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So Much There, So Much Missed...
The direction and working of this film were mediocre, and that may be kind. However, they were truly blessed to work with one of the best scripts that Broadway has ever seen and some of the most artistic compositions to cross the Great White Way. You'll see in this review that the story and acting were both good, but in the end enough was missing to take it from a sure-fire Oscar winner to another also-ran that was barely worth mentioning.
Jonathan Larson's script and compositions are there among the best and he gives us a story that is so moving that it would be hard to mess it up. The movie focuses on a group of friends, mostly from the viewpoint of Mark Cohen (Anthony Rapp), a man giving up a nice life to live in New York and find himself as a filmmaker. He lives with a songwriter/singer named Roger (Adam Pascal) who wants to put out one great song as he is dealing with AIDS. Also entering the picture is Mark's ex-girlfriend/activist Maureen (Idina Menzel) and her new girlfriend Joanne (Tracie Thoms). Mark and Roger meet a woman who lives in their building, Mimi Marquez (Rosario Dawson), who is dealing with AIDS and a drug problem while working at a strip club to make whatever money she can. Lastly are two former roommates of Mark and Roger. Benjamin Coffin III(Taye Diggs) is a man who gave up the Bohemian ideal to try to create a film studio after marrying into wealth. Thomas Collins (Jesse L. Martin) has gone off to study/teach and returns to meet a companion of his own, Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia). Mildly confusing, no? The story focuses on one year of their life, from Christmas to Christmas and what happens within that year. There are problems relating to AIDS, death, drugs, money issues, and a few love stories thrown in along the way. While it sounds like a long way to go for this, it is truly worth the ride.
Most of the movie cast are simply reprising the roles that the created on Broadway. Only Tracie Thoms, subbing in for Fredi Walker, and Rosario Dawson, replacing Daphne Rubin-Vega, were not in the original Broadway cast. While the idea of bringing the Broadway cast with them from the show eased a lot of doubts about the movie, it also created a problem. The story is supposed to be focusing on a group of young men and women, in their early-to-mid 20s from what is being said in the movie (including the character of Mimi being 19 when we meet her). The problem is that these actors no longer look that age. That is only a mild detraction from the film.
In fact, a lot of the acting is quite good. Despite not being in the original cast, Tracie Thoms is fantastic in her role and made you want to follow her character even when she was just in the background. Idina Menzel was quite good, although no longer truly seemed to fit the part in my eye. Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal know these characters inside and out and had no problem bringing that character back to life for the screen. Jesse L. Martin was very good, although the age factor seemed more noticeable with him than with any other character in the movie. Wilson Jermaine Heredia makes you entirely forget that he is a man in the movie and wraps himself around this character that he created. Finally, Rosario Dawson does an apt job as Mimi Marquez. She didn't seem to take a lot of risks, whether it was acting or vocally, but conveyed more than enough to complete the role.
As I mentioned above, the problem lies very much in the directing of the film. Chris Columbus is a fine director, showcasing his eye in films like some of the Home Alones, Harry Potters, and the movie Only the Lonely. However, it feels too often like he is shooting a sequence of music videos rather than a film. This is never more prevalent than in his handling of the song "What You Own". The song is somewhat of an indictment on modern culture, somewhat of an escape song, a very nice piece. In the movie it has been turned into a roadtrip song, turning one of the only weaknesses in the script (a segment where a character leaves then quickly comes back) into almost a rock video.
As I said, the material here is fantastic. With a better vision of the film, this could have been an Oscar contender easily. However, that is what separates the great from the good, and while this movie has moments of greatness, its not enough to overcome the partial mediocrity. 7/10
The ½ Hour News Hour (2007)
Way Too Much Like A Bad Weekend Update...
I'm basing this after just two episodes, so it could get better. Actually, it'd almost be impossible for it to get worse. The premise *could* work. The country is polarized enough that, basically, a right-wing only show could develop a niche. But for that to work, I'd have to think it would need to be better than this.
Quite frankly, I'm not sure the two anchor format works for this type of show. The feel of it is trying to be a Jimmy Fallon/Tina Fey exchange from Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. Only, the exchanges were really forced. The set seems inappropriate for the show, looking much more like a local access news show than that of a national show. The laugh track takes even more away from the show, making it look even more like a local access show.
As I said, potentially this show could develop an audience and develop. However, based off the first two episodes, it has a lot of work to do. This success or failure of this show won't have as much to do with left/right, right/wrong, Republican/Democrat, but rather whether or not it simply becomes a better quality product.
Wild Hogs (2007)
Know what you are seeing...
Critics have a job, and that is to review these movies based on a grand scale. This movie has nothing to do with a grand scale. Instead, it is simply there to entertain, and for a change, the movie realizes that. It doesn't try to do too much, it doesn't try to go to a deep, new place. Instead, it simply tries to entertain and to make you laugh. In doing so, it succeeds.
