The Flixter's Movie Reviews
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Archive #2

JARHEAD
a la The Flixter

       The year is 1989 and Iraq has taken over Kuwait. So we go back to the first Gulf War under the senior President Bush. The movie is an adaptation of Anothony Swofford's book about his time there. Jake Gyllenhaal plays "Swoff," who is totally not the 'Marine type", but that is what he becomes.   His unit gets shipped off to the war, but before that happens, there's the whole bit about the boot camp and the tough training. Jamie Foxx (in another disappointing turn since his Oscar win) is the staff sergeant who makes the training hell for the recruits. That's about where most of the action happens.
       Once these snipers are sent off to the desert, the movie falls asleep. Or maybe it was me? The poor guys looking for action have nothing to do. Sure they are protecting the Kuwaiti oil fields but there's not much threatening them while they try to kill time. How? Well they play football. But Foxx tries to make it a little harder for them by making them play their games with their gas masks on in the heat. Then there's pornography to keep them occupied while their wives and girlfriends cheat on them back home. But there's not much war action, of which they had anticipated, and they are not the only one's who are disappointed. I was also very disappointed.
      The acting is decent. I know I called Foxx's turn here disappointing but its disappointing when the entirety of the role is taken into perspective. He is good as the tough-ass drill sergeant but is in the middle of a situation that doesn't let us appreciate the performance beyond its surface. Why? Because it starts to get boring after a while. Same old, same old. Where's was the action? This is probably one of the most boring war movies ever made. Jake Gyllenhall would not have been suitable for a role that would have required a giant leap from his "pretty boy" roles. But since there isn't much toughness required for the state of inaction, I guess it can be deemed an appropriate transition. Most disappointing is director Sam Mendes; he won an Oscar for his first feature, American Beauty.  His second one, Road to Perdition, was even better in my opinion.  And now his third one is this dud.
RATING: TWO STARS

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SAW II
a la The Flixter

       A police informant wakes to find himself with a steel trap around his head; the thing is lined with spikes. A taped message informs him that the trap is timed to snap shut unless he uses the key to unlock the thing and remove it. Where is the key? Well, the key has been implanted in his eye.. a scalpel has been conveniently provided. So he can use the device to cut open his eye, take the key out, and remove this steel venus-fly-trap snaps shut. He begins but does he do it? Take a guess.
       Welcome to Jigsaw's world. He is the psycho who was introduced in the first Saw. He can't really be called a serial killer, as he puts it, since he hasn't actually killed anyone. He gives people the option of living or dying. The guy (Tobin Bell) is a terminal cancer patient who has decided to make the goal of his remaining life to make those who don't appreciate their life, appreciate it. I guess they end up doing that, but not for too long. This time, once again, he has captured and imprisoned a few people (sinners according to him) and given them just a little time with even littler options of escaping. There's a drug dealer, a drug addict, a snitch, etc... The eight unfortunates, as they are informed, are also being slowly poisoned by a nerve gas that is seeping into their dungeon. The antidote is in a safe close by, and they are told that the combination to the safe is in the back of their minds. On the outside, Detective Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) is racing to get to the victim's whereabouts because his son Daniel has also been kidnapped and is one of the unfortunates. Actually, Daniel is the only clean one among the eight captives. He is being held to punish Matthews for not appreciating his wife and kid.  So the race is on, the trap is set, and the eight start turning on one another while meeting a violent demise, one by one.
      The deaths are gory, the movie soaked in red, and the tension extreme. I liked the first Saw, but this one actually improves on it. There are implausibility's, of course. Like how could this dying cancer patient manage to capture these eight healthy people? But who cares, he did it. The guy's got will power. I almost feel guilty saying that the suffering of those eight provided some great entertainment. The only thing I can hold against it is that the final twist, though clever, is there so there can be a sequel.
RATING: FOUR STARS

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NORTH COUNTRY
a la The Flixter

       Here's another one that is based on true events... and, of course, I don't know much about the actual basis for the origin, so I will just address it as a movie. Josie Aimes (Charlize Theron) is a single mother  who has recently left an abusive husband. She goes to work as a miner in Minnesota's Iron Range. The majority of the miners are men, her father being one of them and they don't take kindly to their female co-workers. Even her own family isn't supportive. Her father (a fine Richard Jenkins) has always been distant from his daughter. Ever since she became pregnant as a teenager, he has resentments about his daughter. Her teenage son has to put up with rumors about his mom sleeping around with married co-workers. Only her mother (Sissy Spacek) is supportive of her daughter, but then comes the constant barrage of abuse from the male miners. Her female co-workers are used to it by now. Sure there is shock when one opens her lunch box and finds a sex toy inside; and there is disgust when obscenities are scrawled, on the walls of the women's locker room, with human feces. But the women need the job and the money, consequently they have been putting up with it. The only support Josey finds is in the form of a female co-worker, Glory (an excellent Frances McDormand), who is also the boss of the women's union. But the advice given to Josie, "work hard, keep your mouth shut, and take it like a man," can only last for so long. Especially when the abuse starts getting too close as in the form of a supervisor who also happens to be a former, abusive boyfriend.
      Inspired in part by the sexual harassment hearings, involving Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill that is transpiring at the time, she turns to local hockey-hero-turned-lawyer, Bill (an excellent Woody Harrelson). The only problem is that the other victims of the abuse, her female co-workers, are not willing to talk because they fear losing their job. The company's lawyers bring up Josie's past as their defense. Things start getting nasty but, of course, how often does Hollywood turn its attention to true events that don't wind up with a crowd pleasing finale? But that is not the point here. The point is to bring forth a series of human crassness and the human endurance that triumphed over those events, and the movie does that extremely well.
     The performances are great. I think I used the word "excellent" to describe a few of the actors. Let's not forget that Charlize Theron is also excellent in another performance worthy of an Oscar. Who knew that a beautiful, South African, blonde, model turned actress, could excel at roles that don't rely on physical beauty? Likewise, Sean Bean is also "excellent" as Glory's husband, a former miner, who has doubts about Josie's resolve to bring her complaints forward. Not that he doubts her intentions, its just that he believes, like so many others, that it won't do any good.
      An excellent movie... Great performances... Great direction ... (by Niki Caro). Great everything...
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Two For The Money
a la The Flixter

       Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) was doing great as a star football player in college; then came the injury that put an end to the possibilities there. But he hasn't given up on his favorite sport. He has a knack for picking out winners. Hell, he's so damn good at picking winners that he gets the attention of Walter Abrams (Al Pacino), who runs a sports betting outfit out of Vegas - and its not just any outfit. He's got a multi-million dollar gig going with many hardworking employees, a regular client base, and money pouring in from all sides. Of course, Brandon accepts and pretty soon he's cruising around in a brand new Mercedes, drinking $10 bottles of water and champagne that runs into the thousands.
       Walter, on the other hand, is in bad shape. He's a reformed gambler with a really bad heart condition and a habit of chain smoking. Plus he's got a young daughter and a young and attractive wife. That wife, Toni (Rene Russo) starts getting a little too close to Brandon. Or is it just another setup by Walter to test the new recruit? Like I said before, Walter is a reformed gambler and his new high seems to be letting other people risk their money at his fingertips.  Brandon starts off great but you know that there is going to be a downward slide. However, he does get to bag a super-rich client, played by Armand Assante, who wagers in the millions on a single game. 
       Beyond lottery scratch-offs and daily number drawings, I really don't know much about this aspect of gambling. But this movie did manage to immerse me in its content even though I didn't know much about the background. So, apparently, sports betting is a $200 billion dollar industry. And another useful gem I learned is that a gambler is not addicted to winning but instead is addicted to the fear of losing. Wow!! Never though of it that way.
      Getting back to the movie now: it was a great piece of entertainment that is supposedly based on true events. Al Pacino is great but not really too different from the many other profane and crooked characters that he is known for playing. McConaughey is also very good. Like I said before, the movie is extremely entertaining.  A very fun time. Just sitting there watching these people win and lose so much was a truly vicarious experience. Oh well....
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Into The Blue
a la The Flixter

