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Dreamgirls (2006)
9/10
A Triumph!!
27 November 2006
What a spectacular movie musical experience! This is one worth waiting in line, if not purchasing advance tickets for. Beautifully realized by writer-director Bill Condon, 'Dreamgirls' brings back thoughts of a few years ago when the movie musical version of 'Chicago' knocked our socks off, and (with the help of the gorgeous 'Moulin Rouge') helped to revive the modern movie musical. The sets, costumes, musical numbers all flow beautifully and make for an incredibly affecting motion picture.

As amazing and eye-popping as all of the scene work and musical numbers are, this is, ultimately, a movie rooted in its performances. Jamie Foxx gives further credence to his stature as an incredibly talented musician, and Beyonce Knowles (known for her vocal talents) still manages to impress with her songs and her voice. Not to mention her stunning beauty, as each costume and scene in which she appears seem to top one another in terms of showcasing her incredible beauty. Eddie Murphy blew me away with not only his truly heartfelt performance as Jimmy Early, but his amazing voice and showmanship. What a talent! Anika Noni Rose, who I fell in love with on Broadway in 'Caroline, or Change,' gives her performance as Laurelle soul and a deep, rich vocal styling. But let's face it..we are all going into 'Dreamgirls' wondering if 'American Idol' contestant Jennifer Hudson can pull it off. She has quite a bit to live up to, as Jennifer Holliday's performance as Effie White in the original Broadway production is legendary. Add to that the fact that this is Ms. Hudson movie debut, she must have been feeling a huge weight on her shoulders to do the part, as well as the show, justice. If she isn't able to do anything less than nail the part of Effie, as well as her signature song, 'And I am Telling You,' the whole production, no matter how great the other aspects hold up, runs the risk of crashing loudly. The question on everyone's mind is: Can she do it?

Let me just say this... I have never sat in a theater watching a musical where the audience erupted in applause like they would in a Broadway theater after a performer's song. Everyone (and I mean everyone!) was wildly applauding when she struck her last note in 'And I am Telling You.' It was such an intense experience to be a part of. I mean...as I am writing this, I am getting goose bumps. But not only is her singing tremendously effective, but her actual performance is just as good. She brings a vulnerability and an innocence that perhaps would not have come through had the part been given to a more experienced movie performer. Ms. Hudson is nothing short of breathtaking and, even if you are not crazy about the rest of the picture (doubtful), you will almost certainly be amazed by her talent. Just remarkable. This has to be one of the most impressive motion picture debuts in the history of cinema. Even during the closing "curtain call," when Jennifer Hudson's name was shown, there was, again, wild applause. A star has been born!!!
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8/10
Great Entertainment
26 August 2006
Just came back from catching this film and, while I knew it would be good, I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. It wasn't so much the story that I responded to, but the performances. All around great acting. Of the three leads (Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel), Giamatti was, in my opinion, the standout. This role is a sort of variation on the kind of shlumpy, everyman types we usually see him playing. This time, his everyman is a Chief Inspector in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Giamatti looks the part, speaks with the requisite accent and completely pulls the part off. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. Norton is great as well, playing his character very subtly and not hogging his scenes. Biel, besides looking perfectly fetching in the period costumes, is also excellent as the "love interest" character. We've come a long way from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" haven't we, Jessica? Rufus Sewell also has some terrific moments as the Crown Prince.

Aside from the stellar acting, the film is quite an achievement in set design and attention to period detail. Watching the film is like watching a fine painting come to life: a true "motion picture." Director Neil Burger's picture is a beautiful, well-crafted mystery/love story that keeps the viewer interested and engaged. I understand that Mr. Burger tried to use a minimal amount of CGI effects and this, I think, was a smart move as the absence of major effects keeps the viewer's attention on the story and the performances.

This is one of those movies that keeps you riveted until the "twist ending" which, I suppose, some people may see coming, but I didn't. All in all, an extremely entertaining 2 hours spent at the movies. Well done all around!
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The Creeping Terror (1964 TV Movie)
1/10
More than lives up to it's (dis)reputation!!!
11 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Any movie that comes with a warning at the beginning saying that the following film may insult the viewer's intelligence, has set the "this better be stupid" bar pretty high. Well, this film certainly reaches that bar...then pole vaults right over it into the inane!!! First of all, one must know that this is the famous film where the sound track was apparently "lost," so in order to keep the film from being a silent movie, a voice-over narration was used for about 90% of the film. Ugh! It's like listening to a book-on-tape...with pictures.

