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11 reviews in total 
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Identity (2003)
smart & suspenseful, 26 April 2003

A surprisingly suspenseful thriller that borrows heavily from Christie & Hitchcock, but is more original than one would expect. The diverse cast is great (especially old reliables Cusack, Liotta & McGinley) & there are genuinely funny & scary moments, throughout. James Mangold's setup & the way he introduces us to this motley crew of soon-to-be victims is both original & effective.

I can imagine how some would find the inevitable 'twist' ending nonsensical, but it'll at least leave you wondering if it all does make sense. While it negatively impacts the film's conclusion & everything that happened before it, it's still a doozy. Regardless, up until that point, you'll find yourself clutching your seat as the ensemble cast is picked off, one by one. Can you guess whodunit? Guess again.

*** 1/2 (out of 5)

The Omen (1976)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
yawn, 23 October 2001

In what was an obvious attempt to ride the coattails of The Exorcist from Hell & back and all the way to the bank, Richard Donner's The Omen, with a few rare exceptions, is an out-and-out predictable snoozefest. Gregory Peck & Lee Remick play the stupidest parents in the world, as the plot blatantly & purposefully unfolds to reveal their mysteriously adopted son as the son of the Devil (gasp!). The audience is let in on this nefarious fact about 15 minutes into the film, yet Peck doesn't fully admit this obvious fact to himself until the final reel. The rest of the film is knee deep in plot contrivance, murky religious symbolism, nonsensical logic & lots and lots of Latin, crucifixes, impalings & hounds from Hell.

Peck's right eyebrow remains raised for nearly the entire movie, which I suppose is his way of conveying emotion. Otherwise, he makes for a fine robot. Remick fares no better as the bewildered in-denial Mom. David Warner (nice scarf) is decent as a doomed photographer who "helps" Peck unravel the "mystery" of his son's origin.

Points to Jerry Goldsmith for a memorably creepy score & for the effective casting of a cherubic child actor as Damien. If you're looking for scares & logic, watch The Exorcist twice. Hell, watch The Exorcist 3 twice. 5 out of 10.

schmaltzy fun, 13 October 2001

There's not a thing about Serendipity that's as spontaneous nor as unpredictable as the movie's premise - two attached twentysomethings meet in a department store, have instant chemistry & rather than pursue the relationship any further, the female in the equation (Kate Beckinsale) decides to leave the possibility of reuniting to fate.

Why & how this happens is the premise of the entire film, and there's not a moment after this cute encounter that we don't see every just-missed reunion (and the inevitable conclusion) coming from miles & miles away. Despite this, Serendipity is very entertaining, mainly due to the inspired casting. John Cusack is typically endearing as the male lead & Beckinsale, sporting her own British accent for once, is charming & believable as the object of his desire. One would find it even more ridiculous that these two have been harping over each other for 10 years (count 'em), even despite the fact that both are coincidentally to be married to their respective beaus at around the same time, if not for the appeal of the actors portraying them.

The supporting cast lends a lot to the film's likeability - especially the always stellar Jeremy Piven as Cusack's sometimes overly supportive best pal. Molly Shannon, John Corbett & Eugene Levy also stand out in minor roles.

Serendipity is schmaltzy fun - you know exactly where you're going on this ride, but it's still a worthy adventure. 7 out of 10.

Stalag 17 (1953)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
gripping P.O.W. tale, 13 October 2001

What impresses the most about Stalag 17 is how it holds up after nearly 50 years & countless P.O.W. movies - mostly inferior - trailing behind it. Billy Wilder's account of the antics of the enlisted men of Barracks 4 is gripping & engrossing, due mainly to the Oscar-winning performance by William Holden as the headstrong shyster of the bunch who finds himself accused by his fellow soldiers of leaking info to the Nazis. Holden gives a tour-de-force performance & the rest of the cast lends able support.

Some parts of Stalag 17 disappoint - the method in which the mystery of the snitch unfolds doesn't meet the worthy standards of the rest of the plot. The Germans, especially Otto Preminger as the Commandant, come off as cartoonishly evil, and the Abbott & Costello-like antics of Robert Strauss & Harvey Lembeck become tiresome midway thru the film.

