513 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
A Guy Thing (2003)
I enjoyed this movie, and that's saying a lot
3 June 2003
I was literally preparing to hate this movie, so believe me when I say this film is worth seeing. Overall, the story and gags are contrived, but the film has the charm and finesse to pull them off. That gag where Jason Lee thinks he has crabs, and tries not to let his boss/future father-in-law and co-workers see him scratching himself isn't terribly intelligent, but it sent me into a frenzy of laughter. Very few of the film's gags are high-brow, but they made me laugh. As I said, the film has charm and charm can go a long way.

The characters are likable, too. I must say I wish I got to see more of James Brolin's character, since he was a hoot in the very few scenes he was in. Plus, I admire any romantic comedy that has the guts to not make the character of the wife (who serves as the obstacle in the plot) a total witch. The Selma Blair character is hardly unlikable, and there's never a scene where I thought to myself, "Why did he want to marry her in the first place?" The ending is Hollywood-ish, but it could've been much more schmaltzy.

The cast is talented. I haven't had a favorable view of most of Jason Lee's mainstream work. I just loved him so much in Kevin Smith's films that I couldn't help but feel disappointed at seeing him in these dopey roles. And he never looks comfortable in these dopey roles. Even in this movie, he doesn't look perfectly comfortable, but he contributes his own two cents and effectively handles each scene. But I still miss his work in independent films. Julia Stiles proves again why she's so damn likable. Of course, she's a very beautiful girl with a radiant smile that makes me want to faint, but she also possesses a unique charm and seems to have good personality. In other words, her beauty shows inside and out. I don't know the actresses' name, but the woman who plays the drunk granny is hilarious. Julie Hagerty also has a small part, and she's always enjoyable to watch, which makes me wish she received better roles. I loved her so much in "Airplane" and "Lost in America" that it's a shame she doesn't get the same opportunities to flaunt her skills.

Don't be put off by the horrible trailers and even more horrible box office records. This is a funny, charming film. Romantic comedies are getting so predictable nowadays that it feels like the genre itself is ready to be flushed down the toilet, so it's always to see a good one among all these bad apples.

My score: 7 (out of 10)
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Amazingly smart, witty and funny
2 June 2003
This is not your usual dull, hackneyed teen sex comedy. I actually found it to be amazingly sharp and witty. It's directed by Michael Lehmann, who also made the great teen satire "Heathers." The script is also well-written. Josh Hartnett is one of the best new young actors, and gives another fine performance. He doesn't play the scenes for laughs, but as a seriously conflicted man. So the comedy works out better with him playing it straight. Paolo Costanzo of "Road Trip" says a few hilarious lines and steals a few scenes as his free-spirited roommate. Naturally, you can't make a teen comedy without at least one veteran adult actor in the cast, and this time it's Griffin Dunne, who's an absolute hoot as Hartnett's boss. It's funny to watch him be just as obsessed with sex as his employees half his age.

The movie isn't perfect. Along with the witty sex gags there are some gratuitously predictable moments, like the dinner scene with Hartnett's parents, in which his father starts going on a tangent about the sexual positions he's still able to use with his broken hip. And the third act contains no surprises, as it resorts to the usual feel-good cliches.

As for the eye candy factor, both men and women should be satisfied. Men should enjoy the gratuitous shots of naked women, as well as the hot-looking Shannon Sossymon, Vinessa Shaw and Maggie Gyllenhaal. And needless to say, women should enjoy the sight of Josh Hartnett.

My score: 7 (out of 10)
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Big Trouble (2002)
30 May 2003
I think instead of postponing its release date, they should've just sent it direct to video. Movies that get their released dates postponed don't often succeed at the box office, but even if this movie were released as planned I'm still pretty sure it would've tanked.

