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23 reviews in total 
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45 out of 54 people found the following review useful:
Woody and Wesley when dey was cool, 12 March 2005

Undeniably Hoosiers would get the win, if they ever polled film buffs and critics asking what the best movie is revolving around basketball. Hoosiers, the movie about a failing Indiana high school basketball team being led to success by their new coach played by Gene Hackman and the drunken assistant coach (Dennis Hooper) has enjoyed its fair share of the spotlight. Granted the field of movies about basketball isn't nearly as deep as say movies with plots concerning baseball or boxing, Hoosiers still generally beats out what little competition there is.

However in my opinion the best movie to ever capture the game of hoops is the criminally underrated and underseen White Men Can't Jump, by director Ron Shelton. Shelton also brought us the more popular baseball film Bull Durham and the golf flick Tin Cup. But I'd argue White Men Can't Jump is his centerpiece. The story revolves around two street court b-ball hustlers. One new in town, smooth, and white (Woody Harrelson), undoubtedly to his advantage. The other man, a black, a veteran of the LA courts, and fast-talking (Wesley Snipes). After Harrelson hustles Snipes the two form an unlikely partnership "ebony and ivory" but as always it is on edge and lacks a required amount of trust.

For a film that was released in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating and the L.A. riots and just before the O.J. Simpson debacle, White Men Can't Jump is surprisingly mature, witty, light hearted and open-minded in its approach to the race issue. Ron Shelton's dialogue is amazingly rapid fire and smart. It bites and certainly has a sting to it, but it's all in good fun. The multi-flamboyant personalities on the outdoor L.A. street courts hustler each other, crack "yo-mama" jokes with one another, and try to look better than the other. This is the movie that really put Wesley Snipes on the map and showed that Woody Harrelson was far more than just another face in the "Cheers" ensemble. Both provide excellent work in not only playing the characters but also learning how to play basketball and talk like actual street hustlers. There's very few standins here. Both Snipes and Harrelson learned to play the sport as well as any actor could be expected to. Rosie Perez is good as Harrelson's annoying and overbearing Puerto Rican girlfriend. If any one word can describe White Men Can't Jump, that word is "fun." The movie tackles serious issues like hustling, family, relationships, race, life in poverty, and gambling debts. However if Robert Rossen's pool hall film The Hustler presented the dark side of the life, Ron Shelton's White Men Can't Jump shows the flip side of the coin. How hustling can be fun and games.

Grade: A-

27 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
Spielberg eat your heart out, this is a real feel good movie, 12 March 2005

Not to be confused with that T.V. show thing. King of the Hill is one of the most vivid film experiences I remember as a child. No, I wasn't lucky enough to catch it on the big screen. Instead I rented it and watched it one night and was totally absorbed into it. Jesse Bradford, despite his current film career, did a damn fine job as Aaron Kurlander, a young boy struggling to survive during the Great Depression. He uses his wits and imagination to make the best out of the worst of times. Bradford was 12 or 13 years old at the time he filmed the movie and as an actor it must've been a heavy burden. The main focus is on him as its his story and shown from his point of view. Bradford doesn't let the ball drop once and more than carries his weight. It's another one of those rare great child performances. Jeroen Krabbé plays Aaron's (Bradford) father who is a struggling traveling salesman. Lisa Eichhorn plays his mentally unstable mother who goes in and out of various institutions. Rounding out the cast of the interesting people that fill Aaron's life are Karen Allen as the warm and understanding school teacher, Cameron Boyd his younger brother, Adrien Brody as the "cool" big brother figure, John McConnell as the fat and troublesome patrol cop, Elizabeth McGovern as a prostitute working in the same hotel Aaron lives at, and Spalding Gray as her creepy, manipulative, and suicidal pimp. So yes the film is filled to the brim with worth while supporting players adding so much depth and dimension to Aaron's world.

