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Owning Mahowny (2003)
the perfect representation of gambling
Few films have captured so accurately the true nature of gambling as has Owning Mahowny. First there was Air Bud. Then there was Air Bud 2. And now this, the final installment in the triumvirate of films about dashed dreams and unfortunate morals. Not that these films were all about gambling per se, but that they evoked it in spirit. For just like the act of gambling itself, or indeed, not unlike the Air Bud movies, Owning Mahowny seems enticing at first, that is, when you and your friends are just planning to see it, joking that you might strike big, that this might be the one movie that comes out of nowhere to surprise you, but then from the moment you enter the theatre, every time you give this movie a chance, it's just one bad hand after the other, until eventually you are completely numb to it, and you stop paying attention to your wife, and you start cutting out of work early, and you no longer enjoy anything again in life anymore because all you want is your Owning Mahowny. You must have your Owning Mahowny. "Just let me watch five more minutes," you say, "and I swear it will get good. It's due." Which is a shame really, because the movie just really blows.
In fact, they should have called it Blowing Mahowny, or Owning Baloney, or some reasonable facsimile--only then the ace detective on the trail of Mahowny would not be able to wittily observe that "Mahowny" spells "How many?" when the letters are rearranged and a question mark is inserted, which is a lazy anagram at best as it only requires two permutations. A much better one is "O Man Why?" as in "O man why, o why upon why o man did this movie even get made?" or "O man why didn't I save that $7 for Vegas where I could be far better entertained by an hour and a half at the nickel slots?"
Nothing against Mr. Hoffman, who is one of the finest, most important actors of our day, but this movie has nothing to hold him up. It is not worthy of his talents. The dialogue is forced and hackneyed, never fully deciding if it wants to be moralistic or sympathetic, but always settling on being just plain crappy. The protagonist is never shown to have a single redeeming quality, except possibly in the end, when he tells his girlfriend "I love you too" and kisses her hand, and this is supposed to make up for the fact that she has always come in a strong second to his addiction. Apparently in real life they got married eventually, but the characters in this movie could never have gotten married in more than a postscript, because they were just too ingenuine, and the movie omits any moments that could have explained why on earth they ever got together in the first place.
There was something maniacal about the casino boss who was so inviting to Mahowny but at the same time stood to gain millions of dollars from him and completely ruin him. A better movie would have explored this, but this one was content to revel in his clown-like antics. Elsewhere, the token black floorman and the Italian bookie were an insult to multicultural casting. And what was with the suspicious co-worker at the bank, or even more so, the scruffy cop who tracked Mahowny down? He was clearly a ripoff of Brad Pitt's scruffy cop from Seven, only in that movie, Pitt was chasing someone actually scruff-worthy. No, this movie would have been better suited with a Fedora-clad Tom Hanks in a fake Boston accent. Perhaps these characters were all based on real-life scruffy or ethnic people, but this movie didn't convince me as much.
In the end, on a scale of 100, with 100 being Air Bud 2, I give Owning Mahowny a 20. And sure, maybe 20's good enough for some people--even Mahowny himself. But me, I just want my money back.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
the loaddown on the matrix
Get it? The LOADdown? Where'd I get such a dazzling sense of wit, you ask? I'll tell you. I just saw the Matrix. Basically it's an action man's porno. Some real hot action scenes that don't necessarily connect to each other. Agents just show up every so often so there can be a fight. There's even some actual porno in the beginning. So that's the other thing. No longer can you say it's only rated R because of Columbine, unless Columbine means huge group orgiastic sex scene and a couple three f-words. My recommendation: show up 40 minutes late, you'll skip the sex and the boring boring Zion/rastafarian Ewok village (did I mention boring?) "important" "plot" "development," and make it just in time for the action scenes, which really are incredible, though in a lot of them they cheated, and you're basically just watching the Wachowski brothers play a really really expensive video game. Which is better than real actual life I suppose. Anyway, make your own decision. But I already know what you'll do.