Ostensibly a cheap monster movie, this movie is more fun to watch with a "how-not-to-make-a-monster-movie" mindset. Clearly made with the intention of producing a horror movie, this one fails miserably in all departments: acting, direction, set decoration, you name it. First of all, the monster. It looks like a discarded float from an old Mardi Gras celebration, or like one of those horse costumes...you know, where one person is the front and one person is the butt?? Except that this time, the whole thing is covered in carpet samples, with vacuum cleaner hoses pasted around the head to give it a squiggly look! And it moves slower than my elderly cocker spaniel. Which brings us to the second nonsensical thing about this picture: the acting. The looks of horror on some of these actors' faces when the monster approaches has to be seen to be believed. The actors must have been friends or relatives of the director because no one could keep a straight face while being attacked by a carpet monster unless they were doing it for someone they truly love. Nor could they keep it straight while uttering dialogue like, "Sorry to hear about your uncle. Tough break." To make matters even dumber, when the characters see the monster approach, what do they do? Run away? Try to attack and kill it? No...they just sit there and wait for it to get closer and closer and closer until they practically feed themselves to the thing! Thirdly, the production values. Now, I know this is a low budget production, but like the old deodorant commercial said "Never let 'em see you sweat." In other words, try not to make it look and sound like a low-budget production. Aside from the aforementioned lame-o monster and monosyllabic voice-over narration, the rest of the production pretty much equals those levels of crap. For instance, when one girl is being eaten by the monster, the filmmakers are so oblivious that her scream is heard at the same decibel and volume no matter how far into the mouth of the monster she goes! I think I actually started laughing at that point. Furthermore, there are times when the monster is so completely obscured by black fuzziness that it is impossible to see.

Looking over my notes for this feature, I actually wrote, "I give up. No point in reviewing this. It's worthless." I couldn't have said it any better.
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8/10
Quiet chiller creeps up on you
22 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This nifty little sleeper from the 80's, I thought, played more like a psychological thriller than straight up horror flick. That's not to say that this wouldn't qualify as a horror movie: it has plenty of gore and several "boo" moments. But mostly the film creates and maintains a dreadful feel, like something icky is creeping up on you. Much of this has to do with the tour-de-force performance of Terry O'Quinn as the title character. The amazing thing about this perf is that the character could easily have been cliché psycho, your typical knife-wielding maniac. But O'Quinn tries and succeeds at making The Stepfather a troubled, very troubled man, a man consumed with the concept of the "perfect family."

Jerry Blake cons his way into single mom families. Then, when problems arise (standard marriage/family problems to normal people), he butchers the family, changes his appearance, ties up all loose ends, and moves onto the next awaiting mother and daughter. His latest family, Susan and Stephanie Maine (Shelley Hack and Jill Schoelen, who, by the way, is a DEAD RINGER for Demi Moore's younger sister!) adjust to Jerry's presence as well as any average movie "mother/daughter-on-their-own" would: Mother becomes the peacemaker between the Stepdad (trying too hard to click with Daughter) and Daughter (trying too hard to drive Stepdad away). Soon enough, Stephanie is getting some bad vibes from Jerry, starts digging around, and soon, Jerry's past begins to catch up with him. You probably have a pretty good idea of how it all plays out. But O'Quinn is mesmerizing. You really can't take your eyes off of him. Fortunately, director Joseph Ruben included many camera shots that are either close-ups, or start off that way, so that the viewer is really drawn into Jerry's eyes and can feel the fear he emanates. It's really remarkable. His Jerry is a very sick man indeed. He doesn't have knives for hands or a chainsaw to play with, this guy has ISSUES!! Deep, dark, scary issues. And when you see that look on O'Quinn's face during the climactic showdown, you'll know what I mean.

To strengthen matters, the other performances are quite good for this type of movie. Schoelen is appropriately childlike yet adolescent as Stephanie, and Hack, as Susan, is maternal, yet vulnerable. Ruben's direction is smooth, careful and restrained. He's smart enough to back off when O'Quinn is doing his thing, but brings a stylish (yet no less creepy) eye to the picture.

