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33 reviews in total 
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Cast Away (2000)
There's no Immunity Idol here... only man vs. nature. (Possible Spoilers.), 16 June 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While CBS's Survivor may be entertaining, it certainly is nothing like being stranded on a deserted island all by yourself, with no comforts of home. First of all, on TV, all the contestants have each other... other people with which to communicate, to fight with, to laugh with, and to cry with. They also receive various trinkets and surprises from the producers of the show. Survivors? Yeah, right... more like rats in a cage.

Along comes another superb Tom Hanks film. Somebody somewhere said that nobody could do this like Tom Hanks, and it's true. Where else can you find a film that you can watch for 50+ minutes with only a small bit of spoken word, and remain entertained? I've watched many a film late in the evening, with much more action than this film, and still fallen asleep.

So what is it about this film? You want to see what happens next. Tom Hanks pulls this off beautifully. The ups and downs, the trials and errors, the good and the bad, it's all in here. As a high-level FedEx employee, Chuck Noland (Hanks) knows about the passage of time... he lives by it. However, when his plane crashes somewhere over the Pacific, and he finds himself stranded alone on a deserted island, with nothing except his wits, an old watch containing a picture of his girlfriend, a rubber raft, and the contents of a few FedEx packages that have washed up on shore, he has to make the best of his surroundings.

This begins a quest in which Noland learns about himself, his surroundings, and his will to survive and beat the odds. It is a beautifully filmed story, with superb acting, and an excellent plot. This is a definite must if you are a fan of Tom Hanks, or if you like to rent movies which draw you into the story.

It is also an eye-opener for those of us who don't know how we would deal with the tremendous obstacle of being alone with little hope of rescue. Most of my time on this movie was spent afterwards, exploring how I felt about the film, and the situation. That, if nothing else, is worth viewing this film.

My Rating: 9/10

Don't watch if you are getting on an airplane any time soon!, 11 May 2001

This "horror film" tries a bit too hard, but is fairly entertaining at the same time. It's certainly no Exorcist, but then again, I don't think that movie will ever be topped as far as the fear/intensity level is concerned.

Sitting in a plane waiting for takeoff for a school vacation, Alex (Devon Sawa) has a vision that the plane will explode shortly after takeoff. He goes nuts, he and some of his friends (and one teacher/chaperone) get kicked off the plane, and lo and behold, it explodes shortly after takeoff. Amidst suspicion, Alex watches as his friends are picked off one by one by the force that had intended to kill them all on the plane, if not for their untimely escape.

This one gets some points for special effects (the plane crash "vision" at the beginning is superb!) and gore, but loses points for storyline. This is just too contrived, and predictable. It's the old "we were supposed to die but we didn't and now it's coming back to finish us off" theme. I found that waiting to see who was going to die next, and in what fashion, was the most entertaining thing about this film. Some of the methods, while nothing new, are portrayed quite well with the use of special effects.

This is obviously an attempt to cash in on the recent return of teen-slasher flicks, with a slightly new angle. Over all, it's not too bad, but it could have been a little better in the storyline department. It's a cast of unknowns, too, so don't expect any Academy Award winning performances here.

My Rating: 5/10

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Pure & Utter Trash, 11 May 2001

What movie is this again? Oh yeah... high-tech private detective/spy type follows girl around unrelentlessly... how forgettable. How washed up. How blatantly stupid! Who really cares?! I certainly didn't. This film put me to sleep, I'm sorry to say, and it will probably do the same to you. There's no great acting, no great score/soundtrack, no great action... just bad dialogue and worse plot.

Basically, the private eye (played unconvincingly by Ewan McGregor) follows the same girl (Ashley Judd) around for a good long period of his life. Doesn't this guy have any other clients? Don't his friends worry about him? Does he even have any friends? Any life?!

After seeing McGregor in Star Wars Episode One, I thought he might have some promise. After seeing this, it wouldn't seem so. Is McGregor destined to go the way of most Star Wars actors, into oblivion? I think the only people of any stature we got out of Episodes IV-VI were Harrison Ford, James Earl Jones, and to a lesser degree, Carrie Fisher. (I would include Sir Alec Guinness, but he was already a mainstay.) It seems McGregor will now also go the way of the B-movie.

Perhaps the only thing that slightly improves this movie is the inclusion of Ashley Judd. She isn't too bad in this film, despite what she has to work with, such as terrible script, bad story, and flat co-stars. Over time, Judd has proven herself to be one of Hollywood's most diverse actresses, but she should have stayed away from this pig slop.

This one's good for the fireplace... or the garbage disposal... or the recycle bin, for you environmentally minded folk. Rent this at your own peril.