Soderbergh had double duty as writer and director. He scripted the novel by A.E. Hotchner and I think it's his best film. As I mentioned it takes place during the Great Depression in St. Louis Missouri. Watching Aaron fight for survival is one of the best charms of the film. It's done realistically. The audience is able to believe his methods. There's a nice mix of drama, dark somber humor and dire situations, but there's also enough humanity and hope in the movie to send an uplifting message. For those who enjoy Andy Dufresne's message of hope and persaverence in the more widely known The Shawshank Redemption, seek out this film. I would argue it's even superior to Frank Darabont's movie. It's one of the great and underrated modern films and ranks with the best using the Great Depression setting. Sadly King of the Hill isn't released yet on DVD and it's not very likely that you'll be able to find it at your local video store. Especially if all you have is the local communist Blockbuster near you. Anyway, King of the Hill should be regarded and known far more highly than what it is. It's a sin for a movie this great to not get its due.

Grade: A+

83 out of 95 people found the following review useful:
A tale of redemption, 26 February 2005

Paris Texas is a slow, moody, and delicate study about a man who once ran away from everything and now is coming to terms with himself and learning to forgive himself, by finally facing he people he turned his back on. The Wim Wenders directed movie still today rests in a fairly under recognized status, which doesn't stretch the term "cult classic" when applied to it. Paris, Texas is about redemption, the road, family, and the bleakness of the American Southwest. It contains one of the most memorable and unusual openings ever. We hear Ry Cooder's lonely single note twangy guitar on the soundtrack with cinematographer Robby Müller (Barfly, To Live and Die in L.A. , Dead Man) capturing the majestic vistas, rock formations, and the open desert in his camera. Actor Harry Dean Stanton walks out of the dry and desolate landscape, wearing a wornout black sports jacket and dusty red baseball cap. It's a beautifully staged opening sequence. A perfect start to a perfect movie. This man is lost and in need of being found. It's his brother played by actor Dean Stockwell ("Quantum Leap", Blue Velvet) who gets word of Stanton's whereabouts and goes after him, which begins the journey of redemption. Nastassja Kinski plays Stanton's young x-wife and the true love of his life. Kinski, the daughter of legendary German actor Klaus Kinski, doesn't make her entrance into the film until the later reels, but her lingering presence is felt throughout. It's almost the same type of thing that Coppola did by not having Brando appear in Apocalypse Now until the conclusion. The scenes that Kinski does have in the end with Stanton are some of the best moments ever captured on film. They're highly emotional and will cause even the most hard-hearted to shed a tear. Both Stanton and Kinski are very subtle and understated in their acting. It's true to their characters. Eight year old Hunter Carson plays Stanton's biological son, who was raised by his uncle (Stockwell). Carson certainly deserves mention in any conversation about great child performances on film. Paris, Texas is a masterpiece. There's no way around it. It's a movie that slowly reveals itself putting the audience right in the shoes of Stanton, who also is trying to remember his past and face it. The story was penned by playwright and actor Sam Shepard, though he doesn't appear in the film. Shepard, a very good playwright, has outdone himself with Paris, Texas surpassing his perhaps more well known, True West. Paris, Texas is a film that must not only be seen, but experienced. Sure the pacing is extremely slow, but as an audience member, use that to your advantage to suck in the picturesque orange southwest desert against the deep blue skys, and the poignant acting, and haunting soundtrack. There's no reason not to treat yourself to this uniquely American masterpiece meditation. It would make a great nightcap for a triple feature with two other simular themed American films, The Searchers and Taxi Driver.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A rare gem of a movie, 24 February 2005