When the hour and a half was up, I was satisfied and glad that I decided to miss 'Family Guy' to watch this!
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5/6's of a good movie *SPOILERS*
28 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This movie actually had me going up until about the last 20 minutes...then it lost me completely. The plot? Well, if you though the first 'Dirty Dancing' movie was awash in clichés, this one has it beat by a mile. In short, Dad gets a promotion and moves the family to Cuba circa late 1950s. Girl doesn't quite fit in with the fellow American children in her little community, but connects with waiter Javier and together they meet in secret and dance until the inevitable dance contest where they must face everyone. I mean, this is not the kind of movie that depends on its plot to move forward. Every now and then, in between dance sequences, some characters will get together for a quick expository scene and move the story forward so the audience doesn't lose interest. I mean, you know what will happen far before any of the characters do. There was not a doubt in my mind that the second I saw the girl, Katie, on screen in her dowdy long skirt, prim and Puritan blouse and over-the-shoulder sweater, that she would be close to naked and gyrating all over the place by the end of the movie. And I was right, alright, except it took about 21 minutes for her to emerge in a slinky, sexy, low-cut red gown to meet friends at a local country club function. So, this is that kind of movie and if you are willing to accept that and suspend your disbelief, then there is much to enjoy here, namely the dancing, which is marvelous.

And because I liked the dancing and the music, the movie carried me, up until the misplaced, given the nature of this movie, Cuban revolution subplot toward the end. I would have been perfectly satisfied to see my preconceived notions come to life and see them win the final dance contest. But no, the finals are cut short by revolutionaries. So utterly regrettable that the film had to have this 11-th hour plot turnaround...it absolutely deterred from the feel-goodiness of the movie up until that point. It is decisions like that that kill a movie, as, unfortunately, is the case here.

However, the music is sexy, stylish, passionate and performed by wildly talented dancers and musicians, albeit to a soundtrack of basically contemporary pop songs (singer Mya shows up in a cameo as a nightclub singer) which have been intentionally infused with a dash of real Latin rhythm because the movie, of course, is called 'Havana Nights.' The actors are fine. Romola Garia and Diego Luna are both attractive leads and sizzle when they dance, but the script never offers either actor any opportunity to show some acting chops. No matter. Again this isn't that type of movie. Character actors Sela Ward and John Slattery are fine, but essentially cardboard cutouts of snooty, WASP-y, 1950's parents. You'll know who the characters are and how they fit into the overall story the second they first open their mouths. The direction, by Guy Ferland, is stylish without showing any real spark; it is for the dancing that a movie like this exists. For good measure, the film throws in more than a few nods to the original 'Dirty Dancing,' including a voice-over narration at the beginning, a reference to the armpit-tickling dance step from the original, and even Patrick Swayze himself playing a dance instructor. The movie is not so much a sequel as a remake of the original in a different setting. All of the elements of the first movie are in place here.
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***/**** - Fluffy and Light - like yogurt!
24 May 2004
You've seen this movie before, in one form or another. 'Big' covered similar ground back in 1988. Basically, this is nothing more than a star vehicle for Jennifer Garner, a breezy film designed to see if she can open a movie and carry it to respectable numbers at the box office. Alas, she acquits herself nicely and pulls off her first starring picture very smoothly. No complaints here...she is a pleasant and easy-on-the-eyes presence and her flair for comedy is apparently inherent in her personality. This is the perfect type of role for her. That's not to say that she wouldn't be just as effective at action or drama (see 'Alias'), but it seems to me that she is a natural for comedy.

The story involves a geeky 13 year old, Jenna Rink, who, while waiting in the closet during a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven at a junior high school party one night, inadvertently sprinkles magic wishing dust on herself, while simultaneously wishing that she was 30 and a grown up. You see where this is going. Big surprise the next morning when she wakes up as...Jennifer Garner, now a hotshot editor at a trendy New York magazine. Of course, Jenna has no recollection of the past 17 years and various comedy bits ensue as she tries to fit into her life as a 30 year old with the brain of a 13 year old. Of course this being a Hollywood movie, there needs to be a love interest. He arrives in the form of Mark Ruffalo (collecting a paycheck, but still winsome) as Matt, Jenna's childhood friend who has grown from a pudgy adolescent into a moderately attractive man. The villain in the story comes in the form of Lucy (Judy Greer - love her!!), a childhood popular girl who is now Jenna's colleague at the magazine and best "friend".

Because it's such a simple story, the actors are allowed to have a little fun and not take the film so seriously. It shows too, through Garner's obvious glee and dimply smile and the other actor's apparent pleasure at being in such a light-hearted, feel-good movie. No real deep, heavy emotions are required for them to tap into, so they are permitted to have a good time. Luckily, the director (Gary Winick - 'Tadpole') doesn't sabotage the good time by bringing too heavy a hand to the film. He keeps it just as light and breezy as his actors, and the whole film has a nice, polished, sunny day look.

