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Daredevil (2003)
Ahhh....It's good to be back. Having spent the last 9 months or so in a review writing semi-retirement, I have been moved by my viewing of Daredevil to begin writing reviews again.
18 February 2003
This film, and again I use that term loosely, opens explaining how Mat Murdock, aka The Daredevil, lived as a boy. His father, having been a prize fighter in his day, has fallen from his prestige and turned to being a mafia bully (no, it's not Rocky Balboa.) During a bully session of his own, young Mat has been told that his father is nothing but a leg breaker and he just doesn't want to believe it. When Mat just happens to be wandering home and stumbles onto his father during one of the aforementioned leg breaking sessions, he gets angry and runs away. Skateboarding through an industrial park, Mat almost gets impaled by a forklift that barely misses him only to tear open a toxic waste drum and coats Mat with the contents. Blinded by the waste, young Mat looses his sight, only to develop heightening his other 4 senses.

This, by the way, is where the movie goes wrong.

You know what, apparently loosing your eyesight allows you to jump hundreds of feet from building to building. And also allows you to spin around from a fan in a nightclub. Please. Not to mention the fact that we never see the development of `The Daredevil.' The movie does show 4 or 5 different stages of Mat's life as he grows, but never showing us why he decides to become a crime fighter. I hated Spiderman, but one thing I did like about it was how they showed us how, and why, he developed into the webbed one. They showed the development of his suit, funny scene it was too. But The Daredevil We last see Mat learning to slide down poles and do `magical, superhero things,' but we never see him develop his suit. We only discover later that his father's fighting name was The Devil, and he wore red trunks, explaining the Daredevil name and suit color. And what's with the way he sleeps. I had to reach deep down and think about it, only to assume he sleeps in a water filled sound poof tub to help drown out the outside sounds his hearing picks up, I assume I'm right about that one.

By the way, what's with Ben Affleck's hair? I guess a blind guy wouldn't have the best hair cut, but he does have friends you know. You'd think one of them would buy him a brush or something.

Please someone tell me what's so hot about Jennifer Garner!?! Am I missing something? Everyone's just so excited because the art director decided to put little ‘ol B-cup Jennifer into a push up bra to make her breasts look bigger. Of course Alias herself looked decent in her fighting scenes, but lacks any real acting skills. Not even the awesome power of Michael Clarke Duncan could save this one. He was good but not great, and couldn't save this sinking ship.

Now Colin Farrel, on the other hand. He is cool! The roll of Bullseye was great for him. I really think this guy is going places in film, hopefully as 007.

I would have liked to see more of the creation of The Daredevil himself, as well as more of Bullseye. Also, this movie could have spent a little more time in the editing booth. There are many a scene where the cables holding the actors, and spinning the actors can be seen, as well as a few instances where dialog was heard, but no actors mouths are moving.

So ends another review of a lackluster movie. In a year producing such great films as T3, the Matrix sequels, and of course the final installment of The Lord of the Rings, Daredevil will truly be forgotten, and hopefully die on the operating table to keep from spawning sequels.
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Brunettes beware.
2 July 2002
After you see Legally Blonde and fall in love with Elle Woods, and her cute wardrobe and her helpful interior motives, you might want to do exactly what this movie's tagline: "This summer, go blonde!" Blondes may unjustly be the center of countless "dumb blonde jokes" and California-Barbie-bimbo stereotypes. Even though this movie pokes fun at those generic clichés, however, its message is more real than those assumptions and beliefs.

Reese Witherspoon plays Elle Woods, a bubble and witty sorority sister originating from the sunny California. She fits in perfectly with her sisters, due to the fact it's perfectly clear that they all spend the same amount of time on their hair and nails as she does. But when it comes time for Elle to leave her girls and roots in pursuit to follow what she believes to be the love of her life all the way to Harvard Law School, one might think she would have to do some serious readjusting. But in actuality, Elle makes the transition a breeze. She wows the admissions committee at Harvard, thanks to her extremely clever admissions video where she lays in a pool in a sequined bikini and convinces them that she would make a perfect lawyer. And, to surprise everyone she knows, SHE GETS IN! This is where the only downfall of this movie comes in. Maybe this storyline might be a little predictable with plot twists that aren't so tricky, but in the context this fun and cute story, this works just fine.

When she arrives at Harvard, Elle becomes the center of attention. Her pink pleather suit, Porsche convertible, spiky rhinestone heels and bouncy blonde hair don't exactly fit in with the argyle socks and sweater vests that the Harvard Law Students choose to sport. Unfortunately, these differences don't bring Elle the attention she wants. She learns that gaining the man of her dreams back will be more than she bargained for.

The story provides Elle with an open mind and a warm heart. No matter what might get in her way, she puts that behind her and allows nothing to stop her. Reese really puts this character all together into someone who isn't artificial, a fake, or even a heartless person. She teaches women to be strong and follow what you believe. The audience can't help but love her and her little pooch, Bruiser, that she decks out in all the latest doggy attire. This girl really has it all.

This movie is pure fun, and one could sense that these actors and actresses had a blast making it. With a cameo from Raquel Welch, Elle's big-man-on-campus jock of a boyfriend, and countless scenes in a nail salon, this movie also comes with a ball of laughs and an enlightened frame of mind. Even at this movie's premiere, the stars walked out onto a pink carpet and free manicures were provided for all. Whether you are looking for a date movie, or just something you can crack a few smiles at, go see this film. But beware of its deeper meaning and how long you keep that bleach in for!
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Loser (2000)
Amy Heckerling, writer/director of Clueless and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, tells another story through the eyes of teen.
2 July 2002
This time she introduces us to Paul Tannek, played by Jason Biggs. Paul is leaving his small town roots and moving to New York when he gets a scholarship. When Paul really doesn't fit in and is branded a loser, he is forced to live off campus. While struggling with his off campus life and trying to maintain his GPA for his scholarship, Paul falls for a gothic chick named Dora (Mena Suvari.) But Paul's luck just seems to get worse when Dora is madly in love with their English professor (Greg Kinnear).

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? Take Boys and Girls starring Freddie Prinze Jr, for example. 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 traveled 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 which I would want 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. He is immature and quite the jerk. It's definitely a great performance.

Don't blame the cast in this movie, though. Blame the writing. It's a loser in itself.
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Men of Honor (2000)
Much like the spirit of films like The Hurricane and Glory, Men of Honor grips us and makes us really feel for a man struggling to make his dream come true.
2 July 2002
Men of Honor stars Cuba Gooding Jr., as real life Navy Diver Carl Brashear who defied a man's Navy to become the first African American Navy Diver. Sometimes by his side and sometimes his adversary there was one man who Carl Brashear really admired. His name was Master Chief Billy Sunday (Robert DeNiro). Sunday in a lot of ways pushed, aggravated and helped Carl become the man he wanted to be.

I loved Cuba in this film. His portrayal here is as liberating and as powerful as Denzel Washington was in The Hurricane. Through every scene we can see his passion, motivation and stubbornness to achieve his dream. We can see the struggle within in him as he embarks to make his father proud. I also loved how the director created and brought forth a lot of tension in some of the key diving scenes. Brashear's encounter with a submarine during a salvage mission is heart-stopping and brilliant.

The only fault I could see would have to lie in the supporting cast. Cuba and DeNiro's characters are very intricate and exciting to watch. Which does make you a little sad when they have to butt heads with such two-dimensional supporting characters. The evil Lt. Cmdr. Hanks, Sunday's wife (Charlize Theron), the eccentric diving school colonel (Hal Holbrook) and Cuba's love interest are the characters I found to not have very much depth. What could have made these characters more substantial and more effective was a little more time to develop them. Why was that colonel always in his tower? How come Sunday's wife was so bitter and always drunk?

Another curious question has to be this. What happened to Carl Brashear's wedding? I mean if this film is chronicling this man's life wouldn't his wedding be an important event? Maybe it's just me. Men of Honor, however, is a perfect example of the triumph and faith that the human spirit envelops. This film will inspire and make you feel for this man's struggle. Which I do believe was the reason this powerful story was told. My hat goes off to you Carl Brashear. I really admire your strength.
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National Lampoon's Van Wilder is an aggressively funny movie,unashamed by its bad taste.
24 June 2002
What this movie has and other movies lack are characters you admire and care about. The movie never succumbs to sentimentality, thankfully, and it keeps a high level of cheerfulness and humor through the entire running time. This is a movie that wants to party and have fun, where characters are in high spirits and at times a little inebriated. This is the movie that will put the National Lampoon franchise back into respectability. Not only is this movie gut-bustingly funny – if you can get past the crude visual puns like a pit-bull with what looks like a ten-pound scrotum attachment, and a crotch-enhancer pump that is mistaken for a bong – this transcendent comedy of gross manners is most affecting because it's incredibly well-made. Most college campus comedies are cheap in production value and clumsily structured. Van Wilder is exceedingly well-paced and smartly written, by writers Brent Goldberg and David T. Wagner (their love for Ferris Bueller is apparent) who know how to set up not only a joke but sequences of offhand slapstick that are irrepressibly absurd. Director Walter Becker (creator of the ingenious short-film Saving Ryan's Privates) handles the irreverent and random acts of background physical comedy with ease and panache.

