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Through the Fire (2005)
an elephant in the room
This is a good movie, because it is a documentary, and documentaries by nature start on such a higher playing field. As a documentary, it is somewhat below average. There are gaping holes and topics that are completely ignored that are integral to the subject matter. For one thing, there was not a single speaking agent or pro scout/rep in the movie. It is basically a summary of the games he played as a senior, a post season all-star game, the announcement of his shoe deal, one cover shoot, and coverage from the draft. That said, the content of the film is excellent... it is just not complete. I found Telfair's two older brothers to be radiant characters... the kind of stuff you'd never see in scripted material. Telfair's high school coach (not in as many scenes) was another highlight. Another odd thing about the movie is that it is clearly avoiding what is common knowledge to almost anyone who actually watched this. Telfair is struggling. He is arguably the 2nd/3rd PG on the worst team in the Western Conference... losing minutes to Jarret Jack (a late first round rookie) and Steve Blake (a backup on any other team). Lebron James was the first, and thus far only, elite performing star straight out of high school. This movie was clearly made in the wake of Lebron James in an effort to capture Lebron II. So instead of looking at the hype from the outside as a documentary, this movie itself is part of the hype. This is made clear based on the futile efforts to skirt Telfair's pro career. For one thing, this movie was released almost two years after its final event, the 2004 draft. Not all that suspicious, except that there was no text at the end of the movie, updating us with information on his pro career. Put those two together and it appears that ESPN tried to wait for him to be successful before airing the movie. Which gets us to what reeks about this movie. Telfair and his brothers seem intelligent and honorable, and they are being exploited in an effort to make money. This common nowadays with reality TV, but Telfair's career is at stake here. Dollar-crazed industries scrambled for the next Lebron, knowing and banking on the fact that plenty of money could be made before one of these guys even made it to the pros. This juicy topic is not addressed in the movie... as I said before, the packaging of this movie is just another example. The result is fans hating on Telfair and calling him a bust, which he is not. He isn't Todd Van Popple or Brian Bosworth... there was almost zero assurance for all the Telfair hype, again not his fault. That this movie was aired instead of the World Baseball Classic is another strike against the sickeningly self-indulgent ESPN. ESPN doesn't seem to realize that people like it and watch it because it is a window to sports, and not because of its slapdash, substandard original programing or haughty, moronic personalities.
Empire Falls (2005)
an empire falls.... wow, get it!!!???
Its pretty obvious that the author wrote the screenplay here... given that his pontificating prose makes the transition to the film as voice-over narration. Come to think of it... I didn't see a credit for the narrator, and I didn't recognize the goofy voice either... I wonder if this guy could possibly be THAT self-indulgent.
Anyway, this movie is OK. I'd say about half the scenes are good and half are bad. It's pretty inconsistent in its level of phony-ness.
It is overall an interesting and engaging story, but I think it is greatly hindered by the cheap crutch of a purely evil character.
Hoffman and Robin Wright Penn were both really good in the flash backs. William Fichtner struck me as the only guy who carried his weight in the modern scenes. Dennis Farina was good, but it was a one note job.
The glove box and the cat were painful.
I have to say, my jaw about hit the floor when a lowered newspaper revealed Josh Lucas in a cameo as a young Paul Newman... it was a brief but unbelievable scene.
Garden State (2004)
Your basic movie trying hard to be original
This movie is well-intentioned, but it ends up really falling in line with your basic movie... not necessarily a bad thing.
One reason why I say this is that movie stands stalwart behind it's two main characters. During the course of the movie they are inspirational, whimsical and seemingly never wrong, yet somehow they have highly-checkered pasts. They also conveniently don't spend enough time together to get into the guts of what their relationship would be like... a sort of post-Sleepless-in-Seattle phenomenon that this movie does nothing to break away from.
Of course there must be an enemy, in this case it is his father. I don't understand why he is made to play the villain. It is certainly not necessary. The character is designed to have excellent inner-conflict and motivation for his actions, he's also played by a fantastic actor, yet he is made to be a cold, plotting, one-dimensional villain from start to finish. A villain such that the movie can climax with him being put in his place by his son, as any cheap trick movie would.
The movie is nice, but utterly fanciful in the same way as say, The Shawshank Redemption or Forest Gump, where it has a realistic plot, but unrealistic execution. This is not Mean Streets... not that a movie has to play it straight to ring true. An outside-the-box movie can have an unrealistic plot, but realistic execution. Take Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; the plot is out there, but the movie is genuine. If you've seen both Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Garden State, think of the weight and depth of the central characters. In Garden State, the characters are fun and neat, but their depth is falsely created in a few sentences of plot-work that doesn't match what's on the screen. What's on the screen is NOT a study of an over-drugged boy (with a severely traumatizing incident) falling in love with a girl who has clinical mental issues. That topic is really left for documentary because how, as sane people, can we begin to structure the feelings behind such a plot? What's on the screen fits a couple normal slackers, there's nothing wrong with simply making them slackers and that's who these characters should be. Slackers can be clever and endearing like these characters, they don't have to be defined as insane and on drugs.