All in all, a movie to watch if you are in a bad mood or a bit of a funk. The cast wants you to have a good hour and forty minutes or so and to walk out smiling. Mission accomplished for this critic.
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Rat Race (2001)
I like this movie.
7 April 2003
OK - you have to have a certain tolerance for slapstick comedy to enjoy this fluff. Not quite as painfully funny as Zucker's classic 'Airplane', but not without its moments of sheer hilarity. The actors seem to be having a good time, too, all of them energetic and all on the same page. Maybe that's why this works as well as it does. Or perhaps it's more of a testament to director Jerry Zucker, who is definitely in his element here. So, watch it on a rainy day or whenever you feel like something that will leave you in stiches. Something to offend pretty much everyone.
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Roger Dodger (2002)
Surprisingly good, thoughtfully observed movie.
21 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
*POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

I saw this at an advanced screening and I wasn't thrilled when they told us that this was the film being screened, since I had heard not-very-flattering things about this film. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the resulting film. From the opening dialogue, which is a very witty, controversial outlook on the issue of men vs. women, to the poignant relationship between Roger and Nick, the film holds your attention and engages you through the wonderful performances (especially from Mr. Campbell and Mr. Eisenberg).

Basically, a coming-of-age story, this film distinguishes itself by telling its story not from the point of view of the boy growing up into a man, but from the man who finally realizes that he is more of a child than he thinks. The story, essentially, is about Roger (Mr. Campbell), a womanizing, overall bad dude copywriter whose innocent, wide-eyed nephew (Mr. Eisenberg) shows up at his office one day, looking for guidance on the issue of women. Roger takes the 16 year-old to lunch, then, later on, to a bar, where they meet Andrea (Ms. Berkley) and Sophie (Ms. Beals), two hot young things that Roger would normally try and take home, but, whom he engages in conversation in order to show Nick "how it's done". The two women, to Roger's uneasy surprise, take a warming to the young Nick while subtly exposing Roger for the womanizing user that he is, (Sophie actually ends up giving Nick his first "real" kiss), while the four of them toss back some wine and discuss male versus female perspectives on relationships. Later, almost desperate for Nick to see women the way he does, Roger takes Nick to a sleazy brothel so he can finally lose his virginity. It is at this point, after realizing what a sleazy place this is, and what a sordid path this is to take, that Roger allows himself to be a human being for a moment, and rescues Nick from what will certainly prove to be a negatively tainting experience for the boy. Roger sees himself to be just as sleazy and emotionally vacant as the whorehouse and knows, in his heart of hearts, that Nick is not the same person as he is, that he is a sensitive and caring boy, curious about the world of women, not jaded and willing to use women for his own prurient needs. I enjoyed the 180 degree turn that Roger makes, and Mr. Campbell effectively emotes the change in attitude. There is an especially effective scene towards the end of the picture where Roger is sitting on his sofa, after he's put Nick in a cab to the airport to go home to Ohio, smoking a cigarette, and reflecting on the previous evening with his nephew. Mr. Kidd keeps the camera locked in a medium-shot of Roger for just a few seconds too long, but in those few seconds, the viewer can really see what Roger is thinking about, and how his attitudes have changed after spending some time with his nephew. No words are spoken, but you can see in Mr. Campbell's face his reflection on his own past behaviors, and that now he is thinking differently, more maturely. It's a testament to Mr. Campbell's fine work in this picture that this shot is so effective.

Overall, a nice, little movie. The only problem I had was the constant hand-held camera. Sometimes it worked, other times a steadicam probably would've worked just as effectively, without jarring the audience. Not quite so extremely unnerving as, say, 'The Blair Witch Project,' but it did get a bit annoying after a while. It must also be said that Elizabeth Berkley and Jennifer Beals were quite good in their roles as the girls who teach young Nick a thing or two about women. Very warm and inviting characters, not sluts, not shrews, but nice down-to-earth girls who provided a breath of fresh air. Jesse Eisenberg, as young Nick, gives the kind of performance that requires that he be watched as his sure-to-be-big career grows into more mature roles.

