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Twister (1989)
Waste of Talent
11 August 2004
I must be really missing something. I watched this movie and saw a meandering voyeuristic doting on what appear to be spoiled pseudo-intelligent rich brats, their mentally comatose father, his grand-daughter, and their hired keeper. The players are all virtually perfect in their roles, but are wasted in this looney home movie with no point. The boyfriend Chris at first appears fairly normal, but later he seems caught up in their uninhibited self-indulgence. I don't even want to think about the helicopter!

The only really sympathetic character in the picture is the patriarch of this strange brood, ably played by Harry Dean Stanton. His attempt to passively transfer from the asylum into a somewhat normal life is thwarted by the harridan he tries to partner up with. We see and applaud his withdrawal from the mayhem.

Look for a bit role filled by a young Tim Robbins.
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9/10
Triumph of tragedy
24 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I had no expectations of this movie, and was pleasantly surprised with this sensitive story. Jennifer Connelly does a good job as Kathy, the hapless self-destructive beauty who initially loses the house through her own incompetence. Once we get past her astonishing looks, we have little sympathy for Kathy, a black dahlia who corrupts all she contacts.

Easily corrupted is Lester, well played by Ron Eldard. A touch of Kathy's hand is enough to strip the patina of decency and honor from this weak man.

But the master of this epic is Ben Kingsley, as Behrani, the deposed and chastened Iranian colonel trying to recapture former glory for his family (and himself). Basically decent, this complex man is not without his faults. But his flaws pale when compared to the completely unprincipled twosome of Kathy and Lester.

Spoiler Alert!

We are pleased when Lester gets his just deserts, and we mourn the tragedy that befalls the Behrani family, bringing the colonel to his knees in a pride-swallowing resort to his faith.

Honorable mention goes to a gem of a performance by Shohreh Aghdashloo as Mrs. Behrani, whose innate kindness partially serves to bring her family to a tragic end.

Well shot and scored, this is a wonderful, if not uplifting, unique movie.
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Henry V (1989)
1/10
Methinks I detect the fragrance of ham
20 July 2004
I know little of Shakespeare, other than to expect masterful use of the English language. Unfortunately, the actors in this movie either whisper their beautiful lines so one cannot hear them, or rattle them off in snarling unintelligible shouts. I found Branagh's rally speeches to have the opposite of their intended effect; they made me wonder why anyone would follow this spoiled swaggering slip of a royal to their death. Jacobi is wasted as the Chorus, and seems in a hurry to get it over with. And the homely French women (supposed to be pretty?) learning English from her idiot maid made me want to just slap her!

One can excuse the incessant waiving of the English flag, and even the derogatory depiction of everyone French (except the herald). That, apparently, is the play. One can also excuse the Hollywoodization of the battle scene (apparently French horses can not walk without falling over) in which everything English is effective and everything French is wicked and moronic. But one cannot forgive the unmistakable aroma of ham that pervades this entire enterprise.

Shut it off about a half hour before the end; couldn't take any more!
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3/10
Terminal
26 June 2004
Having not seen or heard of the 1968 version of this movie, I went in blind and full of expectations. However, very quickly, I realized I was watching a real stinker, albeit a stinker with two of my favorite Hollywood names (can't say actors, as they're not). A chemistry that worked pretty well in the Devil's Advocate is totally absent from Theron-Reeves here. And here there is no Al Pacino to play off.

This movie has no sense of direction, no real story, no characters you care about, and fails to explore anything with interest potential. It cannot decide whether it is a comedy, a tragedy, a catharsis, or who knows what.

The two attractive stars give perhaps their worst performances. Neither character is believable or even likable. Even the score pirates snippets of other pieces and does not see them to their musical maturity.

Paths not taken: 1)The neighbor kid Abner is not explored or exploited and you wonder why the kid even remembers Nelson, 2)The wise gay neighbor is a powerful ad exec, but we hear no more about it, even though he is a direct competitor of Nelson's, 3)The dysfunction in Theron's family is manifest only by half a phone conversation, 4)It is never clear why Reeves relents and goes to stay with Theron for the title month.

