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2001 meets Lost in Space!
2 April 2000
With all the news coverage over the past few years surrounding the probing and prodding by earthlings on our red neighbor, Mars, it seems only fitting that someone should make a movie about it. Mission to Mars is a painful result of recent speculation and theory.

A group of astronauts are suddenly killed by a strange phenomenon and it's up to a a rescue mission headed by Tim Robbins and Gary Sinise, with side kick Jerry O'Connell, and babe Connie Nielson, to save whatever is left.

Lots of dollars were spent on special effects for this film and it certainly shows. Sadly, the budget must not have had room for writers as the script ranges from mundane to downright stupid.

An attempt at making our characters three dimensional falls flat, as the issues they deal with (the death of a spouse) just don't seem to muster a tear from the audience. Where films like Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff manage to delve into the private lives of the crew, Mission To Mars takes a wrong turn. In the end, we are left with the worst performance of Tim Robbins career, playing someone that resembles Ward Cleaver rather than an astronaut about the land on Mars.

Mission to Mars tries to go the route that films like Contact did go, only the writing is not strong enough to support the wacky theories that become this film.

I should have known better than to waste ten dollars on a summer blockbuster that is so bad they had to release it in March!
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The Apple (1998)
Not without his daughters!
2 April 2000
One of the great pleasures I get out of watching foreign films is that I get see a real culture, not tainted by the political or mythical stereotypes that we have put upon them. The Apple (a.k.a. Sib) is perfect example, as it is an Iranian made production that speaks nothing of terrorism, but only of the people.

The Apple walks a thin line between documentary and drama as it tells the story of two young girls who have never walked outside their home in all the 11 years they have been alive. As the film opens, neighbors have written a letter to the Child Welfare department, and a case worker comes to the home to take the children away. Their father, a fundamentalist muslim, and their blind mother protest this and are allowed to take them back only if they promise to treat them properly.

What is truly amazing about this film is that is was filmed by Massoumeh Naderi, a seventeen year old actress and director, and that it stars the actual children and their father. As I watched this film I wasn't aware of this fact and I recall thinking about the amateur acting, yet how these characters seemed so believable. All of this makes me want to see the film again.

The Apple is one of the few films that has left thinking long after the credits have rolled and I am sure I will be disecting it for weeks to come. A review I read after the film questioned how the American media might cover a story of two children being locked away. I, on the other hand, am pondering the films intent, (I gather it is about women's rights) and the state of affairs for the real people who live in Iran.

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A heart warming tale set against the backdrop of genocide!
2 April 2000
If Disney has taught any kind of lesson about making cute animated films about historical events, it is that we should simply not make them at all. Inaccuracies aside, a cartoon that takes a cheerful look at the European colonization of the America's is looking for trouble.

The Road to El Dorado opens up in 15th century Spain where two street punks become accidental stow aways on a ship bound for Cuba. The captain of the ship is the nasty Captain Cortez, and when he finds them he orders them to be flogged and then kept prisoner to be sold as indentured servants when they arrive in Cuba.

Our two grifters, Miguel and Tulio, escape with the Captains prized horse in tow, and end up one step ahead of their captor, on the island with the fabled City of Gold. They search out the city, find it, and then try to swindle the villagers who see the pair as gods.

I honestly believe that this film should be judged on two levels. We should be looking at the animation, which is incredible, however, we should also be looking at the story, which, I hate to say, has a profound effect on how I feel about the movie as a whole.

Dreamworks produced this picture, and there is no doubt that they have managed to achieve the level of animation that Disney, the kingpin of all cartoon factories, has made famous, but they still have several lessons to learn.

The story is not only banal, it is slow moving and anti-climactic, the good versus evil thing seems to fizzle out. Our heroes are almost as bankrupt morally, as our villains, and they never quite learn their lesson in the end. The Road to El Dorado has a couple of cuddly critters, yet neither manage to tug at my heart strings. The horse, who was crusty when owned by the ruthless captain, becomes a loyal, if not temperamental ally. And then there is this possum who somehow decides to go along for the ride.

Elton John writes and sings the music attached to this film and I hate to say it, but its awful. I won't be looking for him to sing any of these lifeless tunes at next years Oscars.

And then there is the gay sub-text. Oh yes, if you look carefully ... if you really want to see it, it's there. I forgot to mention that our grifters, with swishy voices provided by Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branaugh, are toned, tanned and maned to the hilt. The scandal surrounding this film is the hot tub scene, where the boys eagerly rush naked into the steamy water. In reality it should be no big deal, but if that sells tickets, then who am I to argue.

Personally, I would suggest passing on The Road to El Dorado, only because of the lousy story. I would not suggest it for children, only because I doubt they would be interested. On the other hand, high praise to the animators, and my fingers are crossed in hopes that they be given a decent script for their next big venture.
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Working Girl (1988)
A film about the girl of the 80's!
2 April 2000
Big hair, running shoes and short skirts were, and still are, a familiar sight, not only in rural America on a Saturday night, but at 8:45 am on the main street of any urban center. Working Girl is a fable, a lesson, and a sharp comedy about one such girl.

Melonie Griffith, in her defining role, plays Tess, a girl with ambition, who wants to work in the big leagues. Job after job, she seems to fail, not because she can't do the work, but because she won't put out for the boss. Finally she lands a job as an assistant to a powerhouse woman, Katherine Parker, played wonderfully by Sigourney Weaver. Sadly Tess must learn that women can back stab as good as any guy can.