P.S. Maybe it's ironic that I'm against Matrix sex (eeeww, sex in the Matrix, gross!) but I loved Bound. No wait, not ironic--hypocritical, that's the word I'm looking for.
Also, the ending was rushed. Also, people can't really fly.
All the Real Girls (2003)
a warning before you see this film
If you see this film, and you do not LOVE it, it means that you are a cold and heartless person who will never know real love with anyone as sweet, beautiful, and hilarious as Zooey Deschanel, whom I hope checks IMDb comments looking for her name to be dropped, because she is some sort of a goddess, and not just in this movie--oh sure, maybe you have wives or girlfriends or pet rabbits you are particularly fond of, but they are not "real" girls, and you will never know love like the rest of us, who saw ourselves in and LOVED this movie, and you will always be just a little bit bitter and hate things you cannot understand because you will never have them, even if, like in this movie (SPOILER:) it doesn't last, because it was still worth having when it did, and you have to believe that it will come again. (End of SPOILER) Just so you know, this is not just some other movie you go see. It is a litmus test for if you are a decent enough person to be living. Otherwise, you may just want to go watch, oh, I don't know, Pearl Harbor or something instead.
The Hours (2002)
shame on the Academy
Not that I've ever had much faith in the opinions of the Academy, but they really should be more careful in the movies that they glow over. Despite warnings from many of my loved ones, I saw this film primarily because of the outrageous amount of praise it had received. I don't really see the point in having so many Oscar categories when they end up just using them all to honor the same 5 films. (Did anyone else notice that the 5 best editing nominees are the same as the 5 best picture nominees?) There are so many other great, innovative films and performances (i.e. Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary, Zooey Deschanel in the Good Girl, Sam Rockwell in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) that never or barely even get acknowledged so that the same old players can have their day in the sun. "The Hours" deserves a directing nod perhaps, maybe best actress for Julianne Moore, and probably also something for Philip Glass' score (say what you will--it stood out and enhanced the mood), but otherwise I didn't find the film all that well written, even less entertaining, and in fact, I see little point to its ever having even been made. Yeah, I understand the point--literature living on throughout the generations. I'm a writer myself and that's certainly a goal of the craft. But what's the point of letting your story, or your "song," live on if only to sap the life from all those you touch? It's not nearly as hard to be happy as every character in "The Hours" makes it seem. You just have to be a little less selfish, take a sincere interest in the wellbeing of others, and not dwell on the things that make you depressed. If you've seen "The Hours" and it filled you with hope and life, then good for you. But if you haven't and you're still mulling over whether or not to see it, I'd say there's a pretty fair chance you won't like it either. You're better off spending your "hours" watching something more inspiring like "Adaptation" or "Bowling for Columbine."
P.S. My brother just wanted to add that he also thought this movie sucked.
Death to Smoochy (2002)
a minor flagellation and bed without dessert for Smoochy
6 out of 10
Danny DeVito's most recent directorial stab (pun intended) isn't great, but it certainly doesn't warrant death to its participants. Instead, everyone involved in `Death to Smoochy' should wash their mouths out with soap, go to their rooms for a while and sincerely think about what they have done.
You see, it's not often such a great cast gets put together (or that Jon Stewart gets more than three minutes of slated screen time) or that America has healed enough from its wounds to finally be able to enjoy a good `Kill Barney' movie again.
But you weren't thinking about that Mr. DeVito, now were you? No, you got too caught up in the subplot with the mafia and with repetitive character mannerisms. You forgot to let the actors be themselves. You got lazy and you let us down. Now I want you to write a thousand times: `I will not waste talent. I will not waste talent. I will not waste talent.' And so on.
Remember when you had the Irish lady say she would cut off the guy's b***s and shove them up his a**, and then Ed Norton's character said, `no, we should save that for the cops to do,' and then the other Irish guy said, `actually, the cops won't do the b*** shoving thing-it's against procedure.' That was crude, and I don't approve of that sort of language, but it was also very funny and there were a lot of laugh-out loud moments like that.