This is a real loser!
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Seabiscuit (2003)
7/10
Middle of the Track
5 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Seabiscuit is a movie about a famous horse. For me, this is a handicap to be overcome, since I am not nuts about horses or horse movies. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, mostly due to the efforts of Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper. Bridges underplays the rich and basically decent Charles Howard just right: the audience can forgive him his wealth, even in light of the depression all around him. He is fair and reasonable, yet a risk taker and huckster.

Cooper's character, trainer Tom Smith, is perhaps even more interesting. The stereotypical cowboy whose time has run out as the range became fenced and organized, Smith becomes a trainer who works primarily on instinct and his rapport with the animals. The movie allows that instinct to err occasionally, bringing out the simple humanity of the man.

Less interesting is Tobey MaGuire as jockey Red Pollack. Born to a wealthy and cultured family gone bust, he is farmed out by his desperate parents who never return for him. It is hard to tell if the problem here is Maguire or Pollack; either way, the character is not too likable (unless you're a horse, apparently).

Production values are high in this period piece, and cinematography is excellent.

**SPOILERS**

Unfortunately, a few little things prevent this good movie from being a great one: The Depression documentary narration is cornily inspirational and out of place, too preachy. Some during-race jockey banter is just silly! And shots of Pollack cheering "the Biscuit" from his hospital bed should have been omitted even if true; its just been done too often.

One other sort of annoying aspect is the editing. The movie tends to cut away from scenes just as the points are to be delivered, and the cutaway from the start of the 'Big Race' is just plain arrogant!

Having said that, it was an enjoyable two and a half hours, and I'm glad I saw it. I give it a vote of 7.
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Why Do Three Fools Fall in Love
1 June 2004
Other commentators seem to feel this is, or should have been, a movie about the life of Frankie Lyman. However, as the title indicates, it is really about three women who fell in love ... with a guy named Frankie Lyman. As the movie brings home fairly early, there is not much about Frankie to love. He is portrayed as a shallow, self-centered fool, with as little understanding of the music business as of the women he scams into being his wives.

Did Frankie have raw talent? Of course he did. Did Frankie do anything to develop this raw talent into an enduring musical career? No evidence of that. So much for Frankie. Larenz Tate plays him fairly well on stage, and rather flat off stage. We are not given a clue as to what the attraction may have been.

And, since two of the women were relatively unaware of his celebrity status when they were first taken with him, and the third had a celebrity status of her own, we expect the movie to answer the title question. The women do not entirely succeed in this, but they are terrifically watchable while they try.

Halle Berry is great as Zola Taylor, singer with the Platters. Viveca Fox is almost as good as the home girl who turns hooker to support Frankie, and Lela Rachon is perfect as the goodie-two-shoes last wife, a God-fearing and educated working woman.

The music scenes are good, and the courtroom scenes are outrageously unrealistic.

This would have been a better movie if they had not specifically based the story on Lyman, but only alluded to him. In this manner, the Hollywoodization of the story would have been less noticeable. Unfortunately, realizing that such a course would inevitably preclude using the Lyman hits, they chose to make this a triography of the wives, and allow them to play off Tate's weak Lyman persona.

All in all, a good couple of hours of enjoyment that is not too compelling. When it was over, we found ourselves asking, "Why DID these three fools fall in love?"
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Trapped (I) (2002)
6/10
Not So Trapped
31 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
**SPOILERS FOLLOW**

This movie had a chance with its premise, and sort of blew it within the first half hour. Bacon's grand scheme of pulling off unreported kidnappings is nearly foiled when Theron produces a revolver his research obviously missed. She holds it on him, and he says his being hurt will cause him to miss making the periodic phone call (that the victim's life supposedly depends on). This was Theron's cue to blow off one of his fingers or something (where's Quentin Tarantino when we need him?) and insist that he call and have the kid returned before she continues blowing off body parts. But NO! She gives up the gun only to torture us with another concealed weapon later, in a scene that no doubt had all male viewers clutching their scrotums.

