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Kangaroo Jack (2003)
Maybe the Kangaroo's needed a tax shelter
I should have paid more attention when a little girl walked over to me in the theatre and asked: "mister, why didn't anyone else come to see Kangaroo Jack?". Out of the mouths of babes...
This film is embarassingly bad. I had hoped for a reasonably decent attempt at a fantasy/children's film. This film never really decided what it wanted to be. Worse, (sigh), it's unfunny and desperately overacted, with forced humor(several scenes end with grating bouts of seemingly unending laughter). Everyone either...um...acts like they're anxious to be somewhere else (Christopher Walken's performance-woefully underused-he CAN be funny) or they're constantly struggling to actually get some depth and purpose to their characters.
The Australian actors all appeared to be grimly determined to see this through but were obviously not happy. Jerry O'Connell-an apparent cum laude graduate of the Steve Guttenberg School of Ham Acting, could have made more of an impact if he hadn't indulged in so many astonished looks of admiration and reckless "fighting" grins. Estella Warren was a nice piece of eye candy, and as another reviewer stated, didn't really have much to do, but her token resistance to O'Connell in the gratuitious bathing scene was just too much. Laura Cox would have far more plausible in the role and seemed just as attractive-plus she's Australian. The Black Sidekick-Anthony Anderson (never heard of him) was just...embarassing.
Special effects/animation-the primary reason I attend kid's movies-were both excellent and dated. The "Roo's" were very well done, but the landscapes were screamingly obvious. Rotoscoping has it's place, but viewers are far too used to CGI, now.
Whoever wrote this film could also use a few Australian geography lessons. Like the inference that Coober Pedy and Alice Springs are just a few miles outside of Sydney.
Playhouse 90: Alas, Babylon (1960)
Nuclear War comes to America's Suburbs
A live teleplay based on the novel by Pat Frank about the ultimate horror coming to your neighborhood. Don Murray is a lawyer in a small town in rural Florida. Life is simple; slow and idyllic, until the unthinkable happens one afternoon. Done at a time when most people had black and white TV's and the Cold War was very real and very, very close,it had a stark documentary style and feel to it that terrified people. A truly remarkable event in TV history, that probably should be in the Smithsonian and/or on the AFI's preservation list if it isn't there already.
The Contender (2000)
Shameless political passion play
Did you ever notice how the losers; the baddies and the incompetents always have thinning hair or are outright baldies in the movies?
Talk about typecasting: Jeff Bridges as the Prez. Full head of hair, high energy, masculine, physically fit and pretty funny, too. Pretty cool, even for a Democrat. Golly, gee whiz, are there supposed to be any similarities drawn between him and Clinton?(I think he stole this movie, BTW).
Gary Oldman as Shelly Runyon, Thinning hair (to be charitable), four-eyed geeky tubercular physique, and quivering jaw, with mean little spitting cobra-like malevolence that only Gary can portray. Oh yes, he plays the EVIL Republican.
Joan Allen...uh, who? What a wussy. Was this the best they could do for a representative of Yearning American Womanhood straining at the Chains of Inequality? For most of the movie, she does nothing to move beyond precisely those reasons that are put forth as Bridge's motivation for nominating her in the first place-namely that he wants a Woman named to the V.P. slot as a part of his "legacy". Not once does he or his chief aide (well played by Sam Eliott) discuss her politics nor is she shown to be any sort of a leader. Mostly, she is so self-effacing; so in awe of all these Big Strong Men, that she makes one ill (snif!). Only towards the end, do you get an idea that maybe she is substantive and that she actually has an opinion on something. They might as well have been picking a S,F and D housefrau out of the phonebook.
Bridges and Eliott seem to regard political investigations as something shameful and dirty and only reluctantly, when they had no other choice, do they finally, reluctantly, (sighing all the way) take advantage of information provided by a plucky (and cute) (OW! take that! sexist pig!) FBI agent. But only in the interest of the American People, you understand...
One last: the ambitious little weasel turncoat representative played by Christian Slater. Does he ever show any emotion besides barely held in eagerness? He seems forever on the verge of anticipating some impending event, like the water bucket above the half-open door trick.
The music was way too loud and way too epic. Way too obvious that this was meant to be a Big Event.