The campus wild man is fittingly known as Van Wilder (played by Ryan Reynolds). Van Wilder is a guy that has friends from everywhere, from the jocks to the nerds. Reynolds finds a precarious balance between recklessness and cheerful insanity, which is crucial because he turns acts of humanitarian philanthropy into casual and spontaneous gestures without giving second thought. No job is ever too big for the man, whether it is becoming the de-facto basketball coach that inspires the school's team to win or setting up a rockin' party for the geekiest fraternity on campus. Van Wilder has enthusiastic support from everyone but his burned-out workaholic father (played by Tim Matheson, once the wild man in National Lampoon's Animal House) who decides after seven years of his son's enrollment to stop tuition payment.

Van Wilder becomes the subject of a school newspaper editorial and Tara Reid plays the snobby, uptight reporter Gwen whose ties belong to frat boy Richard Bagg (Daniel Cosgrove), who conducts hazing rituals that are crueler than anything since Animal House. When Gwen tries to get the naked truth from Van Wilder, she mostly just finds Van Wilder naked. But it's the smart rapport that develops between them that allows Van Wilder to strip Gwen's inhibitions, to let her walk on the wild side. In the background, a turf war erupts between Van Wilder and Richard.

The plotting is shameless in its methods of revenge. There are innocent people involved in the mayhem, including a scene where pre-pubescent boys raid one of Van Wilder's parties and end up barfing out of a school bus (but hey, these young boys had the time of their life until then). Richard's fraternity brothers are sent a basket full of éclairs stuffed with juices from a particular dormitory pet. In a knock-off homage to Dumb and Dumber, a character digests a bottle of colon blow right before he is to take a final exam.

The movie rarely takes a breath. It does settle for easy chuckles but goes for the comic gold, pushing past the ribbon of where comedy usually wears out in exhaust. Not every joke works, but you admire the efforts that the filmmakers went to in order to make you laugh. A virgin's first encounter with a girl that culminates in a massage oil rubdown gets more than messy and squanders too much, thus not earning any laughs. A scene where Van Wilder has to charm a raggedy and prunish administrator gets frighteningly explicit and goes on maybe one shot too many. But Van Wilder is always the man of the moment. One of the dorky characters goes to Van Wilder to ask him how to `muff dive.' Ultimately, Van Wilder is king and his rebel-bent philosophy is trippingly funny. At the end, you won't be able to remember all the funny scenes because there are just too many of them.
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Ice Age (2002)
The animated Ice Age has more than a couple of visually exciting sequences. Well done story, but just not quite Toy Story quality.
24 June 2002
A glacier slide inside a cavernous ice mountain sends its three characters whoosh down a never-ending wet-slide tube that has enough kick to dazzle kids the same way mature audience may be dazzled by the star gate sequence that closes 2001: A Space Odyssey. Miles apart in vision, but it is a scene of great rush and excitement nonetheless. A magnificent opening sequence also takes place where a furry squirrel-like critter attempts to hide his precious acorn. You've probably seen this scene in the trailer, but as it takes place he starts a domino effect when the mountain starts cracking and, results, an avalanche. The horror just keeps going as the critter tries to outrun the impossible.

The movie traces two characters, a mammoth named Manfred (Ray Romano) and a buck-toothed sloth (John Leguizamo) as they try to migrate south. They find a human baby they adopt and then decide to track the parent figures down to return to them. They are joined by a saber tiger named Diego (Denis Leary) whose predatory intentions is to bring the baby to his tiger clan, by leading the mammoth and the sloth into a trap. Diego's meat-eating family wants the mammoth most of all, but Diego's learned values of friendship make easy what choice to ultimately make at the end.

There are fatalistic natural dangers of the world along the trip, including an erupted volcano and a glacier bridge that threatens to melt momentarily that is reminiscent of the castle escape in Shrek. Characters contemplate on why they're in the Ice Age, while they could have called it The Big Chill or the Nippy Era. Some characters wish for a forthcoming global warming. Another great line about the mating issues between girlfriends: `All the great guys are never around. The sensitive ones get eaten.' Throwaway lines galore, whimsical comedy and light-fingered adventure makes this one pretty easy to watch. Also, food is so scarce for the nice vegetarians that they consider dandelions and pine cones as `good eating.'

The vocal talents of Romano, Leguizamo and Leary make good on their personas, while the children will delight in their antics, the adults will fancy their riffs on their own talents. There is some mild violence and intense content, but kids will be jazzed by the excitement and will get one of their early introductions of the age-old battle of good versus evil, and family tradition and friendship are strong thematic ties. The animators also make majestic use of background landscapes that are coolly fantastic.
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John Q (2002)
Too bad, this could have been something.
24 June 2002
When director Nick Cassavetes went to work on John Q, I'm sure

his heart was in the right place. He accepted this job because, with his daughter Sasha on a donated organ recipient list, he felt a connection with the characters and situations presented in the movie.

Obviously, the subject matter stuck a resonant chord for others involved in the production, as well. The cast includes such notable names as Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, and James Woods. Yet, for all of those good intentions, John Q turns out to be hopelessly mediocre - a poorly scripted, preachy fable that forgets about unfolding a coherent, believable story in its zeal to spread propaganda.

John Q tells the story of a man, John Archibald (Denzel Washington), who is having trouble making ends meet. Since his work week has been cut from 40 hours to 20 hours, he can't keep up on the family's car payments, and eventually losses the car. When his son, Mike, collapses on a baseball field and is diagnosed as needing a heart transplant, John is confident that things will be okay, because he has medical insurance. Unfortunately, it turns out that his Tier II coverage doesn't cover $250,000 operations. The hospital director, Rebecca Payne (Anne Heche), refuses to put Mike's name on the organ recipient list until John can cover the $75,000 down payment. The cardiologist, Dr. Turner (James Woods), claims that the matter is out of his hands. But John's wife, Denise (Kimberly Elise), screams at him that he has

to do something. So he does - he takes everyone in the hospital's emergency room hostage. When the police, led by the crusty negotiator Grimes (Robert Duvall) and the chief of police, Monroe (Ray Liotta), arrive, he presents his demand: he will release the hostages when his son has a new heart. Otherwise, he will start killing them. Oh yea, that's fair to the other thousands of people on the donor list.

John Q's underlying concept has a great deal of relevance in today's world, where the term "medical coverage" is rarely mentioned without an

accompanying, profane adjective. Yet Cassavetes and screenwriter James

Kearns take this important issue and make it the fulcrum of a story that is divorced from reality by so many contrivances that it's almost laughable. From the moment when John storms into the hospital and takes over, believability goes out the window. There is no way that a lone man, untrained in fighting and with only a small gun, could take over the wing of a hospital, hold off the entire Chicago police force, and turn into an instant folk hero while threatening to kill innocent people. But that's not all - we also get loads of corny dialogue and several pointless subplots. A power struggle develops between Grimes and Monroe, but this is just filler.

And there are feeble attempts to satirize media zeal in the person of a TV reporter who's as concerned with his appearance as with getting the story. Films like Die Hard and The Negotiator have offered similar subplots to better effect. Here, they're just an annoying form of background noise.

Speaking of annoying background noise - John Q's soundtrack, which features jarring instrumentals and at least one grossly out-of-place ballad, should have been replaced or re-edited at some point during the film's post-production phase. It's almost as if composer Aaron Zigman turned in his score without watching the movie. Normally, for me to notice it, a soundtrack has to be very good or very bad. Here, it's the latter case.

There are times when acting almost redeems this movie - almost, but not

quite. Denzel Washington is convincing as a desperate father who has run out of legal options and can think of no other alternative but to point a gun and hope no one calls his bluff. Robert Duvall has no trouble playing a veteran cop who probably loves the smell of napalm in the morning. Anne Heche and Ray Liotta don't test their ranges in their portrayals of dislikable individuals. James Woods offers an effective turn as a doctor caught between his oath and the system. Solid support is provided by Kimberly Elise as John's supportive wife and Daniel E. Smith as his dying son. There are no Oscar-worthy performances to be found here, but acting is not one of John Q's faults.

Aside from the sheer implausibility of the principal action, the film's most glaring weakness lies in its inability to state its case with any degree of subtlety. People, even those who agree with the political doctrine being espoused, don't like sermons. And that's precisely what John Q turns into - a two-hour attempt to indoctrinate viewers into believing that the current health care system is in desperate need of reform (to me, this seems self-evident). The movie isn't content to show the inadequacies of the system - it talks about them endlessly in speeches that would have been at home in a public service announcement. Not only is this tedious, it's unnecessary - the events happening to John are sufficient to illustrate the situation.