Tess gets her opportunity to shine, when a skiing accident in Europe keeps Katherine away. Immediately she partners with lady killer Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) in order to put to work a corporate merger.

Working Girl borders on being dated but it manages to capture the 'me decade' so well that it is still interesting (and certainly relevant). Supporting performances from Joan Cusak, as the kooky friend, and Alec Baldwin, as the frustrated lover, compliment the story.

Carly Simon's now classic song, Let the River Run, plays throughout the film bringing some sentiment to a story that is loaded with laughs.

Weaver should have won the Oscar for her role as an over-the-top bitch who smiles as she digs the knife in just a bit further. It's her performance however, and the story line itself, that suggests a dangerous myth, that women in corporate society are vicious. I'm not denying that many women are, I just think it ought to be made clear, that they learned their tricks from men!
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Shrimp boats, psychiatry and Babs!
31 March 2000
Barbra Streisand may be the most demanding person to ever sit in a director chair, but her reputation is not without reward. Streisand does offer up quality films, and I suspect that The Prince of Tides is her best work to date.

Based on the novel by Pat Conroy, this is the story of a South Carolina football coach who must come to terms with a dark family secret when his sister attempts suicide. Nick Nolte plays Tom Wingo, a man undergoing marital difficulties (his wife thinks he is cold and distant) who must meet with his sister's New York psychiatrist (that would be Barbra) and tell her about some of the family skeletons that his sister has blocked from her memory.

The Prince of Tides is beautifully filmed. No doubt, Streisand's attention to detail shows through loud and clear. The actors are very good, despite what I felt was a script that tended to be overly dramatic at points. I read the Conroy novel and of course there is far more detail in that story, as Wingo traces back the whole sordid history of his childhood with an abusive father and a social climbing mother. The movie, despite limitations, does a fine job of capturing the essence of that story.

I am not a Nolte fan but I liked this performance, and would go out on a limb to suggest that it is his best yet (even better than Affliction). Barbra seems to have resigned herself these days to acting with her legs, as they are a featured performer throughout the film.

Perhaps the most noteworthy performance, and my reason for watching this again, is Kate Neligan as the mother, Lila. Neligan always seems to 'wow' me with her work, and this Oscar nominated role is no exception. As the sometimes angry, sometimes glamorous, sometimes eccentric, Southern belle, Neligan is fascinating to watch.

The Prince of Tides is at times an indulgent story, but the kicker is pretty powerful stuff. Nolte has his machismo challenged in this role as his character must confront something that fills him with anger, confusion and shame. Sadly the climax comes too soon, before most of the soap opera-like twists can be fully resolved, leading us to believe that this effort is running on too long.

The Prince of Tides, despite its faults, is a film well worth watching.
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Thinly veiled story about the unspeakable!
31 March 2000
The moral majority's campaign to censor anything on the movie screen considered too taboo had an incredible impact on Hollywood during the 1930's right through to the 1970's. Censors went through Hollywood scripts, tearing out anything considered unspeakable, no matter how important it was to the plot at hand. It became an art form of sorts, for Hollywood film makers to veil their nasty little subjects so that the censors (who weren't that bright anyway) couldn't find it, but so that a smart audience could. Suddenly Last Summer is a classic example of this art in action.

Tennessee Williams was the toast of Broadway in the 1950's, with his melodramatic plays that often tackled heavy subjects such as addiction, adultery and in the case of this story, homosexuality. Katherine Hepburn plays a classic Tennessee Williams vamp, Violet Venable, a lady of means who is mourning the loss of her son. She has sought the help of a psychiatrist, played by Montgomery Clift, as she would like to have a lobotomy performed on her niece, who is apparently off her rocker (as most of Tennessee Williams' ladies are) and is spouting nasty rumors about the dead son.

Like most of Williams' work, Suddenly Last Summer flows along with over the top dialogue, the kind that actors love to sink their teeth into. I have not seen the original stage play but I suspect that this screenplay has been severely hacked to obliterate any talk of homosexuality. Venable's son was murdered while on vacation in Europe. If you take the dialogue literally you might believe that he was murdered for his religious convictions. If you read between the lines you will see that this was clearly a gay bashing.

Hepburn and Taylor both shine in their roles, that seem almost custom made for them. It's rare that Hepburn is cast as a villain, however, her performance leaves me wondering why she hasn't done it more often. Taylor's hyper-active hyper-ventilating, Catherine Holly works well here. Her own brand of melodramatic acting seems to compliment Williams' work.

Clift was a tad cardboard in his role as the psychiatrist, however, it is still interesting to watch this performance that was filmed after his face-altering car accident. One might think that he recently underwent a lobotomy. On the other hand, he is competent, and the performances of the actresses more than compensate.

Suddenly Last Summer works as a film, but I am hesitant to recommend to everyone. This is not an action flick, by any means, but rather a character piece. Scenes are long and they require your concentration, as important statements can be found between the lines. For fans of any of these actors, this is a must see!
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The Hurricane (1999)
A showcase performance for Washington!
26 March 2000
Three cheers to Roger Ebert who commented recently on the bickering and scandals surrounding the film The Hurricane, and the fact that certain inaccuracies could hurt Denzel Washington's chances as a Best Actor Oscar. As Ebert says, "Who cares?" We don't go to films to be educated - we go to be entertained. Let's judge the film on those merits instead.

Reubin 'Hurricane' Carter is the man who 'could have been a contender' had his professional career not been cut short in the 1960's when he was convicted for murdering several people in a bar.

