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Dead On (1994)
If you like all sex and no plot, you'll love this movie
The best thing about this movie is the two nude scenes... Matt McCoy leans back in ecstasy as he climaxes with Shari Shattuck in the second one done almost entirely in silhouette; the first is a bit more wild due mostly to Shattuck's insatiable appetite. The rest of the film has terrible acting, a very weak script with very little to hold the viewer's attention and some tasteless costumes on Shattuck. If you feel like seeing this film, I suppose its worth a look but only one at that. It has a very little following to be sure which probably explains it not being available on DVD as yet. Please bear in mind that this film has nothing to recommend.
What a night!!! What a year!!! What a show!!!
This, by far, was the very best Oscar show I've ever seen in my entire life!!! Hugh Jackman was the best Oscar host since Johnny Carson and he needs to come back for the next three years at least. It was entirely tasteful that he gave no political statements and that his performance was full of excitement and appreciation for honoring excellence in cinema...
Apart from that, my favorite part of the whole evening involved all the acting categories where five past recipients all came out and presented the latest 'member of the club' into their circle... Eva Marie Saint, Goldie Hawn, Anjeclica Huston, Whoopi Goldberg and Tilda Swinton announced a most deserving Penelope Cruz as best supporting actress for her wild, dynamic portrayal in 'Vicky Christina Barcelona'; Joel Grey, Christopher Walken, Kevin Kline, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Alan Arkin awarded the late Heath Ledger's best supporting actor Oscar for 'The Dark Knight' to his grateful and honored father, mother and sister; Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman and Marillon Cotillard made a very emotional moment completely unforgettable when they proudly welcomed Kate Winslet into the Best Actress category for her emotionally gripping performance in 'The Reader'; and Robert DeNiro, Sir Ben Kingsley, Michael Douglas, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Adrien Brody announced Sean Penn as best actor for his dead-on portrayal of San Francisco politician Harvey Milk in the Gus Van Sant-directed biopic 'Milk'... and 'Wall-E', the darling of all the animated films from 2008, was named the best animated feature to little surprise. And then of course, there was the feel-good film of the year, 'Slumdog Millionaire' winning 8 out of the 10 nominations it received, including Best Song, Score, Adapted Screenplay, Director and Best Picture.
It was a magical, thoroughly pleasing night for the Oscars this year and I'm hoping five past recipients will be back next year to present each acting category and definitely Hugh Jackman will be greatly welcomed back as emcee.
One of the best in the annual AFI specials
I was very pleased with the selections made for this year's documentary... almost completely satisfied...
REDS is not one of the ten best epics of all time... it's beyond me why they chose it over DOCTOR ZHIVAGO which may not have been as great a film when compared to GONE WITH THE WIND or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA but it has much better quality than REDS just because Warren Beatty CANNOT act to save his own life... and THE APARTMENT was missing from romantic comedies list and neither HARVEY or GROUNDHOG DAY are favorite fantasies of mine certainly. The fantasy, animation and epic lists I think were the best ones, although GONE WITH THE WIND should have been ranked at #3 instead of #4. SCHINDLER'S LIST is a masterpiece but GONE WITH THE WIND has a longer legacy and is more of a favorite among millions.
What's Cooking? (2000)
Comfort food with controversy... but the kind of movie you can watch any day of the year!
With the exception of A WALK ON THE MOON starring Diane Lane and Viggo Mortensen, this film is easily my favorite indie film. I first saw it four years ago when my sister was home from San Diego state for Easter vacation and we rented the DVD the following day from Blockbuster. Some of the most talented names in film (Oscar-nominee Alfre Woodard, Oscar-winner Mercedes Rheul, Lainie Kazan and Joan Chen) and up-and-coming talent (Dennis Haysbert of FAR FROM HEAVEN and the ALLSTATE commercials) star in this terrific ensemble film with a brilliant script and first-rate performances most notably from Woodard, Rheul and Kyra Segewick.