Acting is fairly good: Bacon is convincingly despicable as the self-styled mastermind; Theron is reasonably good as the upset mom; Dakota Fanning is a precision technician as the kidnapped child. The guy who plays Marvin has some difficulty conveying whether he is supposed to be Lenny from "Of Mice and Men", or Albert DeSalvo from "The Boston Strangler".

Poor Stuart Townsend looks like the youngest doctor since Doogie Howser (but Doogie hadn't had time to amass a fortune through drug research AND get his pilot's license).

Courtney Love plays her role with all the aplomb of an off duty counter girl from Macy's thrust into a film role. Fortunately, Townsend has just the right drug in his black bag (research docs still carry black med bags with them?) to neutralize her with paralysis, which Love manages fairly well.

The movie could still have worked if not for the gun scene mentioned above, the annoying obsession of Bacon's character to sex each victim's mom, and the extraneous connection in the past of the kidnappers and these particular victims.

Six stars out of ten!
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9/10
Kissing "Kissing Jessica Stein"
22 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Thank God! Finally a witty, intelligent, well-acted, and well-written romantic comedy -- a watchable and lovable movie about real, believable people. I loved the banter about the proper use of words - indicating that there are people somewhere that give a damn about such things.

Yes, KJS is a movie about a romantic relationship. But this time its girl-meets-girl. The whole thing is so deftly and lovingly done as to cut any sexual prejudices off at the knees. We WANT these two terrific ladies to get together!!!

Jennifer Westfeldt shines as the title character, an intelligent if neurotic copy editor fearing Jewish spinsterhood while going through the trials of the hit-and-miss singles scene. Tovah Feldshuh is masterful as the perennial Jewish mother, but has honed the character into a believable and compassionate parent. Scott Cohen is a suave Richard Lewis lookalike (sans most of that comic's frenetic self-psychoanalysis) as Jessica's boss and former flame, a would-be writer.

But in my book, Heather Juergensen steals the show as the self-assured Helen, the catalyst of the "forbidden" relationship. She turns in a natural and loving performance as an all-around trendy intellectual lady of the twenty-first century looking for fulfillment on risky ground.

This wonderful cast makes it really work. Or, as stated in the movie, it's "clicking". Well, it clicked with me. Congratulations to director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld for pulling all this together. A great picture and not a car chase or shooting to be found!

**SPOILER ALERT**

The movie has you chuckling or laughing out loud much of the time, and then suddenly trying to hold back the tears when Helen learns she is not invited to (or even informed about) Jessica's brother's wedding, and then you just have to let them loose when Jessica and her Mom sit on the porch and Feldshuh nurtures her daughter with insightful understanding and love. My God, why haven't we seen more of these people?

Two Thumbs Way, Way Up!!!
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Heaven (I) (2002)
5/10
Is This Heaven?
18 May 2004
Here we have a fantastically beautiful film. It never lets you escape the stark beauty of Italy, where even the police station is staged with loving cinematographical care. The initial scenes are taut and very well done. Later, when the main character played by Cate Blanchett learns she has hideously murdered four innocent people (including two children) instead of the drug kingpin she intended, she gives the only evidence of being an actress. It is a great scene with a well controlled metamorphosis, and it is the only acting either main character does for the remainder of the movie.

Both Blanchett and paramour Giavanni Ribisi seem oddly anesthetized for the rest of the picture. I was reminded of Pinocchio in reverse: the real boy turned to wood; he seems forever at parade rest. The Italian police are portrayed as a pack of well-uniformed and corrupt asses. And the ending leaves one a bit betrayed, mouth open saying, "Huh?"

If one wants profound symbolism and obtuse metaphors, read a book. A movie needs a beginning, a middle, and an ending, with some characters that spark sympathy, hatred, or some kind of interest. I didn't buy into the story or the players one bit. But I liked the movie for its relentless beauty, wonderful camera angles, and marvelous sets and locations.
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Mad City (1997)
2/10
Media Non-Event
13 May 2004
Having watched this mess without having payed too much attention to the synopsis on the jacket, I was amazed that it is a Costa-Gavras work. The story is way too blatant and extreme; Costa-Gavras apparently decided to make his point, if it can be said there is one, with the bludgeon, not the rapier.

