The Flixter's Movie Reviews
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Archive #5

THE MIST
a la The Flixter

      So this is the third movie I watched last week. Remember, I mentioned that I picked up a ticket for this one when I went to see the crappy Hitman? Anyway, here it goes.
     Here's another collaboration between author Stephen King and director Frank Darabont. The other two yielded two classics in the form of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.  We find ourselves in King's home state of Maine where an electrical storm has hit a small community. David Drayton (Thomas Jane) leaves his wife home and takes his young son to the local supermarket to get some supplies. The place is pretty packed as the community has descended on the place to stock up... and that is when the mist settles in. Its an ominously thick fog that surrounds the place and leaves all the shoppers trapped in the place. But to make matters worse, the mist is harboring some strange phenomenon within. There are things inside it. Hungry and malevolent things.
     So now the group has to band together, lock the doors, and try to prevent these things from getting in, which they are trying to do. The small community finds itself banding together at first and then, as it always happens in such situations, turning on each other. Seems that there is a military base close to the town and the army may have been conducting some experiments that have resulted in this mist and the creatures it harbors. Not helping the situation is the batty Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) who seizes this as the end of days... God's wrath upon man for all the wrong doings prevalent in society. Her solution is to offer a human sacrifice and start following the Good Book.
    Consequently, more divisions are formed as some start following her word while others decide to do their own thing. Things go from bad to much much worse as attempts are made to leave the supermarket and the results are horrendous. That is enough about the movie.
    It is pretty standard monster movie fare. What may set it apart, though, is the ending which can only be described as a downer. Very dark and extremely depressing. Not the kind of movie that could be classified as escapist fare. Liked it but I think Mr. Darabont did better with his other two King adaptations.
RATING : FOUR STARS

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    ONE WEEK AND TWO MOVIES
(SO FAR)

a la The Flixter

      Like the title says, I have managed to see two movies during this week. First up, is Beowulf... or Beowulf 3D. Yes, I had to go a little far but since this movie was being offered in 3D; I had to check it out in that format. Is it a cartoon? Not really. Its a digitally enhanced film and a lot that happens may not have been possible if it had relied on just actors. So the actors don't really look realistic, especially Robin Wright Penn, who is a little hard to recognize and whose presence is reaffirmed by the credits.
     Well, it starts off with a celebration in the Danish King Hrothgar's big hall. There is a lot of partying and even the king, played by Anthony Hopkins, gets a little tipsy after too much booze. He is quickly sobered up when the hall comes under attack by Grendell, a hulking monster who proceeds to rip the party goers, limb from limb. So that definitely puts a damper on the festivities and the King puts out on an APB on the monster and offers a huge reward to whoever slays the beast. In comes Beowulf (Ray Winstone) and his posse. (From what I have heard, Mr. Winstone, in real life, looks nothing like the digitally enhanced presence on the screen.)  Anyway, he goes after the beast, slays him, and ignites the wrath of his mother. The mom is played by Angelina Jolie and all you can think is that there must have been some hanky panky because Grendell the beast looks nothing like his hot-ass mom. So, of course, there are some issues of soap-operatic dimensions effecting the whole situation.
     There are many spectacular scenes of warfare and, in case the one beast isn't enough, the movie throws in a fire-breathing dragon to up the ante. Yes, absolutely spectacular to look at and worth the price of admission. Plus, I get to keep the glasses which, unfortunately, don't work on anything else. So the movie is dazzling but once the glasses come off, there isn't much else to recommend it since it is a very standard sword and sorcery flick.
     Then I went to see Hitman the next day. Timothy Olyphant plays Number 47, a bald-headed assassin raised by a secret brotherhood to perform the sole task of assassination. But something goes wrong on his latest assignment and he finds himself on the run, fighting, and killing while trying to uncover the truth. Oh yeah, him and all the other assassins raised with him have a barcode tatooed on their skulls... whatever that signifies. Maybe that they are just a product of a world fixated on violence and its determination to resolve conflicts by further acts of violence. Or like I said before, whatever...
     So there is a lot of actiony-stuff including car chases and that complimentary hooker there to ease the tension and becoming a reluctant ally. The action is so haphazardly put together that you might be pulling your hair out trying to keep things straight. There are twists and counter twists... all attempting to make the movie rise above its generic roots but to no avail. Anyway, what can you expect from a movie based on a video game. It sucked royally. 
    By the way, what did I mean by the "so far" in the title? I happen to have picked up a ticket for The Mist for Friday night when I went to see Hitman. So I am hoping that it will be better than Hitman. And in case you were wondering, I did get lost on my way back from Beowulf since I went a little farther to see it in 3D. .
RATINGS :
 
