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CurtMan@LVCM.com

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110 reviews in total 
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Life (1999/I)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Prison Riot, 28 December 2004
9/10

"Life" features the comic greatness of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, along with many other rising talents, in a comedy about two innocent, cantankerous Harlem-ites who are framed for a grisly murder in Mississippi circa the Depression, and find themselves incarcerated for life in an exceptionally hysterical, and sometimes endearing, film. "Mis-matched from the ghet-co", Ray Gibson and Claude Banks (Murphy and Lawrence, respectively) spend some "hard time" getting to know, detest, and finally, love, one another, while befriending fellow inmates Willie Long (the narrator), Jangle Leg (a riotous Bernie Mac), Biscuit, Goldmouth, "Can't Get Right" and others, and combating against the brutal (yet inane) prison system, while undertaking several schemes of escape. "Life" is sometimes hilarious, sometimes somber, sometimes nostalgic, and always entertaining. The comedic duo of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence is nothing short of sheer casting dynamite, and both comedians deliver some of their finest roles here. It's rife with whimsical southern dialect ("You go eat your cornbread?; "I da pappy"; etc.) and Eddie Murphy's raucous personality translates perfectly here ("Anyone mess around with me, it's gon' be consequences and repercussions!"); this is perhaps the most hysterical and amusing dialog ever written for a "southern comedy". Also worth commending is the exquisitely perfect makeup work of Rick Baker: Murphy and Lawrence as feuding "old folks"- only Baker could achieve such an infeasible task! "Life" is a genuinely hilarious, if conventional and clichéd, comedy, which delivers supremely on laughs, character development, and solid entertainment. See it for Murphy and Lawrence, if for nothing else. ***1/2 out of ****

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The Prudes meet the Perverts, 28 December 2004
6/10

"Meet the Fockers" is a semi-jovial, semi-obscene (and surprisingly crude) followup to its 2000 hilarious predecessor. While "Parents" featured the ungainly, hapless Greg (Stiller) taking pains to impress his soon-to-be in-laws the Byrnes (De Niro and Danner) with disastrous results, "Fockers" concentrates on the hysterical escapades of Greg and Pam's seemingly opposite parents: the Byrnes are prudent, stealthy, and leery, while the Fockers are, well... overzealous, excessively perverted, and free-spirited sunshiners; sounds like additional catastrophe for a Focker-Byrnes reunion! The Fockers (Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand) enjoy partying and sexual innuendo, while the Byrnes (and mostly Jack) strive to familiarize an innocuous baby boy to the complexities and mendacities of the real world. So ensues a sometimes amusing, if frothy and sexually obscene(from the director of "Austin Powers"!), which never quite achieves the shrewd "comic scenarios" that made its predecessor such an outrageous hit. It's a more zany and feudal affair, yet not necessarily laugh-out-loud hilarious. At times the Fockers Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand are more of an annoyance than a comedic relief, their propensities rife with the typical Hollywood overload of sexual innuendos and philosophical condescension, and I found their natures to be misplaced for a different genre of comedy other than an otherwise promising "in-laws fiasco". I would have rather enjoyed seeing these couples collide culturally and ethically, rather than the Fockers discussing their egregious intimate details at the table and around the house! Note to Mike Roach and writer John Hamburg: the original's premise of "I'm watching you" and "Who's outwitting who" was plenty more hilarious than "I'll give you a massage" and "keep the hat on the door when you're getting it on". There are moments of jovial comedy, ironically when DeNiro and Stiller are butting heads once again, with DeNiro determined to undermine and ruin his "unworthy atrocity of a son-in-law"; the height of comedy is where DeNiro injects a truth-telling serum into Stiller and Stiller finds himself on stage making rabid confessions. My favorite character here is of course, Jack Byrnes, every guy's worst nightmare for a father-in-law, constantly intimidating and threatening, planting hidden cameras around the house, and investigating personal background searches to destroy any chances you may have with his precious daughter- and DeNiro is exceedingly brilliant in this part. "Meet the Fockers" is a comedy which perhaps attempts to overdo its ingenious predecessor in expanding its resources beyond the diligent cleverness and compatibility that propelled "Parents" in injecting a trashy sexual joke or two into a perfectly effective mix of humor. It entertains not when Hoffman (whose character, all things considered, is good-natured) and Streisand (to me, a contemptible character) "get it on" both verbally and physically, but rather, when we realize that the Byrnes and the Fockers are virtually incompatible, and the ex-CIA (Central Un-intelligent Agency, according to Bernie Focker) watchdog Jack Byrnes declares, "I'm not so sure this wedding is a good idea. I don't like what I'm seeing from these Fockers." All-in-all, a comedy that tries too hard to achieve unnecessary hilarity and spoils a perfectly entertaining and hysterical premise, yet still supplying some moments of the jovial genius that was the premise of "Meet the Parents". Maybe the third installment should be "Meet the Kids" or "Meet the Dogs"... or perhaps the premise is expired enough. **1/2 out of ****

