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Ronin47

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159 reviews in total 
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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Moderately entertaining, but do they think we're too stupid to notice that plot hole? (**1/2), 4 July 2004
6/10

I like the idea of remaking the feminist, 1975 horror film "The Stepford Wives" into a campy, satirical comedy. It could have been brilliant. But instead it's shallow, and the satire is obvious and ham-handed rather than daring, as it could have been.

Nicole Kidman is good and it's great to see Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler on a screen again, and both are good. Some (not all) of the dialogue is quite clever and funny, especially early on, and it's never boring.

But despite the fact that it's moderately entertaining throughout, the high number of wrong notes in the storyline, and especially a huge, HUGE hole in the plot that makes absolutely zero sense, ruin its chances for a recommendation.

In a nutshell, it's not painful to watch (until the end), is well-acted and cast, but essentially worthless, and suffers from the most inexplicably huge plot hole I've seen in some time.

The original ain't exactly a classic, but it's better.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A great film (****), 4 July 2004
10/10

Jim McKay ("Our Song", "Girls Town") directs this provocative yet optimistic slice-of-life film set in Brooklyn, which recently premiered on HBO.

Covering the events of one long day in the lives of several people in and around a popular neighborhood restaurant that is set to shut its doors soon, "Everyday People" is pretty much all talk. But like "Smoke", another character-driven, slice-of-life film set in Brooklyn (and one of my all-time favorite movies), the talk is fascinating, and the characters' stories weave together in a way that is truly satisfying.

Someone once said (I think it may have been Gene Siskel, but I'm really not sure) that the true test of a good movie is whether it feels like the characters were alive before the movie started and go on living after it ends. Well, "Everyday People" passes that test with flying colors. Though there are far too many characters for each of them to be fully developed, this is an extremely well-written and acted film, and each character feels very real.

Also, McKay deserves credit for not tying up the film with a pretty bow. It ends on a note that feels good, but he leaves several characters' destinies up in the air. After all, most problems aren't solved in a day, and it's nice that McKay understands that.

An added bonus: it features lots of new music by one of America's most brilliant and underappreciated singer-songwriters, Marc Anthony Thompson, a.k.a. Chocolate Genius (pick up 1998's "Black Music" if you need proof).

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Leisurely but fascinating (***1/2), 4 July 2004
8/10

Very good documentary about an extraordinary schoolteacher named Georges Lopez who runs a one-room school in rural France where he teaches children from ages 4 to 11 all at the same time.

The most fascinating aspect of the film is the way it observes the children. It's amazing to see young children interact once they've forgotten they're being observed, seeing them play and fight and learning new things about life every minute. You will definitely find yourself flashing back to your own early childhood.

It's also interesting to note that even in a one-room school in rural France, there are troubled bullies, shy outsiders, and all manner of children you'll find anywhere.

"To Be And To Have" is fascinating, very moving, and the French countryside is stunningly beautiful to look at, but it's certainly not a fast paced film. Definitely worth it if you've got patience, though.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Not quite great, but thought-provoking and moving (***), 4 July 2004
7/10

Thought-provoking documentary about the way the media is covering the war in Iraq, concentrating on the work done by the Arab network Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera is continually accused of bad reporting and using anti-American propaganda, but the truth revealed in this documentary is that they are, if at all, only slightly more biased than any U.S. news organization. And that's only because they are under pressure from Arab officials and of course, because they actually live where the bombs are falling (one reporter who is interviewed in the film is killed by a U.S bombing raid that seemed almost intentionally aimed at Arab news networks).

Despite the way U.S. politicians try to portray them, the Al Jazeera staff are on the whole balanced, calm, intelligent, and many admire the U.S. (one man even plans to send his children there for school), but strongly oppose the way The Idiot (oops, I mean Bush) is handling it. And who can blame them? They're the ones with bombs falling on their heads.

The best scenes in the film are the discussions between an Al Jazeera journalist named Hassan Ibrahim and a U.S. Military Press Officer named Josh Rushing. They are on opposite sides of the war, but both men are kind and open-minded and willing to truly listen to and consider the other's points. Discourse like this, between two rational and humane people, is what we need more of.

Saved! (2004)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Awesome (***1/2), 4 July 2004
9/10

A funny, provocative and immensely entertaining satire, "Saved!" goes after the religious hypocrisy at a Christian high school with cutting and effective wit.

Life is peachy for Mary (Jena Malone, "Donnie Darko"). She's a popular student at American Eagle Christian High School, she has all the right friends, her mother (Mary-Louise Parker) has just been named the #1 Christian Interior Decorator, and she has the perfect boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust). Things get complicated when Dean spontaneously tells her he thinks he's gay. After bumping her head and having an hallucination, she decides that God wants her to "cure" him by having sex with him.

