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sjmcollins-1

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86 reviews in total 
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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Different doesn't equal better, 15 October 2005
5/10

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride is another attempt at "adult" animation that falls short. It's a strangely uninvolving little film that features another barrage of unnecessary Hollywood voices, money wasted that could have been spent on better writers--well, it's a Tim Burton movie, so visuals are more the point here. The main character, Victor Van Dort, bears a passing resemblance to Johnny Depp-a little wasted in-joke that goes nowhere. The visuals take you in at some points, but the story itself is so blah that you stop caring about halfway through. Burton was on a 10 year roll through 1999, but the last 6 years have yielded one disappointment after another.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
4 stories--1 good, 1 OK, 2 pretty bad, 21 June 2005
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants was made for young girls, and admittedly , I don't fall into that category, but I found myself in the theater nonetheless. This film is basically broken into 4 stories, and I enjoyed America Ferrera's performance as Carmen, the looked-over daughter of a guy starting over with a trophy family. Ferrera has a great emotional scene where she calls her father out for his neglect, and it showcases her as the most talented of the lot, and definitely one of the most talented young actresses today. Amber Tamblyn has her part taken out from under her by the charming Jenna Boyd, who becomes the focus of the documentary Tamblyn's Tibby is shooting while being the only one of the girls actually having to work for the summer. This part is OK due to Boyd, who wins you over with her inquisitive nature. The other two stories are mindless teen-girl fantasy stuff, especially the Greece story with Alexis Bledel, which encompasses so many clichés I lost count. Almost as bad is the story involving Blake Lively as soccer star Bridget. Lively seems to be a little better than the material here (shows a lot of life), but doesn't really convince me as an athlete, and the story doesn't allow her to solve her real problem--her distance from her father. The teen girl set will probably eat this up, but one quarter of a good movie isn't enough for me.

1 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Showed a lot of spirit, 14 June 2005
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Catherine Hardwicke is 2 for 2 thus far in her directorial career, first with Thirteen and now with Lords Of Dogtown, a look at the pioneers of competitive skateboarding. John Robinson, Emile Hirsch, and Victor Rasuk are all strong in their lead roles (although Hirsch is a little too pretty to be a convincing tough guy), and Heath Ledger does a good job portraying burned up leader Skip--a guy who futilely tries to run an emerging cash cow with a stoner's philosophy. All of the actors are impressive skateboarders, and that adds to the raw realism the film conveys. Hardwicke does a good job showing how the sudden fame and fortune ultimately dissolves the friendships.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Great fight scenes, too many sappy moments, 6 June 2005
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Renee Zellweger almost succeeds in ruining Cinderella Man, the Ron Howardization of former heavyweight champion James J. Braddock's life. Russell Crowe gives a solid performance as the champ, but the script left no room for any blemish on Braddock's character, and the Irish saint thing really begins to wear thin by the third act, as Braddock is practically deified by his adoring Depression-era public. Zellwegger is the worst of the lot, sapping up each scene she's in as Braddock begins his comeback. It seems in the beginning of the film that she has no problem with Braddock's career, but turns on a dime when Jim announces his return to the ring. All the schmaltz aside though, the fight scenes themselves are fantastic. You can tell that Howard really did his homework on the old fight films and got everything down right. These scenes are the soul of the film, but I didn't get any Rocky-like chills due to the pandering nature of the film to tug at your heart strings.

Solaris (1972)
20 out of 40 people found the following review useful:
Fairly interesting premise, but an utter trial to sit through, 15 April 2005
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris contains a pretty interesting premise, about a planet able to manipulate visitor's subconscious to the point of bringing old memories to life--but at a running time of almost 3 hours (and you feel every minute of it), this film contains almost every "artsy" cliché in the book, and your frustration mounts as you sit through every scene. At times it seems like Tarkovsky is remaking 2001: A Space Odyssey into a love story, but while the atmosphere of space as boring tedium is captured (too well), the story is not nearly as engrossing. Several scenes just hang, and hang, and hang, and then goes a little longer just to get the point across. Ponderous close-ups of ears, rustling grass, candles--a never ending drive through Soviet rush hour traffic--it seems the director was shooting for a visual masterpiece, and decided to write the story in around it. Like 2001, Tarkovsky left an open ending, but while I was full of questions at the end of Kubrick's masterpiece, my feeling at the end of Solaris was just simply relief.

Robots (2005)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Good to look at, but story is a dud, 24 March 2005

Robots is pretty interesting eye candy, with some impressive action scenes(I really enjoyed the early transit scene involving Rodney and Fender), but the story just doesn't take you in, and the laughs are limited to a few coughed up chuckles here and there. There are numerous pop culture references throughout, but it feels tired and rehashed after having witnessed the two Shrek films. Someone forgot to reel Robin Williams in, as he goes WAY overboard with his overcaffinated shtick. Williams in this gear is best served in smaller doses (ala Alladin), but he is practically in every scene, going full throttle. The rest of the character voices used in the film (with the possible exception of Mel Brooks) could have been spoken by anyone, and looking at the all-star line-up, I can't help but wonder if all that money used to sign these guys couldn't have been more wisely spent on a better writing team.