Maybe I was in a grumpy mood... but what was with all those barely funny sight gags? These 2-3 second, no-dialogue shots of stuff like, all of them on the motorcycle, or all of them wearing the plastic bags for the rain etc. It looked like the stuff on sitcoms, I was wondering where the laugh-track was (cue laugh-track)
Mr. Destiny (1990)
Thoughts on entire movie… contains inherent spoilers.
Mr. Destiny is in many ways similar to Back to the Future, but it is sort of the anti-Back to Future because of its message. In Back to the Future, problems are fixed by going back in time and making changes that result in a greater level of material existence, in Mr. Destiny we are taught to simply appreciate what we already have.
Oddly, the ending muddles this message. After we have learned with Belushi that riches are corrupt and un-endearing, and that a simpler life of love is his choice of life, he is lavished with a six-figure salary and a company Mercedes,. This opens some dark possibilities; let's hope he's learned his lesson.
The movie is very movie-like. Take Belushi's lingering befuddlement at what is going on and all of his plot questions, the answers of which are clearly directed at all of the children watching the movie.
Also the baseball is really embellished for effect. Because of the percentages involved, failing to get a hit (esp. a home run) is a lot different than a truly horrific moment like dropping a pop-up or letting a grounder go through your legs with two outs. That's not to say that someone wouldn't long regret having not gotten a home-run or key hit, but in that situation having a teammate sneer "way to go, BURroughs" and being a town-goat is ridiculous and only realistic if he pulled a Bill Buckner like move. Like I said, you are always very conscious of it being a movie, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Surprisingly, the antagonists are pretty compelling, almost believable, which is rare for such a movie-like atmosphere. Most movies in this mold include a one-dimensional villain who is motivated seemingly only by evil, a cheap character to give the cheap-thrill of being put in his place or humiliated. Such a character is notably lacking in Mr. Destiny. The threatening characters, Courteney Cox and a gem named Niles Pender, are unsavory but somewhat realistic people, driven by understandable motives like spite and money. The key is that their behavior and level of antagonism is reflective of the different actions and personalities of John Belushi, which, in an interesting twist, makes him the villain.
The potential of the Rene Russo character is a little lost, one problem with the weight of the movie is that Belushi is in his altered life as a visitor, and the potential feelings (good or bad) he has built for 10-15 years with his other-dimensional wife (Russo) are not present in him, only implied.
Another thing that isn't addressed is the sheer insult to Linda Hamilton by having him want out of his life. She says to him something like, "If things were so great, why did you want to change?" and he answers with "I guess I didn't realize what I had" which in a way is more insulting in that he didn't say something like, "I didn't think I'd lose you."
Lastly, what was up with the dog? After having a woman try to kill him, and while being chased by the police for a murder he didn't commit and getting fired all over the fact that a man he knows has been murdered, he doesn't "give up" in disappointment until he accidentally runs over his own dog? Then in the end of the move, he is happy (but under control) when seeing his old wife again and getting the great new job, but he's only ecstatic when he sees the dog alive again?
The Time Machine (2002)
After watching this movie I went to the trivia section expecting to see something to the effect of:
The Morlocks were intentionally made to look distractingly cheesy in homage to the ground breaking but now lame-looking 1960 version.
It wasn't there. Go figure.
Finding Forrester (2000)
F Murray Abraham... not the man now, dog.
**don't read this if you don't want to know what happens, but what happens will be SO obvious it shouldn't really matter
What does pathetic Professor Crawford have that Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, Robert Redford, Jodie Foster and most other huge stars don't??? An Academy Award for Best Actor. Any one who's seen 'Amadeus' will see F Murray Abraham in what would be the performance of any actor's life. Unfortunately, the difference isn't Abraham at all, it's the role. The Crawford character is hilarious to watch... he's like Eric from Billy Madison or Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore or a similar character from any other silly comedy. He's a 100% villain from his first scene to his last, with the obvious fate of huge and repeated public humiliation. Since Connery has a beef with him too, we get to see both protagonists take a homerun swing through Crawford's dignity. The scene toward the end is classic when Crawford performs the huge Hollywood retread of desperately and futilely trying to quiet the crowd cheering for Jamal, the crowd of course includes Crawford's superiors who in turn belittle the meek authority that Crawford's bitter and empty soul clings to. I was seriously waiting for a warm Connery/Jamal hug to be interrupted by shrieks from the audience as Crawford menacingly approached with a gun, only to have Connery, now cool and now confident in his return to society, perform a few quick Judo moves, disarming Crawford and sending him to the ground in a pile of his own waste.
This is basically an interesting movie ruined by painfully predictable characters and scenes. When you watch it, see if you can guess everything that will happen, you'll probably be right.