The film examines the life of Hurricane, how he spends his days in jail, the facts (and perhaps the fiction) surrounding the case, and the circumstances surrounding the appeals. Throughout we see a character transform from an angry street kid to a tired, but not yet defeated, older man.

Hurricane's story reaches a young boy who has been 'rescued' from the streets of New York by a group of happy-go-lucky Torontonian's. The boy and his foster family take on Hurricane's case after several others have given up.

I'm not familiar with the full story myself and, like Roger Ebert, I really don't think it matters. I have seen recent interviews with Reuben Carter and have read enough about the case to know that this film captures the essence of the story and the spirit of the man. Furthermore, The Hurricane makes a pretty strong statement on its own.

In the end, this film truly belongs to Denzel Washington. His performance is near flawless, playing someone who is not perfect, but certainly remarkable. Over the past few years we have seen Washington become somewhat mannered in his performances, however, he is usually playing icy professionals in simplistic thrillers. In Hurricane, the Washington mannerisms are tossed aside as he delivers a performance that is fresh. You can not take your eyes off of him - he is that good!

I did have problems with the movie, and none of them had to do with the facts surrounding the case. I didn't understand, nor buy into, the Canadians who worked on Hurricane's last appeal. Their undying conviction for this man was honorable, but lacked reason. We Canadians can be friendly, but not to the extent that we would leave everything behind and move down south.

On a more personal note, the way that Toronto was depicted was almost laughable. The first scene projects two characters walking through Ontario Place, under the shadow of the CN Tower. They are heading to a book fair (where they stumble upon Hurricane's biography) and one is complaining about the cold. The other replies by saying that he'd better get used to it as this is summer! Let me assure you that Toronto sees some pretty muggy days. Ask anyone who has been sprawled out over the air conditioner in July.

In the end, The Hurricane, while sometimes predictable, works. Washington delivers some great lines. This character in this film delivers a strong message that is, for once, positive. And the story does bring tears to the eyes once in awhile.
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I counted! They didn't come close to 200!
26 March 2000
I like watching these movies that try to capture days past that I can remember living through. I was but a pre-teenager in 1981, but I do recall the era, the music and some of the post-70's values that permeated that time. Sadly, the makers of 200 Cigarettes have no recollection at all.

The film stars a slew of up and coming and over the hill, post brat packers, all given scenery to chew, and a wardrobe that looks like it came from Madonna's garage sale. They are all on their way to some hot New Years Eve party, and as they venture through the streets of Manhatten, they fight and whine their way through their sordid issues.

Paul Rudd and Courtney Love play a couple of friends who can't seem to get over their past relationships. While Rudd likes to kick garbage cans and punch walls, Love gets by with her usual smirk and smile. Their story really didn't go anywhere.

And that's not all. Christine Ricci does an over the top Brooklyn accent as she shouts and yells her way to the party that she can't seem to find. Ben Affleck is the cocky bartender who can't seem to get laid. And poor Martha Plimpton, perhaps one of the most under used and under-rated actresses in Hollywood, cries over the fact that no one is showing up for her party.

200 Cigarettes is really much a do about nothing. An attempt to be intelligent fails miserable in a story that goes no where, and says nothing. Fans of any of these actors might find it to be an interesting foot note to a career, but as far as films go, 200 Cigarettes is a pass.
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The Faculty (1998)
The Breakfast Club meets Body Snatchers
26 March 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Over the past several years Hollywood has released a slew of campy horror flicks with great dialogue beautiful people. I looked forward to finally watching The Faculty as this story seemed intriguing and those angst ridden kids seemed saucy enough to carry this film.

The Faculty is the story of a group of high school kids in rural Ohio who find out that their teachers are not just mean, they are nasty aliens hell bent on taking over the world. We are introduced to six different kids, all from different parts of the clique chain, who accidently come together when they witness their teachers doing some horrific things.

Bebe Neuwirth is killed in a horrifying opening by a nasty gym teacher and a timid (or so we think) Piper Laurie. And from there the film takes off into an Invasion of the Body Snatchers direction, with kids who are forced to work together despite their natural dislike for each other.

Now I like my horror movies to be bad, and I like it better when the film is able to admit its own shortcomings. The brilliance of recent films like Scream was in the fact that they didn't take themselves too seriously. The Faculty doesn't take itself too seriously, and it clearly pays homage to several great horror flicks of days past. One would get the feeling that the producers of this film enjoyed the fact that they were ripping off some of their favorite films. The only trouble is, that in all of their enjoyment, they forgot about the audience.

The Faculty delivers on many levels. The effects are interesting. The kids are cute and some of the dialogue (but certainly not all of it) is OK. I enjoyed films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Carrie, so this was, to some extent, a welcome treat.

On the other hand, the flaws in this effort are so big that they are hard to overlook. These kids find out awfully fast what the aliens are made of. These kids should be doing AIDS research, not fighting squishy monsters.

As well, the film stopped being scary early on in the story. In Invasion of the Body Snatchers (any version) I was horrified by the mere idea of some pod critter taking over my body. Watching this film, I thought, 'What the hell? When they call me to the nurse's office for my ear exam, I'm going.'

And then there was that whole vampire logic, which I will not get into because it would be a spoiler, but suffice it to say, was a easy way out of this 'already crumby' plot.
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A heart warming tale about death row!
26 March 2000
Frank Durabont has already passed the Stephen King test, being one of the few directors to successfully adapt one of the pop-authors books into a good film with The Shawshank Redemption. Durabont does it again with The Green Mile.