The story (set throughout the Fairfax district of L.A.) revolves around four different families (focusing primarily on the women of each) all of four different ethnicities: one African-American, one Hispanic, one Jewish and one Vietnamese and the family conflicts they deal with over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Woodard's family is dealing with a marriage that is on the brink of a divorce with two subplots of an extremely irritating mother-in-law (Ann Weldon) and a troubled son in his early twenties; Rheul's family is confronting the fact that she has separated from her husband (Victor Rivers) and has moved on with her life and has a promising relationship with her boyfriend (A Martinez) despite what her son wants. Kazan's family is up in arms with her daughter (Segewick) involved in a lesbian relationship with her recently married life-partner (Julianna Margulies). Chen's family is most definitely the most dysfunctional while their daughter is involved in a relationship with a young white boy, their eldest son uses his midterms schedule as a false pretense to avoid coming home for the holidays and is seeing Rhuel's daughter and Chen's teenage son has been suspended from school for stealing a test while also being dangerously involved with a gang. One highlight of the films is where Woodard's friends come over to her house for Thanksgiving dinner and their rebellious, uptight teenage daughter wants nothing to do with any of them. When confronted by Woodard's mother-in-law about what she and Woodard's little daughter and her friend are doing, she states that "we're playing Thanksgiving... she's the mommy, she's the daddy and I'm the alcoholic, cult-worshiping, Satanic stepmother!"
The story moves in a very transitional pattern alternating between the four families with very interesting scenarios for each. Gurinder Chadha (director of BEND IT LIKE BEKHAM and the upcoming BRIDE AND PREJUDICE) has really outdone herself with the unique and oft-times exasperating ties that bring these families together. Another engaging aesthetic in this film (possibly the most important) is the incredibly diverse variety of delicious food each family cooks throughout the midsection of the film in preparation for the holiday tradition. You can almost smell the enticing scents of the apple and pumpkin pies and the turkey and mashed potatoes as well as the Asian and Hispanic dishes. The special features on the DVD of the films offers six different recipes as they were used in the actual film.
This is one film that my whole family and I love to watch every year on Thanksgiving and one we watch throughout the year as well. Go rent it sometime this weekend and see what you think. I really think you'll love it!
Searching for Debra Winger (2002)
even straight men can like this one...
I watched this documentary last night and even though I'm a guy and love a great looking woman, I still agree with the general premise of this film: women who truly know themselves and know what they want in life go after that goal even if it means either leaving the mainstream of the Hollywood elite or walking away from it altogether.
Diane Lane, Sharon Stone and Meg Ryan were the ones who stood out for me the most in terms of what they said.
In Diane, I found two strong points made: a) despite the fact that she would like to be in love with a great guy, her main focus in her life is on her child and her desire to have looked back on her life years from now and say to herself that she was a great mom. And b) that she doesn't perceive that beauty is fading; beauty is something that a woman in her 50s and 60s can manifest more as a character actress and be confident in herself because she's okay with the fact that she's not the fascinating beauty that she was when she was in her 20s and 30s. The fact that she can evolve over time into an older and still attractive woman without holding onto the "immaculate" beauty of her youth is what makes her beauty continuous.
With Meg, compromising is the name of her game. In the first 3 to 5 years of her motherhood, she would take her son Jack with her onto whatever movie set she would be working on at the time and once he started school she slowed down to doing only one film per year (on average of work being 3 months) and devoting the rest of her time towards her son's needs. Also, her life is not defined by having a man in her life. Regardless of what the press has written about her in terms of what happened with her relationship with Russell Crowe (sorry to see it didn't work out, however) she is more "empowered as a woman" because she hasn't made her career labeled as some sex symbol or sexy blonde but has played some really great roles about 3-dimensional women (WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN/SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE and PROOF OF LIFE are three good examples).
Sharon's point is about knowing when to let go of the care-free "fun stuff" of your youth and knowing that yes, it is scary and yes, it can either make you or break you but if you've got the guts to put it all behind yourself and walk on to the more mature woman and find more happiness and fulfillment and health. The key is to have the guts and determination to be willing to move on and act the age you've arrived at. Another good point is that being able to say fellow actresses are what inspire you to keep on working despite the fact that maybe "Susan Sarandon or Cate Blanchett or Julianne Moore can do that better than I can". Even if you start to feel less talented than somebody else, its not about competition, its about camaraderie and inspiration; those are tools that empower you to be better than you think you really are.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
The world's biggest musical at long last on the big screen complete with grand piano, red velvet draperies, candles, and all the trimmings...
If you know nothing about PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, you may find a sentence in this review to be a slight spoiler. Otherwise, disregard.
