Well during the writing process you may find yourself drifting towards the "cop genre" because hasn't every cop show or film suffered from over-use of technique at some point or another. So you choose to write a screenplay about cops and just for originality let's make all of them bad and one guy is against the corrupt system. (insert: sarcastic tone here) Now that you have your genre you would probably choose the "buddy-cop formula" because well it's perfect and has been done to death.
After the test is complete, you hear that "over-the-hill" director Richard Donner and star Bruce Willis have read the script by mistake and are interested in making it a film. Well that's perfect both are quite familiar with the "buddy-cop scenario". Donner created the "Lethal Weapon" franchise and Willis starred in "The Last Boy Scout".
But it was a joke, a test to see if you could really use every cop cliché known to man. Then they offer you $4 million for the script. You are dumb-struck and shrug your shoulders and take the money.
If you haven't realized it yet, the script you just sold was "16 Blocks".
Basically "16 Blocks" must have been created something like what I described above. The whole film is just one big over-used and stomped on cliché. First you have the alcoholic cop (Bruce Willis) who is looking for redemption and trying to become a man once more. Second you have the wise-cracking sidekick (Mos Def) who is in trouble with the law and has to deal with this bloated drunk who would rather breathe on him than save him. Then here's a twist, the cop's old partner (David Morse) is this corrupt guy who is trying to cover everything up. Throw these caricatures into "real-time" 2-hour cat-and-mouse scenario and you have "16 Blocks".
There are so many things wrong with this movie it's hard to say what's good. I have to admit I liked Willis, though. His grumbling, bloated cop-drunk is done very well. And the film not for one moment makes him an actual action hero. This man is a loser and the film never apologizes for that fact. It's a solid performance and it's probably the only thing the film does correct and makes sense.
Mos Def has a lot of potential to be a good character actor. "16 Blocks" is not a good example of that. Basically the best way to describe his performance is that it's like watching a Chris Tucker movie after chugging a half bottle of Nyquil. I think the filmmakers were trying for a Chris Tucker or a "48-Hrs" Eddie Murphy but instead just got an overly annoying nasally-congested comic relief. But come to think of it, he wasn't really that funny.
I like David Morse. I am not scared to admit that. After witnessing his sleep-walking performance in this film, I am beginning to change my interpretation of the man. He was a solid actor until he became a carbon-copied duplicate of every villain performance the man has ever done. I know he can change, what do you think? The person who should probably be ashamed the most is Richard Donner. This guy needs to retire from directing and stick to producing. After 2003's "Timeline", I forgave him stating that the man is a legend and brought classic films like "Lethal Weapon", "Superman" and "Maverick". But now I think the man should just stop embarrassing himself and ride off into the sunset. The man is a legend so let's remember him that way.
"16 Blocks" should be studied by screen-writing students as a warning what not to do. If it does garner cult status I bet it will be as a movie geek's drinking game like take 2 shots every time there is a cop flick cliché and take three drinks every time Willis shoots or takes a drink. (1.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer
Probably the most obscure reference and the most bizarre use of the mermaid myth was used in the short-lived TV series, "Maximum Bob" where an ultra right-wing judge (Beau Bridges) marries a psychic mermaid-performer (Kiersten Warren). There are a lot of scenes with Warren in an aquarium and dressed in her fish tail.
OK I have covered the biggest to the most obscure which brings me to "Aquamarine".
"Aquamarine" is a light-hearted preteen comedy about a naive mermaid, Aquamarine (Sara Paxton) who comes ashore to uncover the human myth called love. Helping her in finding this mythical emotion are two best friends, Claire and Hailey (Emma Roberts and JoJo), who befriend the mermaid. It turns out that the friends maybe separated forever when Hailey moves away. Aquamarine promises them a wish if they help her find true love so the girls, desperate to stay together, help her out.
This film is probably not a classic or will be fondly remembered in five years but for the audience it is aimed at it succeeds on many levels. I liked the performances of Emma Roberts and Sara Paxton. I even warmed up to JoJo a little.
What I kept saying as the film went on was how these three girls looked like junior versions of established actors. I felt that Paxton reminded me a lot of a younger Reese Witherspoon and Roberts reminded me some of her aunt, Julia Roberts. JoJo did also remind me of Lindsay Lohan but there isn't much of an age difference between them so you can't really say junior version.
I think that Paxton and Roberts have a lot of potential in their Hollywood careers. JoJo could have a career in film but does she have the ability to manage music and film like say, Hilary Duff. Only time will tell.
"Aquamarine" is a great little film if you have girls who are between 8 and 15 but other than that I can't really recommend it to anyone else. But you have to give it marks for succeeding so well in a pinch demographic. (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer (email@example.com)
"Lighting Bug" is a relentless drama about one boy's struggle to overcome his abusive surroundings. Everything from his alcoholic stepfather, hopeless mother and white trash surroundings are all key plot points to keep this boy in check. What is strange about this film is that it is being marketed as a horror film when really it's an unforgiving drama.
The best part of this film is the stalwart performance by Bret Harrison, who is a relative newcomer to film. He has so much emotion and personal depth in a lot of scenes. He is a great find. I will look forward to seeing more from this kid.
I have always liked Ashley Laurence and her portrayal of a lost white-trash single mother is captivating and so unforgiving that I often forgot it was her.
Another thing I really liked was the film's original music from singer-songwriter Kevn Kinney. It brought so much extra flavor to the film.
The biggest problem with the film is that it never lets up. It is just so depressing and relentless the audience is never allowed to breathe or laugh. I also really got annoyed with the sub-plot involving Laura Prepon's character's mother. This is such a tedious subplot to create even more conflict for the boy. He gets enough at home.
If you happen to see this film, enjoy the performance of Bret Harrison but prepare for a very bumpy and dark ride. (3 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer (firstname.lastname@example.org) DVD Details: "Lightning Bug" will be released from Anchor Bay Home Entertainment on August 9. The DVD features 2 audio commentaries with director Robert Hall and one featuring Ashley Laurence and Laura Prepon. The DVD also includes a music video from Kevn Kinney and some deleted scenes. The DVD itself is smartly packaged and it is amazing how much extra stuff there is here for such an independent film.