Mr. Deeds (2002)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Formulaic Sandler Romp, 16 December 2004
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Mr. Deeds" features the "versatile comic genius" of Adam Sandler as a countryside rube who somehow inherits $60 billion from his estranged uncle ("I didn't know I had an uncle")'s will, and travels to the Big Apple to tangle with ruthless city slickers and corporate thieves out to bereave him of his fortunes. In a film that is rife with bland formula (lowly innocent receives fortune, spends as he pleases, hires eccentric, yet amiable butler, meets girl, falls in love, discovers she only digs him for her profession and his money, loses fortune to villain (Peter Gallagher), reclaims fame and fortune through emotionally connecting to avaricious board members, falls back in love, is a renowned hero and stud), it's unlikely your going to admire this film for originality, or even charm, for this is simply an enticing concept executed with a bland formula that is hardly buoyed by the dismal acting of Sandler and Wyona Ryder, and certainly lacks any wit and ingenuity in its screenplay. To keep it pithy, "Mr. Deeds" is about as original and charming as white plaster on a wall. And it even exhausts itself of decent material after awhile, an awfully indolent flow of ideas, if you ask me! Despite his noble intentions, couldn't Deeds spend more of his billions on whims rather than charity (hey, it's supposed to be an amusing comedy, and what's the fun in seeing a "regular billionaire"?). Yet, for all of its many deficiencies, there are some bearable elements to be found here. The scenes with the butler (John Tuturro) are fairly amusing (especially when he hammers Deeds' peculiar foot), and are the comedic height of the film. Hey, even the scene with Deeds outfoxing the Wall Street tycoons in the end is, only a few $billion short of inspiring. Yet, most of "Mr. Deeds" is rife with formula, cloying gags, implausibility, and is essentially a typical Sandler circus, featuring (you guessed it) many of his costars from previous films. I have yet to view the original 1939 classic from which this drek is inspired, yet I am certain this is a travesty of a classic concept in comparison with that film. If you enjoy routine Sandler humor, Sandler material, Sandler formula, and Sandler resolutions, then you'll find this comedy "delightfully funny". For anyone else, this is simply a cinematic ally and intellectually "bankrupt" billionaire romp with few moments of appraisal and interest. Avoid "Mr. Deeds"; see the original instead: I'm sure it is leaps and bounds better than this! *1/2 out of ****