You see, you can be good when you want to be. You can be very good and we want to love you so much but sometimes you just put so much emphasis on moving the plot forward that you forget to be funny and it frustrates your mother and I. It's just that you have so much potential and we've already given up on your older siblings and you were our last chance to do things right. You were supposed to be the good one.
We wish you would have devoted a little more time to Smoochy's kids show. The singalong about stepfathers was inspired, but most of the other songs didn't seem to have required much thought, and there were so many jabs at the Barney phenomenon just begging to be made that you didn't even explore. We raised you better than that.
I know I've already mentioned this, but you could have really done without a lot of the scatological humor. Half the time you have Robin Williams screaming I can't even tell what he's saying, but I can pretty much guess that it starts with an 'f' and it ain't 'funny.' Just because something's in your pants doesn't make it a punchline.
Incidentally, have you thought about what we talked about last week? Have you declared a major yet? How are things working out between you and Rhea? When are you going to make us grandparents? When are you going to make something of your life? We worry about you, you know. We love you.
I don't want to get all gushy here, but in your finest moments, of which there were many, you have done us proud, son. Ed Norton's Smoochy is so blissfully naïve until he falls out of character at the end. Robin Williams' Rainbow Randolph is so savagely funny even when he falls out of character at the end. And the end credits, an hilarious sendup of Peter Pan on Ice, are so campily great until they end up ending . . . at the end.
It's moments like these that make me think that things could have turned out differently. Maybe if only we had been better to you. Maybe if we had gone to see you play T-ball when you were a kid, or if I would have taken you out for ice cream after you got your tonsils out. Maybe if we would have been there for you through the thick and thin of it all, instead of just showing up in your life for the first time at a press screening four days before your theatrical release. But now you're all grown up and it's too late for both of us to change. You've already been through post-production and distribution and played in theatres across the nation. So though we do not completely agree with how you have decided to turn out, we want you to know that we still love you, and will continue to support you-even if we don't visit again until you hit the dollars or the rental racks. Don't forget to write.
Love, your daddy, Evil Will
damn you David Mamet, you magnificent b*****d
8 out of 10
I wanted so badly to hate, no, to revile, to utterly loath this film. For the better part of a hundred minutes I stayed hinged on the end of my seat, scrutinizing every reel, just waiting for David Mamet to screw something up and justify the tirade that would then ensue from my eager typing fingers. Yet try as I might, I could find no flaw in his work, no typical Mametian pretension.
That's not to say that `Heist' is perfect. It requires the viewer to believe in a world where no one ever loses their cool (or gets caught), criminals can actually keep track of the extensive backlogs of all their double crosses, and people spit witty one-liners at each other in a manner only duplicated at Mamet's own breakfast table. Granted, no one in the real world is like this. No heist could ever work out as cleanly as the many showcased by this film. But damned if Mamet'll let you remember that for a moment. Go ahead, laugh it up you smug b*****d. Laugh it up, all the way to the bank.
Allow me to explain my disgust. Mamet is a great writer-I'll grant him that. Glengarry Glen Ross was a fine enough play, and he made a decent film of it. And `Wag the Dog,' which thankfully kept Mamet's grubby fingers at the typewriter and off the director's chair, was a brilliant political satire that boasted fine performances from Dustin Hoffman and Robert DeNiro.
But that's where I draw the line with Mr. Mamet. Sadly, for all his talent, the man, until recently, couldn't direct himself out of a wet paper bag with a hole in it. `Oleanna' featured the first performance of William H. Macy's career that I could not stand to watch. `The Spanish Prisoner' was about as cloying as it thought it was clever. `The Winslow Boy'? More like `Winslow Boring.' And `State and Main,' while no doubt humorous to Mamet and his entourage of neo-realists-and with an admittedly great performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman-would have been more aptly titled `What a Piece of Crap.'