At its heart, John Q is a drama, but the movie frames several sections as action sequences, complete with artificially generated tension. There's a scene in which a sharpshooter climbs through the hospital's air conditioning ducts in order to get a shot at John. This is handled so badly (like something in a direct-to-cable B-movie thriller) that I found myself cringing. Sadly, that's the way I reacted to much of this movie - a good idea with noble intentions gone awry because of a poorly crafted screenplay and uneven direction. Next time Nick Cassavetes wants to tell a deeply personal story, he should rely on something that is less obviously manufactured by a connect-the-dots screenwriter.
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Rollerball (2002)
This movie is the first disaster of 2002.
24 June 2002
Rollerball is one long smorgasbord of smash-ups, crashes and body blows. It's a big mess of a movie that fails to establish strong characters or to set up a logical design of the dangerous sport the characters participate in. The guilty party for this disaster is director John McTiernan, who previously has been reliable with such strong and intelligent action-adventure movies like Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October and The Thomas Crown Affair. What was he thinking?

For those unfamiliar with the 1975 version of Rollerball with James Caan, this film will be especially difficult to follow. Watching the original film before seeing this remake is essential because the old version plays like Cliff Notes in order to follow the action. The original movie wasn't a great film but at least it established interesting ideas about corporation rule in a futuristic society which operated in totalitarian rule under CEO's. This film attempts to satirize the extent producers will go for television ratings. In the original film, the game of rollerball was a fusion of hockey, football and motocross with gladiator brutality. This time the game is interrupted by constant cutting with complete absence of clarity and the arena is so small that it's claustrophobic mayhem instead of having a big arena with competitive design like in Norman Jewison's original film.

What's worse is that the casting is all wrong. Chris Klein is too baby-faced and non-threatening to play Jonathan Cross, the athlete that becomes a hero for the masses while challenging the integrity of the game. LL Cool J is his teammate Marcus Ridley that wants to help Cross get out of the game once it starts getting deadly in the arena. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos plays the love interest to Jonathan and scarred teammate in this unisex sport. Jean Reno plays the evil executive owner of this dangerous sport league, doing little but snicker from his owner's box seat or shouting incomprehensibly at his lackies.

The history behind this troubled production is revealing. Director John McTiernan in the spring of 2001 invited online critic Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News to take a look at an early screening. Despite being an admirer of the modern action film, he simply stated it sucked and bad buzz leaked everywhere. The film was pushed from an August release so the filmmakers could work on its problems. The studio was concerned with its length of two hours and about the incoherence of the action. McTiernan returned behind the camera in the fall to shoot additional scenes for two weeks. What is evident is that additional photography could not clear anything up, not with the mess of earlier footage that could be assimilated in the editing. The running time was cut, and with a reported $60 million running tag, the film's blood and gore was cut to insure a PG-13 rating. Luring young teenagers into this fiasco was the studio's only chance to make their money back. The final edit remains a muddled, and discreetly tame, work of shame.

There is constant noise on the soundtrack, the pacing is as reckless and frenetic as a bad video game and with constant attention to overlong action scenes, this lends to little character development. The game itself is so burdened by the suffocated design of the arena, so incoherent and undefined in athletic contest that it would more logically crumble faster than the XFL.
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The New Guy (2002)
Do yourself a favor, and stay away from this one.
24 June 2002
You know you're in movie hell when not only is the feature desperately unfunny but it is also reprehensible to the senses. The New Guy is a screechy new comedy that features DJ Qualls as a geek outcast that tries to make a name for himself at school. His one goal in life is to get expelled, and after that his ambition is a little hazy. He does make attempts to get a date with a cheerleader by offering money to have some dinner with him. Already, not only is the movie crudely unfunny but the hero is a creep.

The movie flashes to bits of Eddie Griffin as a prison inmate, and he scares the guards and just about everyone else by making stunted whiplash noises that are pitched from the soundtrack and provided by sound editors. Get it? Everyone around him is whipped because He's the man! When Qualls finds himself in prison, Griffin takes him from under his wing and shows him the ropes, and there is a gag where Qualls is literally climbing the ropes and Griffin lights it up with a match. This isn't dope comedy, this is comedy on dope.

For the life of me, it is near impossible to make coherent sense of The New Guy in the way it cuts back between Qualls' high school experiences and prison. It's not clear whether they are flashbacks or if he was literally incarcerated after every misdemeanor he commits at school. Qualls, in one of his hijinks, videotapes the school principal on the toilet, while he experiences diarrhea and feeds the video onto all the school monitors while classmates laugh and sneer. Next shot, we find Qualls in prison with no explanation. The incompetence of this movie has it constantly cutting back and forth with no resolution to logic of what took place in the scene before. There are bad moments and then worse moments, like when the school librarian breaks the character's penis. See, he had a stiff… oh, forget it. Besides a fairly amusing parody of Braveheart and a couple of nice scenes with the appealing Eliza Dushku (who is just absolutely beautiful!). Tortured beyond belief, one wants to assault the movie screen in revenge. Lucky for you readers, you can choose from much better movies out there at the Cineplex to go see now instead of this one as long as you don't get locked out of "Spider-Man" or the new "Star Wars."
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Queen of the Damned is alternately an aggressive film and then tame, but it never finds equilibrium.
24 June 2002
The soundtrack is blaring with punk rock through the entire movie, during some of its music-free moments there is filler sounds of screaming and thunder that seem to be coming from hell and beyond. What is ultimately the most notable is deciding whether the special effects or the dialogue is cheesier in this B-grade vampire movie. Allegedly based on Anne Rice's The Vampire's Chronicles, the movie certainly raises the question on whether director Michael Rymer has ever read the source material. There is some kind of plot here, but the reckless visual style never is able to distinguish anything of storytelling clarity, especially in the final third of the movie.

Stuart Townsend plays the multi-centuries old vampire Lestat (there's a reason why Tom Cruise didn't come back), whom in the present day has become a punk rocker in effort to capture a legion of fans. This movie however is showcasing it as the feature film debut of the 22-year old singer Aaliyah, who died tragically earlier this year. By the way, it's not her feature debut, it's not even her first `starring' role either; Romeo Must Die has those honors. Some of her fans will be disappointed that she doesn't arrive with her first speaking scene until the first hour into the movie.

There is an adrenaline of excitement when Aaliyah does make her arrival which sends the screen blazing. As the 6,000-year old vampire Akaska, the late singer has an electrifying introduction, but it is too bad however that the movie's thrills are few and far between. Townsend has a few amusing scenes where he invites a couple of groupies into his private sanctuary. The groupies are hot for this punk rocker, but Lestat is hot for their blood which is fortunate because some of the nastiness does generate some chuckles.

Blood is a welcome palette of color in this movie because it is photographed in dreary, dark gray-blue tones. The scenery is often very bland, and so after awhile it becomes easy to welcome bad dialogue in order to spark some kind of amusement. Cheesy sample dialogue: `There's nothing [left] but the cold, dark wasteland of eternity,' Lestat bemuses, bored with his immortality. He thankfully has a publicist and fanfare that will encourage him with compliments like, `You're bold like your music!' A vampire scholar played by Marguerite Moreau (in need of some of Mariah Carey's acting tips) tracks down Lestat in order to learn from him, and then becomes seduced by his black charms. Unsurprisingly, there is little interest between them.

The real heat in the film exists between Lestat and Akaska, whom together momentarily resuscitate a movie in danger of flat-lining. The scenes between them, especially the ones that involve them drinking from each other's blood, are morbid but teasingly erotic. Also in this movie exists scenes of underground night clubs that patronize the vampire culture, and surprise, they are all into grunge rock. What is worse however is that much of the movie's sensationalistic scenes are filmed and edited like a bad grunge rock music video. Also, once you get past the thin and unrealized potential of the plot, there isn't much left here that will make you give a damn.
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Clockstoppers (2002)
An awesome break from reality.
24 June 2002
When the government secretly hires a firm to produce a time-slowing device that would speed up a person's molecules so that they could travel at several times normal speed, a high school student ends up with the device and becomes the target of a manhunt to get it back.

Clockstoppers is the first feature film from director Jonathan Frakes

outside the Star Trek universe. The story revolves around a mysterious

watch with the power to speed the wearer's molecules and allow him to move faster than anything around him does. Scientist Earl Dopler sent a prototype of the device to friend and college professor George Gibbs to help him perfect the device. One afternoon, the watch accidentally falls into a broken toaster where George's son Zak picks up to take with him.

Zak has been trying to get a new foreign exchange student to go out with him. She finally agrees after he goes out of his way to stop some bullies from harassing her and agrees to have him come over to her house to help rake the lawn.