The main problem with this film is it's way too chaotic. There's so many characters to keep track of, so at times I'd forget the goals of each character. Not to mention the characters aren't any interesting. The cast is excellent, yet every single actor is given a horribly thankless role. Tim Allen is supposedly the star of the film, but his character is so poorly developed that at times I forgot he's supposed to be the hero in this story. And the same goes for the rest of these great talents: Ben Foster, Janeane Garofolo, Jason Lee (who's for the most part cursed when it comes to mainstream film), Rene Russo, Patrick Warburton, Conan O'Brien's great former co-host Andy Richter, Omar Epps, Johnny Knoxville, Tom Sizemore, Stanley Tucci, Zooey Deschanel and DJ Qualls. Yes, ALL that wasted talent. What the hell did they see in this script? Obviously they were paying more attention to their paychecks. Dennis Farina seems to be the only actor who didn't sleep through his role, giving another fine tough-guy performance. Heavy D also seems to be having fun, but that's considering his 15 minutes are up and he's simply glad to have a job period. But when you have a lame script, what can you do? Even if you are a greatly talented actor.

All the gags are either lame, predictable, forced or consisting of hackneyed sexual innuendos. The comic situations are so contrived it makes you want to puke. Farce is very tricky, and when it's not handled correctly it can fall to pieces. "Arsenic and Old Lace" is an outrageous comedy with characters getting into outrageous situations, but it worked, because it was handled with great precision by Frank Capra. When "Wild Wild West" was showered with poor reviews, I thought I was on crack when I was one of the few people who liked it. But now that I see "Big Trouble," I stand corrected. I can tell when Barry Sonnenfeld has screwed up.

My score: 3 (out of 10)
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Equilibrium (2002)
An overlooked gem that is DEFINITELY worth a look
30 May 2003
I won't hesitate to call this film a masterpiece! First of all, the premise is very original and brings up some interesting concepts. It's the 21st century, and all emotions have been outlawed. It sounds strange on the surface, but the society feels that emotions lead to conflict, which can lead to war and destruction. And having just finished World War 3, the society is fighting to make sure another war won't break out.

Now, THIS is a sci-fi plot I can relate to. This actually sounds like something that may happen in the future. This is none of your "Matrix" or "Star Wars Episode 1" mumbo-jumbo. I don't mind sci-fi as a genre, but for me to really be connected to a film, it has to be based in reality. And just because a movie stretches the truth, doesn't mean it shouldn't contain any truth. The "Matrix" films aren't based in reality; they're based in some crackhead alternate universe where a whole bunch of wacky things happen and the movie tries to make sense of it with a lot of pretentious sci-fi jargon that only geeks of the genre will fully absorb. I don't have to be a sci-fi geek to understand "Equilibrium."

Christian Bale gives one of the best performances in his career, and I really felt for his character and his struggle. There's also a great tension between his character and that of Taye Diggs, who envies his status as an officer. My favorite moment, which actually sent me to tears, was when the squad was sent to murder a large group of canines, and Bale becomes hesitant as he picks up one of the cute little puppies, and feels incredibly sympathetic towards it since he just started to feel emotion. And there's also a touching flashback, where his wife is arrested, yet he doesn't have any feelings about the event.

And I didn't even get to the spectacular action sequences, which are bound to give the Wachowski Brothers a run for their money! The film was made on a low budget, so the effects aren't as high-tech as in "The Matrix," but who said expensive effects make better action scenes? They're even better, since they don't depend highly on CGI. The scenes are so beautifully choreographed that I felt like I was watching a great John Woo film. But part of what made the scenes work was the fact that I fully sympathized with Bale's character and his goal to rebel against the society that's trying to put him and everyone else down.

I also love the wonderful score, which at times sounds like the one from "Broken Arrow"--which also worked wonderfully. Good films come more often than you assume, but great films don't. So I'm always proud to see a great film like this come along, and it's a damn shame that it didn't receive good distribution and probably made peanuts at the box office. Because this is a MUST-SEE!!! Screw "The Matrix"! "Equilibrium" is sci-fi at its best!