'I, Robot' chronicles the life of Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) who has a techno-phobic view of the world's newest appliance, a life-like robot created by the world's leading technology giant US Robotics. A link in Spooner's past is linked to his phobia of the automaton movement sweeping the nation. According to US Robotics, there will be eventually 1 robot to every 5 humans.
Spooner is called to the offices of US Robotics when a leading scientist (James Cromwell), with a secret link to Spooner, has apparently committed suicide. His death seems to have mysterious circumstances which could link to a robot. With man's complete trust in the new robot technology, it seems too ludicrous to every one except Spooner.
As the mystery deepens, Spooner unravels the very fabric of the robotic giant, locks horns with CEO Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood) and learns more about his automated enemy with the aid of scientist Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan). Through the course of these events he may learn more than he could ever imagine.
It is hard to defend a film like 'I, Robot' but I am going to try. For sci-fi purists, Isaac Asimov's legendary work about the robot and how he will intricate into our society has filled the minds of readers for over 50 years. But the similarities between the film presented here and his work are few and far between. Kind of like last week's release of Jerry Bruckheimer's 'King Arthur'. Both films take sacred subject matter and re-invent it with a new twist. I would have to say that 'I. Robot' is better in a lot ways.
At the core of 'I, Robot' beats the soul of Asimov as his 3 laws regarding robots are sacredly left intact and the film does abide by them. Also a lot of the characters have similar names to the people in the text. It is almost like taking Star Trek's 'prime directive' and some of the now classic characters and setting them in a new idea of the future. The core is left intact but in some ways it has been updated and refreshed.
The story, special effects and extremely zealous direction, however, all seem to be brought forth by the collaborators who cobbled this film together. There are influences of 'Robocop', 'Short Circuit', 'Blade Runner' and even the classic comic-book series 'Magnus: Robot Fighter'. Each of these robot influences echo back to what makes 'I Robot' so intriguing, a joy to watch and memorable.
Sure the story does have a lot of sci-fi influences and clichés aside from robot films including 'Star Wars' and 'Planet of the Apes' but don't these benchmark sci-fi films influence everything coming down the turnpike these days. It even has the classic sci-fi cliché of the social outcast claiming there is an invasion coming except no one believes him. But that is not what should bring us into the film.
You really need to give credit to director Alex Proyas because it is his magic as a filmmaker that holds this film together. He knows where to play it straight and where to let his lead actor bring on the charm. Also you really have to admire the man's technical ability. His brilliant inter-laying of robots into the photography is astounding. Proyas is an A-list director in the making and 'I, Robot' shows that he can deliver a big Hollywood film.
I also give credit to Will Smith who starts out being very unapproachable with his character but as the film goes we really become fond of his hero. Smith's Spooner does have a lot of his previous sci-fi heroes inter-laced into Spooner but it comes off as more of a homecoming than an annoyance. In some ways I think Proyas had something to do with that especially in the chase down scene towards the beginning of the film. It almost felt like 'Men in Black' again.
As for Smith's co-stars, Cromwell's Lanning is a throwaway character used mainly for effect, Moynahan is timid and sometimes robot-like but it is a sturdy performance and Greenwood is menacing and a good match to face off against the rebellious Smith.
The reason I was so fond of 'I, Robot' is because for once it was a summer film that didn't apologize for trying to be entertaining. The special effects, the performances and the direction are all what people want to see in the summer and this film is loads and loads of fun. It is a great giant popcorn film with a light layering of message.
My only small problem with this film was that it is supposed to be set in Chicago in 2035. I didn't buy it but if it was 2135, then maybe.
Sure the film doesn't pave new ground but why does every film have to. It is pure summer fun and what is wrong with that.
If you want Asimov and sci-fi purism then you can always read the novels. Stop apologizing and most of all stop belly-aching, just give the film a chance. If you like science fiction films and want to be remembered how much fun they used to be then this picture is the perfect ticket for you. So Says the Soothsayer.
You escort your slick two-wheeled engine of doom up to the line. You strap on your helmet as you snarl at your competitor. The sun reflects off your slick leather ensemble as you glide your leg over the mean machine's hardened leather seat. Your hands grasp the handles as you hear a faint squeak of your leather gloves. You are ready for combat.
The revving commences and in a flash you hope to leave your competitor a victim at the line. But instead you watch as your bike stalls and your enemy screeches away. The name of your enemy is `The Fast & the Furious' and you are just left being the `The Fake & the Scriptless'.
And that about sums up the new action film, Torque, which is brought to you by the same producers who did `The Fast & the Furious' and `XXX'.
In the loose-meat storyline housed within `Torque', we find rebel biker Cary Ford (Martin Henderson) returning to his hometown to face his past demons and reclaim the woman (Monet Mazur) he loves. Ford must first face down a ruthless FBI agent (Adam Scott) and two biker rivals (Ice Cube and Matt Schulze).
The one-note storyline allows for slick two-dimensional performances from the film's leads and forgettable one-dimensional ones from the supporting cast which includes B-movie veterans Schulze and Jaime Pressly.
There are a lot of western and rebel references as the recent world of the biker never seems to translate well to screen. These guys don't drive for the `need for speed' or celebrate in their rebellion but instead they just clunk around like they were lost on paper which it is no surprise that this is the first script from screenwriter Matt Johnson. There are oodles of rookie mistakes in this one.
I kind of felt sorry for some of the actors lost in this film like Henderson, Pressly, Mazur and of course under-rated Max Beesley who once more finds himself in an awful project.
As a B-film I did find some great belly-laughs like at the biker chick showdown between Mazur and Pressly which is probably the worst game of chicken on celluloid. And Pressly's biker chick character is ripped right from a re-run of `Black Scorpion'. It had to be with all that lip lickin'. Roger Corman would adore that character.
I do have to admit that the stunts and some of the `filled-to-the-brim' cheese was fun but for the most part `Torque' should and will be an embarrassment to both the outlaw and speed-freak biker community.