Before she can find out if it worked, his parents find out his secret and ship him off to a place called Mercy House for "de-gayification". Then she finds out she's pregnant. Life isn't peachy for Mary anymore, and ironically it's the best thing that could have ever happened to her.

Up until this point, Mary's best friend has been Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), a smugly superior, self-serving beeyatch who looks down her nose at everyone around her under the guise of trying to "help" them. Moore, who seems to thankfully lack all the annoying pretensions of her pop-singer peers, is really developing into a great actress, and here she takes a supremely hate-able character and really has fun with the role. As a character, Hilary Faye is almost on a par with "Election"'s Tracy Flick (played by a still-cool Reese Witherspoon), and that's saying something.

For once, actually experiencing problems that are frowned upon at a Christian high school firsthand, Mary can see how shallow and hypocritical Hilary Faye and her other friends are, and begins gravitating towards the unpopular kids in school, like Hilary Faye's paraplegic younger brother Roland (Macauley Culkin) and the only Jewish kid in the school, rebellious Cassandra (Eva Amurri, in an awesome performance).

The stellar cast also includes Martin Donovan as Pastor Skip, one of those annoying preachers who think that going by their first name and using slang ("Let's kick it Jesus-style!") will make him "cool" to the kids, Patrick Fugit ("Almost Famous") as Pastor Skip's son, a kind and non-judgmental kid who Mary takes a liking to, and Heather Matarazzo ("Welcome To The Dollhouse") as one of Hilary Faye's jealous friends.

As with most effective satires, "Saved!" is pissing off a lot of hardcore Christians because they find it offensive. They don't get it. The movie is not poking fun at religion itself, only the narrow-minded hypocrites who use it selfishly to discriminate against others and make themselves feel superior.

After Hilary Faye angrily throws a Bible at Mary after a silly, failed "exorcism", Mary picks up the Bible and says "This is not a weapon!". She means it literally, of course, but such a statement resonates on many different levels.

I'm making "Saved!" sound much more serious than it is. It has important points to make, but first and foremost it's a comedy, and it's a very funny one, with many well-written and likable characters. Highly recommended.

Wow, and I didn't even LIKE the first two (***1/2), 4 July 2004
8/10

I was thoroughly lukewarm on the first two Harry Potter films, and though I was a little intrigued because this new installment was directed by Alfonso Cuaron ("Y Tu Mama Tambien"), I still wouldn't say I was looking FORWARD to it.

Boy, am I glad I went.

"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is one of the most thrilling big-screen experiences I've had in quite a while.

Harry (a quickly maturing Daniel Radcliffe, and all the better actor for it) is now in his third year at Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and has just received word that a dangerous murderer named Sirius Black (an enjoyably berserk Gary Oldman) has escaped from prison. Black was a friend of Harry's parents who betrayed them, leading to their deaths, and now he's after Harry.

That may sound like a pretty spare story, but it's all the movie needs. From beginning to end, it's one amazing, creative set-piece after another.

Maybe I just didn't notice before because I didn't really care for the films, but was Hogwarts School always this beautiful? The grounds of this school are absolutely breathtaking. I'd go to school there in a second.

Even though I was intrigued by Cuaron directing the film, I hadn't really expected his style (as opposed to the apple pie non-style of the previous director, Chris Columbus) to have an impact on such a mainstream, multi-million dollar commodity as a Harry Potter film, but I was thankfully wrong. In addition to the more whimsical and amazing visuals, Cuaron actually brings a lean and mean edge to the film. That's right, I said the new Harry Potter film actually has "edge". Not a whole lot, but certainly more than the previous films. The story moves quickly (even when it takes its time), it's genuinely exciting and sometimes scary, and what happens to the characters actually seems to MATTER.

There's also a rather brilliantly done time-travel twist near the end, which is actually what's responsible for me raising the star rating by half a star.

After this rip-roaring, exhilarant film, I'm actively looking forward to the next Harry Potter film, which has never happened before. At least I am if Cuaron's directing it.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A great movie regardless of your political leanings (****), 4 July 2004
10/10

I like Michael Moore a lot, but he can sometimes be annoying even when you agree with him. I was looking forward to "Fahrenheit 9/11" but I had heard so much about it I was already sick of it before I saw it. I wasn't prepared for the absolutely staggering, emotionally devastating film that it is.

Even if you don't agree with Moore or like him, there is no denying that this is powerful, powerful stuff and so timely that it hurts. Whether you think George W. Bush is awesome or if you agree with Moore that he's an incompetent, moronic douchebag (I'm in the latter camp), this film is essential viewing, if only to let you know what's actually happening in the world in a way that the news won't show. You can come to your own conclusions.