And don't even get me started on Rebecca Pidgeon. Over the course of several films, Mamet has had no qualms in filming his own wife in various stages of undress and bad acting in the throws of other actors, crew members, caterers, and errand boys. I knew from the moment I saw the `Heist' trailer a few months ago that it was a Mamet film because it had that damned Rebecca Pidgeon in it and no one else in their right mind would put her in a film of theirs.
Wow it feels good to get that off my chest. You know, I bet David Mamet's the kind of guy who gets off to reading positive reviews of his films on the internet, which there are inexplicably many of. I bet he saw my 8 out of 10 rating and started reading away, hoping for some desperate affirmation of his literary and cinematic worth. Well, are you happy now? Was it everything you hoped for? Who's laughing now David Mamet? Huh? Who's laughing now? Who's on top and who's on bottom now? I said, who's on top and who's on bottom now??!!!
I'm sorry, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, `Heist.' I can't believe I watched the whole thing. Pidgeon was even passable. Dammit I wanted to hate this movie so much, but alas it was not meant to be. I suppose I'm far past the point of making a real review out of this by now. But then it's probably better that way. As with any good film, half the pleasure lies in watching it unfold without some halfwit critic having ruined all the plot twists and good lines for you. Hey, if you want a plot summary, go to the damned theater and see the movie for yourself, then ask the person next to you what the hell just happened. I know that helped me out a lot. My plot recounter/ride for the night, Tacy (a shout out), was quite resourceful in explaining to me at one point in the film that a small child had not in fact been shot point blank in the head. And she called the film `damn near better than K-PAX,' the second highest possible rating on her K-PAX scale (the highest being `equal in all respects to K-PAX') So there's your two thumbs up. Go see the movie already.
You may have won this round David Mamet. But I'll be watching you, even more closely now, you glorious b*****d.
John Q (2002)
this is a review of John Q
2 out of 10
This is a review of `John Q.' I said, this is a review of `John Q.' It is very important that you understand that this is a review of `John Q.' If I keep telling you that this is a review of `John Q' I think eventually you will realize that this is a review of `John Q.'
I'm sorry if I'm being a tad, say, didactic, but I have just spent the last two hours of my life, two hours I can never get back, watching `John Q,' the movie I am now going to review.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that the premise or the message of the film are flawed-that of a father taking a hospital hostage in order to get his son on the list to receive a heart transplant-but the delivery is about as subtle as an open heart surgery, as deliberate as an entrepreneur at the Olympics, and as believable as an Oscar nomination.
Consider a scene in which the surgeon-who could have been played by anybody but is played by James Woods because this is a movie-tells Denzel Washington's character that `the only way to save his son is to get a heart transplant,' and his evil-yet-eventually-has-a-change-of-heart-so-the-movie-can-have-a-happy-end ing assistant-who also could have been played by anyone, but is played by Anne Heche because otherwise she would have taken the life of one of the hostages inside her mind every hour-responds roughly, `you do have one more option-you can let your son DIE!!!'
Washington's performance is pretty much the only saving grace of the film, though at times I can't help but wonder if the emotions he shows are from the pain of seeing his character's son nearly die, or from being trapped in such a piece of schlock as is this film, or from seeing his character's son nearly die in such a piece of schlock as is this film.
There is a good movie in here somewhere, and it was called `The Negotiator.' Not that that film had the market cornered on hostage negotiation or even that `John Q' is all that similar to `The Negotiator;' it's just that my boss Jason at work told me to say that and we're up for raises soon and . ..