10 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Vastly inferior sequel has a few cute moments, 25 February 2005
4/10

(Spoiler) Meet The Parents was one of the funniest movies of the decade, as we witnessed put-upon everyman Ben Stiller terrorized by every guy's nightmare, the over-protective father-in-law, ready to believe the worst at all times, played famously by Robert DeNiro. There were a couple of slapstick scenes in the film that I still laugh at after numerous viewings, and much of the interaction rang true between Stiller and DeNiro. Nothing really rings true in Meet The Fockers, as the conflict between Stiller and DeNiro is replaced by Greg Focker's zany parents, played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand. Hoffman and Streisand play likable enough characters, but don't seem too likely to have raised a kid like Greg. Their over-sexed, ultra-liberal characters are kind of charming, but not really laugh out loud funny. Director Jay Roach then goes for the lowest common denominator--the cute baby. Jack is now overly obsessed with his grandson, and the movie continuously cuts to his reaction shots--he cries when Greg talks to him, he laughs when someone gets kicked in the groin, etc. He also says a profanity for his first word, and repeats it constantly. I found it kind of stupid the first time. You can practically see the kid's mother/father offscreen coaching him through the word. Ben Stiller repeats his Along Came Polly/There's Something About Mary/Meet The Parents persona, but he gets shoved to the background a little in favor of Hoffman and Streisand, and it costs the film big. Sequels are good, even great, when there's more story to tell--but this just solidifies the notion that comedies should just quit while they're ahead.

Ray (2004/I)
Outstanding biography on Ray Charles, 11 February 2005
9/10

Jamie Foxx earns an Oscar in Ray, an all-around tremendous film documenting the life of the legendary Ray Charles. Foxx has every one of Charles' mannerisms down to a "T", and successfully portrays a flawed musical genius that makes no apologies for the tough business/personal decisions that he made to get to the top. Director Taylor Hackford does a great job showing Charles with warts and all, as we see Charles cheat on his wife and various mistresses, and dump old friends with no looking back. The real strength of the movie (beyond Foxx's performance) is the perfect balance between Charles's personal battles and the versatile music career he excelled at. We get a nice insight into how some of Charles's biggest hits came about--the show stopping "What I'd Say" performance is incredible. Regina King is very good as Margie Hendricks, the Raylette that serves as Ray's wife on the road. Sharon Warren may have been overlooked by the Oscar people for her strong performance as Ray's mother. But Foxx owns this picture, and it would be highway robbery if the definitive performance of the year were passed over.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Really good sports movie, 31 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Clint Eastwood and Hillary Swank are both excellent (and deserving of their Oscar nominations) in Million Dollar Baby, a great sports movie that will be mentioned for decades to come when sportswriters make their annual lists of the best movies to see. Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, a boxing trainer who doesn't like taking chances until he hooks up with Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank) an untrained waitress with a killer punch. Morgan Freeman, to a certain extent, reprises his role in The Shawshank Redemption by narrating the movie in a letter written to Dunn's daughter. Freeman is such a natural at this, however, that it enhances this film just as much as it did Shawshank. I guess once a decade isn't overkill. Eastwood directs a movie that looks to be going in a much different direction that it ends up going in, as excruciating decisions are left to be made by Frankie after an injury leaves Maggie paralyzed. Where I thought we were about to see Rocky VI, Million Dollar Baby becomes a throat-catcher in its third act, as we see classic tough-guy Eastwood ripped to shreds by his surrogate daughter. This scenario has been played before, but Eastwood and Swank put a whole new touch to it, and it turns Million Dollar Baby into one of the best of 2004.

More evidence of horror going back to its roots, 22 January 2005
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Dawn of the Dead features no survivors, no happy endings, no self-aware dialogue, just straight forward action and horror, and after roughly 8 years of Scream imitations-it's a welcome change. This movie didn't necessarily chill me like George Romero's original Night Of The Living Dead, but that was a bit of a different scenario. Where that one was a few people holed up in a house with dozens of zombies outside, Dawn features an army of hundreds of zombies waiting outside a suburban mall for our dozen or so survivors inside. There are plenty of good old 80's horror movie situations, where you say to yourself "Why is this idiot doing this?", but director Zack Snyder doesn't let things get too out of hand, and keeps things as realistic as possible. Michael Kelly (CJ) and Ty Burrell (Steve) offer some funny lines, and Mekhi Phifer (Andre) gives a performance that steadily becomes creepier as the movie goes on. Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later have cemented the return of the zombie film after a long absence.


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