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A Walk to Remember (2002)
Better than I expected
I bought a ticket for this movie on the strength of Roger Ebert's review, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself agreeing with his three-star review. It is a fairly corny teen flick, yes, but it's ABOUT something. I left the theatre thinking how some 18-year-olds focus on today, believing that they have all the time in the world to worry about the future, and others are faced with situations that make them grow up fast. People in the second group tend to realize that 18 is not to young to do something valuable, to change another person's life.
This definitely wasn't Shakespeare, but I was gently entertained, and it made me think. That's good enough for me.
Chris Kattan knocked my vote up an extra point (6/10)
Overall, I was disappointed in this movie. Although I like the actors playing the main characters, and I could appreciate that there was a great idea behind it all, this film just wasn't that great. Mostly, it was just plain weird and not as interesting as it wanted to be. However, the last 15 minutes or so the film was cracklingly alive. Chris Kattan's brief but memorable part at the end was focused and hilarious. I have often laughed at Kattan's work on SNL, but I was surprised at what a good actor he was here. He had a brief, amazingly moving scene with Bridget Fonda that almost brought tears to my eyes--which was more genuine emotion than the whole film had evoked in me up to that point. His performance almost makes the film worth a viewing, if you can't find anything else at the video store.
Unhook the Stars (1996)
I saw this movie about a year before Star Wars: The Phantom Menance came out. It's an enjoyable movie, non-formulaic and with some good acting. I particularly enjoyed Jake Lloyd's performance, which is why I looked forward to seeing him as Anakin Skywalker. Boy, all I can say is that direction must make a huge difference. He was much stiffer and forced in SW:TPM than in this movie, in which he was natural and sweet. Worth a rental just to see how talented this kid actually is.
Drive Me Crazy (1999)
Better than you might think
Although it does suffer from some of the usual clichés that films of this type always seem to have, it's got a few good points as well. Most of the actors are pretty good, especially Adrian Grenier. The screenwriter and director seemed to realize that high schools are made up of more than two cliques, and that not everyone is clamouring to get into the in crowd--things are more complex than that in real life, and this movie understands that. They also didn't make the mistake of making all the "geeks" into caricatures. I especially liked the character of Ray, played by Kris Park. Nicole, played by Melissa Joan Hart, isn't a stereotypical teen female lead character; she's got a bit of an edge and a few unexpected facets (perhaps due partly to the fact that Hart was in her early 20s when this movie was filmed). Finally, this movie is exactly what it looks like: a lightweight teen flick. Although there are several romantic relationships and some passionate kissing, there's not a lot of unnecessary, inappropriate profanity or innuendo (as in _She's All That_). _Drive Me Crazy_ pretty much sticks to being an entertaining, if forgettable, bit of fluff. Worth a cheap rental. (7/10)
Oh, and did I mention that although there is a big dance at the climax of the film, it's *not* a prom? Not only that, but we are spared a stagey choreographed dance sequence. That alone is worth a few rating points!
Pay It Forward (2000)
So close...but the ending ruined it for me
After reading the comments on this picture, I think I would have to say that I fall somewhere in the middle. Although I think all the actors did a fine job, I don't think anyone was particularly Oscar-worthy. Some of the ideas in the film are good ones and intriguing, but the sentiment *is* laid on a bit thick at times. I definitely do not think this is the best film of the year, and it didn't change my life, but I certainly don't think it was awful. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the characters in the movie seemed to have some actual problems, not too Hollywoodized or overdone, and they were dealing with them just as everyone deals with life. Osment's character, Trevor, was someone I have met before, many times: that person who keeps on seeing life's possibilities and very matter-of-factly going after them despite how difficult his life has been. He's not a hero or a genius, just an ordinary person with an extra measure of persistence and imagination. The romance between Spacey and Hunt was nicely done. And even though I thought from seeing the trailers that I would have trouble getting past their characters' make-up (Spacey's burn prosthetics and Hunt's trailer-trash getup), I actually forgot I was watching beautiful actors after a few minutes. However... [ALERT! SPOILER WARNING!] ...I do have a big complaint about the end. There was no very good reason for the fight to have the outcome that it did. It completely changed the tone of the movie for me, and was extremely distracting. I could have lived with the death, though, if it weren't for the big candlelight-vigil/Field-of-Dreams-ripoff scene at the very end, with the syrupy song playing over it. It felt manipulative and false. If we had been told a little more about the people who were affected by Pay it Forward, I would not have felt so cheated. And what happened to Jerry and the woman on the bridge??? I was waiting to hear what her story was, and if she paid it forward too. I know the movie was already two hours long, but I think with some tighter editing (maybe get rid of all the stuff with the father coming back and Spacey's "big" speech about how he got his scars) it could have been done, and it would have been more interesting and more truly uplifting.