Tom Hanks plays Paul Edgecomb, a prison guard circa 1930's, with a heart of gold who runs the area of the prison that is death row, and affectionately called 'the green mile'. Paul and his counterparts believe that a little kindness goes a long way in maintaining their little corner of the world, as they believe their kindness is all that these inmates have left.

John Coffeey, a friendly giant played by Michael Clarke Duncan, is the latest visitor to their cell block, who has been convicted of a murder that we know right away he did not commit. We know this because his only request is that they leave the lights on for him at night as he is afraid of the dark.

One of the big complaints about this film is its running time (almost 3 hours) but I have to say that I wasn't bothered by that one bit. In fact, I was sorry to see it end.

Over the course of three hours we see several story lines evolve, mostly surrounding Hanks character and the supernatural powers that Duncan's character possesses. We get a first hand look at capital punishment and the ordeal of facing the electric chair. While this is a film that rallies against capital punishment, the film does not get mired in its message.

Hanks does some fine acting in this role, holding back the temptation to let loose his trademark humor, maintaining a stoicism that would befit a prison guard in this situation.

Duncan is even more interesting to watch. His blubbering village idiot provides the true heart and the magic (literally) of this moving film.

The Green Mile contains some horrific scenes, including a botched execution and a nasty end to a lovable rodent, but even these incidents are tamed down by the warmth that is conveyed by its main characters. Despite the violence, I would still recommend this film for the whole family.
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Canada's first great film!
18 March 2000
It's a fact that Canadians in general seem to have a built in disdain and ignorance for Canadian cinema. Of course with B-grade art house films that tend to stereotype and even make trite Canadian culture and values it WAS no wonder that we all felt that way. In 1986 Denys Arcand released Decline of the American Empire, a film that did not try to model Hollywood movie making for the sake of being successful, and did not compromise its integrity for the sake of being Canadian.

Decline of the American Empire plays on the theory that the American empire is crumbling in much the same way that great empires before it have, by sheer decadance and flagrant individualism. The story centers on a group of friends, most of them university professors, historians and theorists. In dyads, triads and groups they discuss their sexual conquests, their pain and their fantasies.

Throughout the story there is some fascinating dialogue, as the characters apply their own lives to the theories they espouse. The anecdotes and discussions are at once shocking and funny.

Perhaps most brilliant of all is the fact that the script holds up very well, despite that fact that so much political turmoil has taken place since the original release of this picture. Discussions about Karl Marx, male-female relationships and sexual politics, as discussed during the 'me-decade', are still very relevant today.

Arcand creates a masterpiece that is certainly not for all tastes, but is important in that it set a new standard for Canadian film making. Decline of the American Empire is a film that will leave you thinking for days!
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Last Night (I) (1998)
An 'End of the World' story without the special effects!
14 March 2000
If you want to know what happens when you take Hollywood out of the movie making process then check out a film like Don McKellar's Last Night. A Canadian effort, this film about armageddon contains no aliens, no atomic missiles, no blood, no guts and no multi million dollar action hero. Not that there is anything wrong with anything mentioned above, but sometimes its nice to see a film that still has the original vision well in tact.

Last Night takes place in Toronto and the story opens up six hours before the end of the world. We are not privy to why the world is ending, and it seems that nobody is really doing anything about it. An art film every step of the way, the purpose here is to explore what people might choose to do with their last remaining moments on earth.

Not known to the rest of the world, but huge stars within Canada's film community, Don McKellar and Sandra Oh headline the cast. Other Canadian luminaries such as Sarah Polley, David Cronenberg and Genvieve Bujold come in and out of the plot as well.

Almost like an Altman film, Last Night is a stitching together of people and their stories. One man is using the internet to find last minute sex partners. A woman is looking for her husband who has suddenly disappeared. A mother clings to her young daughter, blocking out the horror that is going on around her.

Last Night flows nicely with dialogue that is thought provoking and intelligent. Certainly not for all tastes, as I fear some will find it hard to get beyond the initial premise, this is a film best left to those who like their movies to have some edge.
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British manners, American boldness and Italian art.
14 March 2000
It seems that at least once a year a film maker somewhere will gather a group of aging actresses together and put them into a project that they can all sink their acting chops into. Tea With Mussolini is one such effort.

Set in Florence during the second world war, the story revolves around an Italian orphan named Luca who is taken in by a a group of elderly British ladies. Complete with their homespun customs which includes high tea and staunch manners, these ladies set about instilling in Luca the passion that they have for his art-filled city. They remain oblivious to the war that is brewing around them, and in fact the ring leader of the group, Lady Chester (played wonderfully by Maggie Smith) has tea with the dictator, getting his assurances that these British nobles will remain safe.

Cher plays the much despised American, Elsa, who spends her rich husband's money on art and other lavish objects. Her personal connection to Luca, (his mother made clothes for her) creates a connection to her and the others.

The women are eventually interned and this becomes a coming of age story for Luca as well as for the women.

Ignore the fact that the story tends to drag just a tad. Tea With Mussolini is a period piece, complete with gorgeous settings and great costumes. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to see several actresses strut their stuff with a script filled with some brilliant lines. Maggie Smith stands out, flaunting her British airs at every opportunity. "All the great people have empires these days." Her visit with Mussolini is a classic scene and she milks it for all its worth. In fact this is Smith's best work in several years.

Cher over does her part as the flamboyant rich girl. She sports some great outfits but its sometimes hard to believe that she is the spoiled American princess with a heart of gold that Elsa is supposed to be. Cher does sing at one point (and what a campy moment that was) and of course she does look the part.