My score: 9 (out of 10)
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Secretary (2002)
Weird, disturbing...but not much else
28 May 2003
I don't mind films that deal with disturbing material, as long as I get a sense of the methods behind their madness. I'm sure the director wasn't intending to make an exploitative softcore S & M flick. I mean, the film doesn't even contain that much nudity. But the film just left me dry, with a bad taste in my mouth. I knew this wasn't supposed to be the feel-good movie of the year, but I thought I would at least get more of a sense of the characters' motivations. I never fully got a sense of why the two main characters were into these fetishistic S & M acts. True, the film is different. True, the film is daring. But it didn't really lead anywhere. I had the same feeling after watching "Blue Velvet," which also dealt with a female character who enjoyed being abused.

The actors are not to blame. Maggie Gyllenhaal gives as human a portrayal of her character as possible. And I always enjoy James Spader, who lately I don't see too often in the movies.

The movie has a mildly promising beginning, and I can't say I "hated" it, but it was an overall unsatisfying experience, with a premise that could've been put to good use.

My score: 5 (out of 10)
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Blood Work (2002)
Bloody good
27 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard to release movies like these nowadays, and expect great box office receipts. Am I bashing this film? Far from it. I'm simply saying that many audiences just aren't in the mood for a good old-fashioned mystery. They prefer braindead actioners like "Fast and the Furious" and "XXX." I, on the other hand, appreciate a solid mystery-thriller that compliments my intelligence, instead of insulting it.

"Blood Work" didn't get me bored for one minute. Like the character of McCaleb I was constantly wrapped up in this investigation, dedicated to uncovering the identity of this killer, and the plot twist really blew me away. This is one of the few times I've watched a film a second time, after knowing its twists and turns, and it was a great experience. This time I kept looking for evidence pointing to why this person turned out to be the killer, and it made quite a bit of sense to me. I was just as wrapped up in the film as I was when I first watched it.

I've been fascinated by forensic detective work, which this movie has a lot of. So that's one of the reasons I loved it so much. I'm always intrigued to see these investigators pick up on the most minute pieces of evidence that the average person would take for granted, and use them as keys in cracking the case.

**********SPOILER AHEAD*********

One element of plot I felt was too far-fetched was the kid pointing out a key piece of evidence. The killer left a code, which was a set of nine numbers. Every single number was featured, except for the number "1." Sure, that doesn't sound too complicated to figure out, but the average person would probably overlook that tiny detail. But having the kid point out there was no "1" is a contrived idea, simply put in to surprise the audience by having them think, "Wow, this little kid cracked the code. Impressive."

**********END OF SPOILER**********

In the comic relief department, we have Paul Rodriguez and Jeff Daniels. Both actors helped temper the film's dark tone. I definitely recommend "Blood Work" to anyone in the mood for a good film with a good plot. Yes, a good plot--that's something you don't hear everyday.

My score: 8 (out of 10)
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Frailty (2001)
Creepy, genuinely effective horror/thriller
27 May 2003
I compliment Bill Paxton for a kick-butt directorial debut! The film has a good, original premise with echoes of "Night of the Hunter." Paxton takes on sort of the Robert Mitchum role, as a religious fanatic who believes that God chose him to rid the demons from the world. I'm always fascinated and amused by religious fantaticism, because it's something that cannot be exaggerated. You can never be "over-the-top" in portraying religious fanatics, because these people really do invest in every hint of bullcrap they spew, and say it with a straight face. And I'm not making assumptions, because I lived next to a family of religious fanatics for nine years when I was back in Brooklyn.

Paxton was obviously going for gothic horror. I was never truly scared, but I was creeped out. This is quite a haunting film. The plot is also rich and colorful, so this isn't one of those horror movies that depends on cheap scares to keep an audience interested. I barely hinted at one of the plot twists, but it still came unexpected and kept me glued to the edge of my seat.

