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Get Smart (2008)
Would you believe... pretty good.
GET SMART is pretty much what you'd expect from a big-budget Hollywood adaptation of the old t.v. series. There's a thin plot that unravels with increasing quickness as the end credits approach, including a plot twist that will be immediately obvious to anybody who realizes that they're watching a movie. There are lots of nods and winks to the old series - the shoe phone, the catchphrase, the cameos from old supporting characters and surviving actors from the original. There are big action sequences and comfortable jokes as the movie tries to be both an action and a comedy (and never really winds up connecting with either).
Where SMART separates itself from the STARSKIES and the HUTCHES is in the casting. Steve Carell's Maxwell Smart is a genuinely likable and charismatic character, one who effortlessly fills the movie screen. He's also re-conceived as an analyst with dreams of being an agent, and is therefore a kinder, more competent and less arrogant Maxwell Smart. And one for whom you can't help but root. Add great turns from the supporting cast (including a gorgeous Anne Hathaway segueing into a decidedly non-feminist Barbara Feldon impression by movie's end) and a couple surprisingly effective action sequences...
...and you have a pretty good time at the movies. Good enough that I wouldn't mind a return engagement with Agent 86. As long as Steve Carell is back in the shoe phone.
Doctor Strange (2007)
Too dumb for adults, too dull for kids
I don't know who Marvel is making their movies for. This is a step up from the ULTIMATE AVENGERS series, mostly because it at least seems somewhat interested in the character of Dr. Strange.
Bad voice acting, a plot so generic & thin I'd bet it was written on the John, and an inordinate amount of time and action devoted to secondary characters. I mean, the movie isn't even up to the standards of monthly superhero comics, that bastion of great literature. If they couldn't come up with something cool on their own, why not just adapt one of the many popular stories from the last 40 years? At least Strange squares off against Mordo and Dormammu (kinda) in this one, instead of generic aliens like in AVENGERS (twice). Still, you never get the impression that the people behind this really like the source material or understand what gives Dr. Strange his appeal. It's a movie devoid of creativity, smarts and fun.
I don't mean to give the impression that I'm only critiquing this because it was unlike the comics. I'm mostly critiquing it because it's shallow and dumb. But even if shallow and dumb was a goal, rather than the result of incompetence, tapping into some of the coolness of the character or the Marvel U shouldn't get in the way of that, right? Even those who are satisfied by a movie this banal would likely be satisfied by a mature, intelligent treatment of Strange that also appealed to adult fans, or by a fun kicky movie that spoke to kids (of all ages). A movie like this really satisfies nobody but the very easily satisfied.
What a waste of resources and opportunity.
They Don't Get Better Than This
Remember when comedies used to be actual movies with actual stories with actual points and the funny just flowed out of them, instead of just a flimsy excuse to string together jokes and funny scenes and stock situations? Yeah, me too. What happened?
If you're in the mood for a great movie that will get you to cough up a boatload of honest laughs, then you ain't gonna do better than TOOTSIE. You are not going to find a better written, acted, and directed comedy anywhere. There are plenty as good - but none better. This is a career highpoint for all involved, and when "all" includes names such as Sydney Pollack and Dustin Hoffman, you know that's a sentiment that carries some significant weight.
And it just reaffirms the old adage that every single comedy should have Bill Murray in it.
Is there anything better in this world than a genre film that's actually about something? Slide COLLATERAL right up there with FATAL ATTRACTION, WRATH OF KHAN, and LETHAL WEAPON. Hell, maybe put it at the top because none of those movies even approach the elegance of this slick thriller that leaves you thirsty for scotch and nighttime. I was so enamoured by the soundtrack, the confident camera, the overwhelming atmosphere and the cool, powerful performances that I was more than willing to overlook a few logical speedbumps on this ride.
Definitely one for the collection, but don't expect it to sit on the shelf gathering dust.
Knock down that fourth wall with a wrecking ball!