Just forget `Torque' if you can. (1 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer. (email@example.com)
`The Guilty' is probably one of the best non-grisly crime thrillers I have seen in a long time. The film has so many twists, turns, shocks and pitfalls that it made me gasp. Pullman is brilliant as the morally distraught Crane. Sawa, Anwar and Whalley compliment him very well with every scene. This could be Bill Pullman's best role to date.
Pullman made another court-room-crime thriller back in 1996 called `Mistrial' which was your typical cable movie fare but his second turn in the genre is pure magic. (112 mins) (4.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
Well director McG's vision of the classic television show returns to the big screen. His breathless trio of Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore) and Alex (Lucy Liu) cascade back into the celluloid arena with a new Bosley and an all new lethal couple. Is the same old business or just more freakish summer-filled saccharine?
In the first film, we were introduced to the Angels with a crazy airplane and boat opening sequence that set the tone for the entire film. It was fun fresh and adrenaline pumped. Then the film featured the old-fashioned intro-sequence and the audience was hooked.
In the sequel `Full Throttle', the trio is back and this time the Angels uncover a secret in their midst while trying to out-smart ex-Angel turned demoness Madison Lee (Demi Moore) and psychotic Irish mobster Seamus O'Grady (Justin Theroux).
Lee and O'Grady's sinister plot surrounds a missing set of rings that hold the secret to unlocking the list of the members of America's Witness Relocation Program. The rings are referred to as `halos'. How does this all connect to the Angels and what is with the new Bosley, now played by Bernie Mac?
`Full Throttle' is probably the purest example of a `freaky summer popcorn movie'. It's fun, full of high-octane and has a killer soundtrack.
I had a lot of problems with the film's opening moments that circle a lot around the `dam sequence' seen in the film's first trailer. It was just so over the top that I cringed at what was going to come next. But as soon as I heard that old Charlie's Angels music and the intro-sequence I couldn't help but smile. It brought back the same old feeling I had when I saw the first one.
I also really liked that there were a lot more references to the series in this film then its predecessor. I really enjoyed Drew's character's angst toward being the only Angel left after the others had moved on. But what really made that whole storyline great was her later being consoled by Jaclyn Smith (Kelly Garrett from the original series), who happened to be the only Angel to survive the entire series and suffered through what Drew's character was imagining. Little things like that just make a TV junkie smile.
My only real problems with the movie were the `cartoon violence' and in some situations I found myself missing Bill Murray's Bosley. I really liked some of the scenes involving Bernie Mac but Murray really brought something that was missing this time out. The best scene for me with Mac was the surfer-beach sequence. I howled with him in his surfer outfit. I guess the film as a whole kind of scaled down the whole Bosley character. Bosley was an intricate part of the series and they seemed to have lost his worth. It is a shame.
When I interviewed Angels' director McG three years ago, I remember him saying that music is one of the key elements if not the most important to him when he makes a film. He envisions a song for every scene. Well the songs he picked for this film really made an impact on me. I really loved how he brought back so many favorites and they didn't disturb the film's flow at all.
Demi Moore's return to the silver screen has been toasted as a grand achievement. I really enjoyed her as Madison Lee and she nailed the part. But standing in her shadows is the performance of Justin Theroux. I loved his performance as Seamus. His performance seems to be a combo of `Jackass' star Johnny Knoxville and Robert DeNiro in `Cape Fear'. It is such an under-rated performance. He was so evil and menacing.
If you can let go of the `cartoonish' violence and just enjoy the ride `Full Throttle' is a great summer ride. (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
Sinbad (Brad Pitt) is a happy pirate bent on retiring to Fiji after stealing the legendary Book of Peace. The only problem is that his childhood friend Proteus (Joseph Fiennes) stands in his way. Sinbad finds himself in a conundrum when he fails to obtain the book and ends up following his friend back to his palace where he is introduced to Proteus's future wife Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones).
When Sinbad is eventually framed by Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer), the Goddess of Chaos for stealing the Book of Peace, Proteus defends his friend for the crime. Proteus puts his life on the line so that Sinbad can sail into uncharted territory and retrieve the book. Unbeknownst to Sinbad, Marina tags along. Can Sinbad wrestle with a goddess and get through uncharted territory in time to save his friend?
Sinbad has always been an epic character and one of my favorites from classic literature and myth. He has inspired so many other multi-layered adventure characters over the years. I was first exposed to his adventures when I was a child and obsessed with seeing more movies from legendary creature creator, Ray Harryhausen. The Sinbad trilogy from Harryhausen still has a soft spot in my plethora of movie favorites. I loved the magic and vastness of worlds that inhabited Sinbad as a character.
It was that knowledge and foundation that made me so excited about seeing a new incarnation of a classic character. I had the same reaction when Disney re-invented `Tarzan' in their animated film. I was half-hoping that there would be a great musical score like that of Disney's `Tarzan' or `Aladdin' but what I did end up seeing wasn't your typical animated cartoon. That was a whole new blessing unto itself.
DreamWorks's Sinbad was definitely a whole re-envisioning of the character but also quite a bold project on its own. I loved how the film seamlessly melded standard animation and computer graphics. There hasn't been an animated film yet that has been able to make such a successful fusion. The backgrounds were utter eye-candy. I also really enjoyed how smart and delectable the dialogue was between these characters. The humor and drama were very involving and extremely enjoyable. As with every Sinbad movie, you always want to see more far off lands and more creatures. That allure and mystery is alive and well in this version.
What was probably the most interesting was that this was the first time an animated film had a character fall in love with his best friend's future wife or that an executioner is ready with a giant axe to slice off a character's head. Even some of the tongue-in-cheek humor was more aimed at adults than children. I liked that because it acknowledged that you don't have to be under 12 years old to enjoy animated films.
My only wish for Sinbad would be that it had a grander score or a memorable song. I wanted some epic music for such a grand character. A bolder score would have made the animated film feel big enough to encompass what Sinbad is. I liked how DreamWorks used music in both `Spirit' and `Road to El Dorado' but seemed to have dropped the ball for this one.