The performances are good all-around. Paxton delivers a delightfully evil, yet human performance. It's hard to measure up to Mitchum's tour-de-force performance in "Night of the Hunter," but Paxton's comes close. Besides, I've always liked Bill Paxton, and find him memorable even in small supporting roles like the used car salesman he played in "True Lies." I will never forget him for that performance! Matthew McCoughnahey has recently faded from popularity, but is slowly gaining it back with hit films like "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." He's definitely more than a pretty face, and is another actor I always enjoy watching. I've never complained about Powers Boothe, but he's never given a performance that had me jumping for joy. His performance in this movie is definitely an exception.

Paxton worked with Sam Raimi on "A Simple Plan," and he definitely owes a good deal of thanks to the Raim-meister, with whom he obviously drew inspiration from in making this creepy film.

My score: 7 (out of 10)
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Extremely crude at times, but delivers the laughs
26 May 2003
After watching Martin strike out three times in "Blue Streak," "What's the Worst That Could Happen" and "National Security," I'm glad that this film came out to prove to audiences that, yes, he is still funny. The problem is, and this is not uncommon among many comedians/actors, when he's given a script (especially a poor one) he hams it up to the extreme and simply comes off as brutally annoying. When using his own material, he feels much more secure, and as a result he's much more funny. His on-stage energy is incredible, but unfortunately like many concert films it drags at times. It's hard not to make a concert film drag, since you're stuck staring at the same set and same actor for nearly an hour and 30 minutes. When you're part of the live audience, you're better able to capture his intensity, which makes the experience more enjoyable, but engaging a movie audience with this material is more of a challenge. That's why I was interested in the commentary, in which the directors and producers explained all the work put into making the film. Before hearing the commentary, I didn't know there was much work put into these types of films, but they spend lots of time choosing which camera angles to cut to, maintaining continuity, framing shots while Martin constantly maneuvers around stage and choosing how to neatly splice together material from each of the two concerts.

Despite Martin's journey into PG-13 territory with his most recent films, I didn't forget that he does indeed have an amazingly filthy vocabulary. So I was prepared for excessive profanity and explicit sex talk. But there are moments where he goes way too far, and comes off as merely crude and disgusting. Nevertheless, I laughed a good deal, and I don't understand the extremely low IMDB rating. And despite all the crudeness, Martin does deliver some good morals. I liked his motto: "Ride this motherf**ker 'til the wheels fall off," pertaining to how you live your life, savoring every moment and not giving a crap. His other motto, "No one is immune to the trials the tribulations of life," is also memorable and full of meaning. Martin may be criticized heavily for his run-ins with the law, but what does that say? That all other comedians are saints? Even the supposedly morally correct Bill Cosby has vices of his own. No one is perfect. No one's life is a bowl of cherries. Martin confessed his sins, and now it's time to move on.

Finally, I liked the fact that Martin's act wasn't filled with the hackneyed black people/white people cracks I was negatively anticipating. If your money got sucked down the drain by buying tickets for Martin's lame recent comedies, then "Run Tel Dat" is definitely worth seeing, because the guy DOES have talent. And don't let these crappy films fool you.

My score: 7 (out of 10)
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25th Hour (2002)
One of Spike's best
26 May 2003
This is definitely Spike Lee at the top of his game! `25th Hour' is a purely character-driven drama filled with engaging, complex characters and sharp dialogue. I like how Spike allowed the scenes to play out, without being too concerned about dampening the pacing. I'm sure some will complain (and this probably explains why it wasn't a big success) that the film is boring and slow-moving. If they do, that's probably because audiences are so used to watching movies with a million cuts in one scene, and more time emphasized on action and sex scenes than character development. The characters were so well-developed that I felt a deep connection with each of them. It's rare nowadays that I really get sucked into a film, and this was one of those rare cases. It might also have to do with the fact that I'm familiar with many of these types of characters in real life. You have the Barry Pepper character, who's this smooth-talking playboy who ends sleeping with a ton of women, despite the fact that he's harsh and not very likable. And there's the Philip Seymour Hoffman character, who's a lonely, average-looking guy, who's alienated from society because he doesn't look like an Adonis. It's a harsh reality that handsome guys with nice bodies get away with being complete jerks and still maintain an active dating life, while average-looking guys can have great personalities and women will be repulsed by them, but it is indeed a reality. Sure, it isn't right for Hoffman to be lusting after one of his underage students, but I'm sure if he were ten times better looking, people wouldn't be as disgusted-because God knows that teachers sleeping with their students is sweeping the globe like an epidemic.