       Once again, let me try to recall a movie I saw a long time (five days) ago.
       This is how it went: Jared (Paul Walker) and Sam (Jessica Alba) are living on some island in the Bahamas. A couple of their friends visit, so they decide to take their friends, Bryce (Scott Caan) and Amanda (Ashley Scott) on a tour of the undersea. Upon this tour they happen to make two discoveries. One is a downed plane that must have belonged to some drug dealers, since its got a whole load of cocaine on board. Second is a shipwreck that was mythical until they stumbled upon its riches. What results is a parting of ways... Bryce and Amanda want the drugs on the plane. Jared wants to find the rest of the shipwreck and its riches and the good Ms. Sam wants to report all of it to the authorities, even though she and her boyfriend could really use the money since they are living pretty poorly. But, of course, things are not meant to go as planned.
      The owners of the plane (the drug dealers) find out about their discovery when Bryce and his gal try to sell some of that stash. They come back demanding all of it be returned, some way or another. Things start getting violent and it wouldn't really be an aquatic flick unless some sharks were thrown in. So, yes, there are shark attacks and some bleeding.... and there is some other guy who used to have a monopoly on treasure hunting in those parts. Of course, he isn't too happy. You know who else wasn't too happy? Me.
      The movie was so damn boring. Unless you are talking about seeing Ms. Alba in her swimsuit. Yes, that was fun. But otherwise, it was a pretty long and boring. And Jessic Alba, pretty as she is, is not that great an actress. Good thing that a lot of the movie takes place underwater and you don't have to put up with the dialogue..
RATING: ONE STAR

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TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE
a la The Flixter

       Here's another animated feature from director Tim Burton. But the animation is not typical cartoon-type stuff. It is stop motion animation like the one he produced in his classic A Nightmare Before Christmas. So, once again, the actor whose name appears in the parenthesis is the one providing the voice for the character.
      Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) is the bachelor son of parents who see his marriage as a way of climbing up the social ladder. They arrange his marriage to Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson). What they don't know is that her aristocratic family has fallen on some hard times and see the Van Dorts as a way of bailing them out of those hard times. But Victor, a nervous and shy man, bungles up his vows on the big day, even though he and Victoria have actually fallen in love upon their first meeting. So he decides to go to the woods and rehearse before his second attempt; he repeats his vows and places the ring on a dry tree branch for practice. What he doesn't know is that the branch is actually the skeletal hand of a body buried there. And the body happens to belong to the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter) who was murdered on her wedding day. She rises and the two are wed, unintentionally on his behalf. He gets sucked down into the underworld where his new bride proceeds to introduce him as her new husband to her fellow cadavers. Those cadavers, skeletal as they are, don't refrain from partying, which includes a few song and dance numbers, to show their joy.
     Victor is stuck below ground while Victoria finds herself in a different conundrum above ground, since Victor is assumed to have run off. Her parents want to marry her off to some other suitor..... and Victor starts to feel sympathetic for the Corpse Bride. Her words, "just because a heart has stopped beating doesn't mean it can't break," make him want to help her. So her killer has to be unmasked and Victor has to kindly convince her to let him return to his world and stop another heart from breaking. 
     The movie is a visual delight, and its a bonus that it is also very entertaining. It is absolutely hilarious and unbelievably touching, which I wasn't really expecting. Tim Burton shows us how his wackiness extends into the animation realm, but he also gets a hand from co-director Mike Johnson. The movie is based on a Russian folk tale and is a must-see for anybody who won't let animation stop them from enjoying a great film.
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Lord of War
a la The Flixter

       Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage) is an Ukrainian immigrant. Back in the 80's, he happened to walk in on a mob hit, and that just sucked him into the gun trade. As he tells it, there is one gun for every twelve people in the world, so his big concern is how to arm those other eleven. Meanwhile, he makes his way in the very prolific illegal gun trade. He goes all over the globe and provides arms to everyone; he has no loyalties. The only person he didn't provide weapons to was Osama bin Laden. Why? Because he was bouncing checks.
     We follow him around as he makes deals, sometimes providing arms to both sides of a battle. Hey, a customer is a customer. On his path he meets a beautiful model, Bridget Moynahan, marries her, but never reveals anything about his trade. His ally along the way is his brother Vitaly (Jared Leto). But he ends up developing a cocaine habit along the way rendering him, at many times, useless. However, Vitaly also seems to  develop a conscience, when he sees some of their customers in their horrid reality. And in constant pursuit of Yuri is an Interpol agent played by Ethan Hawke
     The movie is really fast paced. Time just flies by as we join Yuri on his journeys. Nicolas Cage is great, even though he doesn't seem to age through the decades. But Jared Leto's drug addicted character is pretty similar to the one he played in Requiem For a Dream (another great movie). The great Ian Holm pops up in brief bits. Director Andrew Niccol continues to add to his very impressive resume as writer/director (Gattaca, Simone) and writer (The Truman Show). The movie is extremely great. It is hilarious.  It is sad. It is just such a great overall experience. I loved it..
RATING: FIVE STARS

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The Man
a la The Flixter

       Special Agent Derrick Vann (Samuel L. Jackson) is after some arms dealers spreading their goods; enter dental-hygiene salesman Andy Fidler (Eugene Levy)... He's on his way to a convention of his peers. He stops at a diner, identities are mistaken, arms dealers think he is the buyer, and he gets sucked into the whole operation. Vann, of course, is not happy, but has to go along since the bad guys think Andy is the man to be in touch with, i.e. the one who has all the cash to buy their goods and spread them on the streets. And, of course, Andy just wants to go to his convention and make his speech which he had been practicing tirelessly at home. But things don't always turn out the way the characters want. Especially in a buddy movie where the buddies start off hating each other but will eventually grow close.
Anyway, I should just get to the point since I have pretty much explained the plot.
      The movie is essentially laugh-free. Although, there was some woman sitting in the center who was going hysterical. These days you never know. Maybe she was talking on her cell phone and that conversation was funny. Because, if anything, the goings on on the screen were just plain unfunny and embarrassing for the players. What the heck was the talented Mr. Jackson doing in this piece of crap? Even Eugene Levy should be above this type of junk. The film-makers try to squeeze the most out of his Andy's gas problems. Fart jokes are abundant and you can almost feel the stink seeping through the screen since this movie stinks. Of course, their is a detour along the way where Andy helps Vann get close to his estranged family. How touching!!!  What can you say about a movie that thrives on poop and fart jokes and ends with the hilarious horrors of cavity searches? Not much. It even gives the hackneyed genre of mismatched buddy movies a bad name.  Wish I could watch some movie where I had more to say. Not the case here..
RATING: ZERO STARS

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A Sound of Thunder
a la The Flixter

