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409 reviews in total 
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Big Eden (2000)
2 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Tries to be charming, but it just lies there and dies there, 23 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

On the verge of commercial success in New York, a lonely artist (Arye Gross) returns to his picturesque home town in Montana, where his feelings for a former school buddy (Tim DeKay) are reawakened. But True Love comes calling from totally unexpected quarters...

Despite good intentions and mainstream production values, BIG EDEN takes its sweet time steering a flimsy narrative towards its inevitable conclusion. Gross doesn't do much to warrant the attention he receives from former jock DeKay, and co-star Eric Schweig is miscast as a hulking delivery guy who overcomes crippling shyness to compete for Gross' affections, cheered on by friends and family alike - and not a homophobe in sight!! Filmed on location in the Montana heartland, the movie is designed and photographed with exquisite grace, and the performances from a hugely experienced cast - including Louise Fletcher, George Coe and Nan Martin - are first-rate throughout. But director Thomas Bezucha's approach to the material is so low-key, it simply lies there and dies there, making no dramatic impact whatsoever.

NB. Incredibly, the film was given a PG-13 rating by the MPAA for nothing more than a couple of scenes in which two guys share a loving kiss! Disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful...

Anatomy 2 (2003)
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Ho-hum sequel goes nowhere fast, 22 April 2005

ANATOMY 2 (Anatomie 2)

Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Sound formats: Dolby Digital / SDDS

An intern (Barnaby Metschurat) at one of Berlin's top hospitals is targeted by a charismatic doctor (Herbert Knaup) who's been conducting illegal experiments on some of his students, involving the replacement of various muscle groups with powerful synthetic substitutes. But the drugs needed to curb the various side effects are highly addictive, and lead to madness and murder...

This unnecessary sequel - only tenuously linked to the original ANATOMY (2000) - foregoes genuine horror for a slow build-up of tension as Metschurat is first seduced by his newfound friends and then rejects their dreams of a Nazi-style 'master race'. The Gothic setting of the first film is replaced by the faceless corridors of an ultra-modern hospital, and - aside from a horrific opening sequence - there are few memorable set-pieces to distinguish the movie from its run-of-the-mill US counterparts. Bombastic music score, fine performances, but the film is pretty unsatisfying as a whole. Franka Potente (THE BOURNE IDENTITY) makes a brief cameo appearance, purely for marquee value.

(German dialogue)

Anatomy (2000)
15 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Gruesome shocker exploits audience's worst medical fears, 22 April 2005

ANATOMY (Anatomie)

Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Sound formats: Dolby Digital / SDDS

A brilliant med student (Franka Potente) is pitched into a conspiracy at Heidelberg University, where a secret fraternity of medical deviates practice dissection on living subjects...

Stefan Ruzowitzky's superior thriller - the debut feature of Columbia Pictures' European production arm - derives inspiration from similarly-styled US shockers of the period (SCREAM, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, etc.), and exploits the audience's worst fears about invasive medical procedures. Beautifully photographed by STALINGRAD's Peter von Haller, the film contrasts picture-postcard Heidelberg with the silver-grey starkness of the anatomy rooms where German superstar Potente struggles to disentangle herself from an ancient conspiracy of horror. Second-billed Benno Fürmann (THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR) - the film's 'token' beefcake - emerges as a key player around the movie's halfway mark, beginning with a nerve-shredding set-piece recalling the potato truck sequence in Hitchcock's FRENZY (1972). In a happy turnabout from standard practice, all the nudity in the film is male-oriented, including what Ruzowitzky has described as Fürmann's "famous butt shot"!! Who says modern horror movies aren't camp? Great fun, and followed by ANATOMY 2 (2003).

(German dialogue)

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Love story with tragic twist, 21 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: DTS

In the last few days before an AIDS-related brain tumor renders him insensible, a young LA designer (Eric Roberts) decides to end his own life, and throws a final joyous bash for family and loved ones. However, the occasion is strained by the arrival of Roberts' former lover (Gregory Harrison), seeking reconciliation at the eleventh hour...