However, the movie is far from perfect. The premise is simple... its a road trip movie where there are some awkward happenings (John C. McGinley in a vastly different role from Dr. Cox on Scrubs and a very funny instance involving a family swimming hole) and a bad guy that they come across in their travels. Reasonable, and funny. However, the ending is way too clichéd for me, and that is why the movie doesn't get a higher rating. I know that in a movie like this, I shouldn't be looking for a great ending. However, this one feels as though they simply were running out of time and tried to wrap it up in as happy of way as possible.
As far as the acting, none of the performances were outstanding. The writing had the roles be limited and slapstick, and the actors delivered. William H. Macy was probably the best, although that probably has to do with the fact that his character is the only one with any depth to it at all. Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, Marisa Tomei, and Ray Liotta all give decent performances, but nothing worth writing home about.
It was a fun movie, no doubt about it. But realize when you are going in that this movie is not Oscar material. The movie realized that and what it was supposed to do, even if the critics didn't.
The Last Kiss (2006)
An interesting movie...
I just finished watching this movie, and I'm not quite sure what to think. This is in no way a knock on the movie. The story arc was interesting and the acting was quite good. However, I'm just not sure that the story was quite sure what it wanted to do. Realistically, there are five main characters, and those stories seem to be reasonably well laid out. However, the story lines of Michael's friends seem a little out of place. Perhaps they are interesting stories, perhaps they contributed to the greater storyline, but they felt exceptionally out of place at times.
The acting in this movie was pretty good. Zach Braff played Andrew Largeman further in life, equally insecure and unknowing. Frankly, it seems like a character he could play in his sleep. Jacinda Barrett was very good, except some of the emotional scenes seemed somewhat over-the-top at times. Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson played their roles very well, although nothing outside the normal realm for either actor. Rachel Bilson was a pleasant surprise and the way in which her character leaves seems a little hurried and leaves a bit of a bad taste in your mouth.
I liked the movie, but it didn't feel like it was quite right. Whether that was the storyline, the editing or direction I'm not sure of. Its worth watching, but wasn't quite what I expected. 6.5/10
Night at the Museum (2006)
It Is What It Is...
This isn't an Oscar-winning movie. Frankly, its probably closer to a Razzie than an Oscar, but it does its job. This movie was intended to be a family movie, aimed at the kids, probably ages 6-14. It hit that perfectly. Its a visually entertaining movie, and actually somewhat educational (at least compared to most movies released recently). Ben Stiller gives a typical Ben Stiller performance, as he has mastered the slightly goofy, slightly misunderstood, good guy role and plays it well. All of the actors do a good job, nobody really seemed to mail in the role that they knew wasn't going to draw critical acclaim. Again, its not a great movie, but it does exactly what it was designed to do in entertaining the younger audience and being entertaining enough for a parent to sit through without getting overly bored. 8/10 for what it was after, probably 5/10 if we're looking at it critically.
I wasn't planning on watching this show. Don't get me wrong, I like Courteney Cox, but it just didn't feel like my type of show, based on the previews. However, after coming down with the flu, I was left to a few sick days and I happened across the pilot. First the good, it drew me in. I was just flipping through and it caught me and made me want to watch. It was dark, it was edgy, it felt different from most other things on television. However, it also felt like either something was missing from the show or that I was the kid at the far end of the table left out of the joke. I liked the characters, quite a bit more than I probably should have, but something was not right with the story. I'm not sure whether it was the intentional choppiness to try and represent the story of the schizophrenic photographer, or the fact that it bounced back and forth too much between story lines.
I don't think I'm going to give up on this show. But, for it to stick, it needs a little bit of re-working and making the show something more than simply edgy.
Black and White (1999)
A surprising movie... not great, but worth watching
I can be a bargain shopper. I believe that almost any movie is WATCHABLE, and if a title intrigues me in a bargain bin, I'll buy it. I saw Black & White on the discount shelf at Best Buy and decided to give it a chance as I tend to like police movies. Still, it had Gina Gershon, so I was hesitant even at the $5.99 price.
It was a surprise though in that it was borderline enjoyable. What held it back was the direction. I feel like there was more to the script that got left out at times.
I was expecting nothing so when I saw the opening credits, I was right at that point. The names of the actors, director, writers, producers all flash in and out of a quick, cut and paste scene. That was a horrible start to the movie.
The beginning was equally horrible. There was the scene in the apartment that did not fit at all at the time. It seemed as if it was an excuse for Gina Gershon to appear semi-nude yet again. It drug on forever at the beginning.
It isn't until the end that everything begins to fit together and you see the purpose of some of the earlier scenes. The final 30 minutes lead you one way, only to reveal a nice little twist to end the movie.
If you can sit through the first 40 minutes without turning away, it will be well worth it. Gershon gives the best performance of her career, although I'm not sure how much that really says. The script is well written at times, and seems like filler at times. The direction was some of the worst I've ever seen, however, and that really limits the impact of the ending.