Still, though not the greatest P.O.W. film I've ever seen (The Great Escape, for one, is better), Stalag 17 is a worthy predecessor. 7 out of 10.

Tigerland (2000)
mesmerizing, 1 October 2001

Just when you thought you'd had enough of Vietnam movies, comes Tigerland, a refreshingly poignant coming-of-age film that follows a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears Army recruits in the days before they're to be shipped off to war.

Joel Schumacher recovers nicely from the car wreck otherwise known as Batman & Robin, invoking subtle performances from a cast of unknowns, led by the magnetic Colin Farrell as Private Bozz, a ne'er-do-well whose motives become clear as the movie unfolds. Matthew Davis is nearly as impressive as Bozz' thoughtful foil, a college boy who's in over his head as he & the other troops progress in their training. And he's not the only one - the mental unravelling of many of the grunts is both moving & mesmerizing. Though it would be easy for the story to tread familiar water & implement stereotypical plot development (soldiers going crazy, racial infighting, horny hookers, etc.), none of it becomes obtrusive. The cast is uniformly fine, tho most of the officers at boot camp are paper-thin cruel thugs. Nick Searcy, as a sly commanding officer & Cole Hauser, as the soldiers' no-nonsense instructor at Tigerland, stand out.

But the real star here is Farrell, who can do no wrong here. Recalling a young Mel Gibson (no coincidence he's Australian), Farrell shows why he's a superstar in the making & why we should look forward to seeing more of him in the future. 8 out of 10.

15 Minutes (2001)
nonsensical, 1 October 2001

The underlying "message" of 15 Minutes is that everyone wants what the title suggests - fifteen minutes of fame. Subsequently, people would kill - literally & figuratively - for said fame, killing makes people famous, and being famous can get you killed. Director John Herzfeld beats this point to a bloody pulp in the story of a celebrity cop & arson investigator hot on the trail (pun intended) of two media-brainwashed & none-too-bright foreign criminals.

If the plot or character development in 15 Minutes had been better thought out, the movie might have worked. Instead, it shoots itself in the foot at every turn. The movie spends so much time on the antics of the befuddled, yet deranged, killers that any chemistry between Robert DeNiro, as the cop, & Edward Burns, as the beleaguered fireman becomes incomplete & therefore unbelievable. The rest of the cast of characters are equally undeveloped & are replaced by celebrity cameos (Charlize Theron, Kim Cattrall, David Alan Grier) that are yawn-inducing. Kelsey Grammer, as a sleazy talk show anchor, is - and forever will be - Frasier, for better or worse. In 15 Minutes, it's for worse.

The ridiculously unsatisfying conclusion doesn't do much to ruin this nonsensical film, since I'd given up hope on it about 15 Minutes earlier. 4 out of 10.

MASH (1970)
17 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
unconventionally funny, 29 September 2001

While never a fan of the dry humor of the TV series & certainly too young to be an expert on the Korean War, MASH - the movie - comes off as an unconventionally funny & intriguing look at war thru the eyes of irreverent doctors in the kooky MASH unit.

Director Robert Altman never allows us to get seriously involved in the "war" aspect of this film - there are few, if any, poignant moments in regards to the actual battle in Korea. Instead, we follow the kooky exploits of the brilliant loose-cannon surgeons, led by Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould & Tom Skerritt. The entire cast is fantastic, especially Gould & Sutherland as motor-mouthed playboys undermining "authority" at every turn. Roger Bowen, Robert Duvall & Sally Kellerman are equally effective in supporting roles.

There are moments of outright hilarity throughout & the humor, though sometimes slapstick, is incredibly unconventional (dream sequences, breaking down the fourth wall & an effective scene involving the infamously haunting theme song performed by Johnny Mandel). MASH's only - and major - flaw is treating its subject matter with kid gloves. We behold dead or dying bodies in most scenes, blood spurts & pours on every gurney, yet every scene is a platform for comedy. And while I couldn't help but laugh, I couldn't help thinking that this was certainly not the norm of war, even in Korea. Then again, it's only a movie. And a pretty funny one at that. 6 out of 10.