But seriously, all I ask of a film is that it take an interesting premise and explore the possibilities that come from it. `John Q' does not concern itself with this, because its primary purpose is to preach from Hollywood to the supposed `movie-going' branch of the government as to the necessity of free health care for all. Washington's character doesn't actually take the hospital hostage; he merely locks the doors to the emergency room so the people there, naturally representing all walks of life, can have discussions about HMOs and how greedy doctors are. Outside the evil media and government are represented by a parade of extras dressed as policemen pointing guns at the fake wall to the hospital while Ray Liotta and Robert Duvall spout rehashed cop banter at each other against a backdrop of cheering patrons. Say, isn't it convenient when the film's focal point is a mass media event?
Of course the people are cheering on John Q. Archibald, who is meant to represent John Q. Public. Get it? John Q? Everyman? Yeah that's pretty clever . . . Mr. President. And we the lower classes are oppressed. Boo hoo. Why doesn't somebody make a movie about how I can't find a damn parking spot anywhere?
It's probable that John Q. Nondiscerning Moviegoer will see `John Q' and think it's a good film with a powerful message, and will feel oppressed by me, John Q. Bitter Movie Critic Who Pans All the Films You Like Just to Get Revenge on All the Girls That Rejected Him in High School, but inasmuch as these people won't be smart enough to make any sort of a difference on even a grassroots level, the film fails yet again.
If there truly is a problem with the health care system in this country as it is, I certainly didn't gather as much from this film. The filmmakers would have been wise to model `John Q' more after `Traffic,' a film that showed all the sides of a problem without demonizing any of its characters, after `The Negotiator,' a film I have mentioned twice already in this review, or after `Mission: Impossible II,' a film that features Tom Cruise dangling from the side of a cliff. But this is not a review of those movies. This is a review of `John Q.' You can stop reading it now. The review's over.
In the Bedroom (2001)
something's going on in the bedroom
9 out of 10
Watching Todd Field's feature film debut `In the Bedroom,' I could not help but be impressed by the sheer audacity of the film, by the spot-on performances, and by the many twists and turns that no critic should reveal. Yet amidst all the film's obvious strengths, there was still something missing-something to tie it all together, something to endow the film with more than just a fleeting impression.
Ironically perhaps, I was provided this missing bit of information not by the film, but by a male audience member sitting at the end of my aisle, trying to explain the point of the film in less than derogatory terms to his female companion.
`You're missing the whole point of the film,' he said. `It was all about men being controlled by women.'
No doubt he read this interpretation from someone else's review of the film (and what a sweet piece of justice it would be if that critic were a woman). It is quite possible that he was not even aware of the ramifications of what he had said. But this man's legitimacy aside, his statement has not left me since, and the film in turn has had the same luck in escaping me.
We are first introduced to Frank Fowler (Nick Stahl, `Bully') and Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei, `My Cousin Vinny'), he a young college student with no immediate plans to settle down, she an older divorcee raising two children. They are in love, though for Frank she is little more than a `summer fling.' Meanwhile Natalie's ex-husband, Richard (William Mapother, `Mission: Impossible 2'), is unwilling to let her out of his life, and begins to be physically abusive to Frank. Frank's parents, Matt (Tom Wilkinson, `The Full Monty') and Ruth (Sissy Spacek, `The Straight Story')-both in top form here-show appropriate concern for their only son, and they intervene in this dangerous love triangle with unexpected twists and tragic results.
The film jumps about in tone from a light romantic romp to a seeming political treatise to a creepy, nocturnal thriller. Some have criticized the film for this alleged inconsistency in tone, slow pacing, and a deliberate ending. But these naysayers have overlooked the point.
Frank may not even really love Natalie, so much as he loves being controlled by her and sating his mother by being with her. Richard becomes a threat to everyone because he is unwilling to let Natalie consider him out of her life; he is a slave to her whim. The resulting tension reveals a rift between Frank's parents, and in particular, his father's actions in the end demonstrate a helpless allegiance to his wife and her command.