Looking for Richard (1996)
wish they would have just done the play
I have a feeling that Al Pacino will soon be (or already is) too embarrassed to watch this movie. Certain ideas probably seemed great at the time while they were swept up in the documentary style, (like lying on an old stage to soak up a vibe and choosing to wear the same mis-shaped hat backwards the whole time) but they really end up looking silly. The parts I liked from the documentary aspects were the arguments and the interviews, but overall, I think the movie (with the cast Pacino got) would have been much better if they just stuck to the play. Al Pacino makes a solid Richard. For the most part he is not playing Al Pacino, but Michael Corleone and Big Boy Caprice occasionally show up in his portrayal. I found the casting of Alec Baldwin as Clarence (Richard's benevolent older brother) a little odd, since Baldwin is almost 20 years younger then Pacino, but he was excellent. Clarence has one of the most dramatic and powerful scenes of the play, and Baldwin was all over it. Winonna Rider was good as Anne, who appears in the most difficult scene of the play, which worked well thanks to the work by Pacino and Rider. Estelle Parsons was perfect as Margaret, I was really amazed. Kevin Spacey and Adian Quinn were excellent choices for Buckingham (crumb) and Richmond (hero), I thought they were both really good. All in all, I found myself groaning every time the movie switched from the marvelous scenes of the play to the obnoxious documentary scenes, but I would definitely not discourage anyone from seeing it. **1/2
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
not very good, but not without high-points
This adaption was ah, weird. A lot of the fairies looked pretty messed up, like multiple faces and other stuff that i think was beyond the scope of a magic forest. Since the movie comes from a play, the story is character driven and therefore the most important part is the acting which varied a lot. Michelle Pfiffer was the best part, she was pretty much perfect as Titania. Rupert Everett got the job done. I thought Stanley Tucci was a great pick for Puck, I never imagined Puck aged (40ish and balding), but I though he was excellent. Calista Flockhart was pretty good, although as a unit I thought that the four main characters (especially the other three) were pretty lackluster, I mean I can't even recall anything they did. I thought that Kevin Kline was amazingly piss-poor as Nick Bottom. What a lousy job, and what was up with the raspy voice? David Strathrain and Sophie Marceau (by far the most talented actors in the cast) were fantastic as the stately Theseus and Hippolota. They were in far too little of the movie considering their great chemistry; they really glow on the screen.
So what was up with the bicycles? They were used with astonishing frequency throughout the movie to the point were I was wondering what was up with the director, like does he ride bikes around without the seat or what? **
For Love of the Game (1999)
God, this movie was bad
This movie borrowed a lot from Major League. Veteran guy's guy with diminishing skills has on and off relationship with bookwormish girl who used to be wild while an evil owner looks to replace the veteran, a one-dimensional upscale arty man appears in one scene looking to steal the girl and a boorish Yankee villain threatens the pitcher on the field.
What it doesn't have that Major League had was a great supporting cast of characters, real dialogue, chemistry between the lovers, realistically crass on the field behavior (on the field scenes were so corny in For Love of the Game) a ton of great humor and just being an overall good movie.
One more thing, maybe I missed something... but the Costner cutting his hand scene was one of the most laughably ridiculous scenes I've ever seen in a movie. I once cut my hand with a chainsaw, wrapped a glove over it, got driven to the hospital, stood in the lobby waiting three hours because its obviously not at all life-threatening or critical, then got stitches and left. Costner is cut on the pouch of skin between his thumb and finger by a table saw. He then stammers back toward the house losing consciousness. He is rushed to the Hospital where he appears delirious as Kelly Preston makes the most embarrassing rant I've ever scene in a movie because no one will help him. He is then taken by helicopter somewhere else (no one in that hospital can stitch a cut?) and on top of all that he has oxygen tubes? How ridiculous is that? It was as if he'd been shot 3 times in every vital organ when instead he has a one inch cut on his hand.
The Natural (1984)
At times stunning, but it could use some editing
This is a movie with a great story: an unknown aged ballplayer appears who has magical talent. This concept leads to a couple of wonderful scenes. Most of all, the scene featuring Roy Hobbs first at bat as a Knight is spectacular. I would be willing to say that every shot of this scene is perfect. The growing storm that accompanies him, the foreshadowing, the music, the magic... it is the stuff of legend, again, fabulously done. Unfortunately this movie is too long and boring. I very much enjoy a slow developing story, if every scene in this movie featured an amazing home run by Roy Hobbs, the power would be lost, thus its necessary to keep things slow. However it is not necessary to tie in ridiculous side-stories, such as an evil owner trying to take an idiot manager's shares of the ball-club. Yeah!! Roy Hobbs fights corruption to save the dunce manager!!! How idiotic, how about just plain Roy Hobbs plays baseball because he loves baseball; that's what the movie's trying to say, why try to add more suspense? Cutting this kind of uselessness would really help this movie on a couple levels. I'm very tolerant of slow movies and I love baseball, but this movie is boring. Robert Redford is ok, some may disagree, but I think he comes off as too much of a prick in this movie, especially since it seems clear that from the script Roy Hobbs is a very good guy, yet somewhat mysterious. I think Redford turns mysterious into prick. The manager is annoying, Kim Bassinger is not that great, Glenn Close is good but not at all attractive, Michael Madsen was great and Robert Duvall is very good as well. ***