The approach to these character interaction scenes is almost documentary-like, which adds to the film's engaging qualities. I love the scene between Pepper and Hoffman, where they chat about dating and Pepper describes his buddy as being part of the 62nd percentile, in the dating world. Sometimes it doesn't work when you deviate from the main characters to focus on the supporting characters, but in this film it did, being that they're very essential in Monty's life and it's helpful to allow the audience to know them inside and out.

The acting is terrific. Edward Norton is always brilliant. But the supporting cast is just as strong. Barry Pepper is a wonderful actor as well, and it's interesting to find out that he's from Vancouver, yet he convincingly inhabits the character of a true New Yorker. Brian Cox is only in the film for about 20 or 30 minutes, but his appearances are very memorable, and he is absolutely magnificent. After seeing him in this movie, I must add him to my list of favorite underrated actors. It's ironic that he shows up in practically every other film, yet he never gets the recognition he deserves. Hopefully, one day he will. Even Tony Siragusa impressed me. I'm not hugely familiar with him, but I saw him make a guest appearance once on `The Tonight Show,' and he seems like a cool guy with a good sense of humor, but I wasn't sure how he'd pan out in a serious dramatic role. Well, he is great, and pulls off the Ukrainian accent with hardly a hitch. I also liked how his character would mess up on his English every once in a while, instead of these foreign characters in movies who speak perfect English, only with an accent. I'm always proud to see Philip Seymour Hoffman, who never fails to impress. One reason I'm so drawn to him is because-like me-he's an average-looking guy, yet he receives decent roles and doesn't get typed as the `fat slob' like most actors in his weight range. So I think of him as an inspiration to all overweight aspiring actors. I once read a review for `Magnolia' in which someone bashed him for being so ugly. Of course, this person didn't mention anything about his acting, but that just proves how superficial of a society we live in today. Many audiences are so used to seeing actors and actresses with near-perfect faces and near-perfect bodies that they can't stand to see actors who look like `normal people.' How often do you walk outside and see people who look like Tom Cruise and Gwyneth Paltrow? Even these so-called reality shows try to include the most beautiful people possible. So people get hypnotized into thinking that's reality. I'm a heterosexual man, so naturally I'm open about enjoying the sights of beautiful actresses, but that's not going to impact how I feel about their acting abilities. And the sight of beautiful women alone surely doesn't make a film good (i.e.: `Charlie Angels'). Speaking of beautiful women, wrapping up this talented cast are Anna Paiquin and Rosario Dawson. Paiquin is cute and effective in her role, though technically it's similar to the ones she played in `HurlyBurly' and `It's the Rage.' I just hope she doesn't get typecast as the teenage slut who loves sleeping with older men. But she's a fine actress, and despite these similarities, she takes different approaches to each of her characters. Rosario Dawson just gets hotter and hotter by the movie. When I saw that trailer shot where she's dancing in the club in that silver dress, I couldn't help but think to myself, `I'd give my left leg to marry that girl.' Well, I'm glad to see that she receives good roles that compliment her acting abilities. She really has a commanding screen presence, outside of her outstanding beauty.