If you've seen this masterpiece on the stage and you enjoyed that, then PHANTOM devotees will appreciate (if not absolutely love) the massive screen interpretation. In retrospect and after purchasing the 2-disc soundtrack of the film, I'm much more impressed by Gerard Butler's singing than Michael Crawford's. Crawford (whom I've never really been a fan) sounds like a shallow chorus boy with a sunny, benevolent tenor in his voice whereas Butler gives it all right from his gut and shows the tortured, ever-present dark side of his existence, only singing softly with the occasional lilt in his throat when absolutely necessary. I saw the San Francisco production ten years ago with Franc D'Ambrosio (most famous as Al Pacino's opera-singing son Anthony in THE GODFATHER PART III) and, thankfully, his performance was more equal to Gerry's rather than Crawford's. Ms. Emmy Rossum (a relative newcomer to the screen) has had classical training as an opera soprano with the New York Metropolitan Opera and as Christine, the Phantom's gorgeous muse, her voice is literally like listening to an angel (no pun intended, i.e. the Phantom's presence has been referred to as the Angel of Music throughout the film and the play). Patrick Wilson unfortunately was not at all a stand out as Christine's childhood sweetheart and prospective suitor; only at the very end of the film does he project his obvious vocal ability as I've seen and heard him do in other projects. Minnie Driver is a definite presence as Carlotta, the arrogant diva with a voice that causes many of her colleagues/managers as well as the audience to cover their ears when she hits the high notes. Her accent as the Italian beauty and facial expressions/body language are very good and utterly comical, allowing her to definitely steal each scene she is in. Mulit-talented British actress Miranda Richardson is Mdme. Giry, the opera ballet mistress who knows more than she lets on about the mysterious Phantom aka, Opera Ghost. Her french accent is good and her part is not as pushed into the background as those of us who saw the stage version would expect.
But for me, the central attraction of this musical epic is and forever shall be Gerry Butler and his bravura romantic/tortured portrayal of the unforgettable Phantom. I am man enough to admit that I was sobbing a watershed at the end if only because of his talent coupled with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's immortal score.
If you're a fan of either Sir Andrew and his music or of the PHANTOM itself or even if you know nothing or very little of the story I urge all of you to go see this film. Going into the cinema this afternoon I was thinking to myself, I hope this film lives up to its stage version. Rest assured, I really doubt if any of you will leave the theater disliking the film. You'll love it (as I did) or you'll think it a good film with good performances, but hate it?!!!... don't be absurd! Forget yourself and all your cares and let the Phantom cast his sweet seductive spell over you with his immortally blessed music of the night.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
A pulverizing account of His sacrifice that has shaken the world and changed forever the face of modern cinema
Some say Mel went too far with this film but in truth, Christ was beaten beyond recognition... his torso was so deeply cut into that you could see his lungs breathing, it was that intense. Jim Caviezel's portrayal was so real that the Academy should damn well give him a nomination next year... that's one thing about releasing a film really early on in the year: the Academy voters don't really have much remembrance prior to the big summer releases. But I really think Mel and the picture itself (plus the incredible cinematography, the sound, the score, the editing and the makeup) will all be given a nod come January.
A word of advice, this film is not for the faint of heart or ones who can't stand the sight of blood. It's a very brutal depiction in terms of the violence but it's good that this film was made and that it's received so much success at the box office. On it's first day of release on DVD it sold 2.4 million copies on the east coast by noon, alone. That's certainly saying something about what Mel has done. Controversy aside, THE PASSION OF THE Christ will go on to become a great epic over time and people will remember it with more reverence than disdain over how brutal it is.
Much of the scenes/character development was very clever, too. For instance, Satan had taken on the form of a woman (a very pale, sickly looking one without hair) who at one point in the film carries a baby in her arms while looking on as Christ is tortured. She uncovers the child's back to reveal it to be a ghastly midget with back hair and it turns to look at Christ with a very beastly grin and a vengeful glimmer in its eye.
Another fine conception is of Judas being relentlessly taunted by a large number of children who are really Satan's minions (demons) who chase him beyond the city with Satan among them watching their vicious game and gleefully awaiting the fateful result: Judas committing suicide.
Mel's film is really due all the praise and award recognition in the world. It's a lasting tribute to the deeply painful yet ultimately redeeming truth of what one Man went through to save all humanity.
Faerie Tale Theatre (1982)
A classic series that adults love too!
