flixter

          Guess what is the most frequently watched channel on my TV?? No!!!!  Why do you have to think dirty stuff?  Besides, I don't get those channels.  Anyway, the correct answer is The Cartoon Network. I love cartoons. Even though, lately they have become extended infomercials for toys.

          Oh yeah, Ice Age. Awesome movie. Loved it. Twenty thousand years ago,  everybody is fleeing from the ice.  Sid, a sloth (voiced by John Leguizamo), is trying to catch up to a group of these fleeing humans so he can give them the infant they forgot behind. He is accompanied by Manny, a woolly mammoth (voice of Ray Romano). Of course they are not getting along ..... but it's still a buddy movie.  You know they will get along soon. Their unlikely ally is Diego, a saber tooth tiger (voiced by the Great Dennis Leary).  They have all kinds of perils on their way. But the laughs are consistent ..... a great time. Take the kids. I don't have any so I took my cousins.

Rating: FOUR STARS.

PS: I also think that the best picture of last year was Shrek. Think what
you want. I really don't care.

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Showtime
a la The Flixter

         I guess Robert de Niro has had enough of those tough-guy dramatic roles. He went the comic way with Analyze This.   Did the same with Meet the Parents. And now he is paired with Eddie Murphy for this movie ---- don't get me wrong -- he still plays a tough guy here......very serious and rarely smiling.

          De Niro is a detective who gets into some hot water when he shoots the
camera on some annoying camera-man following him on his job.  The only way out is a proposition from TV producer
Rene Russo. To have her crew tape him at work for a TV show.  Of course he doesn't want to do it but his bosses make him.  He gets paired with patrolman / wanna-be actor, Eddie Murphy and Showtme is born.  There is some cool action towards the end as the two get closer to the bad guy putting some awesomely big guns on the streets -- and some pretty funny scenes as the two cops become celebs. But it was not as funny as I was expecting it to be.

Analyze This was hilarious. Meet the Parents was OK. This one falls in the
middle.

Rating: TWO STARS.

PS: William Shatner is very funny playing himself and inviting some cracks
at his cop-show
T.J. Hooker.

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The Time Machine
a la The Flixter

          Guy Pearce sure is busy these days. This is the third movie that I am reviewing with him in it --- no complaints, though. At least it's him in all these movies coming out and not, say...Pauly Shore or someone like that. Anyway, here he stars in another adaptation of H.G.Wells' sci-fi classic.  And this time it's family business. The movie is directed by Simon Wells, who is the great grandson of the author. Pearce's inventor gets even more bent on finding a way to travel through time when his fiancйe is killed. As he tries desperately to change what has happened, he finds himself in a futuristic NYC, where a holographic Orlando Jones provides the movie's very few comic moments. Then the next stop is a post-apocalyptic NY. And finally he propels himself 800,000 years into the future, where he finds himself fighting to survive, along with other humans, against a savage breed of Morlocks. Their leader, by the way, is played, under heavy make-up, by the awesome Jeremy Irons.

       To get to the point, the movie is amazing to look at --- it has some spectacular sets (or FX) that must have cost a bundle. There are some boring parts. But overall it was great to look at. And fun.

Rating: THREE and a half STARS.

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We Were Soldiers
a la The Flixter

          Another war movie?? Mel Gibson was collaborating with his Braveheart screenwriter Randall Wallace for an adaptation of true events during the Vietnam war when a platoon of 400 or so American soldiers found themselves surrounded by thousands of Vietnamese fighters.

         So I went to see it, knowing full well that this wasn't going to be any escape.  After all I had paid over a hundred bucks for Braveheart and had to see how they did here --- but why I paid so much for Braveheart is another story.  Gibson is Lt. Col. Moore; happily married with five kids, he finds his regiment sent off to fight in Vietnam. Greg Kinnear, in another great performance, plays his star chopper pilot. Chris Klein is a new father and lieutenant; and Barry Pepper tags along as a journalist who gets more than a story on the war.

         Meanwhile, back at home, Moore's wife, played by Madeline Stowe takes lead with the wives, all of whom are waiting for their husbands and dreading the arrival of a telegram.  But the scene stealer is Sam Elliot as a war-hardened Major whose blunt outlook is comic yet ominous.  Of course its depressing and bleak - but it is also powerful.  The woman behind me kept letting out expressions of shock at the violence.  What the hell did she expect?   Meanwhile, whenever there was a silent moment in the movie, I would hear her partner snoring. Very annoying. But that's another story.

Excellent movie. Very bloody and violent, though.

Rating: FOUR STARS.