Judi Dench was a bit of a let down playing the sentimental artist. She wasn't bad in the role, but after seeing her play some tough queens in her recent past, seeing her here playing a wimp is a bit of a challenge. Joan Plowright and Lily Tomlin are both passable in their roles, but again, I felt their talents a little wasted here.

Tea With Mussolini is worth at least one viewing. Fans of Cher and Maggie Smith will not be disappointed. The city of Florence is certainly showcased well, as are the actresses. Perhaps the thin plot line was a result of someone trying to find something for all of these women to do.
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14 March 2000
Steven Speilberg's adaptation of Alice Walkers popular novel is not without its share of controversy. When first released members of the black community criticised its treatment of black men, while others questioned why a white man was directing this film about black women.

This is the story of a young black woman named Celie, growing up in rural America after the turn of the century. She has two children by her abusive father which are snatched from her arms at birth. Her only solace in her miserable life comes from her sister.

Celie (played in later years by newcomer Whoopie Goldberg) is married off to an abusive husband (Danny Glover). The husband is humiliated by the sister and so she is quickly removed from Celie's life.

The story is often heartbreaking as Celie keeps up hope that she may one day be reunited with her sister and with her children. Throughout her life she meets an assortment of characters, including Sophia, a tough as nails wife to her step son, and Shug, a loud and luscious saloon singer, who teaches her a thing or two about love.

Speilberg's direction is all over this picture, which offers brilliant cinematography and some stellar performances. I dare you to watch this film and not be moved! The film The Color Purple manages to capture the essence of what is a complicated story. While it tends to minimise the lesbian aspects as well as the African story, both of which were so vivid in the book, the movie remains true to its themes, allowing the voice of Alice Walker to shine through.

I couldn't begin to respond to the controversy that surrounded this film. Suffice it to say, however, this is one of the few films that I can watch again and again, and which has left an indelible mark on me.
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Enough is Enough!!!
10 March 2000
I am not a big Bond fanatic so I probably have no business even writing a review of this film, however, I saw it on a plane recently so I felt compelled to give my two cents.

I have not seen all of the great classics, like Dr. No and The Spy Who Loved Me, and Bond fans will cringe when I say that my favorite of the Bond flicks is still A View to A Kill. The World is Not Enough is the second Brosnan flick that I have seen (this is actually his third) and I have to say, I don't give a damn who plays James. Brosnan is fine, but if they replace him tomorrow, I don't care.

In this venture our hero must protect an heiress from some nasty thugs that will stop at nothing to kill her. The typical ski chase plays out, and this time the dome in London, England is a backdrop to some hot action. Sophie Marceau plays the heiress and Denise Richards is the Bond girl of the day, a smart doctor who helps Bond when the going gets tough.

The Iron Curtain has been dismantled for years now but Russian accents still permeate the script. Nuclear war heads are flying everywhere and James still has an eye for the trashy ladies.

What I did like about this effort was the extended use of the great Judi Dench. Since her big Oscar turns over the past couple of years I suppose the makers of this Bond felt obligated to take her out of the Charlie Townsend role of giving the assignment, warning Bond not to go too far, and congratulating him in the end for a job well done. This time she is partly responsible for the events that take place, and she is left to her own devices when she is taken hostage by the bad guys.

As an action film, this one tends to deliver. As per usual, the stunts are spectacular, the chicks are hot, and of course the plot is secondary. Bond fans will probably get some satisfaction out of this one, but I wonder how often the closing tag, '007 Will Return', will actually hold true.
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The Bachelor (1999)
Cut and Paste look at marriage.
10 March 2000
In Robert Altman's The Player, studio executives demonstrate how a film idea can turn from one person's artistic vision into a shallow appeal to the masses. When I watch a film like The Bachelor, I often wonder what went on when that film was pitched.

Chris O'Donnell is perfectly cast as the likeable hunk who can't quite bring himself to commit to marriage. Life with girlfriend Anne is perfect because she doesn't seem to have any desire to take that extra step either. The day that she does start to think about 'the future' things take a nasty turn.

O'Donnell as Jimmy struggles through a proposal, simply because his peers tell him he must. Anne turns him down, of course, because his intentions are not honorable.

The plot thickens when Jimmy's ornery grandfather dies and leaves a 100 million dollar fortune to Jimmy, the only surviving relative. The catch is that our hero can only collect the money if he is married by his 30th birthday, which just happens to be in one day. A daring move, one of the lawyers utters something about this being 'Brewster's Millions.' A clever line, obviously written by someone brave enough to admit that this plot is a total rip off.

With the aid of his best friend, a few lawyers and a stoic priest (played by James Cromwell), he sets about trying to win the heart of Anne. When that doesn't succeed, Jimmy goes through the list of old girlfriends, most of whom are personality challenged, and some of whom do not remember him fondly.

Anyone with a weak heart might melt at the image of O'Donnell running through the streets of San Francisco with a bouquet of flowers, others would probably be wise just to pass. O'Donnell and Zellweger play well in this film, but like most cardboard comedies, there isn't much for the actors to do.

One might spot an attempt a some black humor, in the same vein as better films like Heathers and Election, but it failures to even come close to those. The Bachelor presents an opening thesis using wild mustangs to describe men. As each of his friends gets hitched, we see them running along side a herd of these horses, a lasso about to snag them. This joke is mildly clever, but sadly it is also the best thing about the film.
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A case of sibling rivalry!
2 March 2000
Twenty five years after its release, Carrie remains one of the best horror films of all time. Despite its obvious flaws, Carrie is a classic that I personally can watch again and again. So, I was excited when I found out they were releasing a sequel. Even though I knew it was going to be bad, I could not wait to see The Rage: Carrie 2.