Sinbad is a charming animated film with the DreamWorks edge but it needed to be bolder and bigger to do justice to such a legendary character. I just wanted more. (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
`The Italian Job' is a film loosely inspired by the cult British film of the same name. In the way that `Ocean's Eleven' was a remake of the Rat Pack classic of the same name, `The Italian Job' borrows a couple elements but never tries to clone the original.
In this version of `The Italian Job', Mark Wahlberg plays Charlie Croker, a protégé to the infamous retiring thief master, John Bridger (Donald Sutherland). It's John's last heist and he hopes to bring in a haul worth $35 million dollars in gold. All John wants is to hug his now grown daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron) and retire into the shadows. But all goes to hell when a vindictive and jealous member of the gang, Steve (Edward Norton), decides to double-cross the team. John's last mission ends in blood-shed and the team loses their 35 million dollar prize. Now it's up to Charlie and the rest of his gang to take out Steve in one giant heist.
`The Italian Job' is a very subtle heavily encased heist film. There is a lot more talking and planning in this film then the actual action sequences. Because the film is laid out that way it makes sense to have assembled such a colorful cast.
In some ways the casting choices are great but the film also has some hang-ups. In the scenes with Edward Norton, you can definitely see his lack of enthusiasm with the role. There could have been so much more tension and poisoned-filled vengeance if Norton would have put more into the role.
The other casting hang-up is the romantic chemistry between Wahlberg and Theron. I really do like each actor a lot but I found it very hard to believe that there was anything more than a brother-sister or colleague kind of relationship. Did I miss something?
The great casting choices actually are in the film's supporting cast. The chemistry between Seth Green's techno-whiz, Napster and Jason Statham's Handsome Rob were pure magic. These two really are the hi-lights of the movie. I really want to see more of both in the future. How about a Handsome Rob and Napster flick?
I really did enjoy the stunts and action sequences of the film. I especially enjoyed the new version of the Mini. To bad those cars weren't in the `The Fast & the Furious'. `Italian Job' could have been in the same league as `The Fast & the Furious' if it would have relaxed a bit. I can just imagine what this film would have been like if it would have been revved up some. (3 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
`Wrong Turn' stars Desmond Harrington as Chris Finn, a man who is late for a very important interview. Finn takes a back country road to avoid a traffic jam and ends up involved in a car accident with three debutantes (Eliza Dushku, Lindy Booth and Emmanuelle Chriqui) and their boyfriends (Jeremy Sisto and Kevin Zegers). The group splits up as they try to find some help. Unbeknownst to them, they are being stalked by an unspeakable horror. Living in the woods around the crash is a family of cannibalistic mountain men who are overtly grotesque from generations of incest. Before the group knows it, they are in a fight for their very lives.
`Wrong Turn' was in one word an utter shock to the system. There hasn't been a film this gory, grotesque and chilling in a very long time. Not since the 1970's `Texas Chainsaw Massacre' has a horror film such as this been made. The best way to describe the experience is that if you took 2001's `Joy Ride' and `Jeepers Creepers' added 1972's `Deliverance' then threw them all in a blender. You may come up with `Wrong Turn'.
The tension in this film is harrowing and relentless as it bats you back and forth. You are exhausted and maybe even queasy when you come out of the theatre. But if you love horror films then you probably have an ear to ear grin as well.
I really liked some of the early editing of this film by director Rob Schmidt, who allows the scares and shocks to come with brilliant accuracy. I also liked how Schmidt barely shows the mountain men throughout the film. The parts we do see are horrific but the filmmaker relies heavily on the chase and shock than on the gore. Schmidt could have easily dived down the gore shoot to hell but he made a wise choice that works in spades.
It's the film's harrowing tension and atmospheric pursuit that overshadows the young stars that make up the cast. Dushku is strong and emulates some of her `Buffy the Vampire Slayer' character, Faith in her portrayal here. Dushku loves to play debutantes with edge and her character here has a lot of it. I wasn't extremely familiar with Desmond Harrington before this film but he plays a good leading man. The rest of the cast play typical generic 20-somethings from the horror film franchises of old. I have always liked Lindy Booth but she has nothing to play with here and the same is goes for Jeremy Sisto. But come on, this isn't exactly an intelligently written and detailed drama.
I liked `Wrong Turn' purely because of its shock value and its no holds barred return to classic horror. It is always in your face and it doesn't let go till the credits. This film isn't for the faint of heart. What a rush! (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
Michael Douglas is Stephen Tobias, a rugged deep-cover CIA agent, who focuses more on his work that his life with his son, Mark (Ryan Reynolds) or his now ex-wife, Judy (Candice Bergen).
It turns out that Mark is about to get married to beautiful Melissa (Lindsay Sloane) but has yet to meet Mark's parents. Mark assures her that is a good thing. But Melissa's parents, Jerry (Albert Brooks) and Katherine (Maria Ricossa) insist on meeting at least Mark's father.
During the first meeting between Mark's father and Melissa's parents, mild-mannered foot-doctor Jerry stumbles in on one of Stephen's spy plans and finds himself swept up in Stephen's mess on the eve of his daughter's nuptials. How will this revelation effect the up-coming marriage and will the two fathers live long enough to get back to the wedding?
"The In-Laws" is one of the biggest surprises I have seen this year. I never thought in a million years that this film would be as funny as it is. The odd pairing of Brooks and Douglas pays off tenfold. Their odd pairing and hilarious antics made me think some of the classic film, "The Odd Couple". The film also reminded me a little of the 80s comedy, "Real Men" because of its off-beat way of bringing the audience into the story.
Brooks hasn't been this funny in years. His neurotic schtick, which is probably more famous when played by Woody Allen, gives his character such innocence. There were so many priceless moments involving Brooks and how he relates to the spy-world.
Douglas seems to have journeyed back to his Jack Colton character, which he played in "Romancing the Stone". There is definitely some of Colton in Tobias. You can really see it when Douglas allows Tobias to put his guard down. That was always the funniest part of Colton and it is the same for Tobias.
