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The Fighting Temptations (2003)
A corny, music-filled comedy with its heart in the right place.
If you are looking to laugh and be entertained for two hours with NO deep thinking involved, you'll appreciate "The Fighting Temptations". The plot is so transparent that you can see the developments a mile away. What makes "TFT" watchable is the energetic acting and wonderful music. You can't help but like the characters portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyonce Knowles as you watch them interract. Mike Epps's charcter is crude but very funny. Gospel music great Shirley Caesar, Eddie Levert (of the O'Jays), Melba Moore, Angie Stone and Montell Jordan sure can sing! If you like hip-hop, you'll love the song featuring Gospel rapper T-Bone. "TFT"'s story shows how a lying, money-grubbing ad exec from New York can find love and spiritual redemption by going back home to the South. Will Gooding's character find true love? Will he help transform the local church's ragtag choir into a super group? DUH!! Still, I had fun watching it. "The Fighting Temptations" is rated PG-13 for some mature/sexual references, 2 S-words, 2 D-words and 2-H words. Speaking as a parent, I would not let any children under age 14 see it.
Hangman's Curse (2003)
A "clean" yet creepy mystery that keeps you guessing!
I was pleasantly surprised by "Hangman's Curse". As a Christian, I have seen many Christian-themed films that underwhelmed me with the story, acting, sets and cinematography. By the end of "HC" I said to my friend in the theater: "That was a good movie, Christian or not!" And if you're not Christian---don't worry. The movie is not heavy-handed with a religious message in any way (until one scene near the end). While the acting won't remind anyone of Olivier and Streep, it's pretty good. David Keith ('An Officer And A Gentleman', 'Daredevil') and Mel Harris ('thirtysomething') are very good. Frank Peretti---who wrote the book "Hangman's Curse", provides some good comic relief in his role as an eccentric scientist. I was also impressed that the makers of "HC" weren't afraid to include a subplot of an interracial romantic relationship. By far the story is the star of the "Hangman's Curse". It has plenty of plot twists, yet they were believable. My friend solved who/what was behind the Curse before I did (much to my chagrin!) You can tell that "HC" was not a cheaply-made movie. A few of the night scenes are a little too dark, but in other scenes the camera angles and close-ups helped maintain the suspense. Both teenagers and adults will enjoy this movie. I highly recommend that parents go see it with their teenage kids and discuss the issues of the movie afterward. It wasn't until I was leaving the theater that I realized that "Hangman's Curse" had no gory slasher scenes, no nudity and no profanity, yet was entertaining. When was the last time you could say that about a mystery/thriller film?
Cats Don't Dance (1997)
My entire family loves this colorful, clever, comedic, cartoon!
"Cats Don't Dance" is an excellent animated film, and if you asked my three kids, they'd tell you it's one of their favorite movies ever! "Cats Don't Dance" can be enjoyed whether you're age 4 (close to my youngest child) or age 40 (close to me). The movie uses bright and crisp colors which make you pay attention---and you'll have to! "Cats" moves at a rapid pace. I'm always apprehensive when I hear about animated musicals because the songs usually stink. However, I think the songs and musical sequences in "Cats" are better than those in most Disney hit movies. [Darla Dimples's performance singing "Big And Loud" is an animated classic.] My kids sing "Cats" songs just for fun. They've seen the movie (by their own request) almost 20 times. By the way, I knew Natalie Cole was a good singer, but who knew that Scott Bakula was too? "Cats Don't Dance" has great dialogue (Danny and Sawyer at her job, the same two cats arguing while a disaster ensues, and Danny meeting with Darla Dimple at her home are among my favorite scenes. If characters are going to achieve a good and noble goal in a movie, there MUST be worthy foils trying to stop them. "Cats Don't Dance" has two of the best villians ever in Darla Dimple and her behemoth of a butler Max. Darla takes being two-faced to a whole new level. (Notice at least twice in the movie when the red bow on her head looks more like two horns) Max is so huge that he actually blocks out light! His laugh is chillingly amazing and Max the the BEST line of dialogue in the movie: "How does the kitty cat gooooooooooooooo? [Danny: 'Meow?'] "Very goooooooooood." Every character in this movie (most of whom are animals) are drawn exaggeratedly and that fits perfectly for the theme and tone of this movie. "Cats" is a funny, wild ride for children and adults. If you like animation and/or musicals and/or clever comedy, you'll love "Cats Don't Dance". It's a shame this great movie isn't more popular. Hopefully good word-of-mouth (and word-of-internet) will change that.
A fun, flashy faithful adaptation of a great superhero comic.