Several years later Carrie's memory is all but forgotten. A burnt out shell remains where there once stood a high school. Most of the witnesses, most of the people who knew Carrie, are dead. If you recall, she killed them with her telekinetic powers.

Rachel Lang doesn't know it yet, but she is a half sister to Carrie. Apparently they share the same dead beat dad. Dad seems to have a thing for nutty women because Rachel's mother is religious freak, just like Carrie's, only she has been institutionalized. Oh, and Rachel also has telekinetic powers.

Rachel isn't the quiet shy type like her older sister. Updated for the nineties, this film presents Rachel as a girl with guts who has no trouble standing up to the people that think she is a freak.

As the story goes, the school jocks have been playing a little game where they earn points for every girl they can bang. One of them gets a chance with Rachel's best friend and after he dumps her she commits suicide. Enter the school shrink.

Amy Irving reprises her role as Sue Snell. She tried to help Carrie once, but it all backfired. Since then she has been on a mission to help unpopular girls everywhere. The suicide issue leads her to Rachel and they begin talking. The jocks fear that Rachel might know something that could incriminate them so of course, a plan is hatched to get back at Rachel.

I don't have to tell you what happens next.

I knew this was going to be a bad film before I saw it, I just didn't know how bad. The Rage doesn't work for me, even as a B movie, mainly because it tries to hard, and fails, at being slicker than the first. The Prom scene is replaced with a party scene this time around and it just doesn't hold up. There is certainly more gore this time around, and the prank is pretty nasty, but it lacks that gothic terror that the first one (with much cheaper effects, I might add) created.

Fans of the first film might find this interesting, if only from a clinical standpoint. Don't expect much this time around. The Rage: Carrie 2 is disappointing follow up, simply because it tries too hard to be different.
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Predictable romp about hot-to-trot nuns!
2 March 2000
Noteworthy because it was Elvis' last film, Change of Habit is a Sister Act for the sixties, as issues of the day are portrayed in this story about three nuns who move to the inner city.

Elvis Presley plays a hip and happening doctor. His New York City practise is over run with sex starved teen agers, abused children and stubborn parents, all seeking help from this hunk o' burning love. Mary Tyler Moore leads a trio of nuns who forsake their habits when they set up shop with the doctor to help out these people.

From the outset Mary suggests that they not wear their traditional garb, so instead we see three bodacious babes donning mini skirts and funky handbags, walking down Fifth Avenue.

The ladies have a difficult time coping with the myriad of problems that face them in their new digs. Their apartment is a wreck and the neighbors aren't taking to them very well. Even the Cardinal that they report to is disgusted with them.

Change of Habit makes a Disney-like attempt at tackling the issues of the day. Racism is a hot topic as one of the nuns comes under pressure for being black. The film takes place in a hispanic community and there is some discussion about literacy, teenage pregnancy and even drugs, but nothing that the kids couldn't watch.

Change of Habit is not a bad film; certainly its heart is in the right place. The problem is that it's dated. The subject matter is handled with care, (a bit patronizing to be honest) however the issues, while still relevant, look different today. The music was fun. At the time this film was made Elvis was just about to reach his fat stage and his music was becoming silly. 'Rubbernecking' kicks off the film and it's just fabulous!

The cast is good enough to make the trite story line work. This is Elvis eight years before the end, and Mary only a couple of years away from starring in one of the best television sitcoms ever made. Even though Moore makes it clear that she didn't sleep with Elvis, their is no denying that the chemistry between them is ... interesting.
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Deep Blue Sea (1999)
A tribute to disaster films that is wonderfully flawed!
1 March 2000
The idea of making yet another sequel to the classic film Jaws may have been blown out of the water by a string of silly follow ups, but attempting to make a film that is better than Jaws (while next to impossible) is not necessarily a bad thing. Director Renny Harlin brings to the screen an updated version of man versus shark, adding more gore, more suspense, and more danger, but ultimately presenting a pretty cheesy movie.

In Deep Blue Sea, a group of scientists have learned that they can house a potential cure for brain disease in the brains of sharks. While they seem to be on to something, their project has come under scrutiny as one of their sharks have escaped and is playing havoc on a group of sailors. Now their ocean fortress is being evaluated by Samuel L. Jackson and they have to prove to him that their cure is for real or they will be shut down.

Jackson arrives for the weekend as most of the team is leaving. The skeleton crew that is left behind is your usual assortment of disaster film characters, ready to die in an effort that seems to touch on just about every great disaster flick ever made.

Brit scientist and leader, Saffron Burrows looks like she just played Jacqueline Bissett in the Deep as she heads the team. Her conviction to this project is so great that she would even sacrifice the lives of her team to ensure that her work is completed.

In what seems like a tribute to Alien, the first victim is a John Hurt-like character who, instead of giving birth to a monster through his stomach, is thrown through the stomach of the laboratory by the monster.

The group must try to escape what becomes their oceanic prison, in a series of stunts that would make Shelley Winters proud. Right from the start the sharks destroy a rescue helicopter and the radio control tower, making it difficult for even Arthur Hailey to help them. And of course, Charleton Heston wouldn't stand a chance in this predicament.

The sharks have been injected with something that has increased their intelligence, so now they have the ability to swim backwards, work in packs and (I'm not kidding here) even cook their victims.