Sophia Coppola's feature film debut in the director's chair is a unique accomplishment. The movie is extremely stylized both in look and subject matter. It follows the lives of several young sisters coming of age and a group of neighborhood boys who become fascinated with the enigmatic and youthful beauties living next door. The movie takes place in the 1970's and it's obvious a labor of love for Sophia Coppola as she paints the film along with Edward Lachman's gorgeous cinematography as a sort of dreamscape walk through a distant memory. It's an enchanting and surreal vision of the moment in time, which these sisters and their infatuated neighbor boys grew up in. Kirsten Dunst is remarkable playing one of the Lisbon sisters, who is the only of the bunch who dares to defy their wicked mother played by Kathleen Turner. Turner is good as the ridiculously strict mother who wants to keep her girls locked away and virginal for seemingly an eternity. James Woods plays the well to do hen-pecked father, who also happens to teach. Teaching is his only means of communicating. In any real conversation or situation he is extremely awkward and uncomfortable, as he is when trying to side with Josh Hartnett when he pleads his case to court Dunst. Woods is a highly versatile actor and shows how good he can be outside of his typecast tough guy roles. The Virgin Suicides showcases him at the top of his game. Oh and of course, the suicides. And this is where the movie does an excellent job. It shows the traumatic day-to-day struggles of what it might be like to be a teenage girl when your emotions and hormones are firing on all cylinders and each day is a monumental struggle just to keep your sanity. Kirsten Dunst is a revelation in her role as Lux Lisbon and recaptures the brilliance she showed at an early age in Interview With the Vampire. Dunst is a true combination of talent, instinct, and beauty. The surreal film is done with so much style and grace that it's breathtaking. It's beautiful movie to look at and has a way of speaking to the audience through the hazy mind state of dreams and memories as few films can.

62 out of 79 people found the following review useful:
Jean Seberg weaves her magical charm on the viewer like none other., 15 November 2004

Jean Seberg is an absolute joy. I just wanna give her a big fat hug and kiss... well that's just two things anyway. What makes Otto Preminger's film so wonderful is that Seberg is the right age to play the part of a spoiled rich girl coming of age. Also the film is given an authenticity and heart because it was written by Françoise Sagan when she was the same age as Cecile (Seberg). That's right, this amazing and brilliant work was penned by a 17-year old.

The plot is fairly standard. A young girl living with her playboy father becomes jealous of his new love and when marriage is proposed she does her best to break it up. Gee nothing remarkable there. What is remarkable is the characters and their relationships. They have an extra amount of depth and the situation between Cecile and her father, Raymond (David Niven) borders on the incestuous. This gives it an added dimension and depth when Anne (Deborah Kerr) threatens to "steal" her father away. Another place where it avoids clichés is dealing with Anne. Kerr plays her magnificently and with a warm passion. She is not the wicked step mother here, but a sympathetic and self sacrificing woman who wants to bring love and stability into Cecile and Raymond's morally ambiguous and flighty lifestyle. This film while a modest success in America was a huge hit in Europe and inspired Jean-Luc Godard to work with Seberg.

Bonjour Tristesse also foreshadowed the films dealing with the idle rich that quickly popped up in its wake including two masterpieces, Antonioni's L'avventura and Fellini's La Dolce Vita. Preminger directs Bonjour Tristesse with a sure hand and I love how the flashbacks are in color and the present day scenes are in a somber black and white to fit with the mood. Oh and yes the story is told in flashback for the most part and the technique along with Seberg's narration gives a heightened sense of loss that Cecile and Raymond feel towards the events that transpired concerning Anne. Remarkable film and Seberg is so delightful and hot running around in her bathing suit practically the whole time.

Grade: A

Lilith (1964)
47 out of 55 people found the following review useful:
One of cinema's most under-appreciated, 15 November 2004

Jean Seberg is absolutely captivating in this film. Yes despite the wig she wears, due to the fact her hair was cropped short for her previous films, she is as lovely as ever. One of my favorite films of all time and certainly the best one that deals with insanity in and honest and true way, not only avoiding the cliché' but completely reversing it and debunking the stereotype. Robert Rossen is a great director, one of history's most under-appreciated and few others could helm this story the way he does. Based on the novel by J.R. Salamanca, the story is of a young war vetern who returns home and seeks a job at the local mental institute. There he gets too involved with several of the patients and learns much about their past, which reflects the tragedy in his own life involving his mother.

It's true Warren Beatty does play the role blandly and stiff. While that's a turn off for many people watching the film, I think they fail to understand that just like Ryan O'Neil in Barry Lyndon, it's the character they're playing. Not the actor and certainly not the direction. Wonderful supporting cast from Kim Hunter and Peter Fonda as well as a brilliant cameo by Gene Hackman, which oozes of a marriage gone sour in his bit part.