The Glitterball (1977)
Sometimes you find friends in the oddest places
A marvelous film about the secret life of children who are all too often forgotten and left to their own devices in the day-to-day activities of adults and what happens when another boring Saturday is suddenly made not-so-boring with the discovery of a mysterious little alien being with unusual powers, who is scared, hungry and very lost.
Hilarious and fast paced adventure from a child's eye view, with exciting chases, escapes and pratfalls. General chaos and havoc are wreaked on a small town as the Army and an evildoer gangster independently seek to capture the alien for their own purposes and collide with a group of children who have joined forces to help the little alien-who only wants to return home.
It's about being very small in a big scary world, and the power of friendship and trust. Highest recommendation.
Shaft should be embarrassed, I know I was.
I confess. I fell asleep once or twice. Sorry. Here, you have a consummate actor in Samuel L. Jackson, full of power, charisma and sheer good looks-not to mention menace-the ideal choice for a contemporary Shaft character and he's given nothing of substance to do.
I have heard that this film had continual problems with infighting-the Producers vs. Jackson and the Director, John Singleton over the story and emphasis, and it shows.
The film doesn't really work as a police procedural or even as anything but a violent, disjointed tale of cartoonish ghetto characters who either talk like Rosie Perez's cousin with a set of ill-fitting braces or look like middle linebackers recruited from a College football practice.(Well, I have to admit, I DID like Busta Rhyme's character) Christian Bale is so...um..."whitebread" that you really have to wonder what they were thinking. Woefully implausible as a nemesis and hardly a match for Shaft. Why didn't they show more scenes to establish Shaft's character? His...dare I say it, motivation?(other than say, frustration at the White-controlled judicial system) Is he just meant to be an elemental force? Even the hilarious Peoples Hernandez had more fleshing out. Where were Shaft's women? Vanessa Williams is nice, but there are some really attractive babes that he could have been hooked up with. Why no scenes to establish his relationship with his Uncle? Does Shaft pay rent? Visit his mom on Sundays? Feel compassion and/or despair at a Black mother's justice? Or was he just there to orchestra car chases, gunfire between dimwits and explosions. Crowd pleasers, for sure, but... It was hard to tell. Too bad. I sincerely hope the next one-if there is one, isn't tinkered with, or fought over, or "trimmed". Samuel Jackson is a winner. His talent was stifled here.
80 minutes later I was hungry
I, frankly, was disappointed. This film was filled with glaring inaccuracies, concessions to political correctness (and filming logistics) and throwaway actors. But that wasn't the worst part. If I'm in another time, I want atmosphere! I want story! I'll suspend my disbelief in a heartbeat, but I still need something to hang it on. Never once did I think I was in the 1940's! Where was the setup? Why should I have cared about these characters?
Matthew McConaughey appeared to be spending his time equally between trying to remember his lines and keeping his good side toward the camera. Harvey Keitel seemed to be endlessly frowning as if to ask:"was this role a good idea"? John Bon Jovi...uh...who? What happened to David Keith (Maj. Coonan)? Where was all this alleged combat training taking place? Wet-behind-the ears young Amurricans whupping on a bunch of hard core veteran sailors? Yeah, right. Just like they almost instantly knew how to run the German sub. Even the Black steward was a quick study on the steering-did you catch that? Heyyy...did you ever doubt that OUR heeero mechanics could fix anything? Hmmm? Where, for God's sake, was the tension and the claustrophobia? The fear? I've been on one or two of the old WWII subs. They are cramped and creepy.The control room on the German sub looked big enough for a stageplay. Das Boot was a far more accurate visual portrayal. I recall the 1950's classics like The Enemy Below and Run Silent Run Deep and I weep for modern MTV attention spans.
The Ninth Gate (1999)
My greatest fear was falling asleep
Was it scary? Nope. Was it funny? Not really. Was this a terribly precious allusion to every occult film of the last 20 years-from the Omen to Angelheart? Perhaps thats being too harsh. Did Johnny Depp frown a lot? Yes. Was his "gray around the gills" makeup a hoot? Yes, almost as much as his eurotrashy clothes. Did Polanski's squeeze/protege' Emmanuel Seigner impress? Only at the end. Can she act, though? Was the plot a wee bit obvious? You bet. Think rubber mallet to the forehead obvious. When Frank Langella (as book publisher/collector Boris Balkan (the Balkans, get it?...Dracula?) punches "6-6-6" into his private elevator codepad, you just know that's significant, somehow. Was it, perhaps meant to be that way? Who knows? This is/was a Roman Polanski film, after all. Did I want to hit Depp/Corso as much as everyone else? Yes. Did I end up counting the ceiling tiles in the theatre?