My Rating: 2/10

2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Michael Caine?! Good God, man!, 9 May 2001

I could see Demi Moore in a film like this. (Striptease, anyone?) Moore has made more bad films than Ed Wood, and her acting is just as bad. So it doesn't surprise me that she can be found here, alongside newcomer Michelle Johnson. But Michael Caine? What were you thinking? For an award winning actor, this is too much waste.

As a matter of fact, Caine's performance here isn't half bad, which is what can be expected of him. He's pretty good in almost anything. But a stupid storyline, terrible acting on everyone else's part, and a ho-hum job at filming/directing all sink this one deeper than the Titanic.

Blame It On Rio? Blame it on Stanley Donen, for sure.

My Rating: 1/10

The Cell (2000)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Jennifer Lopez a psychotherapist? Yeah, and I'm the fifth member of The Beatles., 9 May 2001

Why do the powers that be continue to cast Jennifer Lopez in unbelievable roles? She was excellent in Selena, and pretty good in Money Train, which both cast her in roles where she could basically be herself. However, roles like this just draw the line. I could never see Lopez as an FBI agent (see Out of Sight for that unremarkable performance), but as a psychotherapist? Give me a break!

Basically, Lopez plays the aforementioned psychotherapist, who is involved in virtual reality experiments in which she enters the minds of her patients in order to help them sort out their issues. When she enters the mind of a comatose serial killer to help save one of his victims, she breaks all the rules to try and crack the insanity of his inner mind.

Lopez's acting here is typically below average. I can't get over that high-pitched squeak of a voice she has. She's no Julia Roberts, but yet she comes across on screen as though she believes herself to be on the same playing field. Well, she's not even in the same stadium. Sure, she is a very sexy lady; however, that isn't going to carry a film, and it certainly doesn't carry this one. With anybody else cast in her role for this film it would have been excellent, especially if it was cast with someone who could lend more credibility to the character.

Having said all that, this film is visually stunning. The colors are fabulous, and the story line isn't half bad in a B-movie kind of way. The audio here is superb as well. This movie gains some points for the fairly original storyline, and major points for how it looks and sounds. Unfortunately, the acting and poor casting bring it down a few notches.

My Rating: 6/10

Blade (1998)
Hokey, but so what? A pretty entertaining ride nevertheless., 9 May 2001

Okay, sure, this movie is a bit on the hokey side. It's difficult to take characters from comic books and put them into movies with any credibility (Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher, anyone?), but this tries very hard. I've never read the actual comic book, but that doesn't really matter, I suppose. I judge a film mainly on its merits, not on whether it is a faithful retelling of someone else's idea. (Unless its a film based on a true story, that demands at least some attempt at truth and accuracy.) So why will I give this movie a fairly high rating? Because it tries. It tries very hard. In my book, that makes it a fair attempt at an entertaining film.

Many films have been made with vampire subject matter being the main focus. It seems everybody has their take on vampire lore, be it the cross, the silver, the garlic, the aversion to sunlight, whatever. Some of those ideas are included here. The storyline is familiar... a group of vampires conspire to take over the world, with one person (mainly) standing in their way. Blade (Wesley Snipes) lives for the sole purpose of the destruction of the vampiric masses, who have slowly but surely moved into the world, and share it with humankind. For the most part, the human race is blind to the fact that vampires exist all around them. The vampires have even taken familiars, people who aspire to be vampires and do the vampires' dirty work for them to show how worthy they are of eventually being "turned."

Now that I think of it, there are many elements of this movie similar to the storyline of the Roddy Piper film, They Live. A hidden enemy, hidden group of people plotting against them, the fight to save human-kind... all that is present in Blade as well.

The acting isn't the best here. Snipes is, at best, only slightly better than some of his other roles; N'Bushe Wright, a relative newcomer, isn't too bad; Kris Kristofferson is forgettable as Blade's sidekick (he's to Blade what Chip is to The Punisher). Stephen Dorff does the best job of the whole cast here, as the "head" vampire you just love to hate.

I don't know, but I just loved the special effects in this film. From the blood-soaked vampire-style rave, all the way to the inevitable fight at the finale of the film, the special effects aren't half bad. There's certainly enough blood and gore to go around, but after all, this is a vampire movie, right? The various shapes and sorts of weaponry Blade uses are fairly unique, and not generally used in contemporary action films. Snipes has more flair with a decked-out sword than he does with, say, a machine gun. Plus, there's so much more thought that goes into fighting with a blade than just blowing someone away. (Unless, of course, you are Indiana Jones.)

Overall, this isn't the best action film ever made, but it's not half bad, either. As a bonus, the musical score & soundtrack are pretty cool, too. Tell me, in what other movies can you hear super drum'n'bass like Source Direct or Photek?!

My Rating: 8/10

14 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Girl gets guy, girl loses guy, girl finds another guy, girl dances., 9 May 2001

Being of the male persuasion, this isn't a movie I would typically go to the theater to see. However, not being the stereotypical male, I decided to rent it on video and watch it together with my girlfriend.