       The year is 2055.  And cajillionaire Charles Hatton (Ben Kingsley) runs a time-traveling hunting company.  Yes, the same Mr. Kingsley who won an Oscar once, offers his super rich clients a chance to go back 65 million years and hunt dinosaurs.  His supercomputer T.A.M.I. (don't know what it stands for though I am sure it was probably mentioned) is able to pinpoint dinosaurs that are about to die by some natural catastrophe.  The time machine puts the hunters by those ill-fated creatures a few minutes before they will die. So the hunters get there and get the thrill of the kill by shooting down those creatures.  What fun!!!
      The guy accompanying them is Dr. Travis Ryer (Edward Burns).  He's the watchdog who makes sure that the hunting party follows the very strict rules.  None of their guns can fire until his fires... and they better not step off the glass path that is laid out for them because they might accidentally kill some miniscule bug or something, which can alter the entire course of human history.  OK, now what about the dinosaurs?  Sure they will become extinct but when the giant creature falls to its death, won't that kill some of those creatures laying around?  Anyway, during one of these hunting expeditions, panic ensues and one of the chicken-hearted hunters runs off the path.  He is checked to make sure that nothing extraneous was killed.  They come back, and guess what?  He did step on something.  Which is why things in the future start changing. 
       The city turns into ruins, strange creatures start roaming the streets, and plant life gets overpowered by some super weeds.  When Ryer tracks down the inventor of T.A.M.I, she explains that messing around with the past does not have an immediate effect on the present; changes come in waves.  The only way to find out what went wrong with the last trip is to re-create it and follow it step by step.  So they get around to doing that in an attempt to save humanity.  Its definitely not easy since the streets are a mess, the strange creatures are abundant, and the lab, when its gotten to, is a wreck.  But they persevere and things start showing signs of hope.  Unless, of course, you are talking about the movie.  Because having sat through it so far, there was definitely no hope for redemption in my eyes. 
      The acting is bad, the action boring, and the special effects extremely cheesy.  I think Roger Corman made more convincing dinosaurs in his B movies.  When the first one of those showed up, I couldn't believe my  eyes.  EXTREMELY horrible looking.  I mean, forget about the thing dying from a natural catastrophe, it looked like it was going to die of bad health problems.  Really, really boring movie and even more badly put together.  Horrible!!!
RATING: ZERO STARS (approaching from the negative side)

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RED EYE
a la The Flixter

       Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is dedicated to her job as a hotel manager. In other words, she's a workaholic. But she gets a chance to get away from her job when grandma dies. So its not a perfect setup for a getaway, but she gets away from her stressful job dealing with rich and snotty customers. She gets a flight to her destination only to be stranded at the terminal because of flight delays. One of her fellow passengers offers to buy her a drink at the airport bar. She accepts not heeding the warning of the guy's ominous sounding name. Jackson Ripner (Cilian Murphy) is charming and there seems to be a mutual attraction. Furthermore, she finds herself seated next to the guy once they manage to get on the plane. She's got the window seat so she is pinned. Once the plane takes off, Mr. Ripner unbars his true intentions.
     There is a guy parked outside her father's house. All the guy needs is a call from Jackson in order to kill her father. What can she do to stop it from happening? Well, the Secretary of State is a regular guest at her hotel and is coming to stay with his family. She just has to call the hotel and have him moved from his usual suite to a different one. Why? Jackson is an assassin and the Secretary is his latest assignment. And Lisa finds herself unintentionally becoming a key piece in his new venture. Like I said before, the poor girl is pinned in her seat. She tries by making an excuse of going to the ladies' room and leaves a message on the mirror. Doesn't quite work out. She tries all options that spring to mind in her very tight situation....and the audience will find themselves trapped in their seats like she is trapped in hers.
    At least I was hooked. The movie is extremely tense and its coming from director Wes Craven who is usually dealing with screen horrors of a different kind. The guy is best known for being the guy behind Freddy Kruger in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. I am not really a big fan of that series but he shows his range here by making one of the most tense and suspenseful action movies I can recall in recent memory. The plot is pretty simple and the execution is masterful. The cast is great. Rachel McAdams is a great damsel in distress and Cilian Murphy is absolutely loathsome. Let's not forget that Rachel's father on the ground is played by the great Brian Cox. I had a really great time. Loved it...
RATING: FIVE STARS

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SKELETON KEY
a la The Flixter

       Caroline (Kate Hudson) is becoming a nurse. The ghost that haunts her is the death of her father and how else to make peace with that but by taking care of the elderly in a nursing home.. and then unwinding by partying away at some club at night.  But the death of a patient makes her realize how money-oriented the whole health care business is, and that is what makes her make the move from Hoboken (New Jersey, of course) to the Big Easy (New Orleans).
     Once there, she moves in with Violet (Gena Rowlands) to help take care of her husband, Ben (John Hurt), a stroke victim who only has a month left to live. Their house is huge and Caroline is given a key that opens all the locks in the entire house; all thirty-something rooms.
Ben is paralyzed and unable to do anything. That's what Carol thinks until she finds a white sheet with "Help Me" scrawled on it by Ben... She uses the key and makes some sinister findings, the most sinister of which is a room filled with the belongings of two former black servants who were lynched for being witchdoctors (flashback time, of course). So the house definitely has a history. Of course, Caroline should just get away from her creepy surroundings but then how could a horror movie, inclusive in the history of all movies, ever be possible if the protagonist just took a logical step. Plus she finds a way of redemption from her dad's death (the poor guy died alone) by helping out Ben. Her only help is a former roommate and Violet's lawyer.  The latter, played by Peter Sarsgard, cannot be trusted, of course, since he starts off by coming across as a typical lawyer type.
    Is this horror movie scary? Or is it horrible? Well, its not really scary but its also really not too horrible. Kate Hudson gives a pretty good performance. The rest of the cast is also pretty decent, and the final twist (you know there's gotta' be one of those) is actually quite  surprising. I won't say that you should run out to see it but if not much else is happening, then its a worthy diversion.
RATING: THREE STARS

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STEALTH
a la The Flixter

       Once again, we find ourselves in the near future. How near is never really made clear. It can't be too far since Muslim terrorism is still pretty rampant. Three pilots for the U.S. are part of the elite that is at the forefront of the fight against the enemy. There's Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx), and to keep thing's interesting, Jessica Biel's Kara Wade to keep a gender balance. But all three of them find their positions in jeopardy, along with the rest of the flyers when Eddie comes along. Eddie is actually EDI, a warplane that flies on its own, and fights on its own. It is the future of aerial warfare, designed to eliminate human casualties from the fliers; at least that is the intention. That all changes when Eddie flies through a lightning storm and is hit by a bolt of lightning. As a result, it develops a mind of its own. It ignores the orders and goes bombarding places that it sees appropriate, ignoring any human losses that may result. So the three pilots, who at first are supposed to be guides for this new technology, find themselves trying to stop this developing menace. On top of breaking the Air Force's rules of engagement, Eddie breaks the law by illegally downloading MP3s from the Internet and continuing to constantly play its downloads at a blaring volume in the cockpit. If that sounds ridiculous, then its because it is ridiculous.
       The movie loses its grip on a potentially captivating concept.  Meanwhile, the movie switches from an aerial thriller to a ground-bound actioner when Biel's Kara is shot down and finds herself trying to survive behind enemy lines. But that really doesn't matter because it is still boring, loud, and tedious. Jamie Foxx is the real disappointment since this is his follow up to his Oscar winning performance in Ray. Kinda' reminds me of Louis Gossett Jr. How?  Well, he won an Oscar for An Officer and a Gentleman and followed that with a similarly bad aerial-actioner Iron Eagle. And where is he now? See where I am going with this?
PS. I also happened to catch The Island before I saw this one. Never reviewed it, but just think I should mention that it was pretty damn good. Not something you would expect from popcorn movie boy Michael Bay. It has to be his most intriguing film with a lot of depth beyond the action and eye candy and some great performances from Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansenn. If I had written a full review for that one, I would have definitely given it Five Stars.
STEALTH RATING: ONE STAR (since some of the aerial action is cool at first...)