Despite the heavy subject matter, there are also frequent moments of levity that are appreciated (my favorite being a product demonstration on live TV). But even with these, you will leave deeply affected, no matter what political party you lean towards. Moore puts a human face on things that most of us don't like to think about.

Whether you buy Moore's assertions about the ties between the Bush family and the Bin Laden family is up to you. I'm not sure, but I do know that white men in suits can get away with a hell of a lot, and sometimes they do.

1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Spielberg and Hanks or no, this movie stinks (**), 4 July 2004
4/10

Whenever I'm watching a movie like "The Terminal", and all I can do is shake my head and roll my eyes while most of the audience laughs and claps, I always wonder if I'm just being a grump. Then I remember that, no, I don't consider myself a cynic, so it's something wrong with the movie. And boy, is there a lot wrong with this movie.

The first 30-40 minutes are actually quite good. Tom Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, an immigrant from a fictional Eastern European country named Krakohzia who finds himself with an invalid passport upon his arrival in New York, and since he cannot set foot on America soil without a working passport, he is confined to the airport for an indeterminate time period. Hanks is, of course, great, and the swooping camerawork that follows him through the gigantic terminal with all the flashing lights, fast food and souvenir stores is excellent. We can feel Viktor's confusion and helplessness, and the hints he picks up about how to make life in an airport more tolerable are amusing.

Then the movie begins to wander, aimlessly. Lame subplots are brought in to pass the time, like Viktor playing matchmaker for a friendly airport employee (Diego Luna) and a predictably tough-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside INS agent (Zoe Saldana). This subplot is weak to begin with, then is dropped entirely for nearly an hour before wrapping up in a nauseatingly cutesy way.

That's the other major problem: the sappiness. Spielberg's always been eager to lay on the sappiness in many of his films, and it really kills "The Terminal". A very good and intelligent film could have been made with this story and cast (which also includes Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride and Kumar Pallana), but after the promising beginning it heads right into sappy, cliched, unrealistic nonsense.

Interestingly, it's loosely based on the true story of Iranian refugee Merhan Nasseri's experiences at France's Charles De Gaulle airport. I'm guessing that's VERY loosely. That is, unless Nasseri became a working class hero for the staff, had fun foiling the fussy jerk in head of security (Tucci) and had a starry-eyed romance with a flaky stewardess (Zeta-Jones) complete with cornball speeches in front of a gleaming, hand-made water fountain.

Yeah yeah, I know it's supposed to be whimsical. I still say there's a big difference between whimsy (which requires intelligence and a light touch) and a movie like "The Terminal" which irritatingly condescends to the audience by turning what could have been a fascinating film into a pandering, phony, mush-fest.

Hanks and Zeta-Jones are both quite good, but the movie itself is a huge waste of time. After the overrated "Catch Me If You Can" and this mess, maybe Spielberg should stay away from comedy.

Hit-and-miss, but basically a good time (**1/2), 4 July 2004
6/10

Is this movie stupid? Yes. Are there tons of jokes and lines that fall flat? Yes. But is it painful? No. And is it pretty damn funny in places and does it have lots of fun characters? Definitely.

The title pretty much says it all here. It's about dodgeball, and in the great tradition of sports comedies like "Caddyshack", it's also a class struggle, about the underdogs vs. the rich ***holes.

I thought I was getting tired of Ben Stiller, but he's great here as playing a send-up of the typical villain in those types of movies. It's a lot of fun to watch him with puffed-up blondish hair, a Leather-Man-from-the-Village-People mustache, and an affected "tough" speaking tone play the kind of idiotic bad guy we all love to hate.

"Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" isn't a great movie, or anything even approaching that, but it does work more than you expect it to, and it's more or less worth plunking down the change.

11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Almost great, but not quite (***), 4 July 2004
7/10

Aw, damn. We can't make fun of Mario Van Peebles anymore. Always something of a laughing stock (despite a few good contributions, like a good performance in "Ali" and directing "New Jack City"), Mario Van Peebles has made himself instantly much cooler by making this fun and suitably chaotic film, which chronicles the making of his father Melvin's landmark film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song".

I've never seen that film, but from what I understand it's not exactly great, but was revolutionary for existing at all. It's about a black man "taking it to the man" and actually getting away with it, which was unheard of at the time.

Mario plays his own father, and "Baadasssss!" certainly doesn't candy-coat it. Melvin was essentially a good man, but could be incredibly cold and mean, and to his own family, and the film shows that. It also takes us back to the notorious scene in "Sweetback" where Melvin used his own 13 year-old son in the scene where the the titular character loses his virginity. This scene was difficult and uncomfortable for everyone involved, EXCEPT Melvin, which is telling.

The movie is swiftly paced and stylish, but I couldn't help feeling that it could be a little better. It feels a little messy and disorganized at times. Still, good stuff.


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