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Hart's War
a la The Flixter

          Doing movie reviews can be tough.  Like this weekend, I had to decide what to go and watch since none of the Studios sent me any passes to check out their new releases.  It was a choice between Britney and Bruce.   There was the Pop Princess making her film debut and there was Bruce "Chich's boy" Willis in a war drama (I will explain that nickname later).  Guess which one I chose? (Hint: look at the title at top of page).

       You might have been misled by the promos for this movie.  Bruce Willis is only a supporting player.  Colin "I don't know what else he's in" Farrell plays Lt. Hart, a newly arrived POW at a German camp during WWII.   There he is put under Willis' Colonel McNamara.  Racial tensions arise when two black POWs are brought in.  One of them gets accused of killing the head-bigot and the movie turns into a courtroom drama as Hart, a former law school student, is chosen to defend the accused. Some surprise revelations follow.....

       Bruce Willis has done some excellent movies --- sure he has done some crappy ones (Color of Night, Hudson Hawk etc.) but he's human.  The only thing I can hold against him is that he's got to smile more.  I don't think he does that a single time in this movie --- sure its a bleak POW camp but there's always memories of time ago.  Anyway, I liked this movie. It was slow at times and not much of an escape, since it takes place in a prison camp and... anyway, good movie.

      P.S. Chich is a friend who is a big fan of Mr. Willis.  "Hey, Mr. Willis, if you are around the Garden State, you might want to email The Flixter. You can meet Chich." Anyway... .

Rating: THREE STARS.

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Rollerball
a la The Flixter

          Why is a great action director like John McTiernan doing remakes?  He directed the awesome Schwarzenegger vehicle Predator and the genre-defining actioner Die Hard.  He translated Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October onto the big screen --- then recently he remade The Thomas Crown Affair ---- and that was not too bad.  But now another remake?? Granted he is not working with something that was great initially....... but this movie sucked.

        I couldn't really follow what the hell happens in this game.  It's the not too distant future and Rollerball is THE sport   (it's a violent hybrid of several other sports).  And when promoter Jean Reno sees ratings soar due to an accident, he arranges for more of these accidents to happen.  Poor Chris Klein is the hottest player and stuck in his newly attained celebrity role; Rapper turned actor LL Cool "Mama Said Knock You Out" J is one of team mates; Rebecca Romijn Stamos is another player/love-interest.  This movie even makes her look not-so-hot....
this movie could hold a mirror up to the mommies and daddies who indulge in the simulated violence (AKA wrestling) with their kids --- but it could have done that in a better way.

        Boring and long, its making me re-think about Collateral Damage. Maybe it just wasn't a good weekend to spend at the movies......

Rating: ONE STAR.

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Collateral Damage
a la The Flixter

          This movie was supposed to come out in early October of last year.   Then the tragedy of September 11th happened and it got pushed off 'til now.  Why it would get delayed is apparent as the movie begins....  An act of terrorism by Colombian drug-dealer/terrorists has echoes of what happened in NYC.   In the movie, it takes the life of Arnold "Conan" Schwarzenegger's wife and young son. A mourning Arnie, playing a firefighter here, sees the government not doing much and takes the law into his own hands.  D'uh!!! So he travels to Colombia and tracks down the perpetrator himself........and action stuff happens.

           First of all, I don't get why Arnie's been going the mourning route. He was a suicidal depressed action hero in End of Days and here he is a depressed widower.  Seriously, we don't want to see you act --- we just want to see you blow up the bad guys.  And did I mention he also speaks in Spanish while he's down in Colombia.  Realistic, yes, but we were happy just seeing him slip in a few syllables in English while terminating bad guys.  Director Andrew Davis proved his mastery of action set pieces when he provided Harrison Ford with a reason to escape by way of a fabulously staged train wreck in The Fugitive.  But here there is too much quiet time until the action hits.   Thank God, some of that time is taken up by cameos from the great John Turturro and sometimes annoying John Leguizamo.        

Rating: TWO STARS.

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Birthday Girl
a la The Flixter

         In my opinion, this was one messed-up movie. Was it a romantic-comedy??  Was it a romantic-thriller?? Or should we just scratch off the romantic part?

         Anyway, if you have seen the previews, you might know what I am talking about.  Lonely Ben "I don't think he is related to Charlie" Chaplin works in a London bank.  As any lonely fellow would do in these high-tech times, John gets himself an e-mail-order bride.  In this case, a Russian one named Nadia, played by Nicole Kidman in a pretty OK performance.  John finds out, a little too late, that she doesn't speak a word of English.  They try to make it and that ends the romantic-comedy part.  Then two of Nadia's acquaintances follow her into John's home and the thriller part kicks in. I won't say too much about what is going on.   Just that they want John to rob the bank --- and yada-yada-yada, the movie ended.