Highly recommended.
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Come Undone (2000)
Maybe I didn't get it.
28 August 2002
I was really looking forward to seeing this movie, but, truth be told, it didn't impress me all that much. Basically, this is a story of first love, or, more specifically, first GAY love. The scenery was beautiful, the bodies bronzed and gorgeous, but the performances were OK and the direction was average. I found myself dozing off during the many loooooong takes of various scenes (i.e., did we really need to see the cat eating the spaghetti for more than a couple of seconds?). For me, I would rather have seen more interaction between the two young men. I really didn't care that the caretaker/best friend character was a lousy cook. That scene where everyone is sitting around the table talking about how no one likes her food was, like, SO WHAT! That was my main problem with this movie: too much time was spent on things that had no direct connection with the story and were, in reality, rather distracting and boring. As someone who has experienced first gay love, I was hoping this movie was going to speak to me more candidly, but, unfortunately, it served only to get me in the mood to go to sleep.
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Forever Mine (1999)
Formula stuff - I've had more interesting nightmares!
21 September 2001
Not a bad film, but by no means a good one either. Alan, a cabana boy at a Miami resort, meets and falls in love with Ella, a pretty, young trophy wife to Mark, a businessman. Mark is not happy when Ella discloses her affair with Alan to him, and....you can guess the rest. Predictable, by-the-numbers stuff without even any engaging performances. Joseph Fiennes is just miscast, plain and simple. He moves as though he has something rather large stuck you-know-where and his American accent, moreso than his Spanish accent, is just unconvincing. I like Joseph Fiennes plenty, but I did not buy him as the romantic, heart-throb his character was intended to be. Ray Liotta, on the other hand, is simply walking through his role, shades of 'GoodFellas' all over the place. Gretchen Mol, however, could carve out a nice little niche for herself playing the B-grade Drew Barrymore-Kim Basinger-Ashley Judd, when those stars are unavailable, uninterested or too expensive. She's got the girlish charm and bubbly giggle of Barrymore, the air-brushed good looks of Basinger, and the All-American beauty of Judd...and she's not afraid to get naked on screen, as evidenced here many times.

As for the rest of the movie, Paul Schrader's script is lazy and dull, full of lines that a third grader could've wrote. Too bad because Mr. Schrader has the film noir-ish tone down pat and the photography is great to look at. There's just nothing to occupy the space. We've seen all this before ('Body Heat' comes to mind as well as a slew of others) where this conventional set-up has clicked and provided for some tasty entertainment, but it does not do so here and the result is so-so. Oh, and the ending sucks. Skip it.
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Hedwig ROCKS!!!
20 August 2001
Exuberant, hypnotic film adaptation of John Cameron Mitchell's off-Broadway rock musical. This movie dazzles and rocks the audience with vivid production design and pumpin' songs by John Cameron Mitchell and collaborator Stephen Trask.

Mitchell gives an absolutely powerhouse performance in the role he originated, as Hedwig, the transsexual would be rock star. Through beautifully staged musical numbers and flashbacks, the film tells the story of Hedwig's origins in East Berlin as Hansel. As a young man, Hansel meets Luther, an American G.I. (I think!). Before Luther and Hansel can leave E. Berlin and move to America, Hansel must undergo a sex change procedure, with the encouragement of his mother, ensuring safe passage to America as a military wife. Problems arise when the doctor selected to perform the operation f***s it up royally, leaving Hansel with a one-inch nub of flesh in place of what is supposed to be there! Now Hedwig, she and Luther relocate to Kansas, whereupon Luther leaves Hedwig for a younger, cuter boy toy. Heartbroken, Hedwig resuscitates her dormant singing passion and forms an amateur rock band. Hedwig and the band begin performing in seedy restaurants and pubs, where Hedwig soon meets her muse, Tommy, a troubled adolescent and wannabe rock star himself. Taking the young man under her wing, Hedwig and Tommy begin to compose music and develop their act (and, ultimately, more than their act). Unfortunately, more problems arise for Hedwig when Tommy steals the songs and establishes himself as a major teen-idol-like rock star, leaving Hedwig's career to rot in the shitter. Now, tailing Tommy on his US tour, Hedwig resumes the divey restaurant-pub circuit and relays her tragic story to divey patrons, whilst Tommy plays huge arenas.

Mitchell directs his story with remarkable skill and obvious passion, even more surprising still considering he's a first-time director. The performance sequences are staged much like an MTV music-video, only better. Scenes pop out at the captivated viewer with color, sound and imagination. Special notice should go to the animated sequences which are an inspired touch and really illustrate the emotional fault line Hedwig teeters on. At some points, this film was reminiscent of "Pink Floyd: The Wall" in that it utilizes music to tell its story, employs the would-be rock star as a protagonist, and brilliantly uses animation to further convey thoughts and feelings to the audience.