I only have two minor criticisms about the film. One is the unnecessary `F.U. sequence' where Norton goes on a blue streak about his hatred for the people of NYC and the world in general. I'm sure many will find deep meaning in that sequence, but I felt it was out of place and simply an opportunity to remind people that this is a Spike Lee joint-since it's identical to the race-bashing montage in `Do the Right Thing.' Spike mentioned in the commentary that the scene was in the screenplay, and adapted from the original novel, but I'm sure he thought of it as a perfect opportunity to insert one of his directorial trademarks. My other criticism is the use of flashbacks. Nowadays, some directors feel that dissolving into flashbacks and showing subtitles that read things like `Three years earlier' is passe, but the audience needs some sort of clue that we're going back in time. In the scene where Dawson and her friend are in the playground, and Norton first meets her, is obviously a flashback since Dawson is wearing a Catholic private school uniform. But there are other scenes that I didn't realize were flashbacks until I watched the movie with Spike's commentary. But even without knowing those scenes were flashbacks, I didn't feel thrown off, so that's always a good sign.

Besides the `F.U. sequence,' there were other Spike trademarks, which I felt worked out well, like his famous dolly shot. The movie is long, but not overlong. As I said, this is Spike at the top of his game. I'm personally a fan of most of his work, even the awfully bashed `Summer of Sam.' Other fans should also be impressed. Hell, even if you're not a Spike Lee fan, you should appreciate this film! It's a smartly written, well-acted, character-driven drama that doesn't come along too often.

My score: 9 (out of 10)
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Funny, delightful, realistic gem
26 May 2003
I was very impressed with this movie. First of all, it's very funny. It's definitely a feel-good movie, but at the same time doesn't resort to campy sentimentality. It's also a film that escapes from the stereotypes and depicts Latinos like they're meant to be depicted. One realistic touch that I appreciated was that half the time the characters would speak Spanish and the other half they'd speak English. That is how it seems to be in most Latin-American families. You rarely hear English spoken 100 percent of the time, unless both the parents and children are from the states. The director didn't worry if American audiences would be too lazy to read the subtitles. What's the big deal about reading subtitles? I'm taking a class in International Film, so I always cringe at the fact that when I tell other students about the class, their immediate reactions are, "God, you gotta read subtitles?" I'm proud to be an American, but at times like that my pride gradually lessens.

It's about time a film is released in which the main character is not only female, but a slightly overweight female. Because, and those hypnotized by the media be prepared to gasp, not all women are a size 3! Who's to say that a woman can't be pretty while having a few extra pounds? I think America Ferrera is a very pretty girl, not to mention she has charm. In everyday society, there are overweight guys and girls who have dating lives! In this film, her eventual love interest is a skinny white guy. That's not unusual. Unfortunately, media possesses us into assuming that the only types of relationships involve pretty guys and pretty girls. I'm sure even in California that isn't always the truth, despite its reputation for being Land of the Beautiful People.

I like how the film depicts the girl's mom and her hypocritical attitudes towards her daughter's obesity. Throughout the film, I never understood why her much more overweight mother was criticizing her daughter for being a big fat pig. But this happens in real life! Later in the film, the mother even says, "I'm married. I have the right to be fat." Parents can have those attitudes, unfortunately. And like in the film, they don't hesitate to humiliate their sons and daughters in public for having a certain problem like obesity.

The acting is topnotch. Lupe Ontiveros doesn't always receive decent roles in American film, and it's because of that many American audiences aren't familiar with her. That's too bad, because she's really a terrific actress and in "Real Women" I finally did get a chance to see her in a decent role. The ironic thing is she's often cast as Hispanic characters (usually maids) who have just came to this country, yet she was born in the states and hardly has an accent. Newcomer Ferrera is also incredible, and I hope to see her in future projects. She really has much potential, and if Hollywood studios decide to remove their heads from their behinds and cast men and women who aren't less than 120 pounds (in roles other than the "fat slob") she'll become a rising star. Finally, I was genuinely impressed with George Lopez, who actually plays a serious role, never once drifting into comic territory. It's rare to find a comedian who has just as much talent at acting as being funny, so it's nice to discover that George may be one of those people.

If you want to see a good, solid, entertaining low-budget indie gem that'll make you think and make you laugh, then this is definitely the film for you! It's one of the most original films I've seen come out in a while.

My score: 8 (out of 10)
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