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
"Honest" Politician Saves the Day, 16 December 2004
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" is chiefly about the right and duty of every American to stand tenaciously for their beliefs, for the truth, and for their defense. Jimmy Stewart plays a naive, yet gentle-hearted and popular icon named Jefferson Smith who realizes that the political office can be effective and reverent if it operates solely for the people, rather than "grash" or entrenched special interests. Selected by Virginia political bigshot Jim Taylor (who influences every affair in state, from the political landscape to the savage press, and in turn Gov. Hubert Hopper) to succeed a perished senator, Mr. Smith goes to Washington oblivious as to the sordid and ruthless operation of Congress, and merely remarks how he is stupefied by the glory of the Capitol Building, enthralled by a visit to the Lincoln Monument, greatly reveres his colleague, Senator Joseph Paine, and wants to perform only the best for the citizens of his state. An exceedingly nervous and modest fellow (perhaps not entirely apt for brutal Senate speech and debate), when he meets Senator Paine's gorgeous daughter, he fondles with his hat and occasionally drops it to the ground, which gives the viewer the distinct idea that if he hasn't the backbone to regularly converse with an attractive woman, then how can he possibly survive the trials and hardships of the United States Senate. His secretary, Clarissa Saunders, initially doesn't believe in his "superficial modesty", yet is later captivated by his poetic innocence and honesty and assists him in creating propositions and offering advice, while secretly falling head over heels for him. During his first day in Congress, Smith trembles relentlessly in presenting his case for the construction of a National Boy's Camp, and is scoffed and humiliated by 96 members of the Senate. It turns out that his noble aspirations may be in peril, when it is revealed that a dam will be constructed in the appropriated place of his idea. Thus ensues a heartwarming, hilarious, and incendiary confrontation between the innocuous, noble Mr. Smith and the rest of the corrupted U.S. Senate, including the notorious and sordid Jim Taylor, in a captivating look at how democracy and goodness prevails when honest, tenacious men stand their ground, stand up for their beliefs, and act impervious to any derision of their enterprise. It may be at times overly condescending, sentimental and somewhat politically pretentious and fantastic, but "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" contains a noble statement about democracy and teaches us that it is "the lost causes that are worth fighting for". In Jefferson Smith, we see a hero, standing courageously, against all odds, for the honor and good will of representation. A fine and noble film indeed that is definitely a political classic. ***1/2 out of ****

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
The Gang's All Back, Taking Europe By "Ocean"!, 13 December 2004
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***POSSIBLE SPOILERS*** "Ocean's Twelve" reunites Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his previously assembled gang of peculiar thieves, by the name of Ocean's Eleven. It seems that their ruthless victim Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) uncovered their doings and somehow all of their identities, and has a grudge against them along with an urgent threat: pay up or ship out. Thus ensues yet another ingenious scheme by Ocean's Eleven (this time around, as the title suggests, a "twelfth member", Tess Ocean (Julia Roberts) plays a somewhat dominant (and amusing) role in the plot), to rob a prized "golden egg" from a European museum, once again, a seemingly infeasible task which can only be perpetrated by the most cunning, collected, suave, and industrial of minds, as this gang has proved itself to be. A romantic interest for Rusty (Brad Pitt) with the luscious, yet officious Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones), as well as a new nemesis known as the Night Fox, are just some of the new developments of this splendid crime caper franchise. With a less engineered and more liberated plot structure than its predecessor, "Ocean's Twelve" is not quite as sensational and rewarding, lacking much of the energy and originality, as well as character structure, where the original triumphed. Whereas the first heist was an elaborate, critical operation, the museum heist is more of an intricate game, a jigsaw (even in its logic) and practically a charade with the cunning and elusive Night Fox, and there is significantly less attention devoted to the actual heist than its perplexing, yet engaging, design. Although a few of "Ocean's Eleven" (now Twelve) play a more "central role" in the action (e.g. Linus (Damon) and Tess (Roberts), many of the characters are merely around for show and hardly serve a purpose in the actual heist. And speaking of the heist, the details to the "surprise ending" couldn't be detected by the keenest of observers, at least until the end, which can be either be a baffling and illogical excuse for a resolution, or an exceedingly clever plot structure, that marvelously pieces together every "invisible" detail of the heist as an explanation to how the gang "outfoxed" the Night Fox. Featuring the usual industrial, meticulous, and prudent direction of Steven Soderberg, whose gritty editing translates as pure energy to an exceedingly exciting premise, some fine and jovial acting from all of the leads, adept and subtle plot structure, and a very awesome and stimulating score, "Ocean's Twelve", while not quite equaling its excellent predecessor, is definitely a solid piece of high octane, feel-good, debonair entertainment, and it's enticing, exhilarating, and sexy- a must-see for fans of crime caper films and great escapist fare for the holiday season! ***1/2 out of ****