         There are good performances from both Chaplin and Kidman.   Beyond that, it  was kind of boring.  Oh sure, it had two of the Flixter's favorite genres (romantic-comedy and heist) mixed in one, but there wasn't enough of either one.   Plus I am holding something that happened off-screen against the movie.  I am talking about getting lost on the way home and seeing parts of the Garden State I never knew existed (studio heads can e-mail me if they are interested in that tale of survival).

         Anyway, it was an OK movie.  Watch Truth About Cats and Dogs -- a romantic comedy with Ben Chaplin. Its more entertaining.

Rating: TWO STARS.

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Count of Monte Cristo
a la The Flixter

         A long time before he got associated with the Kevin Costner disaster, Waterworld, Kevin Reynolds directed a brilliant film titled The Beast.   No, it's not the adaptation of Peter "Jaws" Benchley's novel about the giant octopus.  It's the one about the big Soviet tank (the beast of the title), lost in the desert and pursued by the Afghan Rebels, whose village it destroyed. Excellent anti-war drama ----- if you can find it (tough to find), watch it.  And now he is at the helm of this Alexander " Three Musketeers" (not the candy) Dumas revenge classic adaptation. Let me count...Its the eleventh remake of that awesome novel which I read a long long time ago.

         Jim "Frequency" Caviezel (watch that one, its awesome) is Edmond Dantes who is sent off to prison thanks to bud Guy "Memento" Pearce (read my review and watch if you may).  Any prison would be nice, but he is shipped off to Chateau d'If, an island dedicated to imprisoning those who are unjustly accused. There he spends about thirteen years plotting revenge and getting educated by the guy in the next cell, Richard "still doing shots" Harris. He pretty much steals the movie during the short time he is in it. Meanwhile Dante's fiancйe played by Dagmara (I swear I am trying to spell it correctly) Domincyzk, gets married to Fernand. Do you think Dante is able to bust out and exact revenge? If that made you wonder, then you probably didn't see the iceberg coming in Titanic.

Good Fun. I had a great time.

Rating: THREE and a half STARS.

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In The Bedroom
a la The Flixter

         Twister sure had some talented people in it --- you know, that stupid movie about those scientists chasing tornadoes.   Helen Hunt went on to star with Jack Nicholson in As Good As it Gets and win an Oscar for her performance.  And now another one out of that tornado chasers film, looks like he will be headed for the podium.  I am referring to Todd Field, the co-writer and director of this excellent drama.

          I know, the title may suggest something that would be on late at night on one of those Adult cable networks. But its not so; the story centers around a couple, Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson, and how they deal with the death of their only son.  The son is actually murdered by the ex-husband of his lover, played by Marisa Tomei. Their suffering is conveyed by the two leads in two of the best performances of the past year.

          Why am I giving this movie only three stars?   Did I mention it was depressing?  You might recall that The Flixter uses movies as an escape.  I never watch the news because you never hear about the guy who managed to get home safely (unless its baseball).  Its always about the people who didn't and so on and so on....

       Great performances. Great direction. Great everything. Just too many tears.

Rating: THREE STARS.

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Orange County
a la The Flixter

          At first, it might appear that a bunch of Hollywood mommies and daddies coerced the studios into giving their kids a job.  There's Colin Hanks (Tom's son) in the lead as a reformed "surfer-dude" desperately trying to get into Stanford ---- and Schuyler Fisk (Sissy Spacek's daughter) as his supportive girlfriend.   And they under the direction of Jake Kasdan, son of Lawrence "The Big Chill" Kasdan.   But Jake Kasdan is a good director.   (Those who saw the under-rated Zero Effect, know that.)  And this movie was just as good. Funnier, actually. Thanks mostly to Jack Black as the stoner brother of Hanks.  Lily Tomlin's ditzy guidance counselor mixes up the transcripts which result in Hanks being rejected from Stanford.  But Black won't let his brother's dream die so easy --- they are all off to Stanford in his truck to convince the dean about the mix-up.  What follows is star studded hilarity.

          The movie is full of cameos. Chevy Chase, Kevin Kline, Ben Stiller, and on and on. But Jack Black is the real star here. He stole the movie from John Cusak in High Fidelity. And he does the same here, except that there are a lot more to steal from.

A great time.

Rating: FOUR STARS.

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Kate and Leopold
a la The Flixter

         I am not limited to heist and action films; actually, I love movies.  The only condition is that they have to be good.  I don't care if they are stupid and don't make sense---as long as they provide the escape.   Good romantic-comedies, like Sleepless in Seattle, Green Card, and Blast from the Past, are just as good an escape as any macho action movie, as long as you are not afraid of being called a wuss. And Kate and Leopold was a pleasure.