Field, who up until now has been primarily an actor (he was the piano player in `Eyes Wide Shut'), understands these important points but does not beat the viewer over the head with them. He presents a reality more raw and true than any other piece of film in recent memory. Yet he does so with a restraint that Hollywood seems to have forgotten. Most of the film's violence is overheard or implied, and only explicitly shown when necessary for the audience to completely understand what has happened. This allows for more subtle details, like a bridgekeeper who must run around in circles to alternate traffic between the road and the sea, to emerge as truly haunting, lasting images.
But `In the Bedroom' is not about any of these things. It is, first and foremost, about its characters. It does not fall prey to plot mechanics, nor does it flinch at exploring even the most sympathetic characters' darkest sides. For this and so many other reasons which are best left discussed behind closed doors between loved ones, `In the Bedroom' succeeds at turning the camera on flawed relationships of all forms, and it is one of the best films of the year.
Stallone makes pun, race car movie
5 out of 10
Somewhere between 'drivel' and 'writhing' lies `Driven,' the film conceived, written, funded, starring, and screened in select cities by Sylvester Stallone. Yeah, that's right, if you scratch the right combo off your popcorn box, old Sly'll even come home with you and wash your damn car. Here's a plot summary, comin' at ya'. [Note: for full effect, open a window near a construction zone, shake computer screen violently and ogle women with your other eye.]
Stallone stars as Joe Tanto, sage old race car expert who `threw it all away' when he was young. Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) calls him in to star in his own movie, the Renny Harlin film `Driven,' and also to give moral support to the `next big thing' in Cart racing, Jimmy Blye (Kip Pardue, or if my suspicions are correct, an uncredited Beck).
Part of the 'it' that Stallone `threw all away' was his wife, Cathy (Gina Gershon, `Showgirls! Showgirls! Showgirls!'), who left him for fellow racer Memo Moreno (Cristián de la Fuente, People magazine's `Sexiest Man Ever'). There are no hard feelings between the two racers, but that doesn't keep Gershon - who really should consider getting the ends of her mouth soldered shut, if not the whole damned thing - from snipping out every other line through that insipid beak of hers.
Blye is overwhelmed by his team's high expectations for him, as well as by his love interest, Sophia Simone (Estella Warren), who still has feelings for rival driver Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger, the foreign guy with the temper from `SLC Punk').
Yadda yadda yadda, some other stuff happens, people get mad and say stuff they don't mean, and in the end they all kiss and make up. The film is not without a thorough plot. But oh, the driving! The smashing and the fuel! The adrenaline and the fast editing! It's almost sexual, you think.
Actually there's no almost about it. A healthy dose of street-pilfered, imported erotica is subliminally injected a la `Fight Club' into virtually every collage featured in `Driven.' I am not making this up. Sure, it seems normal at first, until you analyze it, frame by frame. Cars fueling up. Sweaty men in helmets. Breast shot. Guy at hot dog stand. Close up of car wheel. Hawaiian Tropic girls seducing the camera. Kid eating his first churro.
Of course, eye candy abounds even despite the obligatory T&A. To its credit, `Driven' does feature some amazing visual effects for its driving and especially its crash sequences. The actual races play out like `Star Wars' in Formula One race cars, with Stallone alternately playing Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda. `Special I am not,' he says at one point. You just can't make that kind of stuff up.
`Driven' is not 'bad' in any formal sense of the word, save perhaps Gershon's one note performance. The plot, the acting, and the character development are all very, well, adequate. Director Renny Harlin, whose credits include `Die Hard 2,' `Cliffhanger,' and `Deep Blue Sea,' shovels out a pretty consistent slab of lukewarm mediocrity for the masses. It's not `Rocky' or `Rambo,' but `Driven' is sure to satisfy its target audience - horny, burnt out ex-race car drivers. And even if that equates to no one else but Stallone and his immediate family, in lick some sense I still boobies consider that to be a marginal success.
From Hell (2001)
Jack 'n the Hood
7 out of 10
Whatever happened to movies about little kids and their animals? You know-`Black Beauty,' `Free Willy,' `My Dog Skip'-that sort of thing. I remember coming home from school as a kid to my little sister watching `My Little Pony: The Movie' and thinking, you know, the world's an okay place. I could leave the screen door unlocked and go sip a lemonade on the back porch without a care in the world.