When he activates the watch, thinking it's a stopwatch, time slows suddenly and while taking the bag of leaves to the garbage can comes across a hissing possum. He pokes it and thinks it's dead and waltzes into Francesca's house to show her what he found that was invading the trash cans and his watch suddenly ends its time and everything goes back into standard motion. The possum isn't really dead and when he tries to explain, things get out of hand.

After figuring out what the watch does, Zak and friends go on the lam trying to escape the organization that's trying to get it back. They use similar watches, preventing him from using the watch as an escape mechanism.

Nickelodeon films, one of the production companies behind the film, have been known for good and bad movies throughout their feature film career and have managed to stumble across both an idea and a director that works. Frakes proved his capabilities with the feature film Star Trek: First Contact, a terrific film that shines among its fellow Star Trek films. Now, Frakes has branched further into the science fiction genre, stepping away from his small screen productions. He takes a potential childish and unemotional film, blends in the right amount of scientific explanation, avoids paradoxes adroitly and keeps the film excellently paced with plenty of room for enjoyment.

The performances are probably the weakest part of the film. Each actor does his very best to portray the characters realistically and perhaps their relative inexperience is a factor. Bradford has numerous credits to his short career, including Hackers, but smiles far too often for his characters needs and even when he's upset or angry, the tell-tale smile is nearby. Garcés tries her best, but with the broken English, she feels more like a caricature than a character, but she is awfully beautiful! The same goes for the third friend, Meeker, who is around for comic relief more than for dramatic necessity.

Television actors Stewart and Julia Sweeney, as Zak's mom, are capable

actors in their own rights, but for Stewart, this was a step in the wrong direction as he bounces well over the top of good taste in his rather amorphous role.

The true prize of the picture is its slow-down visual effects. Using

technology first seen in commercials to stop the action and then using a composite image to allow actors to walk freely amongst stopped figures, was a bit troublesome at first, but as the film went on the effects were better. The most notable was the frozen water droplets hanging in air while the actors interacted with them. The effect was admirably done and important only to the magnificence of the experience.

Clockstoppers is most certainly made for teens, but adults will be able to sit back and enjoy the film without feeling talked down to. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
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Scooby-Doo (2002)
Scooby-Doo is fun entertainment for kids and fans of the cartoon series.
23 June 2002
The Scooby-Doo gang are now veteran mystery solvers. Fame, if not fortune, has hit the group. However, things aren't going so well for our heroes. Fred has become egotistical and takes credit for the group's success. Velma feels under appreciated. Daphne resents being the one that is always the damsel in distress. They decide to split up leaving Shaggy and Scooby all alone.

Two years later Shaggy and Scooby receive a mysterious invitation to Spooky Island, a scary amusement park. The park's creator, Mondavarious, requests their aid in solving a mystery. It turns out that all the college students coming to the island leave as brainwashed zombies. Shaggy and Scooby initially turn the invitation down, but relent with the promise of all the food they can eat (of course). At the airport they discover that the rest of the group has been invited, too. Thus Mystery Inc. tentatively reunites to solve the puzzle of Spooky Island.

I went into this movie very skeptical. In fact, after watching the first 10 minutes I thought, "This is really going to suck." However, the movie picked up and by the end I really enjoyed it. I thought it was about as close as you could get to putting a live action version of the cartoon on screen. For the most part, it is faithful to its origins. Characters try to run away and spin out in mid air. Scooby and Shaggy beg for Scooby Snacks. A villain complains about "meddling kids". It's pretty much everything you'd expect.

While most of the cast is mediocre, Matthew Lillard as Shaggy and the CGI Scooby-Doo really make the movie. Lillard nails the Shaggy character so perfectly that you'd think the cartoon was based on HIM. His voice and mannerisms are dead on. He also works perfectly with the CGI Scooby-Doo. Scooby is cartoony yet hilarious. He's just like the cartoon character as well. While acting rather human-like, he's still not above chasing the occasional cat. He's also guided by his stomach rather than his brain. One funny scene features Scooby getting a phone call. A creepy voice says, "If you want all the hamburgers you can eat, go into the dark and scary woods where nobody can see you and meet me there." "OK!!" he enthusiastically responds.

The movie had my attention most of the way through, and that's a major feat. Luckily being kid friendly didn't mean they had to compromise on humor. There are some humorous references to rumors of Shaggy being a stoner and such that pass totally over kid's heads but the adults catch. Jokes about Scooby drinking out of the toilet, cleaning himself at Don Knott's party, and other such dog-related humor bring a lot of laughs, too.

Besides that, this film had great sets and a fun soundtrack.

I don't know which Scooby-Doo cartoons these writers saw, but they must have seen something different than I did. I never remembered Freddie being an egotistical chauvinist. I didn't remember Daphne being the constant damsel in distress. I didn't remember Velma being ignored in credit for the captures. And I certainly didn't remember Scrappy Doo being an evil little pip squeak that everyone hated. Annoying? Yes. Misguided? Yes. Hated? Maybe only by the adult fans of the series, and that really shows up in this film. The characterizations of these characters are the only parts of the film that are unfaithful to the cartoon. This ties into the ending as well which I don't want to spoil here. I'll just say I found it a little disappointing.

Most of the cast is pretty mediocre. Freddie Prinze Jr. stands out as the most miscast of the group. I could never get over him being blonde. It just didn't look right. Sarah Michelle Gellar was a lot of fun in the movie, but I never thought of her as the definitive Daphne. Lillard was just so perfect that he made the rest of the cast seem out of place.

In the end Scooby-Doo could have been a total disaster, but winds up being some fun summer entertainment. Scooby-Doo has its problems, but it is still probably one of the better live action cartoon adaptations to come along.
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The Bourne Identity focuses on a young, male hero who struggles to recover from amnesia, yet who finds instead strong incentives not to, after gathering enough evidence that point to his turbulent past and a
23 June 2002
Rescued by a fisherman near the French coast, the young man (Matt Damon) is utterly confused by his condition. Not even able to remember his own name, he is further shocked by the two bullet wounds on his back, by his "sudden" ability to speak numerous languages, and by his Swiss safe deposit box, where he hides a gun, several fake passports, and stacks of money from multiple nations. The subject of an aggressive international manhunt, the young man is widely persecuted, yet his instincts soon reveal physical, combative abilities that repeatedly secure his escape. Constantly on the run, a chance encounter with Marie (Franka Potente from Run Lola Run) proves troublesome as she compulsively decides not to leave the fugitive's side.

The Bourne Identity tries to create suspense by assigning its character the difficult mission of piecing together evidence that may reveal his true identity and bring back his memory, while simultaneously establishing the convenience of being assumed dead by his enemies. However, when dangerous enemies discover Jason Bourne is alive and launch their searches, the plot degenerates into a series of persecution scenes that sacrifice further character development in favor of thrill-seeking action. In this manner, the film's most valuable players --"Ted Conklin" and "The Professor" find no truly meaningful place in the film. (The most extreme case of lack of character development, however, is seen in Julia Stiles' "Nicolette", whose role as Conklin's secretary is limited to functions that are inconsequential to plot, such as answering phones and taking notes. What a waste) Yet The Bourne Identity's greatest flaw results from the film's ambition to exploit its main character's extraordinary physical abilities (to escape danger), as it inappropriately assigns almost "superhero" attributes and produces unintended, awkward comedic effects. All in all, although The Bourne Identity does establish an extraordinary problem (amnesia) for its extraordinary hero (a secret, government agent), the film fails to explore more intriguing narrative possibilities regarding the psychological effects of its character's identity crisis.
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How can I put this into words? Well, for starters, Steven Spielberg never ceases to amaze me. How's that? Say what you will about his films, choices, decisions and career but that's my story and I'm sticking
23 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** Getting the introductions out of the way, it is 2054 in Washington D.C. and Tom Cruise plays, John Anderton, a Precrime enforcement detective who heads up a crack team specializing in preventing murders before they occur, also arresting criminals before they kill. Out of the loop, the cops come calling in the form of Colin Farrell's character, Detective Witwer who backs Anderton into a corner, seizing control of the experimental operation and taking control of Precrime's affairs. Through the minds of three precognitive and abnormally gifted youths who, when asleep, dream only of murder in technologically projected second sight, Anderton sees his own criminal fate and sets out to alter his unknown predestination.

Estranged from his wife and a father struggling to cope with the disappearance of his son, Anderton seeks a temporary high in the dark world of illegal street drugs but when his murderous number comes down the pipe, both the law and Precrime chart a course for his apprehension before he kills. In a highly advanced and technologically sound society, Anderton goes on the run in search of the truth behind the world's most advanced crime unit and a precognitive flaw in its design know as a "Minority Report."