It's a very hard film to figure out because so much is left untold and rightfully so leaving the audience to decide what happened. Playing on the fable of the past coming back to haunt us it plays deeply on buried memories and traumatic life experiences that were covered up rather than confronted. There is so much positive to say about this amazing film, but even so it's actress Jean Seberg that is the crown jewell in this picture. Criminally underseen, now that it is on DVD anyone interested in deep character studies should make it a point to watch this ASAP.

Rollerball (1975)
5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Forget the silly remake and the fact it was made into a real sport. This is a good movie., 15 November 2004

Sadly when people hear the word Rollerball, there may be a stigma attached to it. Reasons may either be the association with the awful movie released several years ago and the silly stuff on TNN. However before it was a lame attempt at being a "hip" and "cool" LL Cool J movie and before it was the second favorite sport of rednecks nation wide, behind Nascar of course, it was a darn good film from 1975. James Caan stars in Rollerball and if you can forget the silly remake and the fact that audiences completely missed the message and that the thing was adapted into a real "sport" then you're in for a treat. This another one of those movies that dabble in the future with a utopian or dystopia (depending on your view) world. The setting is 2018 and big cooperations have taken over the world and left countries and nations a thing of the past. There's no violence or war, but there is rollerball.

Rollerball is a brutal sport where almost anything goes and the players are expendable, but it does draw huge crowds. Jonathan E. a 10-year veteran of the sport, rises above the norm and becomes an icon, bigger than the game itself. The cooperations don't want the individual player to be the important thing nor to advance into upper "executive" social class, so they scheme to get him to retire. Rollerball doesn't pull any punches. James Caan is great as the weathered veteran. The action sequences are tight and thrilling and the set pieces and futuristic designs still look fresh today.

It's not only a fun action movie, but it does have a message warning against violence in sports and the danger of commercializing them. Unfortunately it's all too clear that the message of the film was all but ignored. A real sport came of it, companies are paying millions for a few seconds of time during the Superbowl, the commercials are as important as the game, and championship boxing fights can only be seen on payperview. Yeah this movie wasn't far off.

Grade: A-

Bird (1988)
13 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Eastwood proves he's one of America's best directors. Simply brilliant., 15 November 2004

A dark and atmospheric biopic on jazz legend Charlie Parker, who with his fast improvisational style formed the sub-genre of bebop. Clint Eastwood directed this movie with a heart and passion that reflects back to his own love of the music which he has carried with him all his life and played a role in all his work. Eastwood himself actually was fortunate to have seen Charlie "Bird" Parker play in when he was alive. The film chronicles his life and has a tight focus on his self destructive behavior and the music itself. Bird explores the highs and lows of his journey. Playing to a sold out house in Paris, playing alongside Dizzy Gillespie, and earning a respect that few other musicians have matched. In contrast we see his heroine addiction, his suffering and depression resulting in several suicide attempts, the death of his daughter, and his wife's loving struggle to help save a man who's ill-fate was inevitable and irreversible.

Forest Whitaker plays Bird with a lot of heart and soul. Even though I have no idea if it was an accurate portrayal in capturing the man's nuances, Whitaker's interpretation was superlative. Equally as good was Diane Venora as Bird's wife, who found enough strength for the both of them and tried to hold the family together in an un-winnable battle. There's lots of rain, lots of dark nightclubs, lots of street lamps reflecting the soaked streets, and lots of feeling in this one. Having just watched another biopic, that one on Ray Charles, it's clear to see Eastwood's was the real deal, whereas Ray was merely decent.

Grade: A+

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Redford's misstep., 14 November 2004

Robert Redford whispers to horses. For about three hours he whispers to them, which really isn't so much whispering as it is looking them in the eye like he's trying to seduce and bed them down. It's a silly plot about a horse healer or some such thing and a mother and a child who moved from New York to Montana to see him. The child (Scarlett Johansson) and the mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) are facing a difficult time. Johansson was in an accident during a horse riding adventure and hit by a semitruck. Johansson ends up losing her leg, while the horse losses its sanity and has an apparent mental breakdown. Yeah that's right. It's a movie about a horse with mental problems. About that and the "deeper" meaning of a mother reconciling with her daughter. Yay! Luckily Robert Redford who plays the down home, living the simple life on a ranch guro comes to their rescue after they seek him out.