Eye of the Beholder (1999)
Obsession meets obscure motivation in a spaghetti-like mass of mystery and illogical behavior
I don't know, maybe you have to be european to understand this film. Being an uncultured barbarian of a Yankee, I didn't. I got a vague idea about obsession. Here's what I think happened: a bored English intelligence functionary (Ewan McGregor) whiles away his time playing with his ultra hi-tech toys until he gets a call from his boss to handle a private matter involving a blacksheep nephew and the family trusts. Surveillance leads McGregor to a mystery woman and a liaison reminiscent of a certain scene in The Conversation-you know, the one where Gene Hackman hears much more than he expected. Only here, McGregor sees as well. Up to that point, it was a moderately interesting opening to a detective/spy story. Then, they lost me. The hero makes totally illogical moves based on the information he discovers. Not to mention illegal ones, if he was, indeed supposed to be a government employee. The plot takes violent turns seemingly for no particular reason other than to show Ashley Judd's parts in various stages of undress. Her motivation for HER actions is at best unclear. Is she a secret agent? A black widow? Or just plain whacko? Are we seeing delusional fantasies? Schizoid behavior manifested in the bizarre flitting around America? Is it all in Ewan's daydreams? Is he still employed by by Her Majesty's Government? If I was Ewan's boss, I would have fired the guy (or had him sent to that village where they sent Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner). At one point he calls in to best bud K.D. Lang-a very surreal casting in itself as a sort of high tech "Moneypenny"/secretary/telephone operator and reports a "level 3 breach". Everybody tenses. Obviously this is bigtime security stuff and then...nothing! AHHRRGGG!! If you take the timeline literally, McGregor is awful darn casual about phoning in his reports. Who was in charge of continuity on this Turkey? Depending on how you look at it, the action covers days, weeks, months or even years. Ooooh, isn't that clever? How terribly arty. This film appears to have been written by a european who has never been to America and gained all of his knowledge from films. America never looked worse.
The Three Musketeers (1973)
strap on your sword and buckle your swash!
My all-time favorite film. The tongue-in-cheek storytelling of Richard Lester brings to life the classic adventure story of swordplay and romance in such a wonderful, magical way that it has to stand as the definitive film version by which all others must be (Or will be) compared.
This is a film that combines authenticity and history with the way "history" probably really was. Our hero's don't win every fight and take their lumps (or cuts) with just the right amount of grumbling and limping from unexpected pratfalls and find that sometimes, the prudent thing to do, even for heros, is to run like hell. There is so much richness of detail and so many surprising/amusing vignettes that it would be hard to pick my favorites. Do note the hilariously clever additional role that actor Frank Finlay took on. ("O'Reilly" the Jeweler vith ze hef-fy euro accent) Satire this may be, but it is also one of best escapist adventure movies ever.
The Haunting (1999)
Ooooo...Isn't that scary, kids?
I don't know, maybe it was really meant to be a satire. The final product had the appearance of those sad Bonsai trees that amateurs get ahold of. Snip a little here, a little there and then the scissors slip. Oops. Well, trim some more. Pretty soon there is nothing left. It wasn't scary but it sure was loud. The crumbling English manor house exterior was spooky and practically cried out for someone or something to appear in an upper story window and then disappear. The interior appeared to be left over from a Conan the Barbarian temple scene-utterly gorgeous, sweeping in scale and full of potential. Much too brightly lit, but nice, nonetheless.
The acting was ho-hum. Liam Neeson spent his time looking vaguely embarassed,or even annoyed-but not afraid, even in the scene with the statue. I understand that he had a salary guarantee-good thing, too. Catherine Zeta-Jones...well, she was beautiful. What was that "sexual tension" between her and Lili Taylor supposed to contribute? Who was the blonde surfer dude? Was I engrossed in my popcorn or did the flue change direction? Why didn't Lili get better billing? What happened to the Professor's assistant and that other guy? Exactly how far was it to town? Why didn't anybody ask Mrs. Dudley what she was afraid of? She did everything but hold up a sign. Why didn't anybody go check the paint on the wall with the picture to see if it WAS paint? Who called Lili? Who cares?