The film is technically well put together, but that does not save it or even capture one's interest. It is up to the performers to do that, and here again, the film fails. Travolta, who we know is capable of better, is neither engaging or believable (he comes off as almost retarded). The role was done much better by Denzel Washington in "John Q".

Faring a bit better is Alan Alda, playing Hawkeye Pierce all grown up and jaded.

Hoffman is masterful and is the only reason I rated this a 2 instead of a 1 (awful). He is smooth and professional and almost makes you want to try to like the movie. But, alas, he cannot do it alone.

The casting of the featured players in roles we have seen them in before is just more evidence that Costa-Gavras slept through this one. You would do better to sleep through it, also. Don't but it, ... and rent it only if you desire to watch lots of familiar Hollywood faces embarrass themselves.
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A Snorebuckling Cruise
10 May 2004
I probably shouldn't be writing this, having only watched half the movie. It was so boring I had to either turn it off or succumb to slumber. The only thing that captured me was Depp and his odd posture; is he supposed to be gay? He is a somewhat magnetic presence, but is allowed to mumble his lines to the point that he seems dubbed. The female lead, whose name escapes me, is about as interesting as a half brick. The whole thing is just too contrived.

Perhaps it picks up in the second half. Despite well staged action sequences and good production values, there is something repetitious and routine about the action. You never for a moment lose sight of the fact that you are watching a movie, a Disney movie, much the same as the TV pap I loved every Sunday night as a child: The Disney Show (or whatever name it carried at the time).

Anyway, since I rented this epic, I am going to try to finish it tomorrow. I hope my first impression, from the first nine hours, whoops, one hour plus, will be reversed. If so, I hope I'll be allowed another comment.
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7/10
A Truly Wonderful TV Movie of the week
30 April 2004
John Wayne always played John Wayne, Cary Grant always played Cary Grant. When they had the right vehicle, there was magic. Well, Kevin Spacey almost always plays Kevin Spacey, and in this instance, his magic virtually carries the show.

Here Spacey appears as a disillusioned middle-aged middle class male who takes stock of his wasted life after developing an obsession for the sexy, if under-aged, best friend of his own fairly unpleasant and annoying daughter. Mena Suvari does a great job as Angela, the the flirty object of Spacey's lust, deftly placing layers of character on what is at first glance a one-dimensional slut.

Thora Birch is as resoundingly spoiled and hostile as teens with everything are supposed to be. She falls for Ricky, the new neighbor boy from a military family in which every member, including him, is insane. Wes Bentley does a chilling job as this repressed and measured psychopath.

The film is beautifully filmed and scored, and well written, if just a bit too slowly paced. Oddly, it seems to owe a great deal to "The Ref".

The major bring-down here is the hammy, off the wall, and embarrassing performance of Annette Bening, one of Hollywood's most over-rated actresses. It is almost painful when she is on the screen, despoiling this otherwise excellent production.

Remove a few seconds of nudity, sexual activity, and hard language, and you have a really wonderful TV Movie of the Week!
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Quiz Show (1994)
10/10
The End of Innocence
24 April 2004
As a twelve year old growing up in Brooklyn, I did not even know the name of the show I was watching every week; to me it was just a vehicle to see if hero Charles Van Doren could hang in. He was handsome, articulate, witty, and all the girls thought him incredibly attractive (although their pre-teen minds did not yet understand sexuality). Growing up in a Jewish neighborhood as I did, Herb Stempel did not come off so nerdy as he looks now in retrospect. When it came out that everyone had cheated, us kids felt not only betrayed, but sleazily cheated personally. The girls felt somehow violated!

Here Redford turns in an understated masterpiece. He sets the stage and the standard, and gets fantastic performances from his actors:

John Turturro as Stempel is excellent, but a fine job by Johann Carlo as his principled wife, which may be overlooked in such company, is the rock upon which his family can really rely.

Ralph Fiennes, as the hapless Charles Van Doren, manages to get across his character's dilemma: a mere achiever in a family of ultra-achievers. In any other family he'd have been prime, as a Van Doren he would always be an also-ran.