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CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
a la The Flixter

        This will be a pretty brief review. What to blame? Well its been almost a week since I saw this. Plus the heat is killing me; that and the unbearable mugginess.  But let me stop complaining.
      Johnny Depp steps in as Willy Wonka, that manufacturer of delicious chocolates. His factory is a no man's land. Nobody goes in but the candy continues to come out. Who makes them? Nobody knows. That is until Mr. Wonka decides to open his factory to the people. Well, not all the people. He puts five golden tickets in his candies. Whoever finds them, gets the tour. Sounds easy until you factor in the fact that the candies go all over the globe. One of the finder's happens to be young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore). The poor kid lives in a tiny shack with his parents and grandparents (all four of them). One of the grandpas has been telling him stories about the time when he used to work for Willy Wonka and that is the grandpa that he decides to take with him to the factory. The other winners are whiney, rich, brats and Charlie is the only likable one.
     So they all enter the factory with their chaperones and are given the tour by the wacky Willy Wonka.  What follows is a true visual delight as we see how the candies are made. There's the Oompa Loompas and the truth about their origins; and there's the nut room where we see a horde of trained squirrels do the nut cracking. But what is the real reason Wonka has decided to open up all of a sudden? Well, that is why you are there, too... to see Mr. Wonka's strange design on things.  Like I said before, the other winners are a bunch of brats and not the least bit likable. So we see them all meet their respective fates, as only Charlie seems destined to survive this dream trip. 
    Director Tim Burton is in full wierdness mode as he brings Roald Dahl's classic to the screen. Honestly, I have never seen Will Wonka and The Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder. This was a first time for me and it was an absolutely great time. Visually stunning and pretty hilarious. Johnny Depp gives another great performance and also present is Helena Bonham Carter (the director's wife) as Charlie's mother. A kiddie movie, that is dark enough to also give adults a great time...
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Dark Water
a la The Flixter

        Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) is recently divorced. She can't afford to live in pricey Manhattan so she and her young daughter, Ceci, move to Roosevelt Island, which is just a short train commute away (honestly, I never knew about this). They get a decent place in an apartment building; actually, only the building is decent looking, because the apartment itself is a rundown hell-hole. But the real estate guy, played by a great John C. Reilly, is very convincing. So mom and daughter move in and that is when things start turning for the worse.
       It all starts with a leaky ceiling that drips incessantly. The super (Pete Postelthwaite) doesn't seem too concerned. His lack of concern is pretty much teetering on not giving a damn. Then there are the noises coming from the upstairs apartment; plus Ceci manages to find a friend in a young girl that only she seems to have seen. So what exactly is going on? Well, its a remake of a Japanese horror hits, so there is definitely something supernatural lurking beneath the surface. Dahlia starts investigating the strange happenings and some unexpected revelations (SURPRISE!!!) happen. Could Ceci's new friend, imaginary or real, be the girl who used to live in the upstairs apartment? Why does the water, leaking from the ceiling or coming out of the faucet, keep turning black? Is there any hope for this single mother?
     Jennifer Connelly definitely gives a great performance. I have been a huge fan of hers ever since I saw her in Labyrinth. That was a long, long time ago; she was a little girl but I was also pretty young. Since then her performances have been very decent (The Rocketeer, The Hot Spot, Requiem for a Dream, A Beautiful Mind, etc..). Heck, I may be one of the few who remember her in the music video for Roy Orbison's, I Drove All Night.   Yes, I'm definitely a fan of this gorgeous and talented actress.  But how was this movie? Pretty decent. But that's about it. Decent. An acceptable explanation is what makes this kind of movie perfect... and the reasoning and explanation here was only so-so. Its definitely creepy, though. Plus the show is nearly stolen by an almost unrecognizable Tim Roth.  Good. But not that good..
RATING: THREE & 1/2 STARS

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War of the Worlds
a la The Flixter

        Three barbecues (no, I don't eat much) and many fireworks (I was not involved directly) ago, I went to see director Steven Spielberg put on his own fireworks display with the help of Tom Cruise. Yes, its another feel good adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel of alien invasion. Here Tommy boy plays Ray, a NJ dockworker and deadbeat dad. His ex-wife is remarried and pregnant; she and her new hubby are going away and want Ray to look after their (she and Ray's ) two kids. Not such a problem for Ray until a strange electric storm hits Bayonne. Yes, strange things are happening in the skies. But stranger things start happening on the ground when the roads and sidewalks rip and out come these giant alien tripod things. Seems that they have been buried for eons and the aliens have been waiting for the ideal time... and that time is now.
        So these aliens go about their business, which is basically destroying all bridges and buildings, including churches. None of the motor vehicles are working, with the exception of the one belonging to Ray. So he grabs the kids, Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and starts driving northward. Of course, the highways are jam packed with cars that are not working and whose owners try to stop Ray for help. But its survival of the fittest and having a working car is definitely fit.  There are some stops on the way. A truly creepy one by a lake that is full of swollen and bloated dead bodies. Or maybe a creepier one is the one made at the residence of Tim Robbins' lonesome survivalist. Is there any hope? Not from the looks of it, since everything has been destroyed.
         Anyway, how was it? Well in terms of eye candy, you will get more than your money's worth....and that's about it. It is an extremely well done special effects extravaganza. But character-wise, there's not much to go for. Ray is not that likable. His son is a typical brooding and alienated teen and Dakota Fanning is just plain annoying with her incessant screaming.  And at the end I was really not sure about how the aliens were defeated. It took a lot of thinking, which is not good when you have been expecting just an escapist, summer flick.  Good but not great....
RATING: THREE & 1/2 STARS

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Batman Begins
a la The Flixter

        Its been almost a week since I saw this great film; (I know that I just gave away my final verdict). But life has been hectic, so now I will attempt to write a review.
       Of all comic book heroes (I think I mentioned that I usually like their on screen translations), Batman , in my opinion, is the best. Why? Well, because he doesn't have any superpowers, unless you count a load of wealth. He is basically an ordinary guy who chooses to throw on a costume and fight crime. Here we go back to the origins.
       As a kid, Bruce Wayne saw his parents become the victims of a thug in a dark alley. As a grown up, Wayne (Christain Bale) travels to Asia where he is taught by some guy named Ducard (Liam Neeson, awesome as always) to fight. He goes through a pretty vigorous drill to learn the ways of the ninja. Plus, Ducard teaches him to overcome his fear of bats.  Well, Wayne had a pretty traumatic incident as a child when he fell down a well inhabited by those nocturnal creatures.  So he masters his fear and chooses to turn those creatures into his alter-ego.   Upon his return to the crime-infested Gotham City, he becomes Batman by night and fights criminals.  By the way, Bruce Wayne happens to be a billionaire; he gets assistance from his family's company's science division director Morgan Freeman. Plus, there's the loyal butler, Alfred (Michael Caine). And there's plenty of crime to be fought. There's the local mob boss (Tom Wilkinson) and a shrink who keeps helping criminals get an insanity plea. The latter, by the way, is arch-villain Scarecrow. Of course, to detract any suspicion, Wayne hooks up with his childhood sweetheart, Rachel (Katie Holmes). But a more major villain rises in the form of Ducard, yes, the same guy who trained him, who comes to Gotham City with his League of Shadows. Ducard sees the city as the epitome of degeneration and wants to destroy it. But Wayne calls it home and sees a chance at redeeming his deteriorating metropolis.
       Much kick ass action happens. Plus the Batmobile is there in the form of a giant tank-type thingee. So I had a great time. Its great to see director Christopher Nolan redeem a deteriorating franchise. Plus, the ending sets it up for a sequel..
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Eurotrip
a la The Flixter