BEOWULF: FOUR STARS
HITMAN : ZERO STARS
 

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A DOUBLE WHAMMY
a la The Flixter

      Two great actors like Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe collaborate and the movie resulting is an utter piece of crap.... Hold on. My fault. Yes, the movie was a piece of crap but I am talking about Virtuosity, a movie that had the two talents, a bunch of cheesy special effects, and nothing worth recommending. But that was over a decade ago. Now the two collaborate again after bagging two Oscars a piece.
     The movie is American Gangster and is worth it just to see the two try to top the other. Denzel Washington plays Frank Lucas, who is based on a true guy, and is a Harlem mobster. His big accomplishment is cornering the drug market in the '70s and buying most of the law enforcement officials whose job would have been to bust him. He also happened to make a trip to Vietnam and brought back a load of drugs in soldiers' coffins. The only obstacle he faced was in the form of Newark detective, Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe). That incorruptible cop is bent on bringing Lucas down.
      What results is an exhausting chase, both mental and physical, on both men's part. Washington tops Crowe, in my opinion, because he is just so good at playing the bad guy. After all that is what he got his second Oscar for. Remember that despicable and corrupt cop from Training Day? So both actors do a fine job while the supporting players, including Cuba Gooding Jr. and a pretty bad-ass Armand Assante, are just as well. The director is the almost always great Ridley Scott (I won't go towards Someone To Watch Over Me). But the movie is a little too much at being close to three hours long. That was on a Friday night.
      If it wasn't for Daylight Savings Time and the clocks falling back an hour, I probably wouldn't have been able to make it to Bee Movie on Saturday. That would have stunk because, in case you didn't know, Bee Movie was more my type of fare. A cartoon. And on top of that, one conceived by Jerry Sienfeld, who also lends his voice as the main character, Barry, who is a honey bee, shocked at his discovery upon venturing out of the hive. That discovery being that the humans have been stealing the honey his kind are so dedicated to making. He manages to find an ally in the form of a human florist (voiced by Renee Zellwegger) and proceeds to bring a lawsuit against the human race. Yes, it sounds ridiculous. Maybe because it is. But it is also pretty damn hilarious. I was a big fan of Seinfeld and its good to see he hasn't lost touch with his comic abilities. There is just so much hilarity that I could be up all night attempting to mention everything. There is Chris Rock as a mosquito and a world inside the hive that parallels everything that goes on in our world. Even a hunched over talk show host named Bee Larry King. Absolutely hilarious and a great time. The only bad thing about this type of movie is that there aren't any shows really late at night, so the one I end up at is full of young kids who can be a little disruptive at times.
RATINGS :
 
AMERICAN GANGSTER: FOUR STARS
BEE MOVIE: FIVE STARS
 

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SAW IV
a la The Flixter

      Jigsaw is back. You know, that nut job who isn't killing his victims but making them appreciate all they have. Okay, so his subjects do end up dead in the most gruesome of fashions. But he never kills them. He just puts them in a trap where the only way out won't have them breathing too long afterwards. Call me sick, but the traps have been some pretty nifty setups. People end up bringing about their own demise or they find themselves in a situation where they are in a room with another person and their only way out is to end the other's life. Remember when this girl had her head strapped in a thing that was going to snap shut, with a timer, and crush her skull? Her only way out was to kill the other person in the room, remove a key from their belly, and unlock that mechanism around her skull. Did she do it? Of course. And all the while, the audience shrieked in disgust but enjoyed every moment of the new sub-genre, which was to be labeled "Torture Porn."
     Anyway, I kinda' liked the first three Saw movies. But Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) died in the last one. But how many times has Jason Voorhees died in the Friday the 13th franchise? It doesn't stop him from coming back.  Well there is the supernatural element to those movies which makes his constant resurrection possible. Jigsaw, on the other hand, is just a regular guy. In fact, he is a terminally ill fellow who is on his way out, regardless of whether or not he is nabbed. So the makers opt for the other option available for these types - a flashback. We go back to see his origins. His sad past where he was actually a loving husband with an expectant wife. Things didn't go too well and he became what we have gotten to know. This time, Detective Rigg (Lyriq Bent), who is a little too obsessive about his job, is led into an ambush. But two of his partners are already in Jigsaw's game. And he has to get involved and play the game as well, if he wants to save those two guys. Anyway, the movie gets a grisly start as the comatose Jigsaw is undergoing an autopsy and the doctor finds a tape recorder inside him that, when played, establishes the rules for the game.
     The end has a twist like the first Saw. Something you won't be expecting, mainly because there isn't much given that could hint at its possibility. There's loads of blood and gore but not much else that could separate it from the first three. What started out as an original concept is getting a little redundant and losing its entertainment value.
RATINGTWO STARS