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Splendid Visuals, Perplexing Story, 12 December 2004

"Minority Report" features the typical science fiction innovation of over-the-top technology circa Steven Spielberg's vision of 2050 America: jumping scanners, perilous highway sectors, flying and tracking robots, booster rockets, and of course, advanced PreCrime technology that enables police officers to thwart homicides before they even occur and apprehend the suspect from committing the crime ever again. This system has been proved effective (not a single murder has occurred in the greater Washington D.C. area in several years), yet just when PreCrime is about to expand its divisions nationally, something horrible and seemingly irrevocable occurs: its chief official, John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is prognosticated to be the perpetrator of the murder of a complete stranger, Leo Crow, within 24 hours. Having recently lost his son to abduction, currently depressed with drugs and sobbing away at the memory of his "happy family", this recent development succeeds in devastating and enraging John Anderton. Thus ensues a ruthless chase by the system to apprehend a "certain, yet confused" suspect. John of course is bemused and frightened at this indictment of murder, and will stop at virtually nothing, dodging his former "allies against crime", altering parts of his body to elude security detectors, and abducting a primal "precog" (humans programmed to mind censors in pools to prognosticate murders) Agatha (Samantha Morton) to escape his captors and discover the truth behind his indictment in this mysterious and baffling murder. Rife with fascinating "who dunnit" scenarios, classic chase sequences, and plot contortions galore, yet featuring a perplexing and somewhat unresolved conclusion, "Minority Report" is an exceptional, if perplexing, piece of science fiction suspense that is entertaining, inquisitive, deceiving and wildly provocative. Spielberg's direction is remarkably stirring and subtle, and is orchestrated without much of his signature regard to sentimentality, but rather, criminality. Tom Cruise is attractive and menacing as John Anderton, as an innocent, yet perturbed fugitive on the lam sorting the pieces of PreCrime together. Colin Ferrell is sharp and engaging as the "villain" Witwer seeking to steal Anderton's position and capture him with malice and eagerness. "Minority Report" is an enjoyable and fascinating, if perplexing and disjointed, science fiction thriller that is entertaining through and through and a genuine thinking man's futuristic whodunnit. *** out of ****

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Charming, Innocuous Fluff, 9 December 2004

"Maid in Manhattan" doesn't disguise itself as a sophisticated journey into the delves of the romantic soul, nor does it even attempt to get its audience very acquainted with the reason behind the strange romance of an ambitious, dauntless maid (Jennifer Lopez) and a sympathetic, power-hungry politician (oxymoron!), yet presents a tale so harmless and occasionally enjoyable, that it can be received like a Cinderella fairy tale: a sugary (if tasteless) romantic comedy. Marisa Ventura (Lopez) is a maid in Manhattan (the titular character), with greater ambitions in life than her current position, and a precocious, curious son to care for. One day, in a "fantasy world of her own", Ventura tries on the dress of one of her prestigious guests, Caroline Lane, and, awstricken by starling politician Chris Marshall (Ralph Fiennes) fancying her in a lavish beauty, assumes her guest's identity and the maid and the politician stroll through the park and soonafter discover they are "magically in love". Remember, this premise shouldn't be taken seriously beyond a Disney fantasy: it's actually quite enjoyable watching the two elope when you disregard preconceptions about "stately romance". A fantastic, if frequently interrupted romance, ensues between the two, in a most conventional, and hardly capricious modern day fairy tale. The acting nods lack much chemistry, but the dialog between them is sufficient enough to compensate for the incredibility of the affair. "Maid in Manhattan", if not taken too seriously or critically, is at least a charming, innocuous love story featured in an exceedingly dazzling setting (perhaps I have a propensity for New York films), and despite being very implausible and entirely superficial, it is interesting and enjoyable enough to warrant a bordering recommendation, and the delightful Bob Hoskins alone provides enough grandeur to compensate for much of "Maid"'s deficiencies. *** out of ****