See this movie. Not because it's pee-your-pants funny. Not to witness Kevin Smith's astounding maturity both as a technical director and as an actor. But because it's that rare breed of film: a movie the likes of which you have never seen. This is a new type of comedy, a 90 minute wink at the audience. And it works. If more filmmakers and actors took the approach to image and self-consciousness that Kevin Smith and his devoted entourage do, what a wonderful Hollywood we would have!
Life Classes (1988)
This is why nobody watches Canadian movies.
You know it's bad when I walk out of a movie about nude models. A jumbled, pretentious mess filled with strange performances and arty-farty messages about nothing, this movie made me want to emigrate. If you live in Canada, don't take Film Studies courses, because this is the sort of fecal matter you're going to be exposed to.
Now let's now fool ourselves, we're not talking about Citizen Kane here. But if you're looking for a Saturday night thriller that's going to keep you on the edge of your seat and have your girlfriend clinging to your arm, look no further.
Now, there's nothing really new about this thriller, other than the fact that it's done very well. It is extremely tense, and there are no 'I can't believe the hero could be so stupid' moments that are so common to movies like these. Other than the climax, which seems a little over-the-top, the movie is also incredibly believable, and it's realism adds to the terror.
It's also amongst the tightest movies you'll ever see. Writer/Director Jonathan Mostow could give a clinic on cinematic efficiency. Not a frame seems wasted, and the action moves along at such breakneck speed that you barely have time between tense moments to spit out one fingernail before you have to start on another.
The performances are solid. Kurt Russell wraps you up in his everyman torn between the terror of losing his wife and the murderous rage he feels towards her abductors. But the show is stolen by the great character actor J.T. Walsh as the creepily cold kidnapper. The only complaint here is that Kathleen Quinlan is given little to do but scream and be helpless.
This isn't a movie that's going to make any Top 10 lists, but that doesn't mean it's not a hell of a ride!
Die Hard (1988)
This is it, the best action movie of all time. Bar None!
A little bit Western. A little bit disaster movie. A little bit thriller. A whole lotta action.
Movies, let alone action movies, don't come better than this. It's funny, it's tense, it's beautifully photographed, and it is explosive.
But what sets Die Hard apart from others in its genre is the attention to detail the filmmakers have. The characterizations are superb; there are no two-dimensional stereotypes here (ok, a few...but they serve a purpose). Almost every character gets to do or say something cool, and the villains are the best to come out of the Hollywood pipe...well, ever!
Words don't do it justice. But this is perhaps the most influential movie to come out of Hollywood since Star Wars, and with good reason. It changed the way Hollywood, and people, looked at action movies. And it will probably never be surpassed.
It gets a 10. Accept no substitutes.
The Worst thing about this Martin Lawrence movie? Martin Lawrence!
A talented supporting performance by John Leguizamo and a few somewhat funny, if not completely illogical, set pieces aren't enough to save this movie from being just about the worst thing I've seen all year. Lawrence is bad - unfunny and stupid - but the real criminal is the screenwriter. Whoever adapted this one should have his typing fingers amputated and be forced to work in public access for the rest of his career. How anybody could take a mediocre, but well-plotted and screen-ready novel and turn it into this festering, head-shaking mess of a movie is completely beyond me. There are moments that have phenomenal potential, but they're ham-handedly executed and it seems that the filmmakers just didn't know how to get laughs from them.
The Insider (1999)
See it for the performances...but bring coffee
There is just no way that a movie about '60 minutes' should be 3 hours long, yet Michael Mann finds a way to drag this out, much like he did in Heat. Yet despite the fact that the movie moves with the speed of a three-toed sloth on a NyQuil bender, the performances are absolutely hypnotic. Pacino, who is usually either great or cartoonish, delivers an adequate performance, but an unrecognizeable Russell Crowe is simply phenomenal. But the most spellbinding character belongs to Christopher Plummer, who steals every scene he's in with an astounding take on Mike Wallace. This isn't a bad movie by any means, but it's an actors movie; the performances really redeem what is otherwise an overlong exercise in directorial self-indulgence.