       Duke Leopold, played by Hugh Jackman (Wolverine from X-Men) gets hurled from 1876 to present day New York where he falls for a present day, ad-exec played by Meg Ryan. Of course, they start off on the wrong foot, but she is not used to being treated like a lady and you know the rest....  If you don't, then this should make a good introduction. You know that romantic comedies are predictable. You know where the guy and girl, no matter how different, are going to end up.  What matters is how the trip there is going to be..... For the protagonists and the audience.   And the trip here was fun.

Rating: THREE STARS.

_____________________________________________

Vanilla Sky
a la The Flixter

              The movie ended and I just sat there. Everybody was leaving but I just sat there transfixed. Tom Cruise had finally collaborated again with director Cameron Crowe, for the first time since Jerry Maguire, one of the best movies of the last decade. And this movie that had just ended was the biggest piece of crap I had seen in a looong time.

              Based on the Spanish film, Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) which came out five or so years ago and that Cruise had bought the remake rights to, was so bad that I can not find a word worthy of its suckness (that's probably not a word, but I have been numbed by this cinematic atrocity).

              I am not going into details --- just that Cruise plays a rich magazine-publisher-playboy. Cameron Diaz is his sort-of girlfriend and Penelope Cruz, who was in the original, is another one of his playmates.   Diaz, in a jealous rage, drives herself and Tom off the road. Then things get stranger and stranger. And then the movie ends.

             It hurts to even try to explain this movie. Rent Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe's love letter to music and his youth. Rent Magnolia to see a good Tom Cruise performance. But "open your eyes" does not suit this movie.  Keep them closed and save a few bucks.  I am predicting a big opening weekend and then a huge drop. The one star I am about to give this movie is for the music. A great soundtrack that should not be attached to a horrendous movie like this.

             I wish I had my money back; I wish I had my two hours and fifteen minutes back. But most of all I wish I had my innocence back --- the innocence of thinking that Cameron Crowe is a great director and Tom Cruise a fine actor.

Rating: ONE STAR.


_____________________________________________

Ocean's Eleven
a la The Flixter

        I love heist movies.  Ever since I saw the great Peter Ustinov and his   cronies pull off the impossible in Topkapi, I have been deeply intrigued by the genre......You know, the one where the hero, although a crook, breaks into the impenetrable and steals something of enormous value. No, its not living vicariously on my part....and no, I am not looking into the symbolic significance of penetrating the impenetrable. They are just fun to watch. Really!!!

        Ocean's 11 was awesome.  It's a remake of the Rat Pack classic. By the Rat Pack, I am referring to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., etc. and not Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, etc... (the later is the Brat Pack.)

         Now that we have that straight, the new rat pack is just as star studded. George Clooney steps in for Sinatra as Danny Ocean, the Brains behind the operation to rob Andy Garcia's Las Vegas casino. As soon as he steps out of prison, he and buddy Brad Pitt start getting a crew of cons together to do the deed ---- Matt Damon is one of them. He's good but the show is stolen by Don Cheadle's performance as the cockney member of Ocean's eleven.

         Just to give you an idea of inflation, the original had the rat pack stealing 10 to 20 million dollars from five casinos --- here the haul from just one casino is over 160 million dollars.  Plus the crew in the original was made up of army buddies while these guys are just convicts or ex-cons.

        Oh yeah, Ocean also has something personal in the whole bit. His wife, played by Julia Roberts, who left him when he went to jail is now hitched to Garcia.

        But it was awesome how they pull things off.  It's a lot more high-tech than the original.  I was just sitting there with a smile.

      Another great addition to Steven Soderbergh's impressive list of directional efforts. 

Rating: FOUR STARS.

_____________________________________________

The One
a la The Flixter

       Is The One, the one that makes Jet Li a superstar in the US???  (OK that was cheesy).  But this flick does have the makings of a blockbuster.  It kept me involved with it's intricate sci-fi plot and awesome fight scenes.

       As with Jackie Chan, I am also a big fan of Li's Hong Kong movies, and this effort is his best yet from Hollywood.  The movie takes place in the future and Li plays a few different roles.  It is a future world made up of a universe that is "multi-verse" --- travel between parallel worlds is possible, however it is not allowed.  A Villainous Li is hopping from world to world killing his counterparts in each of those respective worlds ( following me so far :-))...  As a result of this, he gets stronger and stronger which make the fight scenes even more powerful ( cooler) since that Li (the bad one) can run faster, jump higher and deliver a stronger punch..

         The only one who can stop him is the "good Li" in a parallel universe --- and this Li is a cop and has also gotten stronger from universe hopping......  Get it ?? The movie was fun and the fights were awesome.  Watch it for a good time, not for drawing out the complexities and meaning of life.......           

           Rating: THREE STARS.

New Jersey movie reviews by the NJ's own " Flixter"..............

email:The Flixter@metrojersey.com

New Jersey movie reviews by the NJ's own " Flixter"..............

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