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Somber Performances + Meticulous Direction = Heartfelt Tragedy, 8 December 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***POSSIBLE SPOILERS*** "Mystic River" delicately tells a somber tale of murder, suspicion, and betrayal, in chronicling three Boston boyhood friends (Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon) who are entangled in a web of turmoil and mixed emotions proceeding the tragic slaying of the former's daughter. Their worlds have shattered since the murder, and what bond they may have developed in childhood seems to have been breached, as friends become fiends and conversations become confrontations, in the search for the killer of Jimmy Markum (Penn)'s daughter. Enduring a tormented childhood, in having been abducted and apparently reformed ("I don't know who came out of that car, but it wasn't me"), Dave Boyle (Robbins) soon becomes chiefly suspect in the murder, as his countenance and demeanor seem to indict him with such a heinous enterprise with good suspicion. Thus ensues a somber study of grievance, trust, question, and ultimately, tragedy. Eastwood's powerful, meticulous direction and study of character (from Markum, Boyle, and Devine), to their respective love interests, to those earlier sore acquaintances who might have played a hand in the murder, through adept, clever, and human dialog, and an effective darkness of setting, supplying the dismal tone of the events at hand, along with the somber, remorseful, genuine performances (particularly by Penn and Robbins), makes "Mystic River" an odyssey of the abysmal worth embarking upon. It packs an effusive emotional punch in all of its efforts, and enables the audience to become engaged by literally everything the characters undergo, in this "Mystic River" of grievance, suspicion, and repentance, in a genuine human study of even the most adjacent of subjects (best friends) enduring worlds of tragedy on their own. Though somewhat lacking a fulfilling resolution, I would give "Mystic River" high marks as being an exceedingly critical and heartfelt telling of a most somber and tragic chain of events. ***1/2 out of ****

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Yuppie by day, Gigolo by nightfall, Bloodthursty Killer by heart, 30 November 2004

"American Psycho" is a grotesque and satirical fabrication of the deception and tolerance of society and what is designed to unleash our wrath against complying with the social crowd and conformity. This is a gory, yet honest tale of a self-obsessed, arrogant, and repulsive New York yuppie (Christian Bale) in 1980s Wall Street, who wakes up behind a mask, is addicted to cleansing and grooming, listens objectively to Phil Collins music, goes to work, inflicts his verbal rage upon his clientele and friends, arrives back at his penthouse apartment with a lady friend or two, and proceeds to literally mutilate his company, as the cycle goes every day. We can hardly sympathize or even begin to understand this man (Patrick Bateman)'s troubles, frustrations, and compulsive wraths, for he hasn't anything to be infuriated about: he's young, dashing, rich, and can afford any possession or woman of his desire; when his violent rampages manifest, it's anyone's guess as to who or what is perturbing Bateman: perhaps he is manufacturing rages for no apparent reason other than out of sheer boredom and lack of interest. He is one of the most arrogant, superficial, vapid, and utterly detestable figures imaginable, and if we weren't conscious of his fascination with Phil Collins and his adoration with looking petite, we might surmise that Bateman hasn't any sensibilities and is virtually inhuman, making him more of a creature than a man. "American Psycho" is perhaps a social commentary on how appearances can be very deceiving: as oblivious characters are enticed into the deranged trap of Bateman, they can only mistake him as being a regular, well-to-do man, without any noticeable deficiencies or dangers, which we realize is quite the contrary to the figure we have come to know and loathe. The film doesn't demand or even any sympathy or understanding for Bateman, but rather, acknowledges his various victims, who are regular dupes in the social landscape of America: they (particularly prostitutes) don't really become acquainted with someone, and yet make themselves perfectly available for a deranged psycho such as Bateman, to have them in their possession and proceed, unsuspected by them, to decapitate their body! This is a chilling, engaging, and ultimately surprising film that sometimes gives overabundant weight to its subject (in the purpose of having us despise his repulsive tendencies), and not enough insight as to the reasons behind his psychopathic behavior. Yet perhaps this is excusable, because some psychopathic figures are not worth examining for their inconceivable features, as they haven't any conscience to examine! Christian Bale is fantastically loathsome as Patrick Bateman, in a film that defies to manufacture excuses or insights for its subject's insanity, but rather, suggests that his actions are all concoctions of his own bewildering, despicable, nature. What an "American Psycho"! ***1/2 out of ****