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30 DAYS OF NIGHT
a la The Flixter

      If anything, this movie may teach you a little geography. Actually, I am not sure if the geographical aspect is truly true. It seems to be. Barrow, Alaska is the northern most town in the USA, and it goes for 30 days without seeing sunshine. Seems right but I am not sure if the name is correct. Anyway, no sun means an ideal spot for vampires dodging the sunlight. And that is what Eben Olsen (Josh Hartnett) has to face as sheriff.
    The long period of darkness means that they stop serving alcohol which is what brings the initial trouble from a new comer who just doesn't seem to understand and insists on getting whiskey. Olsen is forced to arrest this troublemaker and throw him in the jail which is being run by him and a couple of other people, including his spouse who is leaving him. The guy warns of the imminent doom facing the town and is ignored until more obvious signs indicate that there may be some merit to what the guy is saying. All the dogs are butchered, the power is cut, transportation is crippled, and people start dying. Massacred is a more appropriate word since people start meeting grisly fates and the few survivors are forced to take shelter in an isolated attic. The vampires have descended on the town for a feeding frenzy and they have a limited amount of time to fill their appetites since the sun is bound to return. The only problem is how Olsen and his small band can survive those days while waiting for the sun to shine again and drive away the new arrivals.
     Concept wise, the movie is great. Its based on some graphic novel. Execution wise, the movie is so-so. There is plenty of tension as this band of survivors hides out, tries to survive, and attempts to fight off the exterior threat while suppressing any chance of inner turmoil. Like I was just saying, there is plenty of tension but it gets a little tedious once the number of survivors starts dwindling without getting much sympathy from the audience since there isn't much in terms of character development. Do you care if the people live or die? I really didn't. Just waited for the next death scene and how much blood was going to be spilt.
     Josh Hartnett does a decent job and his final act is supposed to raise him above the generic qualities he has displayed thus far. I liked it. Didn't really love it though there are some nice touches, meant to carry the film beyond its generic constraints, including an aerial view at the start of the massacre that gives us a bird's eye view of the hell unfolding on the ground below. The actors are fine and the villains loathsome while the movie is somewhere in the middle as a whole.
RATINGTWO STARS

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WE OWN THE NIGHT
a la The Flixter

      The year is 1988 and the brothers Grusinski find themselves on the opposite sides of the law. Joe (Mark Wahlberg) is a dedicated police officer, taking after dad (Robert Duvall), who has just been promoted to Captain. However, Bobby (Joaquin Phoenix) is not so good. He could be if he just stuck to his job of managing a nightclub, but that job comes with its tweaks and temptations. There's all the drugs that make their way through his club and he, of course, has to make those part of his managerial duties, distributing them in accordance and trying them out to make sure his patrons are getting quality stuff. Eventually, Joe really gets on the bad side of his brother, and the Russian mob, when he raids Bobby's club. People are arrested, drugs are ceased, and he, along with his family, is put in harms way since the angry mobsters want revenge. Bobby is just plain mad at his brother at first but changes his ways since those mobsters put Joe in the hospital and dad in the morgue. So what does he do?
     What anybody in that situation would do. He becomes a cop. He doesn't go to the police academy or take a test or anything. He just gets deputized since he has some information, the police know will be useful, and has family ties to the police. That's it. Who knew it was that simple? Things are complicated on the personal front since he tries to hide his newfound career aspirations from his girlfriend (Eva Mendes) and the club owners, who initially didn't even know about his family ties to the police. Then he is off to bring those responsible to justice.
    There isn't much to recommend this movie. It's pretty much a big letdown since the cast is so talented, ranging from the senior Duvall to the younger Phoenix and Wahlberg. Good thing the senior Duvall is discharged honorably, via death, earlier in the film and doesn't have to stick around for the ridiculous turn of events. About the only good thing is a car chase through pouring rain. That looks pretty cool. That's about all that looks good, besides Ms. Mendes...
RATINGONE STAR