This movie is your typical teenage gal film. All the elements are there... good girl, bad girl, holier-than-thou girl, homosexual friend, domineering mother, bad guy, good guy... the list goes on and on.

Jody Sawyer (played quite well by newcomer Amanda Schull) wants to be a ballet dancer. She is already good, but she wants to be the best. She joins on with a famous ballet school, and commences auditions for the all-out ballet blast at the end of the school year, where the dancers will be watched very closely, and some of them will be signed with major ballet companies.

Along the way, she runs into some problems with the other members of the school, as well as the company director. She finds that ballet schools aren't all they are cracked up to be. (Who knew?!) They are more about politics than they are about dancing.

She gets burned by one guy, encouraged by another, and tries to be the best she can. Eventually, she finds the way to her dreams, but not in the typical way, the one the viewer may expect.

Acting here is a tad hollow. However, for a cast of unknowns, it's pretty

fair. After all, this movie is about dancing, not about acting. As might be expected, everybody here is gorgeous. (Are they trying to tell us there are no visually unpleasant ballet dancers... anywhere?!) Aside from that, the storyline is rather unbelievable, and contrived. This leads to a loss of major points.

The best thing about this movie is the dancing. If you are a fan of ballet, be sure and rent this video. It has some of the best ballet dancing that can be seen in any other movie. In particular, the dance exhibition at the end is magnificent!

If you are male, watch this one with your female significant other. (It's good for points.) If you are a gay male, watch it with your male significant other. If you are female, just watch it, you'll love it, especially if you are into cotton candy type films. Overall, it it's no Oscar winner, but it isn't too bad, either. Did I mention the dancing was pretty good?

My Rating: 6/10

Amazing film, with a truly amazing ending., 8 May 2001

To be honest, given some of the work that Bruce Willis has done in the past, I wasn't at all interested in seeing this film after watching the various trailers. In fact, I wasn't even one of the people in line at the video store the first Tuesday it was available. Even more surprising, I didn't see this movie until it was available on video for almost two months! It wasn't until many friends told me I absolutely had to see it that I caved in and rented it. Seeing this film again just last week brought back a lot of memories with the second viewing, and I felt that I should add my two cents (six cents?) into the mix here.

This film has one of the best story lines of any film released in 1999. Perhaps the best thing about it is that it isn't a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. It maintains a series of highs and lows, and then works up into a crescendo for the surprise ending. You will think you have it figured out up until the last 15 minutes or so, and then what you expected to happen doesn't, and the experience becomes something else entirely. I thought I had this film pegged... many of my friends had told me to be ready for the surprise ending... and my mouth hit the floor when it became painfully obvious what this movie was all about.

Having related what I thought about the story, I'll move on to the acting and more technical aspects of this film. First off, let me say that Bruce Willis simply shines in this movie. As the grounding force in this film, he does an excellent job, perhaps not seen since his work in Twelve Monkeys or Pulp Fiction, in my humble opinion. Usually known for his work in action films, he reminds us here yet again that he can be just as good in more dramatic and complex roles.

The award for "stealing the show" in this film must go to Haley Joel Osment, who had not done much of anything notable up until being cast in this film. I'm surprised that nobody else has used the talent this little guy has to its fullest potential. This is probably the movie that will be known as the one that made his career. Recently he turned down the opportunity to appear in the sequel to this film, and rightfully so. I doubt if he could repeat the performance he turned out in this film, that's how excellent his acting was the first time around. In all, I'm sure he made the correct decision, and has chosen to go on to bigger and better things, if that's possible. At any rate, his facial expressions and simple innocence add credibility to the story in ways you cannot imagine. He's unable to cope with the supernatural events in his life, until being helped through them by Willis, who plays his role as a child psychologist almost to the letter.

Toni Collette is superb in her role as Cole's (Osment's) mother. I had never seen Collette in anything before this, and I was very impressed. It always amazes me how a director/casting agent can take a cast of (almost) unknowns and put them together in a film where they click and create a movie that leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. In a role where she plays a woman who is nothing if not extremely pained by the problems her son deals with on a daily basis, problems which he refuses to talk to her about, she does a beautiful job. She is a very beautiful lady, and I can't wait to see her in more dramatic roles.

While not generally scary, there are some slightly gory scenes, and some which create a feeling of terror deep within the pit of your stomach. Of course, the use of the musical score within the film adds to the tension. I felt as though I was watching something I shouldn't be at some points in the film, and I'm sure you can relate, or will be able to when you finally see it.

If you haven't seen this movie, go rent it. Make sure you watch it on a Friday or Saturday night, and late. This will give you enough time to digest the film over the rest of the weekend, before heading back into the week on Monday. If possible, watch it Friday night and again on Saturday night, just to pick up on what you may have missed. After watching it once, knowing the ending will help you make note of a lot more the second time around.