Another great thing about this film is the caliber of people who are in the cast. You have some great upcoming comedy actors like Reynolds and Sloane and on the other side veterans like Bergen and Brooks. I wanted to see more of Reynolds since he is such a great comedic find. I have high expectations for that guy. I also really enjoyed Sloane when she was in the short-lived WB series, "Grosse Pointe". I so miss that series. She to has a great potential to be more if given the chance in comedy.
This film knows where its strengths are and it continues the laughs over and over. I just wish we could have had more time with the supporting cast.
The film also has some interesting uses of music in its soundtrack. For instance the opening scenes involving Michael Douglas escaping from one of his spy missions involves a great car chase and a gun battle but the whole scene's overture is accented by Paul McCartney's infamous James Bond theme, "Live & Let Die". It is a great addition as it seems to help build the spy feeling of the scene. Throughout the film there are interesting musical additions, which help put interesting slants and accents on the various scenes.
"The In-Laws" was such a surprise and is by far the funniest movie I have seen this year, thus far. (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
`Shallow Hal' is the latest film from the Farrelly Brothers, which tries to debate the issue about `beauty lying in the eye of the beholder'.
Jack Black stars as Hal, a self-absorbed and shallow ladies man, who really doesn't have a clue when it comes to the opposite sex. One freakish day, he gets locked in an elevator with `self-help guru' Tony Robbins who tells him that beautiful women aren't always as beautiful as their outer looks would depict. He tells Hal that he will unlock him from a deep sleep and he will see people through their inner beauty.
Hal wanders out into the world a changed man as he starts going out with `ugly' women who have beautiful insides. Hal's friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander) is baffled to why his friend wants to date such `ugly' women especially when he hooks up with 300 pound Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow).
`Shallow Hal' tries very hard to deliver a debate on beauty and I do admire its attempt to do so. On one hand it delivers an interesting argument but on the other it falls face flat into Hollywood's stereotyping of women.
The film's good argument is that we as people only see what is skin deep and nothing beyond. But where is falls flat is that it never shows a person who has an inner and outer beauty which are the same. Are we all just shells hiding some other being within? When his hypnotism is lifted Hal doesn't recognize all the people he met under the hypnosis, why does this not occur when he was under the hypnosis? Also why does this phenomena only work on certain people? Shouldn't Hal be seeing the entire world as different?
For what Gwyneth had to work with I do think she did a lovely job especially with her insecurities. I liked how she would question Black and his intentions. Her meek and pulled back approach is probably very close to what her character would be going through. I also liked Jason Alexander as Black's buddy.
I have to say all the laughs in this film are in the trailer and the rest of the film is presented almost like a `light-hearted' debate. I am not sure if this film will alienate or hurt anyone but I am sure it will make some people uncomfortable. (2 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
Twice the action, twice the budget, twice the effects and twice the Li is just a little of what `The One' is being hyped as. But twice may not be such a good thing.
According to this film, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of alternate universes that house people who look the same as us but are different from the choices they chose in their lives. Within these alternate dimensions, a solitary life force flows between all of our duplicates. When one of our duplicates dies in their dimension the power is then shifted and spread among the survivors. When the numbers begin to dwindle the survivors become more and more powerful.
Martial-arts sensation Jet Li (Romeo Must Die) stars as Yulaw, an obsessed man who used to be a member of an elite crime unit, which monitors traveling within the multiverse. Yulaw has successfully killed 123 versions of himself to become `super-human' as his life force builds. Yulaw is determined to make the body count larger as he slowly becomes closer to being `the One'.
Special Multiverse Agents Roedecker, played by Delroy Lindo (Get Shorty), and Funsch, played by Jason Statham (Snatch), are after Yulaw as he enters our world to take out his final duplicate. The Special Agents team with Gabe, Yulaw's duplicate in our world, to help bring Yulaw to justice. Who will be the final Li and which will be the one? Will the fabric of the multiverse unravel as Yulaw destroys himself?
The One is basically `Time-Cop' meets `Highlander' with a dash of the cult TV-series, `Sliders' thrown in. The film is flashy, effects-driven and very hollow.
Jet Li is always very interesting to watch in his action sequences but when you are trying to follow two Jet Li's, who dress almost identical, you never know who to cheer for. This is especially disconcerting when watching the film's final 25 minutes where you have an amazing fight sequence where Li fights himself. But which of them is the good guy? When you aren't fighting the constant identity crisis you have to contend with the obvious bad acting and dialogue from the entire cast. This film comes off as a `direct-to-video' script that should have been maybe `direct-to-Van Damme' or worse `direct-to-Dudikoff'.
Director-producer team James Wong and Glen Morgan have once more
delivered another sloppy effects-heavy project that has no substance. They did a lot better with last year's `Final Destination' because it wasn't laden with special effects but with an interesting script (well, as interesting as `teen-horror' films get).
Wong and Morgan are most famous for their contributions to season one of `X-Files' and their short-lived and critically acclaimed space-drama `Space: Above & Beyond' but it seems that these partners really don't know how to harness their power in the sci-fi genre `above and beyond' those two TV shows.