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The Kingdom
a la The Flixter

      A small community of Americans enjoys a normal summer day. The kids have a baseball game where everyone is gathered. And then, the unthinkable happens. Gunmen descend on their tranquil existence leaving scores dead and fleeing without capture. But what is different
about this situation is that this American community of oil drillers is in the heart of Saudi Arabia.
     Washington DC is alerted and a team of four is sent to the region to investigate and bring those responsible to justice. The team is made up of FBI agent Ronald Fleury (JamieFoxx), bomb expert Grant (Chris Cooper), forensics lady Janet (Jennifer Garner), and Jason Bateman's Adam, whose purpose isn't really clear. He is there pretty much to crack jokes and make the trio a quartet. Of course, upon arrival, they find out that they are not really welcome there.  And the Saudis don't really let them carry on a thorough investigation which needs to be done quickly since they only have five days to do their job. Then things get nastier as they come under attack by gunmen. That doesn't seem so bad since the attackers that follow are armed with heavier weapons that include rocket launchers.
     Actiony stuff happens as they close in on their target, some Bin Laden-type named Abu Hamza. Of course, the team has to pause along the way and show that they are also kind-hearted besides being ruthlessly efficient. Plus, they are also given an Arab cop to accompany them in their mission. That guy, played by Ashraf Barhom, ends up being the most intriguing character since he is forced into this job of watchdog which his Arab comrades considera betrayal of his roots.
     Okay, so there is plenty of action. Director Peter Berg said that the movie is ninety five percent action and five percent message (or some
proportion like that). I guess he is right since there are a lot more explosions than there is preaching. But the message ends up being more
loudly resonant than those explosions. What is that message? Don't mess with Americans, I guess. Or something along those lines...
Fun at times but hardly a perfect getaway...
RATINGTHREE STARS

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EASTERN PROMISES
a la The Flixter

      Who could have guessed that one of London's biggest crime families is of Eastern-European origin? But that is the case and Anna (Naomi Watts) finds that out the hard way when she unwittingly crosses paths with the Vory V Zakone brotherhood while searching for some answers about a young girl who died in her hospital while giving birth. Anna is a dedicated nurse and embarks on a quest to find out who is responsible for the girl's condition and is to be handed the newborn child.
     The girl's battered diary leads her to a Trans-Siberian restaurant run by Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who is using the place as a front for his otherwise, unlawful activities. That is where she meets Nikolai(Viggo Mortensen), Semyon's driver. He is the quiet type but underneath that quiet demeanor is a ruthless and calculated killer. Also present is Semyon's son who is more loyal to Nikolai than to his own father.
     The girl's diary is in Russian and Anna needs these people to translate what the girl knew. Her other option as a translator is her stepfather, who immediately warns her, after reading a little bit of the diary, to destroy it and forget about its existence. But Anna wants to get to the truth and Nikolai seems to be the only one she can trust.
     Extremely violent in phases, this movie is a showcase for Mr. Mortensen who shows his acting abilities. It is safe to say that the guy is definitely a fine actor. This is his second pairing with director David Cronenberg, after A History of Violence, and the movie is similar to that one in the sense that this also deals with a man who is trying to come to terms with his hidden agendas, which he questions, while trying to sort out his present condition. Naomi Watts gives a fine performance while Armin Mueller-Stahl makes his character despicably intriguing. (Come on, the guy is just trying to run a business at whatever cost is necessary.) Violent, suspenseful, and touching but a little slow at times, though this can be another distraction from the usual Hollywood fare..
RATINGFOUR STARS

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THE BRAVE ONE
a la The Flixter

      Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) is living a nice NYC life. She has her own radio show--- commenting on life in the city, a boyfriend she is about to marry, and a dog to make it all complete. Life is looking good. Until that night that she, her boyfriend (Naveen Andrews), and the dog are taking a walk in Central Park. Going through a dark tunnel, they are attacked by a group of Latino thugs. The dog is taken away, the boyfriend beaten to death, and Erica is beaten into a coma. After a few months, she awakens, and sets out to recover, and leaves the hospital, an angrier woman bent on vengeance.
     The gun laws prevent her from getting a firearm, so she turns to someone who will get her an illegal one. She trains and gets a chance at using that training when she happens to be in a bodega that gets held up. She kills the guy there and finds herself on a new mission -- not just tracking down those who brought her to this point but to also get any other wrong doers in the city that she loved.
    Enter Marcus (Terence Howard), a police detective, investigating this sudden surge in vigilante style killings. Some evidence leads him to start suspecting Erica. He confronts her with his suspicions and the relationship that builds between the two is credible enough to carry the movie through its slow sections. Meanwhile, the rest of NYC embraces the shadowy figure bringing the wrong doers, who were roaming free, to their just fates.
    The movie can be seen as a female variation on Charles Bronson's Death Wish movies (as many of them as there were). But having Foster in the lead and Neil Jordan as director makes it a little classier. Tough, suspenseful, and touching, all at once, this was definitely a worthy diversion from movies that are depending more and more on special effects to entertain. Foster shows why she has already won two Academy Awards and Howard shows why he can't be too far from one. Maybe not his role here but soon.
     I loved it..
RATINGFIVE STARS

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3:10 TO YUMA
a la The Flixter

      Farmer Dan Evans (Christain Bale) has a pretty harsh life. He lost his leg as a Union soldier during the Civil War. He can barely make ends meet and his son thinks of him as a coward. But his chance at redemption comes when he helps capture stagecoach robber Ben Wade(Russell Crowe) and agrees to deliver him to his final judgment. He will get $200 if he can get Wade to the 3:10 train at Contention City so he can be delivered to the hangman at Yuma.
     It could be a simple task if Wade wasn't such a devious delivery and wasn't being pursued by his posse who plan on freeing him. Along the way, he plays mind games with Ben and offers him a much larger sum if he frees him. Plus there are other hurdles along the way including an apparent shortcut which turns out to be otherwise, thanks to the Apaches who populate the area.
     Unknown to Dan, his son is following his father on this task. Also accompanying Dan are a veterinarian, a bounty hunter (Peter Fonda), and the railroad official who hired Dan. The posse in pursuit of this party is headed by Wade's No. 2 guy, a psychotic nicknamed Princess.
     There is plenty of action and the performances are fine. But the movie is a little boring at times... too many times. The best has to be when a stopover in some town turns for the worse when the head there, who has his own grudge against Wade, offers a cash reward to whoever kills the two. The two actually end up joining forces along the way, and bonding to almost make this a buddy movie. Russell Crowe gives a very good performance but Bale, in my opinion, has a more multi-layered character and does better than his Oscar winning co-star.
      By the way, its a remake of a Glenn Ford movie which was based on an Elmore Leonard short story. Yes, the same guy behind such crime dramas as Get Shorty and Jackie Brown.  A good movie, great performances, but a little too slow for all that is going on..
RATINGTHREE and 1/2 STARS

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HALLOWEEN
a la The Flixter

      Poor Michael Myers. He has a miserable childhood. He has an abusive stepfather. His mom's a go-go dancer. He is constantly picked on at school. Poor Michael Myers.
      So what can he do to vent all this frustration? Well, he can mutilate animals... which he does. But he shouldn't have taken those pictures because they will just get him caught. But what else can be done, since there is a lot more needing venting? How about getting rid of some of those responsible for his frustrations? So he kills that bully from school. And then he gets home and slits the stepfather's throat. Yup, things are starting to feel better, but the stupid authorities won't let the 10-year-old be... After the initial killings, he is put in an institution under the care of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).
      Fifteen years later, Myers is a six foot, eight inch hulk and escapes. He returns to his town on Halloween and picks up where he left off fifteen years ago... and there's plenty to be picked at. There are plenty of horny teenagers and their likes. Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) is the baby-sitter from Michael's younger days who is now all grown up and finds herself being shadowed by a sinister figure. Her friends are the horny youngsters I hinted at before. They get massacred but it is Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis in the original) who puts up the fight. Dr. Loomis comes back to try to lasso in his former patient who has given him a lot of success in the form of a best-selling book he wrote about that experience. Let's just say that things don't quite work out the way he is intending.
      There's gore, there's blood, and all that is missing is suspense or any lingering hint of scares. Michael Myers is played by wrestler Tyler Mane. By the way, its Michael Myers and not Mike Myers. The later is the comic behind Austin Powers and Shrek. But getting back to the movie, it is sufficient to say that it was terrible. I am a big fan of director Rob Zombie... at least his music, whether it was his band White Zombie or his solo career. But in terms of movies, he is too bent on gore and sadism instead of scaring the viewers. I do think his career would have gone in a whole different direction if he had opted for Bob as a first name instead of Rob. Imagine a musician and director named Bob Zombie. I think that is enough about this terrible movie going experience...
RATINGZERO STARS