After seeing the trailers, I immediately thought A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) meets Mission Impossible and, for the most part, that's exactly what it is. However, it's much more the former rather than latter. Although I'm still spinning from the theatrical experience, I essentially see Minority Report as an extension of Spielberg's previous Kubrick inspired interpretation. Visually interchangeable with both worlds in its visual presentation, Minority Report most definitely shares the same headspace as A.I... which isn't a bad thing at all. Based on a short story by acclaimed science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, the underlying subtext is equally complex as the film looms heavy in theme, tackling such debatable issues as divinity versus science, the right to life, God's will, man's innate feeling of superiority, and our preoccupation with technology.

Visually, Minority Report is awesome. Although this similarity may seem strange, it's very much a case of the future catching up with the past, as Steven Spielberg is most certainly the Tiger Woods of filmmaking. You'd tend to think people get soft as they grow older but with regard to Spielberg's last two films, the director continues to, not only, challenge himself with complex subject matter but also reinvent himself as a director at the same time. Hell, amid the dazzling imagery and computer-generated eye-candy, Spielberg even takes to a few-held shots, jumping back into the days of Guerilla filmmaking to set the appropriate tone.

Set fifty-two years ahead of us in 2054, the seamless blend of CGI used to create the future Washington is staggering and strikingly impressive. Unlike many preceding and recent science fiction films, Minority Report is a unique identity all to its own. In creating such an invigorating visual world, as previously mentioned, Spielberg's vision is very similar to A.I. in both structure and spacecraft, but the limitations of the film's 21st Century setting only helps to demystify the unknown, making society much more familiar while also giving the audience an identifiable future to look into. All cityscapes and highway sequences are both astonishing and highly innovative, somehow proving to push the envelope of the science fiction genre itself.

Much to my surprise and Spielberg's credit, the film sticks religiously (no symbolic reference intended) to Anderton's immediate world, which of course is filled with a lot of cool eye candy and technologically advanced gadgetry. A very creative look at what the future may have in store for us, society is ripe with eye identification scanners and interactive advertising (which is very cool). including song and dance cereal box characters that look a lot like those Mini-Wheat guys. A hot topic especially in the last decade, holographic imagery comes to life, preserving Anderton's family memories in transparent 3-D files. To say the least, Spielberg has crafted a very dark but believable future with a grounded sense of realism that's not too far fetched given some of today's strides in modern advancement.

Having proven himself to be more than just a pretty face with performances in Jerry Maguire and Magnolia, Tom Cruise is rock solid in the role of Precrime specialist, John Anderton. One of the more appealing aspects of the film is seeing Cruise jump into the skin of a tortured drug addicted cop on the run. certainly a nice break from the safe confines of superstar status. Although Cruise maximizes the role's potential, unfortunately, he's also bound by the film's pacing. In certain scenes when sympathetic emotional intent is clear, the film's fast paced storyline doesn't give Cruise time enough to shine, or the audience occasion to feel his pain. In addition to momentum, the story also suffers from certain logical loopholes with regard to the entire concept of "Precrime," leaving many unanswered questions when reflecting back on the plot, which could be interpreted as justification for such a fast paced adrenaline ride.

Spoiler Alert

My main problem with Minority Report is the the film, at least the idea of it, should have never happened. We've run into this problem before with movies such as Terminator 2 and Back to the Future. Here's the problem; Anderton would have never went to kill Crowe had he not seen it in the Precrime room. But the Precogs show it to him as if he had planned it. That's another thing; the precogs only give an ample amount of time to catch these `murderers' when there is premeditation. In the opening scene, we are explained that when there is no premeditation, there is little time to stop there murders from happening. Assuming that Anderton didn't see his crime, and also assuming that Anderton was thrust into a position where he was face to face with Crowe, there would have been no premeditation. My problem is, again, Anderton would have never went to find (and kill) Crowe had he not seen it happen. So it would have never happened therefore never been shown to him. As much as I enjoyed Minority Report, the film left me bruised with a few bumps on the head after my theater chair also served as an ejection seat which, at times, launched me out of the movie to the roof, then back again. Believe me, too much exposition hurts. However, with a supporting cast that includes the great Max von Sydow as Precrime Director Burgess, Colin Farrell, Steve Harris from ABC's The Practice, Tim Blake Nelson, Samantha Morton and a slew of highly recognizable cameos, Minority Report isn't soft in the acting department.

At times, Minority Report also upholds a level of class and orchestral dignity as Anderton also serves as a visual conductor to John Williams' haunting, mysterious and heart pounding score via visual precognition. With famed cinematographer Janusz Kaminski working his magic, Minority Report's presentation is second to none in visual appearance. From this reviewer's perspective, Minority Report represents a new benchmark in the science fiction genre in subject matter and visual appeal. I admire the places Spielberg is willing to explore as a director. Sure, he could make "E.T. 2" but instead, he chooses to take on challenging films such as this. Simply put, Minority Report is an impressive visual extravaganza that takes the mind on a cerebral action packed ride into the future.
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Swordfish (2001)
Computer hacker, 360 degree stop action sequence, crashing helicopter sequence; is this The Matrix sequel?
21 June 2002
Swordfish, Warner Brothers 'latest foray in the teched-out action film genre, is directed by Dominic Sena. The Matrix parallels are apparent. Computer hacker (Hugh Jackman) meets beautiful, stunningly self-sufficient girl (Halle Berry) who shows up to tell him that he must rendezvous with her mysterious boss (John Travolta), described by one character as a man who "lives in a world outside of our world." *Ah hem,* Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, 'nuff said. Add a familiar 360 degree camera trick and a Helicopter sequence to boot and the mimicry becomes caustic, corrosive, and hey, just bad form.

But Swordfish only steals from The Matrix on a marginal level; the film's storyline diverges into it's own cyber-espionage drama, filled with double-crossing and mistaken identities. Unfortunately, this course lacks the sort of philosophical underpinnings that gave The Matrix its weight as an action film. Swordfish, instead centers thematically on patriotism and misdirection, leading to an ending that plays out like the grand finale of The Usual Suspects, minus the punch and complexity of "Suspects' closing revelation. All this makes one wonder, 'Why has writing an original script become such an impossibility?'

But for what it's worth, the film still presents an ample dosage of eye-candy. Halle Berry bares her breasts (in what is perhaps one of the least motivated bare breasted scenes in cinematic history) and is otherwise consistently scantily clad. Perhaps even better (and what could possibly be?) is the fever created by the first ten minutes of the film. Jon Travolta opens with an awesome speech about contemporary cinema that is impossibly cool (but that also unwisely inflates expectations), leading to a bank heist that goes wrong. The end of this opening scene features an eight hundred thousand dollar still-array sequence. Whereas those depicted in the Matrix were around characters frozen temporarily in action, this one is around an explosion that destroys a city block. Despite the technique's familiar resonances, the sequence is breathtaking, and a true advancement in the technical arts. Given dialogue that is often riddled with clichéd lines, the actors fare well. Without the Wolverine blades and Mutton chops, Jackman has the opportunity to play a role colored by his own aesthetic, and he is genuinely appealing, with the exception of an irrelevant 'hacking' scene, featuring Jackman virtually dancing around a computer console (to his own, later embarrassment, no doubt). Travolta's role is largely weakened by the faults of the script, but the actor does what he can, tinting his villainous character with his patented, ironically soothing vocal intonations.

Halle Berry is gorgeous and undaunted by her often tiresome lines, pulling them off with a refreshing confidence. Don Cheadle, who appears in the film as a cyber-crimes agent, is drastically underutilized. His pervasive wit is held back by the confining parameters of the script, but the character he portrays, though underdeveloped, still smacks of a certain hard-driven personality.

While visually, Swordfish advances still-array effects' boundaries in its first ten minutes, the remainder of the movie falls under the narrative cast set by pioneering films of the recent past. But with featured actors working against a script comprised of both loudly and inconspicuously rehashed ideas, the film does gain merit. Not enough, unfortunately, to make it a story that is as original or compelling as those from which it appropriated its ideas. The Moral: It ain't always wise to reload prematurely.
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The Score (2001)
Paramount's marketing campaign for The Score had been pretty average on the whole, but with a cast of this stature - Brando, De Niro, Norton - guided by director Frank Oz, voice of Yoda, a dramatic excess of
21 June 2002
Even these guys have trouble meeting the expectations the press and public have set up for them, so why make their jobs anymore difficult? What amounts from an effort involving these three impossibly large acting virtuosos and helmed by a timelessly humorous Hollywood sage is a surprisingly modest picture. The trailers do their best to supe things up and make the movie look cool, but The Score plays out like a rebirth of the classic ‘caper' flick, featuring characters of limited capacity facing heightened stakes with sad and often humorously fallible dispositions.

De Niro portrays a professional thief considering retiring from the business and managing a Montreal jazz club that he formerly used as a front for his activities. When he's tempted into one last score by longtime associate and fence, Max (Brando) he faces a world of diminishing odds and increasing suspicions as the circumstances surrounding the heist continue to change, making its successful completion progressively more difficult.