        Scotty Doesn't Know becomes a pretty decent hit, much to Scott's chagrin. On the day of his high school graduation, Scott (Scott Mechlowicz) finds out that his girlfriend, Fiona, has been cheating on him for well over a year with the rocker who has penned that ode to that infidelity.  (That rocker, by the way is played by Matt Damon in a brief cameo.) So the graduation celebration turns somber when Fiona breaks up with Scott and he breaks down in front of the camera that is taping his educational milestone.
        Relief comes along in the form of Mieke. Scott has been chatting with this German guy, on the Internet, for a while now. He realizes that his German is not too good, when it turns out that Mieke is actually a gorgeous, blonde girl. But the realization comes a little too late, after he has e-mailed her saying that he doesn't wish to carry on this cyber friendship. All attempts to re-establish contact fail, since the heart-broken Mieke has blocked any e-mails from Scott.  The only way to get to Mieke is to go to Berlin; so Scotty is off to Germany, accompanied by best pal, Cooper, who is tagging along, and hoping, for a wild, European sex-odyssey. From there, its Europe all the way, with stopovers in London, Paris, and Amsterdam. 
       Paris is pretty funny when Scott gets violent with a street mime and Amsterdam is wild, of course, with its liberated atmosphere of legalized drugs and prostitution. But their most memorable stop is in London, where they hook up with a bus-load of Soccer hooligans who end up being their unlikely escorts. And the search for Meike goes on. By the way, the two also hook up with two other schoolmates, Jennie and Jamie, who happen to be twins. Jamie is an extreme geek, whose knowledge of the structures come in handy when impersonating a tour guide. There are plenty of laughs, especially when the four find themselves sharing a train car with an ultra-horny Italian guy.  However, many of the jokes get a little carried away, to the point where they just become annoying. Like the time when they accidentally ring the bell in the Vatican signaling the Pope's death... or when they venture onto a nude beach, in search of girls but only finding a bunch of desperate and ugly men, also looking for girls.   That part, in particular, gets pretty gross with an over-exposure of bare behinds and phallic counter parts.  It is pretty funny when the jokes work, but not all the jokes are funny.  Some are just plain annoying.  Of course, the ending has to be all sappy, which seems to be becoming the new trend in Hollywood. Not bad, though....

Rating:  THREE STARS

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50 First Dates
a la The Flixter

        Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) is a veterinarian working at some aquarium-type place in Maui and, romantically, he has a pretty convenient set-up......he only goes for the tourists.  A short fling happens, they leave, and he stays. But then Lucy (Drew Barrymore) comes along.  She, literally, catches his eye at a local waffle house when the glare from the sun, reflecting off her mirror, distracts him from eating (she is building a house from the waffles). He goes over, offers her a few tips, and the two hit it off very well. They soon part ways but Henry goes to the same place the next day, expecting to meet her. She is there and doing the same thing with the waffles. He goes over and starts chatting again, but she freaks out and doesn't seem to have a clue as to who he is.  A baffled Henry does some investigating and finds that she isn't kidding. It turns out that Lucy was in a car accident and has suffered some pretty unique mental damage. She recalls everything up to the day of the accident, but after that, she wakes up each morning without a clue about the previous day.  When Henry delves further into his potential love, he finds that everything has been altered to her condition; no one tells her what actually happened. Dad's birthday is celebrated every day and a newspaper from the same day is placed on the doorstep everyday. Dad has stockpiled those newspapers and the charade goes on. The family sits and watches The Sixth Sense everyday, when Lucy is the only one shocked by the ending while dad and brother are dozing off.
      So how can Henry get this girl of his dreams to remember him for more than a day? He has actually found his love and won't let up that easy. So he joins forces with her dad, who is reluctant at first, and the quest begins. I am not that up with psychiatry so I can't really vouch for the authenticity of the whole situation. But the concept is promising, as we see the two meet each day as if its the first time they have met. Many hilarious situations result, as Henry gets aid from some friends, including fellow SNL vet, Rob Schneider, who pretty much steals the movie during his brief appearances.
      The movie is pretty damn funny and I was kind of embarrassed when I realized how loud I had just laughed. But it gets a bit too mushy towards the ending as Lucy starts to come to terms with her condition and Henry starts to get away from his playboy lifestyle. Plus there is a little too much bathroom humor involving his aquatic patients.  Funny, yes, but memorable it's not. You'll laugh and get just about your money's worth.. Plus the soundtrack is pretty good, with modern covers of some classic tunes from The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Rating:  THREE and 1/2 STARS 

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Barbershop 2: Back in Business
a la The Flixter

        Calvin (Ice Cube) is still running the clipping joint his father established in the '50s and the place is still the same old hang-out for the customers. Heated discussions are carried on as locks are trimmed and snipped. The topics range from current events, both celebrity gossip and political stances, to events from the past. But the verbose tranquility of Calvin's place is threatened by a real estate developer who offers to buy the place so he can put up a Subway or some other such place. Calvin rejects the demanding offer. So the guy just goes ahead and opens a super-slick salon across the street. Nappy Cutz has upgraded versions of what Calvin has to offer and his survival is put in jeopardy. But the new dad, along with his loyal clients and employees, some of whose loyalty is tested by some tempting offers, isn't about to back down so easily. 
      The scene stealer, once again, is Cedric the Entertainer as an employee whose loyalty goes way back to the beginning when Cal's dad saved him from cops chasing him for stealing some food on a Fourth of July --- and there's also his longing for a female who has been a specter in his lonely life.  This time around there's also a female employee in the shop in the form of singer Eve. Of course, her presence results in some tension since she has more than one suitor. Let's not forget Queen Latifah as a fellow entrepreneur who has a women's beauty salon next to Calvin's.
       The movie is very funny. Absolutely hilarious when the debating gets heated.  Where else would you hear the DC area sniper being called the Jackie Robinson of white-crime?  But then there's the whole deal with a small business going up against the big dogs. So there is a lot of sappiness and a very predictable outcome.  Sure its what the audience would want but can we be a little realistic without catering to the masses? But that's where the money is....

Rating:  THREE STARS

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The Big Bounce
a la The Flixter

        Jack Ryan (Owen Wison), not to be confused with Tom Clancy's protagonist of the same name, is a pretty petty criminal taking parts in some pretty petty crimes/cons.  He's almost in retirement and having fun, surfing away in Hawaii when he meets Nancy Hayes (Sara Foster). She wants him to teach his ways to her so she can take $200,000, or so, from corrupt real estate mogul, Ray Ritchie (Gary Sinise). Its either the money, or that hottie, that brings Jack back into the game.  Along comes Morgan Freeman as a judge/motel-owner, who has dealt with Jack, and now seems to be part of the whole con-game. Charlie Sheen comes along as well, as a friend of Jack, even though the two are fighting most of the time, either verbally or physically.  That pretty much sets up the whole scene as the attempted con moves on.
       Sara Foster is absolutely gorgeous. Let me say that again: SHE IS GORGEOUS. Which is why she should stick to modeling and not try her hand at acting, because she is pretty awful at it. Her lines are mostly delivered in a monotonous drone that gets to be annoying after a while. Owen Wilson continues to corner the market of male bimbos; and he is pretty good at being one.  It worked great with Jackie Chan (Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights) and OK with Eddie Murphy (I Spy). But not here.  I don't think author, Elmore Leonard, whose book this is based on, should be too happy. After all, some of his other works (Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Jackie Brown) have translated to the screen much better --- not this.....   Barely worth a few smirks..

Rating:  1/2 STAR

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The Butterfly Effect
a la The Flixter

        Evan has been troubled since his childhood.  After all, his dad was in a mental institution and his mom was trying her best to raise a kid who may have inherited some of daddy's looniness.  (But he has been having blackouts since that childhood --- periods of time when he can't remember where he is or where he has been.) The shrink's advice is for Evan to keep a journal, a constant diary of what he has been doing.
       As a grown up, Evan (Ashton Kutcher) has made some progress and hasn't had those blackouts for a while. But his troubled past is hard to leave behind, especially the time when his childhood sweetheart's father (a briefly appearing Eric Stoltz) put him, along with his own daughter and another friend, in his home, kiddie-porn films.  Plus there's the time when Evan went to visit his father and saw him get clubbed to death by the institute's security guards when pop tried to kill his son. Evan finds a way to go back into his past through his journals and by reading those journals, he finds that he can change some things in his past. That's where the title of the film comes into place. The Butterfly Theory suggests that the flap of a butterfly's wings can cause a chain reaction that can result in a typhoon on the other side of the globe. So whatever Evan changes in his past results in the present changing as a result. He ends up in prison or his sweetheart ends up becoming a druggie/hooker. The key is for him to find a way to change the past so the present is not so unpleasant. So we jump back and forth as he goes forth on his quest to change the past and have a happy ending in the future.
       During my brief stint in college, the Butterfly Effect came into discussion in Calculus and Physics class.  Unfortunately, I wasn't paying too much attention which resulted in me losing my scholarship and eventually dropping out.... and this is the first time, since then, that I have thought about that theory.  Intriguing, yes, but viable, no, in my opinion.  But that can still make a good movie, no?  Unfortunately, not in this case. This is the kind of material that the master, David Lynch, could have worked wonders with as I have seen his Lost Highway countless times;  I love that movie but can't explain what the heck is actually going on.  Confusing, yes, but also entertaining.  Which is not the case here.  This one is just one confused mess, as we try to see Mr. Kutcher try to climb his way out of the goof-ball image he seems to have patented for himself. During his many confused placements, you almost expect him to say, "Dude, where's my car?"  That doesn't come and the movie remains a sluggish, hodge-podge of ideological potential.