As a performer, Mitchell is magnetic. He doesn't so much play Hedwig as INHABITS her. His passion for the character and the material is plainly apparent, and his devotion to his creation is clear and admirable. One of those performances from an actor where I've never seen him in anything before, but right now I feel like going to the video store and renting everything he's ever been in! Truly astonishing!! Every emotion, every feeling registers clearly with the viewer through Mitchell's expressions and gut-wrenching vocals.

The rest of the cast acts with style and energy, especially Miriam Shor as Yitzhak, Hedwig's bandmate/lover. But the movie, as well as the play , belongs to Mitchell. One should definitely expect more great things to come from this exceptionally talented and forceful performer.
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The Mexican (2001)
Comedy?? Drama?? Do you care??
20 August 2001
I'm not sure whether this one is supposed to be a comedy or a thriller. It seems like the Brad Pitt portions are supposed to be comedy/thriller and the Julia Roberts portions seem more in the vein of romantic comedy (big surprise!!) Yes, it's true, Julia and Brad have only about 15 minutes total screen time together. Kind of disappointing considering that most viewers will go into this expecting a HUGE megastar-power picture. This isn't the huge megastar-pairing vehicle intended, but a regular movie with two main roles that would probably have been served better with less star-wattage: either Brad Pitt and another, lesser known female co-star, or Julia Roberts and another, lesser known male co-star. As it is, James Gandolfini, as the gay (why? does his sexuality actually ADD anything to a fundamentally road-movie-ish, bumbling-fugitive movie?) thug holding Ms. Roberts' Samantha hostage while his bosses try and track down Pitt in Mexico, practically steals the whole picture right out from under the rug of our two stars. Another fault, the movie has about four endings!! I hate when that happens in a movie, especially when the movie isn't that good to begin with! It makes a sluggish movie seem so much longer!!

All three leads are OK to watch by themselves, as always, but the movie has more of a "who cares?" aura surrounding it. Ultimately, 'The Mexican' ends up being a big waste of time and money. Hopefully the mechanism of pairing two powerful and talented Hollywood stars will be put to better use in a better project in the future.
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Cruising (1980)
Not a bad movie by any means, just not one of Pacino's best.
17 August 2001
My one MAJOR gripe with this movie is Al Pacino's hair style: I understand that this is the 80's, but that bad-perm look does not suit him well at all. Otherwise, this movie is fairly decent. A serial killer is gruesomely offing members of NYC's gay S&M underworld, and Pacino is the cop assigned to go undercover to snare the killer, in the process questioning his own sexuality and self-confidence.

I understand how this could've caused major controversy upon its initial release 20 years ago, when homosexuality was still in the process of becoming accepted amongst the public as a lifestyle (it still is for that matter). With several scenes of men groping and kissing other men, portrayals of gay leathermen interested in nothing but kinky sex, and the depiction of the sleazy underworld of the S&M scene in New York City circa 1980, no wonder people got all up in arms over this. And we have Al Pacino of all people right in the middle of it all to boot!! I'm not saying that the film's representation of this lifestyle is positive, or even accurate, but it does raise eyebrows, possibly to intentionally ignite the very same controversy that accompanied the film's release. Who knows? But taken just on entertainment value alone (it is a movie after all, its purpose, hopefully, being to entertain the masses), it is mildly satisfying. A big liability is the script, I must say. Usually if the story is engrossing enough, I'll try and overlook a faulty screenplay, but the dialogue here is really quite awful, and the wooden acting does not do much to pump it up at all. Even Pacino's performance as the conflicted cop is uncharacteristically dull. A few moments of the classic Pacino intensity seep through, but they are too few and too far between. William Friedkin's direction is fine, if not unimpressive. Loaded with symbolism and atmosphere, this movie fits right in with Freidkin's oeuvre.

Overall, not as bad as some would have you think, but certainly not a masterpiece either. Good slice-of-life picture of NYC in the early 80's though.
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Above-average fright flick - **POSSIBLE SPOILER**
7 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
A member in a collection of movies I call 'drugstore movies,' movies likened to the mass-market paperback novels you find in drugstores. 'Final Destination' has essentially a pretty trite scenario that is not unlike the recent wave of '90's 'Scream' inspired horror movies, most of them very dismissable (like the dismal 'Valentine'): teens get stalked by psycho-killer. Except this time the killer is death itself! I guess Hollywood ran out of freaky costume masks for its killers to wear.