I've been waiting for this movie since 1977 when I saw the 'Superman' film. My patience (as if I had any choice in the matter) was mostly worth the wait. 'Spider-Man' was fun, colorful and faithful to a great (and MY favorite) superhero. When I heard that Tobey Maguire would play Peter Parker/Spiderman, I was skeptical. However, I think he did a pretty good job. My reaction to hearing that Kirsten Dunst would play Mary Jane was more optimistic, as in "Wow!" and "Hoo-ahh!" She was excellent. A good action film MUST have a great villian and Willem Dafoe made for a magnificently, maniacal and menacing Green Goblin. Was I somewhat distracted that when Green Goblin talked his mask's mouth didn't move? Yes. I also had a few other comic fanboy quibbles. For example: how long does it take for Spiderman's webbing to dissolve? In some scenes in the movie, you're led to believe it lasts for hours, while at other times webbing would dissolve seconds after Spiderman shot it. And what was with that scene at the cemetery? I saw 'Spider-Man' on its opening weekend in a jam-packed theater. When Peter told Mary Jane---the woman he says he's loved since they both were 6 years old---that he could only be her friend, some people in the audience actually booed and hissed! I don't blame them. That scene was lame. As for Mary Jane's delayed reaction of softly touching her hand to her mouth: Puh-leez! Did kissing Peter while he was STANDING next to her on a windy day feel the same as kissing Spiderman while he was HANGING upside-down on a rainy night? Those points aside, I really did enjoy 'Spider-Man', as did my wife and my 13-year-old daughter. [WARNING: this movie is NOT for little children. A few kids---about 4 to 6 years old---inside the aforementioned jam-packed theater started crying because they were so scared by the apartment fire scene and the final, bloody confrontation between the Green Goblin and Spiderman. The children's parents had to escort them out of the theater.] I waited 25 years for 'Spider-Man'. I'm so glad that I don't have to wait nearly that long for the sequel because I eagerly await it.
The Emperor's Club (2002)
Kevin Kline perfectly portrays a sincere yet imperfect professor.
Early in "The Emperor's Club" Professor William Hundert (Kevin Kline) informs his students that: "It's not living that is important, but living RIGHTLY." Hundert later asks the same young men: "How will history remember YOU?" Those are the two themes that are examined in this fine film. I was very pleased to see a movie that addresses content of character, ethics and morality in an interesting way with excellent acting. Leading the way in the acting category is Kline. He is a great, yet underrated actor. Another fine performance was given by Emile Hirsch as the antagonistic student Sedgewick Bell. Hundert takes it upon himself to try to change Bell's attitude and indifference with being a good student. The results which play out at the end of the school year and then 25 years later surprised me. Many people are comparing "The Emperor's Club" to "Dead Poets Society". I agree on a basic level, but Kevin Kline and Robin Williams play to very different teachers. Williams's John Keating was a maverick who constantly clashed with the school administration. Hundert is a straight-laced, loyal, 'company man'. Keating---with flamboyant impersonations---brought attention to himself. Hundert wanted the attention solely to be focused upon history's "men of character" that he glowingly lectures about. As much as I enjoyed "Emperor's", I found the final half-hour to be rather uneven, which I credit more to the screenplay and directing than the acting. Every lead and supporting acting performance in this film was convincing and rang true. The "bathroom scene" with Hundert and a grown-up Sedgewick Bell (Joel Gretsch) is powerful with a smart twist that left many of my fellow audience members gasping. By the end of "Emperor's" Professor William Hundert learns that how he deals with students can have far-reaching consequences both good and bad. My wife, who is a high school teacher, said the film inspired her and that every teacher should see it. She also was quite pleased that the movie contained a very small amount of profanity and sexual imagery. In conclusion, to rephrase Hundert's question to his students: how will history remember "The Emperor's Club"? Hopefully as a wonderful movie with an Academy Award-nominated performance by Kevin Kline.
A satisfying sequel with its heart in the right place.
This was a very satisfying sequel to "Spy Kids". Even though I enjoyed the first film just a little bit more, "Spy Kids 2" thoroughly entertained me, my wife and my three children. As a parent, I appreciated how Carmen and Juni were in perilous situations, but it never felt like they were in deadly danger. I also enjoyed the overall message that family unity, love and respect is always important. Kudos to Mr. Rodriguez for including Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor. They were cool and funny! And is it any coincidence that the Cortez kids, their parents and their grandparents are all good-looking? I don't think so! Let's just say that the presence of Antonio Banderas (for my wife) and Carla Gugino (for me) made the movie that much more pleasant to watch. :) My family looks forward to spying on the further exploits of the Cortez family next year in "Spy Kids 3"!
The Ten Commandments (1956)
A Biblical epic that still looks great 45 years later!
This epic film has been a favorite of mine since I was young boy. The set designs are stunning and the musical score is appropriately majestic.
Sure, the film takes cinematic licenses (the Bible says Moses was shy and had a speech impetiment, while Charlton Heston's voice rumbles with confidence) Yul Brynner is arrogantly excellent as Rameses while Victor Price and (surprise!) Edward G. Robinson are wickedly appealing in their roles.
When you see the special effects, it's hard to believe that "The Ten Commandments" was made in 1956. The parting of the Red Sea and the earthquake near Mount Sinai are AWESOME! Many movies made today wish their special effects looked so good.
Another element that sets "The Ten Commandments" apart is its heart. DeMille never forgets that this story is about faith and God's good overcoming man's evil. This film is deservedly considered a classic.