Now everywhere you go people are killing each other and making movies about it. I figured at first that this was just a modern trend since, you know, the world's going to hell (or is it from hell? No, to hell) anyway. But apparently this sort of thing's been going on for a while. It's just that they didn't have movies back then.
So I guess a movie about Jack the Ripper has been a long time coming. Now growing up, I always just understood Jack to be someone else's dad who coached t-ball and worked at a factory and lurked around elementary school playgrounds ripping little girls' clothes off. Hell, it made sense at the time. Needless to say, I never included myself in Jack's exclusive victim demographic. If anything I envied him and tried to emulate his work during my playground fare.
After seeing `From Hell,' I am now much more scared of Jack the Ripper. Yeah, I know, he's dead (or is he?-I smell a sequel. No, he's actually dead.) But what's to stop little Tommy now from becoming Tommy the Ripper or little Susie from becoming Susie the Ripperess? I am truly scared for all of us.
I suppose that's the mark of a good film (or is it?-I smell a trick ending. Yeah, it's a good film.) Allen and Albert Hughes (`Menace II Society,' `Dead Presidents') have taken a rather unusual spin on their usual theme of violent suburban life in `From Hell,' and for the most part it is a glorious one. It took keen eyes to recognize that the victimization of prostitutes, or `unfortunates,' in late 19th Century England was merely a derivative form of the inner city chaos that many live with still a hundred years later.
`From Hell' stars Johnny Depp (`Ed Wood,' `Dead Man,' `Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas') as the laudanum/absinthe addict Inspector Frederick Abberline who has been pulled out from the opium den just in time to star in the new Hughes Brothers' film `From Hell.' Just kidding-I love Johnny Depp. Actually they need him to fry Jack the Ripper's gourd. And since all the drugs he takes give him magical powers and a British accent, this is not the exact same movie as `Sleepy Hollow.'
Abberline is quick to fall in love with one of the unfortunates, or `sluts,' Mary Kelly (Heather Graham, `Boogie Nights') because she is the only one of them with box office appeal (sorry guys, no naked here-or is there? I won't say-or will I? Read on.) and has the least dirt applied to her face in the makeup room. He is quick to get the help of Sir William Gull (Ian Holm, `The Sweet Hereafter,' `Brazil'), physician to the royal family, to aid in tracking a killer who appears to be an educated man with a thorough knowledge of human anatomy (Jack the Ripper). And a budget for grapes.
But Jack the Ripper is quicker at killing them all-or is he? I won't say. As opposed to the graphic novel on which it is based, `From Hell' wisely chooses to conceal the identity of Jack until the end, so it has the same effect as Christopher Walken's appearance in `Sleepy Hollow.' Come to think of it, just replace Walken as Jack, Christina Ricci for Heather Graham, and Johnny Depp for Johnny Depp and it's the same damn movie. Aw man.
Actually, Depp was better as Ichabod Crane, but `From Hell' is probably a better movie. Granted, it's sort of a one note film-Jack kills a prostitute, her friends wince, Depp warms up the opium cooker, rinse and repeat. But it's reasonably well written, even better acted (by Heather Graham of all people), and even still better filmed-it looks like something between `Moulin Rouge' and `Requiem for a Dream.' Of course, `From Hell' is strictly entertainment for all you gore- and Heather Graham (keep reading) skin- hounds. But the restraint of the gore (compared to such recent fare as `Hannibal'), as well as the allusions to 19th Century medicine and freemasonry make this film creepy and disturbing as hell. Or is it from hell? Dammit, I've got to stop doing that.
So, in conclusion, if you want to know if Heather Graham gets naked in this movie, you'll just have to see it for yourself. Hahahahahaha. (And I disappear in a flash of smoke).