Now I rarely jump out of my seat, but I did here. Multiple times. Kind of like quick sex! Truly frightening moments and above-average, way cool death scenes, combined with a thin plot you don't really have to pay that much attention to, make for a rather satisfying piece of entertainment.
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Don't pay too much attention.
3 August 2001
I went into this with the lowest expectations knowing it was not a box office success. I was pleasantly surprised. A fairly decent time waster. Don't think too hard and you may just enjoy it.

Played as a VERY broad comedy, film loses its focus in the last third, but even still, there are some hilarious moments, especially from the four models. Although I usually don't think she's all that magnetic a screen presence, Monica Potter is very good in this role (sounding exactly like a younger Julia Roberts, no wonder those rumors got spread). Freddie Prinze, Jr. is rather inconsequential. His part could've been played, more convincingly, by any other hot, young actor. He didn't take away from the movie at all, he just didn't add anything in particular. However, the film gets its best moments from the models. There are some genuinely funny self-mocking moments from them and they play it great.

A lot of the situations don't make any sense and the characters are fickle to say the least, especially Potter's. One minute she's convinced that Prinze's character is a murderer, the next, she's falling all over him. Whatever, like I said, don't think too hard.

This movie should've really been a cable made-for. It doesn't have the necessary elements to make it as a feature. No major star power, extremely slight story, and broad, sometimes slapstick comedy. Rather than risk a financial loss at the theaters, Universal might've had better luck with cable. That way they don't have to rely on ticket sales that never came. Most general audience's attention are gained by star power and event-type movies. Smaller movies, unless they are art-house, independent pics, beloved my critics, usually don't fare as well as the major blockbusters, so this movie never really had a chance at the multiplexes. But all in all, a generally decent time waster, good for some laughs and pretty faces. Glad I paid $3 to rent it and not $10 to see it in the theater.
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Great Bond action!!
4 May 2001
First of all, let's just say that I want to be James Bond! He is so cool and his adventures are awesome: exotic locales, beautiful women, hi-tech gadgets. Who wouldn't want to do that for a living? I have always thought that Pierce Brosnan would make the best James Bond and was so disappointed when he wasn't able to do it back in the '80's (due to his 'Remington Steel' gig). Then they chose that hack Timothy Dalton. But when Brosnan was finally able to take the chair, I was thrilled because I knew he'd be perfect. And I was right! He is the penultimate Bond: dashing, debonaire, intelligent, and he has the accent which is just the icing on the cake. 'The World...' fits in perfectly with the Bond formula. You have Bond, the beautiful femme fatale Bond girl who is not who she seems (the amazing Sophie Marceau), the brainy Bond girl (the luscious Denise Richards), the villain with a certain weird quirk (Robert Carlyle) who in this case is unable to feel any pain or emotion due to a bullet lodged in his brain, severing all of his senses, and big, splashy, over-the-top action. And kudos for making Judi Dench's 'M' more than a cameo in this one. She is always a pleasure to watch onscreen. Under Michael Apted's extremely capable direction, 'The World Is Not Enough' will satisfy any Bond fan's craving for the best spy-guy movies around!!
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Strangeland (1998)
A misfire.
19 April 2001
Well, you can tell a lot of care went in to this via Dee Snider (late of Twisted Sister). He is really the only thing worth watching in this movie. He is the definition of body modification excess, and genuinely creepy. However, same cannot be said of the movie as a whole. I think the problem lies in the direction. First of all, the main character (Kevin Gage) is curiously subdued for a man investigating a sadist who has seized his daughter (twice!!!). In my opinion, he should have been a little more frantic in the pursuit of his daughter, but most of the time he is lumbering around like a cop out of Law & Order. For a central character he seems to have too much on his plate. Maybe it would have worked better if he was a cop OR the missing girl's father, not both. And the mother (a completely wasted Elizabeth Pena) has one emotional scene that is not really all that believable since it comes toward the end of the picture. By that point, the psycho (Dee Snider) has abducted her daughter twice and NOW she freaks out! After the first time I wouldn't have let the girl out of her room!! As for Dee Snider (who also scripted), his character is freaky and the method of his torture of his victims is unpleasant, but the character babbles on and on with observations about our society. This is not a social commentary, it is a horror movie....stay on track, folks. He is the only one, however, putting any effort into his performance. The others are, well, misdirected...too low key for people investigating missing teens. Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger himself) turns up in a cameo towards the end and adds some needed life to the film, though his trailer-trash character isn't very likeable at all.