Many have pointed out the great job of Paul Scofield as Mark Van Doren, Charles' father. He is the epitome of the WASP-intellectual padrone. And he has our sympathy when his son so sorely disappoints him and disgraces the family.

David Paymer is excellent and believable as Enright, the unsavory producer. He makes it almost seem disloyal not to cheat!

Bit parts are all little plums: Martin Scorsese as Martin Rittenhouse, the Geritol exec, smugly contemptuous of the public and the government. George Martin as the network president, clearly Jewish, and just as clearly a "Teflon Don" in his own world.

The scenes at the Van Doren estate are designed to convey investigator Goodwin's (Rob Morrow) culture shock and outsider status, and they represent the academic WASP world of the time accurately and wonderfully.

All in all, a great movie.
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Barton Fink (1991)
Unredeemable Garbage
24 April 2004
In the ranks of well-produced major or semi-major movies, this unredeemable mess may be the worst picture I've ever had the misfortune of suffering through! No story. No sympathetic characters. Wooden performances. Moronic premise.

John Turturro plays the title role with the enthusiasm of a chunk of mortar. Just lifelike enough for us to neither like, dislike, of care about him. We don't care that he works for a raving lunatic of a studio boss, we don't understand why he lives in a huge, seemingly empty hotel with walls sweating off their paper.

It is not explained why the bellhop comes up through a trapdoor behind the front desk, nor why the elevator operator is apparently near comatose.

Seemingly, the only other guest on Fink's floor is John Goodman, playing a manic version of Dan Conner, and doing a bad job of it; you don't believe him for a second.

Although it may have received a certain critical acclaim, do not inflict this turkey on yourself under any circumstances. This is not funny-bad, its REALLY bad! It has all the charm of a dirty toilet. Life is a God-given gift. It is surely sinful to waste two hours of it watching this absolute rotting garbage.
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Slipping Noose
15 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The main thought I had all through this movie is, "Why did they bother?"

It is one of those pictures that has you frequently looking at your watch, and hoping that something interesting will happen, or a character will appear that is worthy of your attention and of the time you've already spent (wasted?) watching it. The uninteresting main character, Quoyle, played excellently by Kevin Spacey, sort of muddles through life, letting things happen to him without protest.

Spoiler Alert!

After his looney slut of a wife dies, he and his somewhat bratty daughter go off with his dykey long absent aunt to what apparently is one of the most unpleasant and God-forsaken places on Earth. There they occupy the decrepit old family house and Quoyle meets the local schoolmarm, played by the ever-boring plain-jane Julianne Moore.

No character but Quoyle is really developed, and he is found to be a total void. Makes one feel guilty for wasting a breath of one's life watching this heartless dreck.
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Ali (2001)
Director KO's Movie
12 April 2004
If all I ever knew of Muhammad Ali came from this movie, I would think him a boring, womanizing, unremarkable Palooka. Michael Mann manages the extremely difficult feat of making the dynamic and charismatic Ali an uninteresting void. This movie pretends to look inside Ali, and it finds nothing there! And apparently there was no life before Liston or after Foreman.

The first third of the movie is really about Malcolm X. The director makes him boring, too. That I can live with, because X sort of came off that way. But his interaction with Ali could have been interesting, but is not in this flick.

Ali's courageous decision to refuse military service during the Viet Nam war is depicted here more as an act of racial petulance then of conviction.

As to the players, well Smith is good. With another director he might have won that Oscar. Jamie Fox as Bundini Brown is an unsympathetic cardboard character. Ron Silver suffers through playing Angelo Dundee as reduced to almost a non-speaking role (Wasn't Dundee even a factor in Ali's life?). The women are forgettable if not somewhat annoying.

Jon Voight IS Howard Cosell, and here the movie looks a bit deeper into their strange relationship. The brief scenes with Cosell and a very short car ride with Joe Frazier are the high points of this overlong and dull movie which takes a legend and levels him to a not too interesting and not too bright human with all the personality of a can of paint.
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Three Kings (1999)
Three?
7 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This is a reasonably passable war movie, but the war is over. Our boys find out where there is a big load of Kuwaiti gold, and decide instantaneously to steal it. The plotters immediately accept Clooney as their leader; Because he's an officer!