Norton's character cons the security and janitorial staff of Montreal's customs house into believing that he's retarded, scoring a job as a janitor that allows him to case the place. This isn't the first time that the actor has played duel roles in a film, but the retarded bit is unique, giving him a solid and sustainable comedic platform. He plays it through with total authenticity, making his plan seem as plausible as it is humorous. And like virtually all of the understated comedy in The Score, Norton's breed of funny is character derivative, relying more on personality traits and dispositions than punch lines.

Initially, The Score moves slowly and predictably enough, but as its subtly humorous tone prevails, underscoring the setup, the character exposition, and the narrative ins and outs, the movie becomes alluring in an unexpected way, hitting you with a refreshing sort of earnest integrity. De Niro gives a solid and subtle performance, adding shades of a world-weary, and trade-veteran's humanity to his character. Brando colors his role with a similar flare, providing a light-hearted comedic spark that warms his scenes and makes you happy to see the man so lively in the August of his career.

As the stakes grow, the pace of the film quickens, ending in a climax that has punch due more to the progressive editing than the actual, final revelation. But it is punch that works nonetheless, leaving you with the feeling that you've been had by the guy you were rooting for, and making the movie a subtle, well-crafted and worthwhile experience. Granted, Brando, De Niro and Norton have all seen better roles, but they muster performances that earn The Score big points.
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I'll tell you what, for the first hour and 42 minutes I could not understand what the hype was about in The Sixth Sense. But during the last 5 minutes, it completely changed my view and made me leave the the
21 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Bruce Willis plays child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe. He takes on a young patient named Cole Sear (another name you'd only hear in the movies, played by Haley Joel Osment). Cole has some fear that he can't communicate to the world, but it's something that hurts him both physically and mentally and it's up to Dr. Crowe to help him. Crowe needs to redeem himself because a former patient of his didn't get the help he needed, and one night broke into Crowe's apartment, and shot Crowe before turning the gun on himself. So in Crowe's mind, helping Cole is as much about helping himself, as it is helping the child. When Crowe uncovers the mystery of Cole's fear, it makes him come to a terrifying realization about himself that changes his life forever.

So like I said before, for the most part, this movie was very slow moving and never seemed to get to the point. Osment's acting was spectacular for someone so young. He truly seemed afraid at every turn and you felt really sorry for him. Willis seemed to be going through the motions in this one, but I think he understood that the movie was about the kid and not about him, so he needed to be a little more reserved that normal. It's not giving away too much to say that this movie has the mother of all plot twists and when that happened, it really made the movie special. Not many times do you leave a theater actually talking about what just happened and trying to figure it all out. That's what made the movie so entertaining, and why it's been making all this money. People leave the theater not thinking about the boring part, but thinking about the ending. The screenplay itself was just ok. Some of the dialogue seemed extremely cheesy and unnecessary. And there was way too much whispering. A few people I've talked to even said the movie was confusing until the very end. For a truly great movie I think it needed to be entertaining right up until the big twist, and then have the twist take it up to a whole other level, rather than being a so-so movie that becomes good at the end. See below.

I would definitely watch The Sixth Sense over, and over, and over again.


The big twist of course at the end is that Dr. Crowe realizes that he is one of the dead people that Cole can see and talk to. When that hit, it absolutely stunned me. I was not ready for that to be the big plot twist I had heard about. Immediately I think everyone in the theater started to replay the entire movie to make sure it was all possible. And for the most part the screenplay was solid enough that it was possible, especially with the seemingly thrown away line of, "dead people only see what they want to see". It's a line that by itself didn't mean anything, but once Crowe realized he was dead, it all came rushing back.

But here's my question. Did Crowe not interact with a single person in this movie? When he was at the hospital, did he not talk to one of the doctors? Did he never try and talk to Cole's mother? Wouldn't he have thought at least that people were ignoring him? There's a scene that starts off by showing Dr. Crowe and Cole's mother sitting in chairs facing each other in her living room. In walks Cole, and Dr. Crowe starts talking to him. What was going on prior to the scene beginning? How did Dr, Crowe get into the home? I know in the movie Cole said that dead people don't think they're dead, but you would think that when one of them tried to talk to a living person they'd realize something was up. Somehow I don't buy the dead people only see what they want to see line covering up the fact that Crowe didn't talk to a single person throughout the film. But otherwise the ending was a very good surprise and completely changed my opinion of the film. So go see it.
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Shaft (2000)
Cool. In a nutshell, that would explain both the movie Shaft and the character, John Shaft.
21 June 2002
Violent would also be a good word to use. Cool and violent. There's not much else to say. The plot is paper thin, the characters aren't spectacular (other than Shaft himself). The music rocks, and the sound is very good. So basically you go to see this movie because it's cool, and it's violent.

Samuel L. Jackson is John Shaft. Not to be confused with the original John Shaft played by Richard Roundtree in the original classic films. Jackson's Shaft is the nephew of the original Shaft, a relationship that has nothing to do with the story. In fact there's nothing in the original that has anything to do with the current movie besides the name. The original came out in 1971, so most of us young audience has no idea who the hell Shaft is, so why would they care that Jackson plays the nephew of Roundtree? Just something I thought about before even seeing the movie.

So anyway, Shaft is a detective in the NY Police Department. He picks up this case where a white man kills a black man in a racial incident. The white guy, Walter Wade (Christian Bale) manages to get bail on the murder rap, and leaves the country for two years. Then he decides to come back feeling that he can beat the charge because the one witness (Toni Collette) has been scared away. But Shaft isn't going to play that game. So he goes out to try and track down the witness and have her testify against Wade. Along the way Shaft runs into problems with every person imaginable, including members of his own police force and a local Dominican drug lord, Peoples (Jeffrey Wright).

So what's the plot exactly? I suppose it's supposed to be Shaft trying to get the woman to testify, while Wade wants to try and "shut her up". I didn't think it was that crucial to have her testify, considering Wade had blood on his hands from the murder, I assume there were fingerprints on the weapon, and he basically admitted to the killing to Shaft 30 seconds into the movie. So why is it so important to prosecute him with this woman's testimony? They could have made the case easily without her, in my opinion. So the story to me wasn't all that strong, it was basically an excuse to have Shaft run wild in New York. Oh yeah, at one point Shaft leaves the police force, so most of what he does is as a private detective. Going around shooting people, threatening street punks, all sorts of things that you and I would be thrown in jail for.

So get over it, you might say. This isn't a movie that's story driven, it's character driven. It's all about John Shaft and how cool he is. And there is no question about that. Samuel L. Jackson is as cool as they come. And even though everything he does would land us in jail, he looks cool doing it. Whether it's getting the ladies or beating up the bad guys, he's always got the right thing to say (`It's my duty, to please that booty'), and the right attitude to back it up. I loved Busta Rhymes as his friend Rasaan, and I think Christian Bale is a great actor. Jeffrey Wright got a lot of laughs in the movie though because of his extremely strong accent (Tiger Wooooods). But his character was very powerful and I did enjoy him. Dan Hedaya playing a corrupt cop is almost something I expect to see. As soon as I saw he was a cop, in the back of my mind I was thinking, well he's going to go bad (and I don't think I'm ruining the movie by giving that away).

Vanessa Williams is also in here, although I don't know why. Her role was very small and almost inconsequential. I suppose they needed at least one strong female character in there, so why not throw her in?

Then there was the violence. Now I personally am a big fan of movie violence. Give me a good shootout or fight scene and I'm a happy camper. And there was plenty of gun violence in this movie. At almost every turn someone was getting shot. Hell, by the end of the movie I don't think there was anyone that hadn't been shot. Besides Shaft of course. He's a bad mother... Shut your mouth! Sorry, had to be done sometime... So if you love shoot em ups, you'll dig this flick. And lastly there was the music. If there's one song that can stand the test of time, it's Isaac Hayes' classic theme song. His new version is a very simple remake of the original. No guest stars, no tweaking of the formula, just a straight remake. And having that music play over certain scenes just makes you smile. Because it's so cool.

I'd say I thoroughly enjoyed Shaft. The story wasn't strong, but for this kind of movie, that doesn't matter. What matters is that it stars Samuel L. Jackson as that bad mother... shut your mouth! Shaft. Very violent, at times very funny, and most of all, very cool...
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Well, I must say, I thought that She's All That would be a cheesy, teen angst comedy with no redeeming qualities. I was wrong.
21 June 2002
It was a cheesy, teen angst comedy. But it was surprisingly fun to watch. While the story was typical, the two stars, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook made it watchable, and they both have very bright futures ahead of them.