Randal Kleiser's powerful film - inspired by actual events - feels more like a reunion of showbiz friends than a structured narrative, though the results are often deeply moving. Kleiser's defiant screenplay gives short shrift to the suicide debate (Roddy McDowall's character acts as the Voice of Conscience), and he employs mordant humor to keep mawkishness at bay (at one point, Roberts and best friend Bronson Pinchot launch into a rousing rendition of "It's my party / And I'll DIE if I want to"!). As you might expect, however, the final twenty minutes are relentlessly, heartbreakingly sad. Amongst the notable supporting players, look fast for Nina Foch, Sally Kellerman, Greg Louganis, Steve Antin and a virtually unrecognizable Dennis Christopher and Christopher Atkins.

4 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Conforms to expectation in every regard, 20 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Mono

(Black and white)

A scientist (Hugh Marlowe) struggles to convince authorities of an imminent alien invasion after he's contacted by sinister beings who threaten the entire planet.

Typical 1950's B-movie fodder, with stock characters and a predictable narrative arc, directed with humdrum efficiency by Fred F. Sears (THE GIANT CLAW). Best remembered for Ray Harryhausen's animated flying saucers, though the effects are compromised by an obvious low budget. Routine stuff.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
21st century 'reimagining' of notorious ghost story, 20 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Sound formats: Dolby Digital / DTS / SDDS

A young couple (Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George) are driven from their dream home by ghostly manifestations which compel Reynolds to the brink of murder.

Less an examination of supernatural horror than a study of one man's descent into mental breakdown, prompted by unspecified forces within a house built on the foundations of murder and mayhem. Reynolds is quite affecting as the tormented protagonist in this beefed-up 'reimagining' of Jay Anson's bestselling book, though the slow accumulation of details doesn't build to a satisfying whole. Miles better than the 1979 version, however. Oh, and Reynolds gets this reviewer's vote as Hunk of the Year - his shirtless scenes are a highlight of the entire picture...

AKA (2002)
6 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Highly personal study of the British class divide, 20 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 3 x 1.78:1 within 2.39:1 frame (Triptych)

Sound format: Dolby Digital

1978: A working class teenager (Matthew Leitch) assumes a false identity and gatecrashes high society, where he learns harsh lessons about the divisions between Rich and Poor.

Autobiographical feature by director Duncan Roy (JACKSON: MY LIFE... YOUR FAULT), an exposé of the pre-Thatcherite aristocracy, as seen through the eyes of a low-rent 'commoner' whose world view is transformed by his adventures amongst the Upper Classes. Unfortunately, Roy's screenplay says very little we didn't already know about the excesses of the idle rich, and the narrative is only briefly ignited by Leitch's relationship with a handsome but self-destructive rent boy (Peter Youngblood Hills) who turns out to be no less hypocritical than the very people he seeks to emulate. Also starring Diana Quick (as an outrageous snob who believes working class people are "embarrassed to be alive"!), Bill Nighy as the black sheep of a wealthy family, Lindsay Coulson ("EastEnders"), Blake Ritson (DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS) and Georgina Hale in a typically flamboyant cameo, flashing her boobs at all and sundry, without a care in the world!

Unfortunately, much of the film's impact is diluted by Roy's insistence on using a Triptych effect (three separate 1.78:1 images are letterboxed within the 2.39:1 frame, each one providing a different viewpoint of individual scenes), which shrinks the image and distances viewers from events on-screen. A long, pointless film, too personal for wide appeal, and hampered throughout by a cinematic process which fails to reconcile the story at hand. A single-image version is also available (framed theatrically at 1.85:1), with the on-screen title AKA: LIES ARE LIKE WISHES.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Stark drama takes defiant stand against bigotry of all stripes, 20 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

Following the murder of Matthew Shepard by a couple of homophobic thugs in the nondescript town of Laramie, Wyoming, a theatre troupe descends on the area and questions residents, politicians, doctors and police officers in an effort to probe the circumstances which led to this appalling crime.