It seems that somewhere along the line, the makers of Deep Blue Sea realized that this was not going to be a serious effort, no matter how hard they tried, however, that shouldn't stop anyone from making this picture. As an action piece, Deep Blue Sea delivers the goods. The action is non-stop, the suspense is right on and if you like gore, you will probably get a kick out of this.

I doubt anyone on this project thought that this was going to be an original project, and they certainly didn't expect it to be the next Jaws. The plot line is silly and the acting is second rate. As a viewer, go with it and enjoy. But don't get too comfortable. While cliche, this film is never predictable. Who lives and who dies, and how they manage to live and die, is anyone's guess!
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Not too bold for a man named Danger!
23 February 2000
Mike Myers and the gang are back in a sequel to the ultra-popular Austin Powers replaying the same old sight gags with only a few new twists. In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Austin is still battling Dr. Evil in a story line that, once again, plays second fiddle to the laughs.

The film opens up where the last one left off, in the honeymoon suite of Austin and Vanessa. A problem with the remote control reveals that Vanessa is actually a dreaded Fembot, planted by Dr. Evil; a convenient twist to say the least as Austin is back to being a swinging single.

Dr. Evil, meanwhile, cannot comprehend the financial empire that has grown around him, as he is still caught up in trying to capture his enemy, Austin and in taking over the world. He concocts a scheme to rob Austin of his mojo (that's his drive, baby) by traveling back in time to when Austin was still frozen. The scheme works and Austin is left in a helpless rut.

Most of the old cast is back for this round. Robert Wagner continues his role as Number Two, this time revealing his characters dismay over his boss, who is not interested in the billion-dollar corporation that Two has created. Michael York is back playing Basil Exposition, the gadget guru who charges Austin with his mission. And Frau Farbisinna (Mindy Sterling) is still fawning for Dr. Evil, this time revealing her love for their rebellious love child, Scott (Seth Green).

To make things seem fresh, a new group of characters are brought in. Kristen Johnston plays Ivana Humpalot, a icy model working for Dr. Evil. Heather Graham is Felicity Shagwell, a 1960's secret agent with a passion for Austin. And Verne Troyer is Mini-Me, the biggest laugh in the entire film, artificially cloned son to Dr. Evil.

The Spy Who Shagged Me is like a blue print for all sequels. It stays true to the original, for the most part simply building on the bits delivered in the first film. While it might lose marks for lacking an original premise, I rather enjoyed the over-the-wall silliness. Also, like the original, there is nothing complicated about this film, nor should there be. The Spy Who Shagged Me is a 'leave your brains at the door' kind of laugh-fest.
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Payback (I) (1999)
Oh just give him the damn money, already!
21 February 2000
Mel Gibson is true to form in his latest action flick, even though his character lacks the goofy charm of all of his previous characters. Gibson's character, and in fact all of the characters in Payback, lack any redeeming qualities, and the film does not apologize for that.

Gibson is Porter, a tough talking thug who, with the help of his drug addicted wife and his creepy friend, hijacks $140 000 from a band of mafia jockeys. Later he is screwed out of his share when his wife and friend try to kill him. Of course the plan is foiled and Porter is out for revenge.

There isn't much I want to say about this movie, except that I found it rather dull. The action moved along all right, but I cared so little for the characters (especially Gibson's) that kept losing interest. There is lots of violence in this film, but none of it shocking and certainly none of it necessary. I hate to say it but it seemed to me that the film makers were trying too hard.

For those who like nonsensical action pictures, this movie might prove satisfying, otherwise, don't waste your time.
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A swinging romp on the wild side!
21 February 2000
It seems like a unique talent for Mike Myers that he can make work a silly plot line, carry a dumb joke too far and basically get by on some extreme mugging for the camera. If it was in the hands of anyone else, perhaps Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery might not have worked.

Myers relies on influences from his time spent in Britain, and perhaps a love for sixties spy films to bring us this film about a swinging spy for the British Secret Service who is frozen in order that he be around in case the dreaded Dr. Evil (also played by Myers) turns up in the future. In the late sixties, Evil escaped in a space ship with his cat, not to be heard from until the late nineties.

The running gag in this effort is that these two sixties icons are now trying to carry on in the politically correct nineties. For Austin that means his sexual escapades are no longer acceptable. Here is an interesting commentary on male prowess as the sixties love machine is now striking out because he has bad teeth, flamboyant clothes and a tacky charm. Dr. Evil, meanwhile, tries to resume his plans to destroy the world, but he can't get past the fact that one million dollars is petty cash if you are going to hold the world hostage.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is not only filled with these decade versus decade gags, but Myers throws in a few of his old stand by bits as well. ("Look, I'm in an elevator" has been done a few times.)

Myers has an appreciation for the old boys, making good use of folks like Robert Wagner, Michael York and Mimi Rogers. The film pokes fun at those old Bond flicks with characters like Alotta Fagina and Number Two. Dr. Evil ignores suggestions to simply shoot his prisoners, and instead chooses to put them in an 'easily escapable' scenario which he will decide not to watch. Bionic Man fans will of course remember the Fembots and fans of the sixties will love the Burt Bacharach cameo.

Austin Powers works on a very basic level. It is funny (at least I thought so) however it is nothing more than that. The sophmoric humor is not too offensive, and while the plot seems to be a secondary concern for the film makers, I never found it to be boring.

Fans of Mike Myers will not be disappointed.
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What's a Material Girl to Do?
12 February 2000
Warning: Spoilers
It's amazing how far we have come in such a short time, as only half a century ago Hollywood was making movies that glamorized the assertive woman as being a gal who clawed her way up the social ladder by latching on to the first rich man she could find. Gentleman Prefer Blondes seems like a harmless comedy, but it make no mistake this pre-feminist era musical clearly states "Don't burn that bra! Push it up!"