She's All That follows the same basic plot line we've all seen millions of times over. Two guys make a bet over a girl. If one guy can transform her into a prom queen, he wins. Zach (Freddie Prinze Jr.) having just been dumped by his girlfriend for a Real World castaway (a very funny parody featuring Matthew Lillard), accepts the bet as a way of affirming his Big Man on Campus status. The girl in question is Laney Boggs (Rachel Leigh Cook), the awkward girl who likes to paint. So Zach and Laney start hanging out, having a good time, it looks like Zach will win the bet, but he's really falling for Laney, but then his friend spills the beans to her about the bet, and she gets upset, so Zach has to try and win her back, then everyone's all happy in the end. I think from the time we all saw previews for this, we all knew how it was going to end.

The reason this movie was as entertaining as it was, was due to both Prinze Jr. and Cook. They have this likeable quality about them, that makes you want them to be happy together. Of course, in a film like this, all the characters are pretty stereotypical. Zach's ex-girlfriend is the most popular girl in school who treats everyone badly. Zach's best friend (the one who made the bet) is an irritating b**tard who just wants to get down every girls pants. Zach is not only the star of the soccer team, he's also the senior class President, front runner for Prom King, and of course, the most popular boy in school. And Laney is that attractive girl they keep hidden under baggy clothes and glasses so that when she "comes out" we're all supposed to be surprised at how this ugly duckling turned into a swan. So, as I was saying earlier, the reason this movie was entertaining was because of Prinze Jr. and Cook being able to break out of their stereotypical roles and bring a real life likeable quality to the characters. What kind of guy or girl wouldn't have fallen for these two back in high school?

Also, the director pulled off a few tricks I liked. The Real World parody was dead on, with Lillard playing a Puck-like character on the Real World, then using that "fame" to get girls and other jobs. There were also some cool flashback scenes that were utilized to tell the story. The script itself was run of the mill, and the characters didn't really have anything original to say (although I did enjoy the fact that Laney worked at a falafel stand).

The one thing that sort of bothered me about the two main stars was that they looked too far apart in age at time. I figure they're both supposed to be seniors in high school, but he looks 20, and she looks 14. Robbing the cradle came to mind a few times. And oh yeah, there's a scene in here involving a pizza and some pubic hair that was as gross if not grosser than any hair gel scene in There's Something About Mary. It had me rolling in the aisles when I saw it.

She's All That was a fun movie to watch. Nothing unexpected happens, and you all know what's going to happen right from the start, but with Prinze Jr. and Cook leading the way, it's still a good movie to see.
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Random Hearts (1999)
The thing that made me fully realize how not entertaining Random Hearts was, is the fact that an hour after I watched it, I couldn't remember even seeing the film. There was little that was memorable about t
21 June 2002
Harrison Ford plays Dutch, a Washington D.C. Internal Affairs cop. When his wife goes down in a plane crash and he realizes that she had been having an affair, he sets out to find out why. In doing so he crosses the path of New Hampshire Representative Kay Chandler (Kristin Scott Thomas). It was her husband that was having the affair with Dutch's wife. Dutch wants to find out all he can, so he can put his mind at ease. Kay just wants to put it all behind her as quickly as possible to get on with her life. Then the two of them start to fall in love, or lust or something. And as we all know, relationships built on fear, hatred, sadness, and revenge always work out.

The biggest problem with Random Hearts is that I didn't care about either of the two main characters. Neither of them were particularly likeable, and I never saw any chemistry between them. Dutch seemed to fall in love because he wanted to get back at his wife. Kay seemed to fall for Dutch, but we don't know why she fell for Dutch. There was nothing that showed why these two would care about each other, except for the fact that their spouses were having an affair. To me, that isn't reason enough to center a whole film around.

So, the writer and director threw in a couple of side stories. Dutch with his investigation of another cop, and Kay with her re-election bid. Neither of these secondary stories had anything to do with anything. It was like they were thrown in there just to make the movie longer. Or because the director realized that the relationship between Dutch and Kay couldn't sustain an entire movie. Which, of course, was true. However the secondary story lines were badly done. The re-election campaign and Kay's relationship with her daughter were shown, but not played out. That story line wasn't too bad, especially compared to Dutch's secondary story. He's on the ass of this cop who has been shaking down people for money. So this cop decides to kill Dutch. In broad daylight. In a driveby shooting. In front of other people. Now c'mon. Am we supposed to really believe this would happen? And what purpose did it serve? None that I could see.

Random Hearts was an unnecessary movie. The plot line wasn't strong enough to hold together a whole movie. And the secondary stories were illogical and at times just plain stupid. The only thing about this movie that was good was the fact that Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas were in it. Two fine actors, in two lousy roles. And is it just me, or did some of the music sound like it came straight from the Rocky movies?
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With all of the bungling, protracted, witless summer movie sequels invading theatres, you've gotta wonder when Hollywood's going to stop monkeying around.
21 June 2002
Ah, Planet of the Apes. Sniff it all you want; it smells enough like a case of the remake to fall in line with this summer's sequel monotony, but upon closer inspection, it's clear that this is a chimp of a decidedly different breed.

Director Tim Burton reinvents the aesthetic and tonal gestalt of the 1968 classic without ditching the original's thematic underpinnings, creating a world that is both visually fascinating and painstakingly complete.

When Air Force pilot Leo Davidson, (Mark Walberg), leaves his space station in search of a test chimp deployed to survey a magnetic storm, things go awry, leading to a crash-landing on a planet where humans are enslaved by a breed of apes that are uniquely advanced, cognizant and cultured. But their refinement is little more than a thin veneer hiding their aggressive animal drives, which can lead them to the brutal treatment of their captured humans. Leo, who isn't acclimated to the Apes' tyranny, revolts against them and becomes a heroic figure and leader to the enslaved humans who know little else than the servitude and submission they have faced since birth. Helena Bonham Carter (you know, from Fight Club) plays Ari, an ape with compassion towards humans, while Tim Roth brilliantly portrays Thade, a snarling, aggressive (really pretty damn scary) ape general, who wishes to see his planet cured of humans, and his fellow apes cured of their human-derivative tendencies.

Under the façade of a fast-paced sci-fi/action blockbuster lays an entirely different animal. On the most primitive level, Apes is gargantuan, pounding its fists with energy and a capacity to amaze that makes this film monumentally entertaining. But like the skillfully crafted latex ape masks through which the actors' subtle, universal, seasoned human facial expressions are transmitted, Apes breathes life of its own beneath the glaze of action. Burton paints a textured portrayal of man's struggle against subjugation, with settings and characters that are unearthly, yet dually dark, gritty and present. The director ditched the early-proposed ideas of digitally animated apes or live apes with computer-generated mouths, enlisting A-list actors instead to give each ape a uniquely human core.

Perhaps the real feat here is that Burton was able to make these apes so utterly creepy and animalistic (much more so than their original counterparts) yet still found a way to maintain their human characteristics. Roth and Bonham Carter learned an entire behavioral language for their roles, complete with loping, off-kilter strides and dexterous, long-armed gesticulations. It takes a while to get a grasp of the full complexity of their movements, but once the language is understood, you quickly see how the ape dispositions intensify the actors' capacity for human emotional expression.

Other apes include Limbo, a pandering human-slave dealer played by Paul Giamatti, and Attar, Thade's loyal silverback, played by Michael Clarke Duncan (who incidentally, is perhaps the only Ape actor that sounds as though he's using his normal voice). Charleton Heston makes a cameo, donning full ape regalia to play Thade's dying father, and Lisa Marie Pressley appears briefly as a snooty socialite chimp.

On the human side, two words: Estella Warren. She says close to nothing (perhaps a throwback to the mute humans in the original, perhaps not). With a character that grows envious of the affection formed between Walberg and Bonham Carter (yes, a man and a chimp) Warren is left to primarily convey her dissatisfaction through looks and body language. And looks plus body are a definite can-do on Warren's checklist. Things seems a little exploitative at times; her garb is close to non-existent, and the camera, perhaps a bit too kind, but Warren certainly helps heighten the degree to which this film is visually fascinating. Unfortunately, it isn't all bananas and cream pie. The Apes script incorporates a few narrative devices that are just too convenient, such as the illogically timed event that causes the wrap-up to the climatic battle scene. Although the majority of dialogue in the film runs smoothly, certain characters (take for instance, the shifty-eyed comic relief, Limbo) are developed in a stagnant and predictable way. Walberg's pre-battle scene speech, despite its relative brevity, is still a little laughable. The re-vamped surprise ending is creatively done, carrying certain light-heartedness to it, but the film leaves things too easily opened ended. However, with a sequel planned 'open-ended' is something that was planned.