When 21 year old Matthew Shepard was murdered by Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney in October 1998, it seemed like the culmination of a ceaseless conservative crusade against the so-called 'gay lifestyle' (whatever that means). For some, Matthew's death had been facilitated by the ongoing propagation of hatred which flourishes unchecked in every aspect of our daily lives, and which found its ultimate grim expression in the beating, torture and near-crucifixion of a virtually defenceless gay man. The killing prompted a national outpouring of grief and anger, fuelled by a media campaign that seemed more concerned with gaining mileage from a juicy story than challenging the attitudes which had given rise to this event in the first place. THE LARAMIE PROJECT - which began life as a stageplay created by the Tectonic Theater Project in New York, using the actual words of Laramie residents instead of 'dialogue' - attempts to redress the balance by probing the causes and consequences of bigotry, and the deep-rooted feelings of those most affected by the murder. It's a heartfelt debut from Tectonic founder and artistic director Moisés Kaufman.

Interviewees include friends and colleagues of Matthew, the investigating police officers, the doctors who cared for him during the coma which preceded his death, and those whose religious convictions appear to have clouded their judgment and humanity - in one appalling sequence, a mealy-mouthed reverend (Michael Emerson) expresses sympathy for the victim, whilst simultaneously hoping that Matthew spent his last conscious moments reflecting on his 'lifestyle'. Presented in mock-documentary format, in which the 'characters' are portrayed by an all-star cast of familiar faces (including Steve Buscemi, Amy Madigan, Laura Linney, Christina Ricci and Frances Sternhagen, amongst many others), Kaufman's film offers a platform to those on both sides of the debate, though the filmmakers' own liberal outlook is plainly obvious throughout. But, in taking a stand against fundamentalist attitudes, THE LARAMIE PROJECT seeks to demonstrate the flaws in extremist viewpoints. In other words, those with bigoted opinions are given enough rope to hang themselves, and some of them leap head-first into the noose. Thankfully, Fred Phelps and his satanic crew - who rubbed salt into a festering wound by protesting against 'fags' during Matthew's funeral - are reduced to little more than an unwelcome guest appearance, during which they're confronted by a host of silent, accusing townsfolk dressed as angels...

Reluctant to shrink from uncomfortable truths, the film is not afraid to tackle the thorny issue of Matthew's HIV status and the small - but significant - part it played during the fall-out from this terrible event (notably, the devastating consequences for one of the police officers who was first to arrive at the scene of the crime), but that hasn't prevented some critics from questioning the film's 'narrow' liberal viewpoint. For instance, is homophobia and AIDS more deserving of such a high-profile movie than any number of similar social ills? No, but no one has ever complained about high-profile movies which (quite rightly) denounce racism, for instance! And while prominent actors may not be lining up to star in powerful dramas about cancer (for example), those afflicted by cancer are hardly likely to encounter discrimination at state and governmental level because of their 'lifestyle choices', with little more than begrudging tolerance for their medical welfare. Secondly, the film is accused in some quarters of being a patronising diatribe, in which a bunch of 'backwoods hicks' are taught the error of their ways by 'omniscient and enlightened Californians' (as one skeptical Internet reviewer has complained). Only the townspeople themselves can confirm or deny this particular accusation, though the Tectonic Theater Project mounted a special performance of the stageplay in Laramie itself which didn't seem to generate any controversy. Other questions are not so easy to dismiss: Was the country really so outraged by Matthew's death, or was the controversy generated by little more than a media frenzy? After all, despite the platitudes expressed at the time, little has changed in the intervening years with regards to hate crimes legislation. In some ways, this is hardly surprising, since most politicians find it expedient to pacify an alignment of fanatical religious bigots. If nothing else, THE LARAMIE PROJECT reminds us to guard against prejudice and hatred wherever it manifests itself, to derive inspiration from the likes of Matthew Shepard, and - most importantly - to honor the fallen.