Marylyn Monroe and Jane Russell are two single babes who embark on an ocean liner bound for Europe in hopes of attracting Mr. Right. Sporting extravagant clothes by Travilla, these are two middle class ladies looking to move up a few income brackets by nabbing a well-to-do gentleman.

Marylin's character Lorelei is the more aggressive of the pair. She is relentless in her search, going ape when she spots an older man with a diamond mine. Jane plays Dorothy, the more sensitive, but brassy one.

Trouble brews when Lorelei gets involved with the diamond mine owner. As it turns out, Jane's love interest has been hired to spy on the millionaire by his jealous wife. Lorelei and Dorothy learn that pictures have been taken of the illicit affair and they create a scheme to clear their millionaire and Lorelei from any wrong doing. Unfortunately, Lorelei's passion for diamonds brings out her stubborn side, and that makes for an even bigger mess.

This is a classic Monroe film, offering some of her most famous moments. The 'Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend' number is fabulous and completely sums up the theme of the story. Monroe's acting ability is certainly not challenged here. She plays the bubbly blonde that she has become legendary for, this time proving that there are some brains underneath all that dye.

Russell is a good match for Monroe, her natural moxy complimenting Monroe's airy delivery. She also manages to stand out, even against the ever glamorous Marylin. The image of her dancing around a gymnasium, waving two ping pong paddles at ignorant muscle boys, as she sings about her own problems with love is very hot!

Gentleman Prefer Blondes is a must see for Marylin fans, and a great waste of time for anyone that likes fluffy movies. Every aspect of the film has fun written all over it. The musical numbers are upbeat, the sets and the costumes are colorful (not to mention, over the top) and the performances are great. This is schmaltzy 1950's film making at its best!

And let's be realistic for just a moment. There is a little opportunist in all of us just itching to get out!
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Post-war propaganda effort.
12 February 2000
It was around the time she made Three Came Home that Claudette Colbert backed out of playing Margo Channing in the now classic All About Eve. She bowed out due to health problems (a bad back I think) but a regretful choice anyway.

Three Came Home is based on the true story of Agnes Keith, her husband and her young son. After living a privileged life in Japan until the day that Japan declared war on the United States in 1942. Too late to escape, Agnes and her son are separated from her husband and interned in a concentration camp. This is her story, detailing the many horrors that would follow. Forced to do manual labor and subject to beatings, torture and sub-standard living conditions, Agnes must be brave in order to survive.

Three Came Home is one of the first tellings life in a Japanese camp, but not the best. Empire of the Sun and even Paradise Road, have since been able to bring to light the horrors in a more realistic fashion. Colbert is good as a woman undergoing extreme pressure but she isn't great. Somehow she can't seem to shake that 'proper lady of the 1940's' image that a situation like this would have surely removed. I don't know if she can be entirely to blame though. Her hair and makeup are always perfect. Even the dirt is carefully applied to her face, so that she is always presentable, always ready in case a Dior fashion show comes to town.

Three Came Home does an admiral job of causing rage with its audience. The Japanese officers are heartless beasts, letting up only when manipulated by Colbert's common sense. While we shouldn't be sympathetic to anyone working in a concentration camp, the film never explores the Japenese sentiment. Of course in 1950, with a communist scare running through the United States, and the war still a vivid memory for everyone, that might be a bit much to expect.

Three Came Home is is only worth catching if you happen to be a fan of Claudette Colbert. This film is significant only because it documents her transition from Hollywood starlet to Hollywood maven.
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Super! Thanks for asking!
11 February 2000
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is being touted as the best musical of the decade, and that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has seen it. Capturing the essence of more than one classic musical, this nasty little parody with those foul mouthed little children is one of the best films to come out in a long time.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone do for the big screen what they have been doing on television for a few years: they push the envelope way over to the other side! Tackling censorship and parental discretion, this will be significant because it truly challenged and carried forward, the NC-17 debate. This isn't the first time that Parker and Stone have taken the censors to task, but it is certainly their most daring effort.

As the story goes, the kids of South Park eagerly rush out to see the latest film from those flatulent Canadians, Terrance and Phillip. The movie is filled with foul language which the children start repeating. When the school and their parents get wind of it (excuse the pun) all hell breaks loose. Kyle's mom heads up a committee to blame and eventually go to war with Canada. As she sees it, the film is corrupting America's youth.

In keeping with the TV show, this film carries with it a strong message, but Parker and Stone don't fall into the trap of clouding their story, because the message is often diluted in the 'toilet humor' that they typically present.

Fans of the show will love this film, as we get to hear all those words (and then some) that are beeped out on TV. We also get to see, and understand, Kenny. And of course, that "I can't believe they did that" style of comedy runs rampant. Where else could we see the Devil in a torrid relationship with Sadaam Hussein? And who would have guessed that the Devil is a sensitive bottom?

Parker and Stone also seem to have a musical flare. The powerful anthem, Blame Canada, the up tempo, I'm Super, and one I can't even cite in this review, will have you singing for weeks.

Canadian's will find even more to laugh at, especially since we seem to love to laugh at American views of us. I roared as I saw my countrymen being interned in American death camps. I applauded at the burning of Alannis Morrisette albums.

No doubt, South Park is not for the faint of heart, nor the closed of mind. And I strongly suggest keeping this one away from the kiddies. For the rest of you, sit back, keep some tissue close by, and enjoy.
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