I grew up enraptured of FAERIE TALE THEATRE. My sister and I would watch them and then act them out later playing dress-up. We even went as far as re-enacting the publicity ad where Shelley Duvall (God bless her for coming up with the idea for this show!!!) would sit on the PRINCESS AND THE PEA set surrounded by hundreds of old antique books and introduce several different episodes of this timeless series. My favorites would have to be (1) LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (2) THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA and (3) GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS. Others are THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, Cinderella, RAPUNZEL, THE DANCING PRINCESSES and THE LITTLE MERMAID. Malcolm McDowell as the Wolf in RED RIDING HOOD, Vanessa Redgrave as the evil queen in SNOW WHITE, Eve Arden as the Stepmother, Karen Black as the Sea Witch and Gena Rowlands as the Witch in RAPUNZEL are by far the best portrayals. And, miracle of miracles, they are FINALLY AVAILABLE ON DVD!!!! Praise Jesus!!!! Check them out at unbelievably discounted prices of just $6.98 each @starmaker2.com and amazon.com at the same price! This is truly a series that all can enjoy no matter what your age is.
Body Heat (1981)
Whole lotta intense sexual energy, but the plot is just pretty good, nothing great
BODY HEAT delivers when it comes to good nudity, palpable room temperatures, and some great leg shots of Kathleen Turner in the femme fatale role of her career. William Hurt has never looked better with or without his shirt on (his best scenes, however, were unfortunately only when his bare chest was in prime display). Being the good actor that he's always been, his part wasn't as meaty as his other parts are (ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, BIG CHILL, JANE EYRE and BROADCAST NEWS immediately come to mind). He's believable as the handsome attorney with one hell of a great body but writer/director Lawrence Kasdan needed just a little more improvement on his character's believabilty.
Kathleen Turner (who received the only major award nomination the film received: Best actress (drama) at the golden globes) is the real scene stealer here. Her presence on screen made you feel that all she wanted was to get rid of her weak husband (played rather well in this film by typically less-than-average actor Richard Crenna) and have Hurt's character, Ned, with her and to wake up evey morning with his body lying next to hers. For a while she played it really safe but then by the end of the film you knew he was just a helpless pawn in her clutches who couldn't resist a beautiful woman. Once again, just like in so many other film noir-type movies, the woman takes the man for a sap and gets him by the b***s and then leaves him to suffer the really, really tough consequences while she gets off scott-free with buttloads of money and no worries. This is not surprisingly written from a man's point of view, too. As with FATAL ATTRACTION, BODY HEAT is a movie for those enjoy a good suspense/thriller flick with lots of steamy nude scenes in it.
tomorrow is another day... and indeed another story
It's common knowledge and has been said before: No one can ever play Scarlett and Rhett like Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Joanne Whalley Kilmer (no longer Kilmer having been divorced from ex-hubby Val Kilmer) plays her own Scarlett and although this is a sequel and not a re-make (God-forbid!!!) she still cannot rise to the occasion (i.e. her voice sounds evil on several occasions, she's got brown eyes [Scarlett in both novels had green eyes and even Vivien Leigh's eyes were green] and her vocal power was not up to the job either. Scarlett is a Southern Belle; therefore she has an incredible talent for flirting (as she did in SCARLETT the novel and GWTW, of course) and to be a great flirt like Scarlett is, you would most likely need a higher-pitched voice, like Vivien Leigh.
I suppose I'm comparing Kilmer to Leigh a bit too much but when someone possesses a role so masterfully as Leigh did with Scarlett you simply can't help but to criticize any new prospective Scarletts. Timothy Dalton should have had no accent whatsoever, due to the fact that both Margaret Mitchell's Rhett and Gable in the film had none. His acting has never been truly noteworthy (except, maybe his portrayal of the evil, conniving King Phillip of France in THE LION IN WINTER) and he gives very little (if any) freshness or vitality to his Rhett.
Standouts in the cast are most notably Tina Kellagher (a born actress with plenty of authenticity in her deliverance) as the tragic victim Mary Boyle. And then of course there's Sean Bean as the cold, calculating and not to mention, almost demonically evil Lord Fenton, Mary's nemesis and Scarlett's eventual violator. One thing I could not forgive the writer for was the fact that Scarlett is raped in this movie (a fact that never occurred in the novel; Lord Fenton is cold and of ill-repute among the Irish in the book but he's nowhere near as heartless as his screen counterpart. Another omission from the novel but readded for the film is the character of Belle Watling, played most horribly by Ann-Margret in a cameo role, which we all could have lived without, seeing as how the book was such a run-away bestseller without requiring any assistance from Ms. Watling.
For a film by itself, SCARLETT is a very good one but not quite in that lofty of a place in terms of being GONE WITH THE WINDs sequel. Another actress was highly necessary for Scarlett as well as Rhett.