Rating:  ONE STAR

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Along Came Polly
a la The Flixter

        Reuben Feffer (Ben Stiller) works as a risk manager (or analyst) and has become overtaken by his career. Everything he does is preceded by a careful analysis of "what ifs".  But he does manage to find a wife and it's on their honeymoon, when he overlooks the risk of sending her off with a scuba instructor (a nearly unrecognizable Hank Azaria, sporting a French accent). The point is hammered in when he comes across the two in a compromising position that has nothing to do with scuba diving. He leaves her and returns home with a broken heart.
       Back home he tries to return to normal life while getting sympathies from everyone, since his mom hasn't been too secretive about her son's situation. He runs into Polly (Jennifer Aniston), a girl he used to go to school with and hasn't seen since then.  The two start going out, even though she is his direct opposite in doing things, without thinking of the "what ifs".  She eats nuts out of the bar tray even after he has lectured her about the serious health risks that may be involved. They go to a Latin dance club where he stands to the side, while she parties on.... She just does what comes along, while he calculates the risks that may be involved with any potential activity, however, he has a friend (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who keeps pushing him to go on... (That friend, by the way, can't seem to get out of a child star role that he had in a film that no one seems to know.)
       Sure, Polly and Reuben are worlds apart in mentality, but this is a romantic comedy so the destination is not too indefinite.  Hank Azaria is hilarious as the wife stealing scuba instructor; Alec Baldwin is a hoot as Reuben's boss. But the best is Bryan Brown (haven't seen him for a while) as one of Reuben's clients who just goes ahead and does what he wants whether its parachuting off of skyscrapers or swimming (literally) with sharks. There are plenty of laughs but not much new.  However, its a good time and that is what you are paying for.....

Rating:  FOUR STARS

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Big Fish
a la The Flixter

        William Bloom (Billy Crudup) has given up on his father's tall tales.  After all, that is all that Dad, (Albert Finney), seems to have given him.  William has been living in Paris with a wife who is now expecting their first child. That's when Mom (Jessica Lange) calls him back since Dad is on his deathbed. Will and the Mrs. come back and its Daddy's turn to tell the wife those stories.  We visit the elder Bloom's younger days, and see how he had an encounter with a witch who showed him his demise; we also see him as a star athlete in his small Alabama town.  We witness him befriend a giant and leave the town for the giant's sake and we see the two become part of a traveling circus run by Danny DevitoWell, you get the point. There are many, many tales but the question remains, is anything true?
       Since I am still in Florida, it's time to digress.  I had no idea that this was such a competitive State. There have been quite a few occasions when I was driving around with my cousin at night and he, being the driver of a fancy-schmancy car, got challenged to a race...... and the race just happens on the highway and he is not one to turn down a challenge........   I sit tight in my passenger seat while we hurtle down these roadways.....and everybody is doing this here!  I have even seen an old lady challenging him. (Believe it or not, she was a tough one but we won.)  Consequently, the question remains: aren't there cops around here?  I see more back in Jersey in one day, then I have seen here since I arrived in Florida well over a week ago.... So God bless New Jersey and its Law Enforcers......  Back to the movie.
      It is an absolutely amazing piece of work.  Director Tim Burton works his weird magic again and catapults us through this fantastical setting where fantasy and reality are attempting to separate. Plus it is absolutely gorgeous to look at.....  Ewan McGregor does a great job as the younger Bloom and Albert Finney (definitely try to find The Browning Version) is great as always as the elder Bloom. However, the movie is not a "normal and straight forward thing."  Yes, its a love story at its core, but don't expect a traditional one. Definitely watch it on the big screen, though.....

Rating:  HANDS DOWN, THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR(2003)

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Paycheck
a la The Flixter

        Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck) has a nice business going. He is some high-tech guy who offers his aid to big high-tech companies in the development of new ideas; these ideas belong solely to these companies, therefore, once he is done with his work, they completely erase any memory he has regarding the project. Its with his consent, and very probable, since it takes place in the near future ( I don't know how near, though).... and then comes the big one. He will get eight figures ($92 million) to work on a technology for some company being run by a very shady-looking Aaron Eckhart. The only catch is that it is going to take three years --- 3 years for $92 million..... hmmm.... yup, he agrees.
      Then next thing you know, he is being woken up and told that he has finished his job. The money has been deposited in his account and he is free to go. (Or so it seems.)  There is no money since he apparently walked into the bank a week ago and forfeited the shares. (Of course, he has no memory of it.)  Uma Thurman comes along as a lover that he had around the time of the wipeout. (But there is no memory of this...)  All that he has are twenty random objects that he mailed to himself a week ago which come in handy at the oddest of occasions. Along comes Paul Giamatti who may be the only friend that Michael has, and the hunt for the answers begin as Jennings is being hunted by folks who want him dead, and the cops who are after him since he also stands accused of murder.
       Now let me digress slightly. I saw this movie in Orlando, Florida. Yes, I am on a vacation of sorts... The movie going experience here in Florida is totally different.  How? Well, first of all the ticket prices are a lot cheaper than they are back home in Jersey. Plus you can get an extra half off, if you present a student ID.  I couldn't get that since these people apparently don't consider the School of Life as a valid school.....  And they don't have those warning commercials to turn off cell phones during movie. Also, the local paper didn't have "the show times" so I had to turn to the Internet, however, the movie theater itself was actually very clean (we, Jerseyans should be ashamed). So, how the hell was the movie, you are saying. It was pretty good. Its based on a short story by that great sci-fi scribe Phillip K. Dick.
Unfortunately, he hasn't been around to see some of his works become some great cinema (
Total Recall and Blade Runner, are two of them).  This movie was just so cool.  John Woo, does a great job, as always.  The action scenes, though not very frequent are very kick-ass. But, I don't know if I told you this before, Ben Affleck is such a mediocre actor. So its kind of hard for him to carry this movie on his own. Uma Thurman is good but its Paul Giamatti who is great, once again.  Let's not forget Jenning's vision of
a fatal fate; very slow beginning and a very hectic finale. GOOD, BUT NOT GREAT. Great concept, though..