The movie has some great scenery and photography but so do all them commercials that advertise that you should go to Montana on vacation. Lots of mountains, grass, and cloudy sky seen time and time again with panoramic shots let us know what a great place Montana truly is. As I write this now, I'm tempted to say to hell with all this technology rubbish, toss out the computer and head out to Montana to find myself by working on a ranch, talking to disturbed horses, riding in slow motion on the prairie, and shoveling horse s**t, not worry about getting too smelly cause I can always go bathe in the crystal clear steam which conveniently runs through the backyard which happens to consist of about 1,000,000 acres. Yes the city and even the rural areas are great. But living in a town you can't shovel horse s**t or talk to them.

The Horse Whisperer is 3 hours long but it really should only be about 80 minutes. Since much of the movie is landscape shots, horses running around in slow motion, and just about everything else in slow motion... I figure there's only about a little more than an hours worth of actual movie. It reminded me of another Redford film, A River Runs Through It, but unlike that movie this one really doesn't have a set course. And naturally we have a love story. Robert Redford is in this thing ya know. Kristen Scott Thomas falls in love with him even though she's married to Sam Neill's character. You remember Sam Neill right? He's that actor doomed to the Jurassic Park franchise, three equally as boring films. The Horse Whisperer manages to be about the most melodramatic and soap operaish thing you've ever seen and does so without any "Quite frankly my dear" scenes. Instead it follows the pathetic formula of the worst lifetime movie falling in love story. We get the looks across the room, we get the slow dance set to a sad country music song, just about anything that applies to the word "sappy." So I don't know what's worse the horse story, the little girl/mother story or the married woman falling in love with Robert Redford story. Pick any of em' and they're equally clichéd to hell. This is one movie that just goes on, and on, and on and nothing really moves forward. Just lots of uninteresting sentimentality, slow motion, closeups, and mountains. I'd rather shovel horse s**t. That'd be less boring.

Grade: D -

Ray (2004/I)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Decent, but certainly has its flaws, 14 November 2004

Jamie Foxx plays Ray Charles in this biopic and along with Collateral, it's his one-two punch, knocking his way into dramatic roles. With Ray, since he worked with the man himself it's difficult to determine whether he's creating something here or doing an excellent job of interpreting. And that's really the age old question of acting, is it a creative art or an interpretive art. If it's in interpretive then Foxx does a good job playing the man, because he mimics his voice, pronunciations, movements, and mannerisms down to a T. It doesn't hurt much either that when wearing a pair of sunglasses he looks exactly like him to. Surely he'll get an Oscar nomination out of this one and the film might to. It can be argue that he should get one, but not that the film should get one.

The movie has its ups and downs, but feels too rushed and gives an equal amount of attention to the 17 year span it covers from 1948-1965. Meaning there are certain things that could have been given more focus (the music itself) and there are other things that were given too much (the soap opera, connect the dots, marriage and affair, juggling the two women). One thing I do like is how the film showed his foray into heroine as a gradual thing taking place throughout most of the film instead of having a big dramatic revelation that he's been doing it all along, but only now are we shown it. I also appreciate the old time film transitions such as the closing and opening of the iris. It's a decent film, but it's not what a movie about Ray Charles should be. It's more like a conventional drawn out VH1 behind the music episode than it is about the music and the man themselves.

There were too many things going on at once and much of the film was unfortunately dedicated to the business side of his career going from one record company to another. Perhaps the worst thing about the movie was that his blindness was everybit as much of a character as he was. The fact Ray Charles was blind is the backbone of the entire film and everything completely revolves around that condition of his. Ray could be used more appropriately as a source of motivation for blind people than it can be used as a good example of a biopic. Ray should tell the story of a great musician who happened to be blind instead of a story of a blind man who became a great musician. Leaving the film I can't hardly tell you any more about the man's music and how he changed that world than before I went into it. Grade: B-

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