We are then taken on a whirlwind adventure in which no one is the enemy and everyone is the enemy. Some excellently filmed action scenes ensue in which everyone fights everyone.

Spoiler Alert!

The letdown of an ending finds that the nobility of human nature overcomes its greed. Yeah, right!

Where are the Three Kings? Who knows. We can count four, or maybe five. Possibly six, or maybe 150. But not Three! This movie asks us to accept some incredible stretches. And then when we do, it gives us pap and pablum.

None of the characters capture our interest, as none are even slightly developed. We therefore must take everyone at face value, so they all come off as cardboard cut-outs in well-filmed and well-choreographed debacle. The movie ends and we say, "Huh?".

Two thumbs sideways!!
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End of Days (1999)
8/10
Terminator With a Collar
21 March 2004
This film is actually Terminator in a different suit; the suit of a priest. The terminator here is Satan (or his agent), diffidently played by Gabriel Byrne, hot to make a baby on New Year's Eve. Arnold has the Kyle Reese role, and does his best to protect his 'Sara Connor'. The movie is not as bad as folks would have you believe. Just don't try to wrap it up as a sophisticated intelligent movie. It's escapist fare at best.

Perhaps the worst thing this picture does is completely waste Rod Steiger in a role that could have been played by a chimp. He might have made a more interesting Satan. All in all, I'm glad I watched it on DVD.
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Freeway (1996)
7/10
Its All In the Casting
2 March 2004
This is a good, diverting movie in the tradition of Natural Born Killers, Wild At Heart, etc. Witherspoon is good as the resourceful, resigned, trashy teen, Vanessa. Venessa has an inner strength, belief in God, and unhesitating judgment that you know will see her through.

Keifer Sutherland is not quite menacing enough as the "wolf". Amanda Plummer reprises her Pulp Fiction role as a hysterical slutty b*t*h.

A real strength of this film, aside from (or due to) Bright's adept direction, is its featured supporting players. Wolgang Bodison and especially Dan Hedaya give terrific measured performances as the very human police detectives investigating the case.

All too short are appearances by the always real Conchata Ferrell, and the watchable Bokeem Woodbine.

Under the surface this is a disquieting commentary on today's youth: all potential and no means of exploiting it; street smart and book dumb. Vanessa is sharp and intelligent, but cannot read even the simplest of sentences. The chaotic informality of her classroom tells volumes.

Good movie!
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8 Mile (2002)
2/10
Life is a dumpster
1 February 2004
Well, Eminem looked in the dumpster that sits malodorously behind some trailer park and said, "Yo, here's the makings of a movie like on my life, yo!" So they took the rotting, dripping remnants of a bunch of real movies, added a past-its-date movie star (Kim Basinger), and, knowing a huge audience pre-existed for any Eminem offering, voila!

I happen to be an Eminem music fan, but his first acting effort is flawed by a few things, some may be beyond his control: The relentlessly depressing and muddled story of the existence of the main character, an actual lack of good rap, a lack of any sympathetic character the viewer can care about, and direction that one can almost hear as "now give us (him/her/it/them/me) a long angry glare, Marshall".

The parts they found to put this mess together were ripped from the rotting corpses of, "Permanent Record", "Rocky", "Bye, Bye, Birdie", "West Side Story", "Flashdance", "Karate Kid", "Dirty Dancing", "Sling Blade", "Footloose" "The Champ", etc.

Despite all this, Mathers does show some potential as an actor. With some training, practice, and a good director he may actually be able to turn in a decent performance. He's a talented guy, once he gets his hand away from his groin.
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Affliction (1997)
Sleaze in the Snow
27 January 2004
A bleak dreary movie about the bleak dreary people inhabiting a bleak dreary town. Wade, the main character, the corrupt and undisciplined town janitor/gopher/cop, is played by Nick Nolte exactly as almost every other character Nolte ever tackled. Nolte sees to it that the viewer has not one whit of affection or sympathy for Wade, the perpetual incompetent loser.