As a film, "Laramie" (which opened the Sundance Film Festival in 2002) is an impressive achievement; Kaufman has brought his considerable skills as a theatre director to bear on a much broader cinematic canvas. It's mostly talking heads, of course, but there's an urgency in the telling which might have been lost in a straightforward documentary presentation. Ultra-professional in all departments, and acted with conviction by a sterling cast, the movie is thought-provoking and poignant, and inspires confidence that all is not lost in the battle against ignorance.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Unconventional comedy-drama with gay twist, 19 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

Tired of living in denial, an aspiring gay writer (Luke Kirby) comes out to his hyper-emotional Italian parents (Paul Sorvino and Ginette Reno), causing a rift with his deeply closeted boyfriend (Peter Miller) who feels compelled to reassert his masculinity - with a woman...

Based on a stageplay by Steve Galluccio, MAMBO ITALIANO has all the verve and panache of a 1930's screwball comedy, complete with quickfire dialogue and comic performances which teeter precariously on the brink of stereotype. Kirby's laidback performance is sidelined by the wilful exaggeration of co-stars Sorvino and Reno, and the film's tone swerves from comedy to drama at the drop of a hat, but casual viewers will find much to occupy their attention. Everyone else can simply feast their eyes on Miller - a gorgeous grade-A hunk of the highest order - as the object of everyone's affections. Directed by Émile Gaudreault.

41 out of 61 people found the following review useful:
OK sequel tries hard, but misses the mark, 18 April 2005


Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)

Sound formats: Dolby Digital / DTS

Stranded in a broken-down bus on a lonely country road, a group of high school jocks and cheerleaders are targeted by the monstrous Creeper (Jonathan Breck) who needs their body parts for the purposes of regeneration. But the Creeper hasn't reckoned on the tenacity of one of its earlier victims (Ray Wise), a grieving father seeking revenge for the loss of his youngest son...

Though crafted with technical precision and performed with gusto by a strong cast of newcomers and veterans, this disappointing sequel sacrifices the heartfelt emotional undertow of its magnificent predecessor JEEPERS CREEPERS (2000) in favor of bigger and splashier set-pieces. While it's as raucous and entertaining as one could hope for, it's also a surprisingly conventional effort from writer-director Victor Salva, whose best work (POWDER, RITES OF PASSAGE, etc.) has always focused on small groups of characters caught up in extreme situations. Here, his attempts to shoehorn deeper issues into what is essentially a popcorn movie seems forced and inconsequential, and he spreads his narrative concerns too thinly over a broad range of interchangeable characters: The elements of homophobia and racism which initially divide the young heroes - until they're forced to overcome their differences in order to survive the Creeper's onslaught - are rendered increasingly meaningless as the movie progresses, until they no longer have any direct influence on the wider storyline.

But Salva is too much of a craftsman for his movie to be a complete washout. The action/horror set-pieces are genuinely spectacular, and Breck camps it up superbly as the hideous Creeper, swooping out of the darkness to carry unsuspecting victims to their doom. Working in scope format for the first time in their respective careers (REAL scope, not that Super 35 rubbish), Salva and cinematographer Don E. FauntLeRoy conjure a series of startling images from the outset, many of them tinged with visual poetry: The golden cornfield in the opening sequence, where the film's first victim suffers an appalling fate (a genuinely horrific set-piece); the point-of-view shots from the Creeper's perspective as it swoops on fleeing prey; and the eerie calm of the closing sequence, which portends sequels to come. Salva's regular composer, Bennett Salvay, delivers a terrific symphonic score, as brassy and frightening as any in recent years, which serves to boost the film's dramatic appeal in no uncertain terms.

Wise, a late addition to the cast, dominates the film as an avenging farmer who is every bit the Creeper's equal in terms of strength and persistence, and he's given strong support by veterans Diane Delano and Thom Gossom Jr. The younger cast members are enthusiastic and talented, and it's a fair bet that some of them (Travis Schiffner, Al Santos, Nicki Aycox, etc.) will figure heavily in various Hunkiest/Sexiest lists during the next few years. Look out for a brief - but welcome - cameo appearance by Justin Long from "JC1". It may not live up to every expectation, but there's still much to enjoy in JEEPERS CREEPERS II.

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