I wanted to see this film when it came out in theaters. Suffice it to say, I'm glad I didn't pay full price to see it.
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Much better than I anticipated.
16 April 2001
First of all, let's say that I am not the biggest Renee Zellweger fan, but she did a fantastic job in this movie. It's not every actress that would gain roughly 25 pounds for a part. Some of her facial expressions are priceless. I went in with the expectation that this would be more of a chick-flick than anything else, but it was actually a rather hilarious comedy. I mean, I was laughing out loud at some points. My friend and I were quoting lines all the way out of the theater. Bridget is sort of a modern-day everywoman that anyone (women/men) can relate to on some level. Maybe you can relate to her loneliness, her disdain for her job, her astute commentaries on her life. But largely, most people will relate to the comedy and the humor that can be found in life. I really enjoyed this film and will probably tape it when it comes to cable.
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The Watcher (I) (2000)
Not great; not bad.
17 February 2001
Fairly decent timewaster. I actually bought Keanu as a serial killer, he had the look and the charm. This movie joins the ranks of other like films (see 'Striking Distance') in that sub-genre I call 'drugstore movies.' They're the equivalent of drugstore novels that you take to the beach, in that you don't have to pay all that much attention to get the gist of the story and they provide enough fantastical element to satisfy the escapist in all of us that consumes entertainment by the barrelful. The direction is stylish enough, if not uninspired, to keep your attention. My one big gripe is that Marisa Tomei is completely wasted. You know this was a paycheck role for her! Other than that, not much else to say about this. It's one of those movies where you say , "Gee, glad I didn't pay $9.50 to see that in the theater."
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Hannibal (2001)
A typical sequel that doesn't live up to the original.
12 February 2001
Well, if you loved the first one (I did) you'll be angry at this movie for even existing. Forget the highly-publicized cast changes (Julianne Moore is just fine as Clarice Starling), the movie is a real disappointment compared to the original. First of all, the story removes Hannibal Lecter from the psycho-hospital from 'Silence' and that proves to be a major setback, because, as a result, the film feels like a standard serial killer on the loose movie. Second of all, the dynamic that existed between Dr. Lecter and Agent Starling in 'Lambs' is all but lost this time around, the two characters don't even meet face-to-face until about the final 15 minutes. Third of all, Hopkins puts none of the oomph into Hannibal that fed the character last time around. It almost feels like he just showed up for the paycheck. He lacks the spark and the electricity that made the first film so memorably terrifying.

As for the highly-touted gore: yes, it is gory and definitely not for the squeamish. Deaths are violent and bloody, not a movie to take your Mom to, unless she likes gruesome death scenes (mine does not!!)

All in all, very disappointing. Should they make any more sequels (which, no doubt, they will), I wouldn't be surprised if we see Hannibal Lecter turn into the next Freddy or Jason Voorhees.
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One word: boooorrrring.
3 February 2001
Aside from a few cheap thrills, and , of course, the luminous Pfeiffer, this movie has little going for it. The movie does have its moments, but they are few and very far between (and not that great when they get there). Needless scenes last forever, and I found myself losing interest, which wasn't helped by the fact that there was barely any musical score to back it up and by the drawn-out, labored pace of the film. If it wasn't for Michelle, I would've turned it off (she has never been or looked better onscreen). Plus the fact, as far as the story goes, I found it confusing and muddled: what sort of movie was it trying to be?? Horror? Supernatural thriller? Drama? After a while, my attitude was more and more like, who cares?
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Strange, creepy, but interesting.
2 February 2001
This isn't really a bad movie, nor is it a great one either. Let me just say that any movie with Katie Holmes and/or James Marsden is OK in my book. That said, 'Disturbing Behavior,' taken as a teen-horror flick, is pretty standard fare: good-looking high schoolers get terrorized. But, the cool thing is that you can also read the film as a statement of current high-school society, and the environment it creates for friends and their families. Don't get me wrong, it's not THAT deep, but you'll find yourself saying, "Gee, what if that happened in my town?" As far as technically, movie is very slick and has some great images, some genuinely creepy. Katie Holmes, I just think she's the best, and James Marsden, too! Other supporting roles are effective and well-acted. All in all, pretty decent entertainment, but don't think too hard.
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