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SUPERBAD
a la The Flixter

      High school is ending. Seth (Jonah Hill) may have a chance at getting it on with his pretty lab partner. She is throwing a party and Seth volunteers to supply the booze. He gets the order of alcohol from her and her friends, and sets out to round up the liquor. That's where the problems begin; he and his friends are graduating from high school so no one is old enough to buy the alcohol. That is where Christopher Mintz-Plasse's, Fogell comes in handy. The geeky, near-sighted kid has gotten himself a fake ID. Just that his new ID only gives him one name, McLovin... and according to that ID, McLovin is an organ donor from Hawaii.
    The third one in this trio of misfits hoping to score, is Michael Cera's Evan. So McLovin goes into the liquor store and puts on his charade just as a robber barges in, punches him and empties out the cash register. So things get complicated since the cops show up and take Fogell's McLovin along for questioning. Good thing the two officers, played by Bill Hader and Seth Rogen, are a laid back pair of slackers who take a liking to McLovin and take him along in their car for a night that is made up of speeding through red lights with the sirens blaring and partying like the cops were the ones graduating high school.
      Meanwhile, Seth and Evan are wandering around getting into their own misadventures and discussing ways they are going to unleash their sexual fantasies.
    The movie is absolutely hilarious. A great time at the movies with some of the biggest laughs I can recall from recent movie going experiences. Seth Rogen, who recently achieved stardom thanks to his turn in the hilarious Knocked Up, is also one of the screen writers here. Yes, it does get to be a little sentimental in the final frames but its all appropriate, with enough hilarity ensuing in the earlier frames to justify a great movie-going experience.
RATINGFIVE STARS

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RUSH HOUR 3
a la The Flixter

      This review is long over due. Many problems and issues on the personal front, but I figured that I should at least say something about this, since one of my favorites, Jackie Chan, is in it. So here goes:
      Jackie Chan's Lee and Chris Tucker's Carter are back. So Carter is busy listening to his IPod while directing traffic, and you can guess how that will turn out. Meanwhile Chan's Lee is escorting a Chinese diplomat who is about to give his big speech in front of the World Criminal Court. That speech concerns the Triad and the whereabouts of its leader, Shy Shen. The diplomat is assassinated during his speech and Lee is in pursuit of the killer when he runs into Carter... and thus the two are reunited.
     Then the two are off to Paris since that is where the conspiracy leads them. Turns out that Lee has a personal tie to the matter since his brother, played by John Lone, is in with the bad guys. In Paris, they manage to find the cabaret singer who has details of this Triad conspiracy tattooed on her head.  That is enough about the plot. Let's delve into some details now.
     The movie was a huge disappointment for me. Chan is 53 years old now and should, maybe, start thinking about stunt doubles since the usual action you would expect is missing. The movie concentrates more on comedy. That is where Chris Tucker comes in. I have usually found him annoying. But he was bearable in the first two movies thanks in large part to a building chemistry with Chan and comic  situations that were not so redundant back then. But now they are extremely redundant and he is back to being annoying. Like I just said, there isn't as much action as you would expect. Even the out takes at the end of the movie aren't that good. I remember a time when just those out takes were worth the price of admission.
    Very disappointing. In terms of bad Chan movies, this ranks with The Tuxedo... at least that one had Jennifer Love Hewitt.
RATINGONE STAR

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THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
a la The Flixter

    Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is still at it. That would be trying to find out who he was, why people are trying to kill him, how he got those lethal skills that enable him to defend himself, and how he got to be where he is.... Let's go back to The Bourne Identity for a bit. That is where we first met Bourne, after he was pulled from the ocean, wounded, battered, and without an inkling of who he was and now he was trying to find out. Then came The Bourne Supremacy which found our hero with a little closer to the truth. And now comes this one.
    Bourne is on his globe spanning odyssey and getting closer and closer to where he uncovers the truth. He doesn't have an arsenal of weapons like the ones available to another agent who shares his initials and carries his own film franchise (I am referring to James Bond in case you didn't catch on). Bourne makes use of whatever is handy-- a kind of MacGyver, if you remember that show.
    Anyway, the movie starts off in Moscow and then heads to London where Bourne finds a reporter who has been writing about him. The poor guy was doing fine with his journalistic activities until Bourne gets in touch with him, bringing him into the sights of his pursuers and resulting in, you know what, for him. Then its off to Morocco and finally New York.  He gets in touch with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who may be his sole ally on the inside. David Straithairn is the CIA big, who is in pursuit of Bourne, with all his attempts focusing on ending him before he finds out the truth about himself and the operations that yielded him.
    The great Brian Cox is absent from this entry but there is another great actor in his place. Albert Finney has a brief appearance as the doctor who is responsible for turning Bourne into a cold blooded killer. There are some good action set pieces, and some pretty good car chases, bit I think that is enough praises. Now for the bad part.
    I will hold the same thing that I held against The Bourne Supremacy, against this one. That would be director Paul Greengrass' reliance on using a lot of hand held cameras to capture the action. Maybe I am just not sophisticated enough for that stuff, but I found a lot of the action scenes to be too jumbled-up, where I had to wait for the action to end and the smoke to clear to see who was left standing. That is my main complaint against this movie. Otherwise, it is pretty good in tying up the trilogy from author Robert Ludlum. The acting is fine and Damon proves to be a worthy action hero. By the way, Joan Allen is also present as an ally for Bourne. Like I mentioned before, Robert Ludlum wrote three Bourne novels, but the series is still going on in the hands of Eric Lustbader. He has written two more novels, The Bourne Legacy and The Bourne Betrayal. Let's see if they make it to the screen.
RATINGFOUR STARS

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The Simpsons Movie
a la The Flixter

    I am not going to put down who voices which character since each voice talent provides the voice of several characters.
    Grampa has a vision during Sunday services in which he warns of imminent doom. The rest of the family just categorizes it as just another episode for the old timer. Then Homer comes home with a pig... That starts everything, since Homer decides to dump all of the pig's waste in Springfield Lake, triggering an environmental catastrophe, that results in the town being sealed in a bubble... But the family finds a way to escape.
    Their next option is moving to Alaska. Marge insists on returning to their hometown to help out the people there. But Homer is liking it in Alaska and refuses to ever return to "America", however Bart, Lisa, and Marge eventually coax him into doing so.
    As you already know, I am a big fan of cartoons. But The Simpsons is beyond a cartoon. It is probably the funniest thing on TV that has been hilarious and satirical in the vein of Voltaire's Candide. So when the movie finally opened this Friday, you know I had to be there for the first show, which was actually a Thursday night showing at 12:01am. So I, along with my crew of eight people, consisting of cousins and friends was there; so were a lot of other Simpsons fans. The hardest part, since we all had to wear a Simpsons t-shirt, was to pick which one I was going to wear since a lot of my wardrobe is adorned by those guys.
    Anyway, back to the movie. How was it? Some may say that it is just like an episode of the show on a bigger screen. And the problem with that is... ?
    I loved it. An hour and a half of animated, movie-going bliss. Some of the characters (since there are so many) don't get enough screen time, if any. But the main players are all there. And since the movie is rated PG-13, there's a lot of stuff that wouldn't make it on the small screen. Like full frontal nudity involving Bart when he takes on Homer's dare to skateboard in the buff. By the way, in all this environmental catastrophe, the nation is being run by a clueless President Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus one of the voices is being provided by a huge movie star (whose name I won't reveal) who also happens to be a big fan of the show and one of the best actors around. Let's not forget that the movie starts off with Homer addressing the audience as suckers who are paying to see something they can watch for free on TV. Loved it and may watch it again...
RATINGFIVE STARS