Ultimately, Burton's overall design is so meticulous and aesthetically comprehensive and his ape characters, so believable and culturally complete that you can't help but be lured into his stunning visual world, which seems (if not only momentarily) to take precedence over other concerns. You haven't seen anything quite like this. The film may have aped the original, but it stands on its own two feet.
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Small Soldiers was a very disappointing movie.
21 June 2002
It had the chance to be very good, but it turned out wrong. The story wasn't very convincing, which normally wouldn't be a problem, but what I found was the biggest problem, was that I didn't care about any of the characters. First you have this kid named Alan who works for his father in a toy store. He seems to have this reputation around school, but while that got fully explained really quickly, it was built up so much; you thought there would be more to it. Then you have this girl he really likes (for no apparent reason than because she's beautiful, but I guess that's not too much of a problem) named Christy. But she has a boyfriend, so you figure there'd be this love triangle thing going on, but it never happens. So then you have these toys. Toys that have been implanted with a smart chip built by the military. They have the ability to talk, talk back, and learn. So one set of toys (the Commando Elite) is programmed to attack and kill the other set of toys (the Gorgonites). Sound exciting? Well, it isn't.

So what is this movie about? Is it about this boy Alan, trying to win the girl? Is it about him tyrying to win his fathers acceptance? Is it about these toys called the Gorgonites? What the hell is this movie about? It seems it's only about toys killing toys, and if people get in the way, kill the people. This movie was not funny. So don't go in thinking it'll be like Toy Story or Toy Story 2 because it isn't like either of those films. Both those films were entertaining. And more importantly, both those movies had heart, and characters you cared about. I could have cared less if Alan got the girl, or saved the poor little Gorgonites. And speaking of the Gorgonites, I was getting a little tired of the leader of the Gorgonites (Archer) complaining all the time of how they were programmed to lose. Did he lose? Hell no. He won! Not only that, while all the other toys seemed to get destroyed, him and his band lived. All because they were covered partially by a satellite dish? Please.

The only redeeming thing about this movie was the computer animation. It is remarkable how they can make things look so real. The toys really did come to life on the screen. But other than that, this movie had the chance of being really good, but instead fell flat on its face. Give me characters I care about. Or give me a real story. Or give me a reason for all the violence. This movie seemed to be targeting kids, but I don't think this was a kid's movie at all.
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Payback (I) (1999)
I had high hopes when I watched Payback. And for the most part, the movie lived up to expectations.
21 June 2002
Gibson plays Porter, a good old fashioned criminal. One day while pulling a robbery, he's double crossed by his wife and his best friend. Shot in the back, he's left for dead in a parking garage. Of course if he was dead, there would be no movie. So, five months later, he's back on his feet and out for revenge. His wife has turned into an addict, and his best friend Val (Gregg Henry) has joined a group that's known as The Syndicate (or The Outfit depending on who you're talking to.) So in order to get back his $70,000 (his half of the robbery money) Porter is forced to track down Val, and at the same time, knock off The Syndicate.

I've been reading that people said this film is too violent. Shocking brutality and all that stuff. But I didn't think it was any more violent that any other action movie out there. The difference is the good guy is actually a bad guy. Porter is a criminal who enjoys what he does. If it involves shooting someone, he'll do it. If he has to frame some cops along the way, he'll do it. I don't think people are used to the hero of a movie killing people without reason. But I found it quite fun and funny. Not that I'm for random acts of violence or anything. But on a movie screen it's enjoyable. And Porter does have his redeeming qualities. When he looks up an old girlfriend (Maria Bello), you see that he does have a heart. Also, they never really explain who The Syndicate is, but it seems to be a Mafia type organization. Either way, when you get William Devane, James Coburn, and Kris Kristofferson as the main guys in The Syndicate, you know you're in for a good time. The one thing about this movie I really enjoyed was the look.

Everything was blue and grey, with splashes of color thrown in. It had a killer soundtrack. I enjoyed Payback. I suppose it helps to be a Mel Gibson fan, but if you're just a fan of action and things blowing up, I think you'll like it too.
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Out of Sight (1998)
This was a very cool movie.
21 June 2002
It had cool actors, a cool script, and some very cool music. George Clooney is one of my favorite actors, so needless to say, with him and Jennifer Lopez in the same movie, I was in for a good time. And I was not disappointed. While the movie did slow down a little half way through, the rest of it was a lot of fun to watch.

Clooney stars as Jack Foley, a bank robber who has the distinction of robbing the most banks probably in history, without ever using a gun. His style is shown within the first two minutes of the movie, as he spots a bank from across the street, and just decides to go ahead and rob it. He would have gotten away with it had his car started. So he's off to prison, where he realizes he can't stay because he doesn't want to get old. He enlists his friend Buddy (Ving Rhames) to help him break out. But the escape is almost foiled when lovely Federal Officer Karen Sisco (Lopez) happens upon them. Buddy and Jack decide to take her with them, and Jack and Karen are thrown into the trunk of her car for the getaway. Well, they sort of fall for each other, a la `love at first sight,' while in the trunk, and the rest of the movie involves whether or not they can, or should, get together. Oh yea, they also plan to do a home invasion of a man with millions of dollars of uncut diamonds.

With a cast that includs Albert Brooks, Don Cheadle, Dennis Farina, and Steve Zahn, Out of Sight is a well acted, well written story. The movie doesn't go from point A to point B. Sort of like Pulp Fiction it starts at point A, goes back in time to show how we got to point A, veers off to follow another story, comes back to the main story, and continuously jumps back and forth to see what happened in the past, and what happened in previous scenes we never saw finish. But it's not as confusing as what I just wrote. It all makes perfect sense, and it's very interesting. Now, some people are going to say, how is it possible that a Federal Officer and a three time convicted bank robber would possible get together? Have you seen these two people? Besides, their characters are both hard driven people, and I don't really care how unlikely it is, the path they take to try and get together is fun to watch. Clooney's character is very smart; he just decides to use his brains to steal. But he has a heart as well. Lopez's character is also very smart, and all she wants to do is prove that she can make it in what is generally considered a man's job.

This is really a different kind of movie. More low-key, better acted, no big explosions, and one very funny death scene on a stairwell. Definitely one to see.
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Exit Wounds (2001)
Another rapper in a movie? What? You say he's good?
20 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
`There are good cops and bad cops,' says Steven Seagal when asked about why he chose to star in the film.

The need for such a question, however, is unnecessary. Seagal will forever be known as one of our generation's top action stars. He's been on trains, submarines, and over speeding cars. His ability to dazzle his audience with every punch, kick, and flip earns him the title of one of our generation's most memorable action stars. Seagal is modest about his action power, however, and prefers to be thought of as a professional martial artist.

Whatever the case, his latest effort in Exit Wounds is another film in Seagal's library of adrenaline-rushing, macho-type films. Produced by Hollywood honch Joel Silver, Exit Wounds is a high-kicking, edge of your seat thriller that tells the story of a cop named Orin Boyd, sent to another precinct in the rough streets of Detroit, where nothing seems the same. Corruption, deceit, and betrayal lay only three lockers away.

Much like Seagal's enjoyment for his work in the martial arts field, Orin Boyd is a person who is genuinely proud of what he does for a living. All of his anger and frustration is a result of his disappointment with how little his job means. In one of the most powerful scenes of the movie, Boyd is shown hanging up his whistle after his demotion to a traffic director. A cop in Detroit is everything Boyd lives to be, and when his occupation becomes meaningless, so does his life.

Boyd isn't alone in his stance, however. When $5 million dollars worth of heroin disappears, there is an underlying truth to everything, but nothing seems to make sense. All fingers seem to point at Latrell Walker (DMX), a supposed drug dealer and one of the best.

DMX delivers the most engaging performance in Exit Wounds. Much like Boyd, Walker is a character that is typical in most cop films, but also one that the audience can identify with. As every actor should, DMX gives as much personality to Latrell as needed. DMX, as Latrell, shows genuine emotions for his family, his colleagues, and for what stands to be right. A perplexing character with his actions, Latrell definitely serves to grab the audience's attention.

Unlike traditional cop films, DMX and Steven Seagal are able to both grab hold of the spotlight of the film, but with their own unique charismas. Seagal and DMX's chemistry does not involve holding hands and dancing into the sun-setting horizon. It is a tense relationship between Latrell and Boyd, and as the movie progresses, the truths about one another are unraveled, with each character prepared to either fight, or work together, for whatever cause each one has.

Joel Silver is known for setting the bar with his films, both in the action and story sense. Some of the most incredible action sequences in Exit Wounds will forever be embedded in the Joel Silver legacy. Along with Silver's knack for blood rushing sequences, he is also known for pulling shocks and surprises in his pictures. Exit Wounds is the type of film where one must really keep his eye open, for he might miss an unexpected, but crucial, turning point in the movie.

As Steven Seagal's comeback film, he should be grateful that his first picture in the new millennium will forever remind his audiences and fans that he is, indeed, one of the best on-screen heroes of this past decade. As old clashes with new, his counterpart, DMX, has displayed his fresh talent on-screen and sets a challenge for him to take on new film's, with more demanding roles. In an age where hip hop and kung fu can co-exist in entertainment, Exit Wounds proves that films nowadays still have the potential of attracting just about anybody.
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