Watch for director M. Night Shyamalan in a cameo role as Dr. Hill, who examines Cole after his experience at the birthday party. I must admit, I didn't see him the first time around.

My rating: 10/10.

Jackie Chan takes the "Drunk" out of Drunken Master!, 8 May 2001

Once again, Jackie Chan shows why he is truly a master of martial arts. This particular film, released domestically in the United States & Canada in 2000, is actually an older release from 1994. With Jackie Chan's rise in the USA, many of the major department stores (*ahem*) have taken to stocking some of Jackie's first films, usually putting them in their bargain bins. Thankfully, this movie rises above those productions of pure excrement. Obviously, everybody has to start somewhere, but let's watch Jackie as we know him now... not as he was back then, when he was just beginning to master the art of "acting" while bring primarily a martial artist. His acting still isn't the sort to win Oscars, but he is infinitely better than he was back then.

As with many martial arts releases, the plot line here is rather thin. There are more zany scenes and crazy hijinks here to keep the average Naked Gun fan happy. But who cares! I don't watch a Jackie Chan movie for plot... I watch it for the fight scenes! This movie doesn't disappoint!

While not up to the calibre of Enter The Dragon, Jackie Chan shows that he knows his stuff. Of course, you all know that Jackie does his own stunts, blah blah blah, he often injures himself while carrying out said stunts, yadda yadda yadda... and that's what makes him so amazing. Jackie flying through a plate glass window... Jackie fighting off six guys with a broken broomstick... Jackie falling down a flight of stairs... wait, that's Chevy Chase. I'm just glad there were no hovercraft in this film! When all is said and done, the fight scenes in this film are better than those found in most of his other films. They are quick, they are flawlessly executed, and they hit home. This movie doesn't have the big Hollywood multi-trillion dollar budget of Chan's recent films, so it has to rely on bare-bones, white knuckle martial arts.

Keep an eye on Anita Mui as Chan's step-mother. There never was such a kniving and deceptive woman in the history of martial arts films, and yet so innocent and absolutely hilarious at the same time. Excellent stuff!

Don't rent this if you are expecting a blockbuster martial arts film in the line of Shanghai Noon or Rush Hour. Rent it if you enjoy films which display excellence in martial arts, along with the typical martial-arts-style plot-line.

My Rating: 8/10

Unexpected Disney fare, but an unexpected delight., 8 May 2001

These comments are based on a viewing of the DVD version of this film.

Simply put, this is Disney, but it isn't the Disney we are accustomed to. David Spade is notorious for his sarcasm and snide comments, and they abound in this film. The storyline here is darker than previous Disney animated films. One of the special features on the DVD is a deleted scene in which Pacha's village is destroyed, and while it is shown in its unfinished form, it is obvious why it wasn't included. It is a very dark, violent, and foreboding scene, and it brings new light to the film, especially when watched after viewing the movie in its entirety. Simply put, this isn't your typical children's movie, and it seems to be aimed at a more mature audience.

The story revolves around Emperor Kuzco, an egotistical ruler with a heavy hand, who is turned into a llama by his nemesis Yzma and her faithful sidekick, Kronk. Kuzco is ends up on Pacha's cart, and is transported back to his village, and various hijinks occur as Pacha tries to help Kuzco return to his palace, and ultimately regain his human form.

In my humble opinion, Kronk steals the show here. Spade & John Goodman do a good job as Emperor Kuzco and Pacha respectively, but Kronk, while something of an idiot, brings comedic moments to this film which are necessary. Watch his facial expression on the way to the "secret lab," and keep an eye on him during the "jump-rope" scene at Pacha's hut later on in the movie. Simply put, it's hilarious. Patrick Warburton's flat delivery of lines for this character adds dimension (surprisingly) to the "typical idiot" character which appears in almost all Disney films.

Rumor has it that this film was originally a lot different, a lot darker, until Disney stepped in and took over. A viewing of the deleted scene gives some insight into what the film may have been like had it not been changed. I've always been amazed by the fact that Disney can make films geared at kids, but which also appeal to adults. However, more recently, and unfortunately, Disney has used its reputation for having excellent story lines and creating films which teach lessons to enter into the "direct-to-video" market, thus taking advantage of children and their parents, and disappointing Disney fans who would rather see films which are good enough for theatrical release. Even though these particular films are released by Disney, they are just like any other "direct-to-video" film. They should be avoided, and aren't anything to write home about.

While not as good as Tarzan or The Lion King, The Emperor's New Groove is a pretty good way to keep the kiddies quiet on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and the adults might get something out of it as well.

Note: The DVD version contains, among other goodies, a neat little animated game, a multiple choice Q&A which you can play with the children after they watch the movie. To keep them extra quiet, tell them to watch close because they are going to be tested! :)

My Rating: 7/10

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