Rating:  FOUR STARS

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THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
THE RETURN OF THE KING

a la The Flixter

        Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise (Sean Astin) are still on their quest to destroy the ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Their guide is none other than that schizophrenic Gollum that was introduced in The Two Towers.  In the introduction we see how Gollum got to be that way.  He used to be normal until the day he stumbled onto the ring with his friend.  As soon as he lays his eyes on it, the ring casts a spell on him. He ends up killing his friend over his "precious" and morphs into the horrible, sorry-looking, and pathetic-ass, Gollum that we see... Yes, the ring is pure evil and that is why the hobbits are out to destroy it. But Gollum still has his eyes set on the ring around Frodo's neck. He tries to get it by trying to drive a wedge between the two friends. 
      Meanwhile, in another part of Middle-earth, Gandalf (Ian McKellan) is preparing to fight hundreds of thousands of Orcs at Minas Tirith. By his side is the King of the title, Aragron (Viggo Mortensen), who is trying to regain his crown. In another sub-plot, Frodo's two fellow hobbits, Pippin and Merry (kind of like the Sigfried and Roy of Middle- earth) are on their own quest; and in another sub-plot..... I think you get the point. 
       This feature, (the final part of Peter Jackson's adaptation of JRR Tolkein's 2,000 or so page opus), is complex.  But Jackson must be a genius for adapting the whole thing into nine-plus hours of cinematic eye-candy.  The battle scenes are amazingly spectacular, especially when the opposing army thunders in on elephants the size of a ten story buildings.  Jackson uses the beautiful setting of his native New Zealand to frame the action.  Did I mention that this was a long movie? I went to see it on Thursday night and didn't stumble out of the theater until Friday morning. Yes, its about three and a half hours long; I am still hurting from sitting that long.  The first hour was kind of slow so I decided to get something to eat. Ended up getting a small pizza, the size of a small plate and cooked on the premises,.... for nine bucks. 
        Anyway, the movie wasn't too bad.  Unbelievably amazing to look at and the action, when it happens, is very awesome. Some of the people there were laughing their asses off at certain points.  Maybe, I just wasn't fan enough to get the jokes. Sean Astin sure has come a long way from The Goonies and Jackson shows his abilities are not limited to gore, as in his classic zombie flick, The Dead Alive. Sure, you should go catch it on the big screen. But I don't think its Best Picture material like some critics are trumpeting it.

Rating:  THREE STARS

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Stuck On You
a la The Flixter

        Bob (Matt Damon) and Walt (Greg Kinnear) are Siamese twins. Anyone who calls them that, is politely corrected with a, "No, we are American."  So, as it is politically correct, they are conjoined twins and are both attached at the hip. Separation has not been an option since they share a liver and Walt only has a fifty percent chance of survival.  They have managed to live their lives in their given condition. As a matter of fact, they have been pretty successful.  They own their own restaurant in Martha's Vineyard where any order, big or small, is guaranteed in three minutes. Newcomers have tried to challenge that guarantee by placing huge orders, unaware that the two cooks can work magic with their four hands. They have also excelled at sports; hockey, since no one can score a goal past the double goalies, and
boxing, since the opposing fighter has to defend against four fists instead of two. 
Walt is also a pretty passionate actor, who gets standing ovations from the audience while Bob just hangs around his side (literally).
      Walt's pursuit is to make it in Hollywood. Bob finally agrees and the two are off. Once they get there, the realization is made that its not as easy as their hometown. They manage to get an agent who is just a geriatric mess. Meanwhile, Cher (as herself) is trying to get out of a TV series that is below her standards. The perfect way out comes in the form of the twins, and she demands that her co-star be Walt; plus, Bob finally gets a chance to meet his Internet love, who has no idea about his condition.  Is this sounding too serious?   Sorry about that, because its not.  The Farrelly Brothers (Peter and Bobby) wouldn't give us something of the sort. It is absolutely hilarious as we go along for this ride; the TV series scenes, in particular, are absolutely hilarious as Bob just stands by while his brother shows his acting chops. Of course their secret gets out and complications ensue. Meryl Streep also joins the action, playing herself. Bob has his love interest and Walt finds his in the form of Eva Mendes who is in Hollywood to pursue acting.   So much happens; they have to fend off some hecklers resulting in a bar brawl, they get caught for drunk driving, and their agent finds them a movie job (turns out to be a porno).  Eventually, Walt sees himself as a hindrance to his brother and wants to go ahead with the surgery even though it may end his life. 
       As politically incorrect as they may be, the Farrelly Brothers' movies have always had a good heart.  And this one does too as the movie drifts towards sappiness in its finale. But there is more than a fair share of laughs.

Rating:  FOUR STARS

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Bringing Down The House
a la The Flixter

         Lawyer Peter Sanderson (Steve Martin) has a pretty hectic life.  When not busy at work, he is taking his two young kids all over the place.  But he has met someone on the Internet He has been chatting with a nice looking blonde named CharleneThey finally set a date; he's got everything ready for her arrival  -- champagne, some nice romantic music --- and then the doorbell rings.  He opens the door and its Charlene.  But its not the Charlene whose picture he has on his computer.  This Charlene is in the form of Queen Latifah and we all know that she's no petite blonde.  It seems that Peter didn't look at the picture hard enough.  In the background of his "dream blonde" is the real Charlene, being arrested and escorted by the police.  So he tries hard as hell to get this real Charlene out of his house.  But she says that she was framed and wants him to help clear her name.  Complications keep piling up, as Peter's daughter and son start to bond with Charlene.  And to top it off, Peter's fellow lawyer (Eugene Levy) becomes romantically obsessed with Charlene.  As mismatched as they are, even Peter starts to take a liking to Charlene.  But they are not about to get together; Charlene wants to help Peter get his ex-wife back.
        Much hilarity ensues, including a classic involving Martin going undercover in a hip-hop club to get some evidence to clear Latifah's CharleneQueen Latifah is very good, but Steve Martin is absolutely awesome.  I am a huge fan of the guy.  He is not just a comic genius but a REAL genius, period.  He has updated classics like Shakespeare in the form of LA Story or Cyrano de Bergerac in the form of Roxanne and even in updated classic dramas like George Elliot's Silas Marner in the form of A Simple Twist of FateAnd this movie was just absolutely hilarious.       

Rating: FIVE STARS.

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Old School
a la The Flixter

         Mitch (Luke Wilson) rushes out of a meeting and flies home to his girlfriend (Juliette Lewis) only to find her fooling around with, not one, but several individuals; so that's the end of that relationship.  He proceeds to rent a house very close to a college.  He is aided by his friends Frank (Will Ferrell) and Beanie (Vince Vaughn).  Frank is a recovering alcoholic (his nickname used to be "Tank") while Beanie is a supposedly "happily married one."  Frank, recently married, gets into trouble with his wife when he gets back into drinking while at one of the many parties, at Mitch's bachelor pad.  These parties also get Mitch into trouble with Harrison University, on whose campus his house is situated.  So instead of getting evicted, he makes his house into a "frat house", largely on Beanie's advice.  And then the real partying begins -- he has to let people join this so-called fraternity.  While some members are students, many of them are just come out of nowhere, like one 90 year old member.  The word of this wild fraternity, gets out and everybody wants to join, including a few of Mitch's co-workers.  And there is some hope of love for the guy when one of his old classmates enters the picture.
      I didn't laugh too much.  Some of the people in the theatre were laughing their asses off at some very unfunny comic pieces that seemed to be targeted at audience members who would not be old enough to be allowed in the theatre.  But there are a few chuckles as the frat members are challenged into showing some academic and athletic ability.
         If you loved director Todd Phillips' Road Trip (not me), then you will love his latest venture.  Otherwise, skip it...........
 

Rating: ONE STAR.

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Daredevil
a la The Flixter

         Young Matt Murdock looks up to his "prize fighter dad", however, one day he sees what his dad really does, which is shaking down people and beating them up for some "mob guy".  Poor Matt can't stand the truth.  As he is running away, he gets into an accident involving chemicals; as a result, he loses his sight.  But he also gains super senses in all his other functions; he can hear small things happening far away, and his reflexes are really superior.  His father gets killed because of his shady dealings with the wrong kind of people and yada, yada, yada, --- Matt vows to find the killers.  Flash forward to Matt's future. ---- He has become a lawyer, as was his dad's dream.  But at night, he dons a flashy red costume and fights crime as Daredevil.  Some of the people he goes after are the same ones that he couldn't pin in the courtroom.  Enter Electra, a Greek heiress with a "billionaire daddy".  Their meeting is probably the best part of the movie as they exchange verbal squibs and martial arts moves, in a children's playground.  (Of course a romance starts blooming as a result of that encounter.)  Then comes the search for the almost mythical Kingpin, a powerful crime boss who may also have been involved with the murder of Matt's father.
      Ben Affleck is DaredevilJennifer Garner looks pretty hot as Electra, who suspects Daredevil of being her father's killer.  Michael Clark Duncan is in standard villainous mode as the Kingpin; Colin Farrell is also there as Bullseye, another bad guy. Sadly, most of the fight scenes are so choppily edited and badly lit, that the viewers may find themselves as visually impaired as the blind hero.  Oh yeah, Matt is able to see Electra by something having to do with raindrops falling on her skin.  Go figure....  
 