This film would have made a more interesting comic book than a feature film. To be honest it felt like a really bad comic book movie. (1.5 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
The biggest blockbuster of the season weighs in as the summer movie season officially begins. Like the $139 million dollar juggernaut that it is, Pearl Harbor roars across the screen as Ben Affleck and Josh Harnett star as best friend aviators. Rafe (Affleck) has to leave his best friend behind when he joins the highly-respected `Eagle Squadron' out of Britain. The Eagles battle the Nazis as America still refuses to enter World War II. Rafe's beloved Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) is a nurse and is just getting to know her fly-boy when he takes the assignment in Britain. Rafe asks Danny to look after Evelyn if anything should happen to him overseas. Danny is a man of his word. Tragedy brings down one of the three and the pain it causes brings their lives face to face with the horror that is the Japanese sneak attack of Pearl Harbor. That lone event changed the face of the world and America forever. Who will live? Who will die? And strategically, how will America overcome this disaster? There are so many ways to look at this film, that it's hard to narrow it down into one review. I basically see the film as three smaller films brought together as a huge 3-plus hour blockbuster juggernaut. The first film focuses on the love story of the three leads. The second is the actual events that transpire before and during the attack of Pearl Harbor and the third is the aftermath. Each of these sections of this huge film could have been its own actual film. Director Michael Bay really challenges himself a lot in the first hour of this film. The love story, subtle lighting and humor are really like nothing he has accomplished before. These scenes were great in that they show Bay is evolving as a director. I did find however find that the actual `love-story' plot was quite contrived and was an almost typical wartime drama scenario. Bay's CGI effects and rip-roaring attacks, throughout the second hour are amazing and very intense. These scenes are a marvel to witness. But the film seems to drag quite a bit as the attack dies down. The whole third hour seems like a sequel. Why didn't screenwriter Randall Wallace (Braveheart) find a way to conclude the lead characters' story in the events of Pearl Harbor? Wallace's script had too much meat and did tend to flip-flop to a lot of different people not around Pearl Harbor. The script should have summed up the love-story in the first 20 minutes, trimmed down some of the flip-flops and narrowed the focus of the film to the actual events of Pearl Harbor. If this would have occurred the film wouldn't have been so long.
The lead actors are dashing, daring, beautiful and wonderful to watch. Affleck is good as the steel-hearted hero who faces a moral dilemma. Harnett is believable as the guy who falls for his best friend's girl. But of the three, Beckinsale seemed to release the most range as she seemed to be the one tortured the most. I really liked her during the hospital sequences when the siege was happening. These blurred moments reflect the stress both within Beckinsale and in the events occurring. I really liked this technique. My overall favorite performance wasn't even by one of the main leads. Jon Voight's performance as Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Voight's grasping of the classic historical figure was incredible and it's amazing how he even resembles America's greatest president. I loved this performance and I do hope there is an Oscar nod here. Pearl Harbor's historical lay-out and formula kind of reminded me of was how the mini-series `The Winds of War' was a set-up for `War & Remembrance' except they were two long and massive mini-series. Pearl Harbor may have included too much stuff in its story. The whole first hour could have been vastly trimmed to bring the actual event closer to the front of the film. `The Winds of War' and its sequel were the most ambitious complete World War II dramas ever conceived. Pearl Harbor may have been too ambitious. This American interpretation of the Japanese invasion is very respectful to the Japanese and doesn't show them as tyrants. I liked that the Japanese were perceived as doing a strategic thing and that they knew that they were awakening a sleeping giant. I am not sure if this is actually the correct portrayal of Japan during this time period but it definitely won't harm anybody today. Pearl Harbor is the kind of film that is meaty enough to spend those inflated theatre ticket prices on. It has something for everyone. (4 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
By Dean Kish
Yet another `Saturday Night Live' sketch makes it on to the silver screen. Haven't they got the hint that there really has been only two of these adaptations that were any good.
`The Ladies Man' stars Tim Meadows as his creation Leon Phelps. Leon is a late night sex therapist on the radio who believes deep down inside that he is god's gift to women. He struts around like a reject from the 70's. In this feature film, Leon has slept with to many married women thus creating a coalition to kill the mysterious other man in so many marriages. This coalition is commanded by an Olympian Greek wrestler, played by another SNL alum Will Ferrell. Other prominent figures in Leon's life are his producer, Julie (played by Fresh Prince of Bel Air alum Karyn Parsons), and a loyal barkeep (Billy Dee Williams).
`The Ladies Man' could be nominated as the worst SNL adaptation on record yet. The first half you wonder how many jokes can a film like this have about a sexaholic who by pure fluke ends up sleeping with all these women. Not for one minute did I believe that this guy was a gigolo. He is obnoxious, blatantly retarded and insecure. We also have the stupid voiceover of Billy Dee Williams as he talks about where Leon came from and commentary on what may be happening in his brain. I liked the whole Hugh Hefner connection and personally it was the best part of the film. Why not run with his whole story for the film instead of summing it up in about five minutes.
The angle about the group of frustrated idiots running after a bigger idiot to seek vengeance is the saddest excuse for a comedy this critic has seen in a long time. Couldn't they have played a more interesting angle. Then when the mob of idiots sent out to hunt down Leon bursts into song I so wanted to run for the exits. That wasn't funny but just plainly bad. That whole scene will remind me again and again why musicals have never made a comeback.
For me the saddest moment in this film was the cameo by Julianne Moore. Moore is a great actress and one of my favorites. Why did she decide to play a horny clown of all things? I almost cried when I saw that. Poor, poor Julianne.
Why exactly would a successful woman like Julie fall for such a loser? Why are all the people in this film complete idiots? And why would an audience pay to see this guy? (1 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
I loved the clashing of egos as each political figure began to focus upon their role in this race. I liked how the writer of the film brought each character into the light as a part of what we are. As I sat and watched each character's role evolve I saw fragments of me in each character. I love good scripts that have this knack. Some examples of this are as follows. First off take Joan Allen's history making female incumbent Laine Hanson who displays the grace, steadfast, moralistic and proud part of each of us. Second would be Shelly Runyon's character who displays the power, tact, desperation and vindication in all of us. And finally would be Jack Hathaway who displays the character traits of smug, contentious, abused, nervous and weak. What is interesting is how the script unveils each of these characters as the movie unfolds. Another interesting angle is the character of the President who is a lot like each one but uses each trait tactfully. I place the President character between Runyon and Hanson. As each of these traits are explored and classified we have a great summing up of them all in the film's closing monologue. I liked how the speech talked about what is done in the political process and how that process relates to our lives. It doesn't matter who we might have been before but who we are today. By having such detailed characters we obviously will have some amazing performances and that is so true in the performances of Gary Oldman and Joan Allen. What I liked alot was how the director never lets any of the actors get to melodramatic or over-emotional in any particular scene. When emotion is displayed it was subtle and made a huge impact on a character's evolution. Just two slowly descending tears can stun an audience. That is magic. Joan Allen's portrayal of incumbent Laine Hanson deserves an Oscar nod because of how much we can relate to her in that role. Laine Hanson is Allen and this gifted actress immersed herself in this character. The couple scenes where you know she is being verbally undressed and it is that struggle that we see inside her character that is magical. It maybe a very subtle emotion that she displays but it encompasses her character.