Semi-entertaining until an ending that was painful to watch - 2/10
OK, I read the reviews saying that this movie was not good, but I wanted to see for myself how much of an actress Hallie Eisenberg really is. I can now say that I think she is quite talented and probably has a bright future ahead of her. She had about half of the few genuinely funny lines in the movie (I'm seven--not stupid!"). As for the rest...the first 2/3 wasn't awful. Decent acting that carried the movie along adequately despite the awkward dialogue. But once the action got to the "big pageant" at the end, it just got completely cheesy, and not in a good way. We were laughing in disbelief at the sentimental schlock that the writer/director/producers/whoever seemed to think was heartwarming, and at the plot points that just made no sense whatsoever. My husband, who is by and large very uncritical of movies and can find the good in anything, commented as the credits rolled, "I don't think I've ever seen a movie that crashed that hard at the end." It's an interesting idea for a story, but I agree with Roger Ebert that the script needed a re-write or two before being filmed.
Wild Wild West (1999)
Unfortunate waste of talent
Wild Wild West simply does not work. It's weird, with a meandering, unbelievable story, no chemistry between its two leads, and clunky SFX. Which makes it all the more tragic that I expected to really like this movie. I am a fan of all the major players (Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Salma Hayek, Kenneth Branagh, director Barry Sonnenfeld), and have generally been impressed by all of them in the past. Apparently, they all got together and decided to all get their fans' disappointment out of the way within one movie. Because I liked the actors in it so much (and they acquit themselves tolerably, considering what they have to work with), I stayed in the theater all the way to the end credits, hoping that the next scene would be better. But it just wasn't so.
Dinner at Fred's (1997)
odd movie w/some good performances and several great lines
I rented this movie because I like Kevin McDonald (of Kids in the Hall fame) and Parker Posey, and they did not disappoint. Kevin's performance was quietly understated yet effective and funny. Parker, although made to wear weird costumes and apparently given some strange direction, did an excellent job with her character and the dialogue (she had some of the film's best lines). I really liked her character, probably mainly because she was the only one who seemed like a real person. Most of the cast were only adequate and were playing characters who apparently were there only to make the movie seem colorful. (Mostly it just seemed like the writer was trying too hard to populate the movie with eccentrics.) However, there were moments when the dialogue was suddenly sharp and witty for a line or two before it would revert back to mediocrity. Overall, I'd say this movie is worth seeing if you are a Parker Posey fan because she really does a great job of creating a sympathetic, interesting character mainly through sheer charisma and intelligent line readings. She's always fun to watch. I gave this movie 7 out of 10.
The Winslow Boy (1999)
A lovely film
This is not like most of Mamet's films in most ways, although it is like them in that what the film is supposedly about is actually just the top layer. What the story is really about is going on underneath. If you pay attention and are willing to be patient and readjust your expectations to a more measured pace, you will be rewarded. It helps if you are familiar with English history and literature to get some of the references. There are a few moments beautifully acted by Rebecca Pidgeon and Jeremy Northam. Nigel Hawthorne and Gemma Jones are, as always, excellent. Finally, a great ending scene.
I walked out and didn't regret it
I sat through about 30 minutes of depressing, gray, bloody opening battle scenes with ridiculous dialogue. I felt sorry for the actors, who were obviously better than the material and were doing their best. I ended up leaving my husband in his seat and ducking into another theatre to see the end of Return to Me, which I'd seen previously and enjoyed. I went back in 90 minutes, thinking my husband would be waiting impatiently, only to find that the movie was still going. I sat through about 10 more minutes before I realized that I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in what had happened to the characters in the interim to get them to that point. So I left again, and walked to a nearby bookstore to wait through the remaining 20 minutes. Maybe I am not qualified to review this movie since I didn't even see half of it, but the fact that I never walk out of movies--this was only the second in 25 years--should say something. And I walked out of this one TWICE.