8 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
voodoo doo-doo, 26 September 2001

In all fairness, I went into seeing The Believers with a glimmer of hope. A fervent horror fan, I looked forward to seeing a rare intellectual thriller. All the pieces were in place - a good cast (led by a usually stellar Martin Sheen), a renowned director (John Schlesinger) & the story of a police psychologist trying to pick up the pieces after his wife's premature & accidental death who gets involved, along with his son, in some occultish freakishness.

So where did The Believers go wrong? About halfway through, when Sheen's lonely Dad inexplicably & unbelievably takes up with the loopy landlady across the street (Helen Shaver). Not only is this an unwanted distraction to the plot, but the relationship moves WAY too quickly to be taken seriously in a 2-hour horror movie.

There are some scary moments, one coming within the first 5 minutes of the film, but the film loses its momentum as the discovery of what all this voodoo madness is all about unfolds. Like The Serpent & The Rainbow, logic & reason effortlessly give way to dark idols & poisoned dart silliness. The film's ominous conclusion tries too hard & becomes almost laughable.

Sheen is solid, but spends more than half the movie screaming at, to or for his son (another never-to-be-seen-again child actor who is 10 times more annoying than cute, making you wish that the bad guys eat him up before Martin starts filming Wall Street). Shaver sleepwalks through her thankless role, tho she's involved in one of the film's creepiest moments. A good supporting cast, including Robert Loggia, Richard Masur & a young Jimmy Smits are wasted.

Ultimately, The Believers is ambitious, but this voodoo doo-doo doesn't give you much to believe. 5 out of 10.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
mindless trash, 23 September 2001

At one pivotal point in this film, the primary "bad" guy, played against type by Kevin Costner, says aloud to himself "I can't f***ing believe this." He's not the only one. I found myself saying that about two dozen times while watching the 2 hours of mindless trash that ensued.

I tried to find one good thing about this piece of crap, and the best I can come up with is that Courtney Cox looks pretty damn hot. Otherwise, we're treated to countless explosions, bloody shootouts, hammy acting (especially by Costner as the badder-than-bad leader of a group of casino-robbing Elvis impersonaters), wooden dialogue & the most ridiculous & illogical plot twists you'll ever come across. This movie is a porno with a budget.

Kurt Russell tries hard as the bad guy with a conscience, but his biggest asset is his resemblance to Elvis Presley. Cox fills out a miniskirt nicely, but is otherwise horrible. A star-studded supporting cast is totally wasted, including Kevin Pollak & Thomas Haden Church as the lawmen woefully two steps behind the inept criminals. Are federal marshalls really this stupid?? These two spend way too much time exchanging witty banter to do any real policework, apparently. Christian Slater sinks deeper into the abyss with what measures up to be an extended cameo. And Costner is the worst offender, likely trying to shed his good guy image. He succeeds, but he still hasn't shed his bad actor in a bad movie image.

And the acting isn't even the worst part - this film is totally devoid of any logic whatsoever. Double & triple crosses in the incredibly underelaborate casino robbery become more & more preposterous as the plot unfolds & a storyline involving Costner possibly being the son of Elvis Presley falls particularly flat & goes entirely unresolved after the film's climactic bloodbath.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Skip this at all costs. Read a book...any book.

32 out of 42 people found the following review useful:
effective thriller, 15 September 2001

Just a sad reminder of how gripping thrillers were a dime-a-dozen in the 70's, as compared to the suspense-bankrupt modern day. 2 hours of entertainment & not one single explosion!! Jon Voigt once again establishes himself as one of the best actors of the decade in his principal role as the tenacious journalist bent on revenge. The film & its subject matter could have easily been more confusing, and tho some scenes defy logic (a supposedly lethal hit man is reduced to dunderhead status in the film's pivotal fight scene), the story steams ahead fluidly til the climactic denoument. This is Voigt's movie, but the supporting cast is effective in small roles, especially Maximillian Schell in his few scenes & Mary Tamm, as Voigt's along-for-the-ride girlfriend who also happens to be very easy on the eyes. And look, there's Derek Jacobi, long before he met Kenneth Branagh, in a tiny, yet pivotal role! Forge, Derek, forge!! Not as good as "The Conversation" but infinitely better than any movie starring Sharon Stone or Steven Seagal (or both). 7 out of 10.

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