Gary Oldman, who plays the devilish Shelly Runyon, has played a lot of vicious characters before but with Runyon he creates a new dimension on these characters. Since Runyon is apart of the political spectrum and has to be sophisticated and tactful it is sometimes hard to show how evil one is. But I tell you as you watch him you can cut the slime coming off this guy with a knife. The Contender is being compared to `All the President's Men' and `The Candidate' but what it may be is an original all its own. There is very little action or full-blown tension in this film unlike `All the President's Men' and `The Candidate'. There is humor, amazing dialogue and brilliant character analysis. The Contender is a powerful film. (4.5 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer
Loser is like a lot of other teen romantic comedies that have arrived in the last couple months. You know the ones where the film has the same premise and very little laughs. An example of that was `Boys and Girls' starring Freddie Prinze Jr. Loser has a smart cast and like a lot of Heckerling films, a great soundtrack but I fear the subject matter here just isn't funny.
I really believe that this film should have travelled down the `screw-ball' comedy lane and developed a lot more pranks, revenge strategies and romantic tension. This routine worked for a lot of college screwball classics including `Revenge of the Nerds' and `Up the Creek'. These films developed their `losers' as victims of their environment and we really wanted to see them survive. What Heckerling does with `Loser' is brings us a sweet melancholy that makes us choke. The film is way to tender to even arrive at any of the laughs. Sure I felt sorry for Dora and Paul but I was never near the cheering stage in wanting them to survive.
If I had to pick a favorite member of the cast it would be Greg Kinnear who once more shines in a dreary comedy. Anyone remember `Dear God'? In this film, Kinnear is a great jerk who loves to ravish college coeds. Within Kinnear's portrayal you can see the little boy forced into being a man. It's a great performance.
In the summer of 1936, which is when the films takes place, the whole of Spain was intertwined in the struggle between the Mussolini inspired Nationalist Party and the Republicans. But as the rest of Europe was being over run by a couple different fascist regimes, Spain was trying desperately to prevent that outcome. The film `Butterfly' brings in these elements and lets these two main characters deal with the impending doom and the heart-breaking aftermath. The film also beautifully depicts these simple folks who are desperately trying to find their way in the world. From one side you have the teacher who is just trying to bring peace to his students and their world. And on the other a young boy trying to understand the gigantic world around him. The teachings of the butterflies are a metaphor for the change coming in Spain and in both of their lives. This metaphor rings cleverly through each character in the film which does beg the question did the teacher know about the coming conflict and was trying to say something subtly. After watching this film, I learned the character of Don Gregorio was played by a legendary Spanish actor named Fernando Fernan Gomez. I could see even before I knew who he was that this man is amazing. I haven't seen this kind of subtle grace since Sir John Gielgud. I wish I had a teacher like him in my life. (4 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer. (Now Playing)
I guess my belief in that we can find originality in the `romantic comedy' makes me want to see better films than `Boys and Girls'. Will we see originality in this genre soon? I have faith that this summer's `Loser' starring Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari will be a lot better than this. (2 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
The greatest blaxpolitation hero returns with a new face and that same old attitude and style for a whole new generation. The title of the film `Shaft' refers to the title character John Shaft (now played by Samuel L Jackson) who in the early seventies captivated audiences with his cool attitude, no nonsense style and brutal approach to law enforcement. In this latest film, Shaft tries to bring down a white supremacist (Christian Bale) who has brutally clubbed a black guy to death. The key to the case lies with a cocktail waitress (Toni Collette)who witnessed the murder. If Shaft can track her down and keep her alive long enough he may finally bring the bad guy down. The only thing standing is his way is a vindictive drug dealer (Jeffrey Wright) hired by the supremacist to kill the witness. All the brilliance of the original `Shaft' is here except its been streamlined and evolved into a great looking action film. The film has great performances from Samuel L Jackson, Jeffrey Wright and Christian Bale.
Jackson is perfectly cast as the attitude filled Shaft. One small problem I had with his casting was some of his scenes reminded me of the character he played in `Pulp Fiction'. Bale is amazing as the brutal bad guy who finds he there are worse evils than he can deliver. This is Bale's second key role as a devilish villain in a row. I think he has the potential to travel the route James Woods has taken with his career. Boy, has he changed since `Newsies'. Anyone remember that film? Finally I was really impressed with relative new-comer Jeffrey Wright who plays the perfect druglord scumbag. He made his motion picture debut 10 years ago with `Presumed Innocent' but has since made a name for himself on Broadway where he was awarded a Tony award in 1994 for the 7 hour play, `Angels in America Perestroika' . Wright was so believable that I had to see him on the Tonight Show before I could get that character out of my head. The way the film is put together and synchronized is really nice to see. This is the pure atmosphere that makes us fondly remember those cult films of seventies. I have always loved the Isaac Hayes `Shaft' theme song. Another atmospheric marvel within Shaft is that this film plays homage to genre by embracing what it was instead of making fun of it. Another breath of fresh air had to be there was no cliched woman love interest for the hero. Blaxpolitation is finally becoming cool. I really only had a couple problems with Shaft. One being the excessive amount of bad language but that is just a warning to the people who may be sensitive to that nature. Another was I felt was the miss use of the female leads. Williams and even Collette seemed to be dumbed down and fade into the background. I feel sorry for them and wished they were given a little more depth. Pose this question: What would happen if Shaft met a 90's woman? I welcome the return to the 70s Shaft brings to me. I love his no holds barred approach. Wonder if we'll see a sequel? (4 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