Rating: ONE STAR.

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K 19
a la The Flixter

         The year is 1961. The cold war is heating up.  Both the US and Russia are ready with their nukes.  Russia sends out its nuclear sub, the K-19, for a test run, after which it is supposed to stay off the US coast in case things boil over.  It gets off to a bad start. Even before it has gone to sea, nine of its crew members die in mishaps preparing for the launch. A further ominous incident is the failure to bust a champagne bottle on the sub's hull at it's launching ceremony.  And things are not too well on board either; the original captain, Liam Neeson, gets replaced by Harrison Ford.  So there's a jealous rivalry there.  And Ford's captain is pretty much a tyrannical buccaneer minus the peg-leg.  The sub gets launched and is off to the Arctic to do its test.  But further complications arise when the sub's reactor starts melting down. Things start going from bad to worse as the crew starts to get mutinous and radiation starts to spread through the ship, causing many of the crew members to die horribly, while puking all over the place.......all the while trying to repair the core in ten-minute shifts into the reactor. They have no contact with their HQ and a US war-ship starts looming above.  VERY GOOD; captures the claustrophobic environment with some dizzying shots that take you from one end of the sub to the other without any cuts. The only thing that can be held against it is the casting of Ford and Neeson as Russians --- but they are great actors and carry their responsibility with grace.  The real star is director Kathryn Bigelow, the most kick-ass female director around (watch Point Break, Strange Days, etc.).
 

Rating: FOUR STARS.

P.S.  I don't get why they have to talk with a Russian accent in these types of movies. Why can't they talk normal? If they want authenticity, then they would talk in Russian and have subtitles. But NO ..... They act like Russians on the job speak English, but with an accent......  Just something to think about...

_____________________________________________

Road to Perdition
a la The Flixter

         Tom Hanks' Michael Sullivan is a depression-era mobster loyally serving Paul Newman's father-figure Irish mob-boss.  Then one day Sullivan's young son witnesses his dad at work, rubbing out a foe in a violent change of pace for HanksNewman's son, who already feels threatened by his dad's fondness for Sullivan, takes the opportunity and goes after his family.  He succeeds in killing his wife (a very brief appearance from the great Jennifer Jason Leigh) and one son.  Sullivan grabs the other son and goes on the run --- what follows might be the best picture of the year.
        Both Newman and Hanks give great performances.  Jude Law is also excellent as the assassin on Hanks' trail.  I guess Tom Hanks is just trying to show that he can also "do bad"; though, it is hard to hold the majority of the killings against him, since he does them to protect his son.  Director Sam Mendes shows that he didn't just get lucky by winning an Oscar with his first feature, American Beauty; the guy's got skills.  Though here, he is helped a great deal by two great actors: Hanks and NewmanHanks has shown that he doesn't need a great cast to help him along. After all one of the best movies of all time had him co-starring with a volley-ball (Castaway).
GREAT MOVIE.  But please don't go expecting what we have come to expect from
the great
Mr. Hanks.
 

Rating: FIVE STARS.

P.S.  Perdition means an eternal death, soul and all.  Why someone would name a town (Hanks and son's destination) that is beyond me.

_____________________________________________

Reign of Fire
a la The Flixter

         The movie starts off in present-day London.  A young boy goes to visit his
mom, who is working on a construction site at a subway station.  The boy wanders deep down into the station and comes across a long dormant dragon.  He wakes the beast from its slumber and starts off a flaming fit from the dragon. 
Flash forward twenty years. The dragon is now a whole lot of dragons.  London is a smoldering heap.  The young boy has grown up to become Christian Bale, and is leading a small band of survivors.  I wonder if they know that this guy is the one who started their demise??  It turns out that the fire-breathing dragons have taken over the entire world.  In comes Matthew McConaughey as the Yankee soldier who finds his way to London, fighting dragons on the way, with his platoon.  The Brits and Yanks merge to fight off the dragons.  A lot of "actiony" stuff happens with lots of explosions and fires.  Not too great, though.  A promising concept gone to waste....
 

Rating: ONE STAR.

_____________________________________________

POWERPUFF GIRLS: THE MOVIE
a la The Flixter

         I saw this movie on opening day, but I have been thinking about doing the review.  ---- Should I or shouldn't I ??  If I do, then I will be categorized as being a wuss and what not......  If I don't, then I will be turning my back on one of my favorite cartoons.  So I will.  Yes, I am a fan of the PowerPuff Girls.  And I saw the movie the first day it came out. I took my cousins with me so I could say that I was bringing some kids, but once inside the theater, I was all smiles, watching my favorite super-trio siblings kick ass.  Lonely Professor Utonium mixes sugar and spice and everything nice to create three perfect little girls.  But lab monkey, Jojo, knocks over some Chemical X into the ingredients, thus creating the Powerpuff Girls: Blossom, Bubbles (my favorite), and ButterCup.  The three girls have superpowers resulting from Chemical X ---- they can fly around, shoot lasers from their eyes, and have some pretty super-human strength.  But the Chemical X also has an effect on Jojo.  He develops a freakishly large brain and seeing the Professor neglecting him, turns his new found intelligence to becoming the girls' arch nemesis, Mojo Jojo.  First the girls are just having fun with their powers but then they harness their abilities to fight crime and their foe Mojo Jojo.  There is some pretty funny stuff --- the kind that has made me a fan.  Actually, on my last birthday, my cousins wanted to get me a PPG lava lamp.  But I thought the pink hue from that would not be appropriate for my room.  Had a great time with the movie, though.

Rating: FOUR STARS.

P.S.  The movie is preceded by an all new episode of Dexter's Laboratory, another Cartoon Network original cartoon.

_____________________________________________

Men In Black II
a la The Flixter

         In my review for Minority Report, I said that there were two kinds of sci-fi films --- there are the ones that just provide an escape via special effects and there are the ones that make you think.  I was wrong --- kind of.  A sub-genre of the former is the sci-fi comedy.  Special effects that give an escape and laughs; that's where the MIB movies are.  
        Will Smith returns as Agent Jay of the highly clandestine Men in Black, whose job is to monitor and filter the many aliens that have come to Earth.  He gets back into the real action when a really evil alien comes to our planet and disguises herself as a lingerie model, since that's the first thing it sees in a magazine (good thing its Lara Flynn Boyle).  Jay has to bring back his partner Kay (Tommy Lee Jones), who has no idea about his past and is busy working as a postal employee, not knowing that most of his co-workers are aliens in disguise (ha-ha).  Once his memory is brought back, the two men are back in action doing, pretty much, what they did in the first film.   The scene stealer is Jay's partner in Kay's absence, Agent Frank, who happens to be a dog with a motor-mouth that breaks into song in the midst of all the action.   Although not much is new compared to the first one, the movie gives a fair share of laughs with some pretty cool special effects.

Rating: THREE STARS.

P.S.  A pop-up cameo from Michael Jackson is not so funny because of it's content, as it is for its implications.

_____________________________________________

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.

_____________________________________________

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.

_____________________________________________

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.

_____________________________________________

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.

_____________________________________________

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.

_____________________________________________

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 fiancĐše 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.

_____________________________________________

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.

_____________________________________________

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.

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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.

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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.

email: The Flixter@metrojersey.com

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