Does Coburn deserve an Oscar? Perhaps, but not for this piece of trash. His wooden portrayal of the abusive drunken father is surely not his best work.

Dafoe, as the enigmatic younger brother (and coldly analytical but simple-minded narrator) is entirely wasted.

Only Spacek emerges unscathed from this waste of celluloid.

This movie is so depressing and unnecessary; it even makes the freshly fallen white snow seem soiled and sleazy.

Two thumbs way, way down!
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Gothika (2003)
7/10
Gothic Horror?
26 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The shrink being confined as insane is an old standby. Here they tried to do some variations, but failed. The biggest mystery to me in the movie was how on Earth the Charles Dutton character ever got married to the Halle Berry character. I mean that not facetiously: there is no character development in this movie.

Spoiler Alert

Wouldn't a mental institution repair their electrical system, especially one that relies heavily on electrical locks?

How does Berry get out of confinement? I don't get it! I just can't imagine any court saying, "OK, Miranda, we understand that you were possessed by a ghost victim when you hacked your husband to death with an ax, and he deserved it anyway, so you're free"

Berry tries very hard with this material. But she never overcomes our tendency to just stare at her astonishing beauty. She has the talent to do that (see Monster's Ball), but not here. Downey does a good job, but his character is not interesting. Cruz' character was almost unnecessary. And Dutton is completely wasted (he's barely on screen at all).

If you just like staring at Halle, there are better ways; go rent Swordfish, Bulworth, or Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.

Disappointing!
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Underworld (2003)
3/10
All In One Night!?!
26 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The idea that vampires and werewolves have been at war for almost 1000 years is the premise here. Nobody wastes any acting skill on it. The lead is Kate Beckinsomebody. There are so many flaws I am glad that it was loaned to me (I didn't shell out a dime!)

Flaws & Spoilers

  • Takes place in a huge city in which there is apparently never any traffic whatsoever.


  • Seems to be in England, but there are enough American accents around to make one wonder.


  • The main character seems to have stolen her wardrobe from Mrs. Peel of the Avengers, but, like most characters in this mess, she feels obliged to wear long flowing black dusters, ala Matrix.


  • Vampire's reflections show in mirrors.


  • Enough gun battles to make John Woo proud.


  • Viktor, the el tougho boss vampire, appears to be a pantywaist; More Arthur Treacher than treacherous.


  • The entire movie, with enough baloney to take two weeks, seems to take place in one endless rainy night.


All in all, a waste of time, but not a waste of talent (there wasn't any to waste!).
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Face/Off (1997)
4/10
Everything Go Boom!
20 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This is a basically bad movie unless you just want to sit back and enjoy off the hook performances from Nick Cage and John Travolta. Both stars were great, playing both parts. The plot, simple-minded and unbelievable, tries hard to screw up their fun.

Apparently, the two main characters are indestructible; no matter what is done to them they survive in fighting trim. Everyone else, well they are just a bunch of goonoid targets.

Spoiler Alert

The movie begins with the murder of a child (a time honored movie no-no). We are shown major surgeries with no scars, no healing time or after effects. We are asked to accept that Nick and John have similar head types, body styles, shoe sizes, etc. We are treated to gun battles galore in which elite cops and FBI couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with multiple clips in their Uzis. And wasn't that boat chase right out of James Bond?

Despite all this, I enjoyed the picture because the two stars were great, having lots of fun with it, and were both on the screen almost all the time.
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The Goodbye Girl (2004 TV Movie)
5/10
Why bother?
18 January 2004
Why did they remake this picture? It was a pleasant enough TV movie if there was not a really excellent original to which it pales in comparison.

Jeff Daniels, usually a favorite of mine, is not cut out for this type of comedy. He is neither funny or sympathetic as Elliot. Patricia Heaton is OK, but there is virtually no chemistry between her and Daniels. The daughter is too cute and wise.

Oddly, a high point in this picture is a cameo by director Richard Benjamin. This production makes one want to go back into the archives and retrieve the Dreyfuss/Mason version to REALLY see the show.
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