Hollywood brings the timeless style of the space opera to its animation department in a visual breakthrough. `Titan AE' (or Titan After Earth) chronicles the journey of a young hero named Cale (voiced by Matt Damon) as he is caught in the struggle between the last of humanity and the evil energy beings known only as the Drej. Cale seems to be the key to winning the struggle as he meets fellow earthlings Corso (Bill Pullman) and Akima (Drew Barrymore). Hidden within Cale's ring and hand is a map that will lead the last of humanity to its savior, a top secret project known as Titan. The Titan project was hidden after the annihilation of Earth and built by Cale's father. Can the last remaining humans fight off their annihilation and survive to flourish once more? As I first walked in to watch Titan AE, I was afraid that there would be a problem with melding the 3-D animation (as seen in `Toy Story') with 2-D animation (as seen in most Disney animated films). What I found was the effect drew me in more. It was amazing how the 2-D animation brought alive the characters and the 3-D animation encompassed the world around them including spaceships and backgrounds. It truly is a marvel to see. Another amazing site to see is the different worlds and aliens the animators have dreamed up for this film. Winged creatures who live on a planet full of `hydrogen trees', the `ice-rings', and even the mostly alien crew that befriends Cale. The imagination really ran rampant in those departments. It really is a shame that kind of imagination and originality never really found its way into the story. A reluctant boy tries to save his race from an evil presence as he tries to unlock his father's past. Befriended by a motley crew of misfits he sets off to find his destiny. Now that doesn't sound familiar. Putting aside the obvious comparison, Titan's story reminded me also of a couple other animated projects. The projects being the great animated series `Invasion America' and the short lived animated series `Pirates of Dark Water'. If you have seen these then you probably know what I mean. And if you haven't I recommend them highly. The look and visuals are the best part of Titan. Other parts that bugged me are when the film seemed to switch from animated movie to animated rock video. I could barely understand the lyrics or the connection the song had to that part of the film. These musical montages really messed up the whole experience for me. A huge mangled rock song would play and as soon as the chorus would come there would be a laser blast or swooshing of a spaceship disrupting the song and its effect. As I close this review I ask you as the audience one question. Do animated films need Hollywood stars as the voices? In Titan, I barely recognized any of the stars. (3.5 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer
Hollywood producing tycoon Jerry Bruckheimer returns to the silver screen with another action film. Putting aside the Hollywood silver lining, `Gone in 60 seconds' is a remake of the 1974 cult classic of the same title. The story focus is Memphis Raines (Nicolas Cage) who has to steal 50 cars in one night or a crimelord is going to kill his brother. From the opening scene, I had a feeling of déjà vu as I shook my head. The lighting, music, and deafening sound are all staples of a `Bruckheimer' film. Within these three elements is where I found the most of my déjà vu. Why does every outside shot of a `Bruckheimer' film have to be filmed like the sun is setting. Doesn't anyone have a conversation outside during the day? Another element of déjà vu is when Memphis visits his old mentor (Robert Duvall). As the music montage climbed in volume and the mood was set, I waited for an original scene between the mentor and protégé. Instead what we got was a scene taken right out of `Days of Thunder' where Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall have a symbolic talk about the majesty of a perfect racing machine. The speech wasn't the same but the music, mood, body language and lighting were so uncanny. Through the majority of the picture I felt sorry for Duvall who was playing the same mentor role as he has in a lot of movies. `60 Seconds' is a huge disappointment. I don't blame the director or the stars of this film. What made this film self-destruct was it's script and the editing of the Bruckheimer production company. I can't believe nobody saw how bad the dialogue is.
One perfect example of script self-destruction was the scene at the end of the film where Delroy Lindo's cop tries to relate to Cage's car thief by delivering this line. `I can relate to your situation and I know why you did it. A brother's love is a brother's love.' After he said that I scratched my head and thought, `what?' Another disappointment was with Angelina Jolie who was only in the film five minutes and had absolutely no chemistry with Cage. This may have been the script's fault but I at least expected some originality and chemistry during the `What's better having sex or stealing cars?' scene.
`Gone in 60 Seconds' however does completes the action trilogy of collaborators Nicolas Cage and Jerry Bruckheimer who opened the trilogy with adrenaline packed film, `The Rock'. Will these guys team up again? I hope so. I really would like Cage to do another great action film. Jerry Bruckheimer seems to have lost his touch as his second action film in a row has been a dud. After the huge box-office of `Armageddon', Bruckheimer seems to be spreading himself to thin as he opens his first film of the new millenium. With the projected release of 5 more films this year from his production company, I wonder if Bruckheimer maybe has to many projects going at once. (2 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.
Martin Lawrence stars in his second Hollywood vehicle but can his film overcome the comparisons to an `Eddie Murphy comedy' or `the black Mrs. Doubtfire'. Lawrence stars as undercover FBI agent Malcolm Turner, who is trying to capture a nasty prison escapee and bank robber before he can escape with the money. While tracking the con, Turner discovers the bank robber's girlfriend is leaving the abusive con and fleeing to her grandmother's (or Big Momma) house. After assembling a stakeout outside of the grandmother's house, Turner discovers that the grandmother is leaving for a trip. Panicking Turner assumes the role of Big Momma and greets her arriving grand-daughter. Big Momma has a lot of problems. Lawrence tries his very best to try to make the material funny. It's sometimes sad to see such a talented man so lost in such an ugly script. Why did Hollywood place this poor actor in this so obviously unfunny project? I can remember the 1980's and the huge success of Eddie Murphy but what made Eddie so successful was that the scripts accented his unique comedic talents. In recent years, the subtler Murphy has found success with the `Nutty Professor' and `Dr Dolittle' but they have never recaptured the magic of his earlier works. I believe the key problem with `Big Momma' is the script and that it can't seem to bring out the comedy trapped in Lawrence. Also the main comedic elements in this film are things we have seen countless times before. Some of the elements are the fat jokes, the man in the woman clothes gags and the dashing around as the main star tries to assume two identities at the same time. Some scenes are a direct rip-off of Mrs. Doubtfire with a black theme tucked in. During the cooking scene, I was waiting for Lawrence's huge fake breasts to catch fire but they never did and neither did the humor. Maybe within this film there are some elements that will appeal to some audiences but for me I found the whole experience very trying. (1 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.