Sideways (2004)
1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Sour Grapes, 28 November 2004
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***POSSIBLE SPOILERS*** "Sideways" is an all around excellent film and story- a funny, endearing, entertaining concoction of human exploration, reflection, development, confusion... brilliantly acted, written and richly perfected in almost every respect: it's an irresistibly and brilliantly clever piece of genius. Following a frustrated and agitated, yet unusually eloquent and erudite "wine expert" (Paul Giamatti) and his virtual opposite shallow, gregarious, and hollow best friend (Thomas Haden Church), as they venture the fascinating and gorgeous California countryside touring wine factories, meeting and romancing women (though the latter is engaged), and reflecting on the bemusements of life, and experience a week's adventure different than either had anticipated. The former is delighted (albeit hardly ecstatic) about the prospects of his novel becoming published, and this scheme provides the two friends with a reason to celebrate, and as Jack (Church) explicitly phrases it: party and get laid. Miles (Giamatti) is very conscious, yet subdued, exploding with ideas yet adrift about his own seemingly pathetic existence. At one point he exclaims, "I am nothing" proceeding a very unfortunate series of events, and believes he is a "smudge of excrement upon a skyscraper". For Miles, this is a journey of self-exploration, enlightenment, and realization: he is unhappily divorced and tepid about becoming romantically involved with any woman, even with a woman who seems to take a remarkable fancy to him, and is his compliment in the knowledge of wine and its ineffable, brilliant design, taste and spirit. His precarious (engaged) friend Jack, on the other hand, encounters a waitress on their trip (Sandra Oh), and professes his "dying love" to her after merely a day of rather unadulterated acquaintance, and hardly takes a moment to reflect upon his "love", to whom he is about to marry. This is a remarkably clever and carefully structured character study- of realizing the importance of existence and placement in the world, and of seizing opportunities and making the very best of life, even when overwhelming adversities hardly enable one to appreciate happiness, much less, their own existence. The direction is sometimes adroitly concentrative, and often fragmented, in scenes of drama, and pertains to the sometimes mellow and facile, sometimes serious and consequential themes achieved by various happy and depressing circumstances. The writing is absolutely brilliant and very human: it covers practically every human emotion with all the adulteration, honesty, pragmatism, wit and wisdom you might imagine. There are scenes of hilarity (Jack getting scarred by his angry girlfriend, Miles retrieving his wallet) and scenes of depth and reflection (Maya reflecting on the values of wine, Miles relating his miseries and hapless existence to Maya), and "Sideways" is an all around beautiful, enjoyable, endearing, and wholly entertaining work of human character as developed by circumstance, decision, and fate. We feel compassion and sorrow for Miles because we realize his troubles are hardly his faults, and that his kindness and wisdom should be received more fairly than his existence allows. Kudos to Alexander Payne for an absorbing and adulterated screenplay, Thomas Haden Church for his genial and hilarious comic relief in his role as Jack, and Paul Giamatti in his insightful and neurotic performance as Miles, in a film that is guaranteed to be remembered and appreciated at the coming of Oscar season. "Sideways" is a truly wonderful "slice of life" masterpiece. **** out of ****


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