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Hairspray
a la The Flixter

    Let me start off by saying that this movie is a musical... meaning that they sing and dance... and I hate musicals. I cannot stand the actors breaking into song and dance. I can't recall a musical that I liked.
    Now for the review:
    The year is 1962. Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) has a dream. She rushes home from school to tune into The Corny Collins Show, a TV show that is pretty much a rock n' roll dance party... oh yeah, the dream. 
    Well, her dream is to be a contestant on that show and, maybe, one day get the title of Ms. Hairspray. There's just one problem: she is a chubby girl that doesn't quite fit the mold of the statuesque dancers on the show. Then there's other issues to be dealt with, like her mom, who happens to be a huge recluse, both in size and manner. She, (played by John Travolta in a dress, wig, make up, and lots of padding) hasn't left the house in years because she is ashamed of the way she looks. Then there's the racial segregation of the times which has resulted in the show having a Negro Day where all the contestants are (take a wild guess) black.
    So Tracy is not just going to make it to the show, she is also going to end the racism, since her dance instructors end up being a group of black dancers. That could get tough since the station manager is a racist snob, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who wants to see her own daughter become Miss Hairspray. When she sees Tracy becoming a threat, she tries to seduce her father, played by Christopher Walken, and undermine things at home. Zac Effron steps in as Linc, who becomes Tracy's love interest. But their
romance takes the back seat to the one involving her best friend,
Penny (Amanda Bynes) and Seaweed(Elijah Kelley) since they are THE interracial couple in those troubled times.
    Sounds pretty complicated for a musical, doesn't it? Yes, I did mention that I hate musicals. But I ended up loving this movie, including all the song and dance numbers. The performances are great, especially Mr. Travolta in his fat suit. And Queen Latifah is also on board as the owner of a record store. Some may recognize this as being a filming of the Broadway musical. But don't forget that before it got there, it was a movie from John Waters back in 1988...
RATINGFIVE STARS

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Tranformers
a la The Flixter

    Instead of writing this review, maybe I should be looking for that Transformers toy thing I had back in the day. Maybe its worth a lot of money now since the movie is out. But laziness prevails.
   Anyway, yes, this movie is based on those toys, and cartoon series,from the late 1900s. Shia LaBeouf plays Sam Witwicky, a high schooler who has just gotten his first car. Its a beat up Camaro that he wasn't too keen on but had to settle for because of his stingy father. What he soon finds out, makes him think again about his initial reluctance. It turns out that the car, named Bumblebee, is actually quiet effective in getting him the girl he has a crush on. And there's more. At night, the car transforms into a giant robot. As he soon finds out, Bumblebee, is part of the Autobots, an interstellar race of robots that has come to Earth in search of the All Spark. (That happens to be a cube type thing that holds the key to the survival of Earth.) So the Autobots are actually Earth-friendly, which cannot be said for the Decepticons. That would be a similar race of robots that also comes here looking for that cube except that they are not that friendly and are planning to use the cube as ways of universal domination.
  These mass of robots, both the Autobots and Decepticons, transform into vehicles and aircrafts to blend into their new environment. The hunt for the All Spark is on and the stage is set for some awesome action.  Director Michael Bay, known mostly for loud and flashy films(except for The Island, which showed a little more depth) delivers the goods here. Having Steven Spielberg as a producer also helps.
  The movie is pretty incredible to look at, mostly for the CGI content which is dominant. The humans are secondary here, but you know that going in. Like I said before, the action is spectacular as the robots, in all their shapes and forms, face off against each other, while causing much destruction on our planet which some of them have the intention of saving. The humans are pretty secondary but the actors deliver the goods in the midst of all the special effects.  Shia LaBeouf does a decent job, though Disturbia was a better vehicle (no pun intended) for him.
A fun movie, but a little too much at times...
RATINGFOUR STARS

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Live Free or Die Hard
a la The Flixter

    Its not going too well for Detective John McClaine (Bruce Willis).  Its the 4th of July weekend and the NYPD cop has just had an argument with his daughter, who has chosen to use her mother's last name instead of John's. And then McClaine gets assigned to bring in Matt Farrell(Justin Long) a computer hacker wanted by the FBI. The latter should be a simple task except, for the fact that John comes in on Matt just before he comes under attack by men sent to kill the hacker. Why?
    Well, that's where Timothy Olyphant's Thomas Gabriel comes into play. The guy has plans for the Fourth. He is going to shut down the nation by hacking into its computers and attacking its infrastructure. Once he does that, everything is under his control. The power, the flights, and whatever you can name, which shows how dependant we all are on computers. Gabriel wants to get rid of any other hackers that have the ability to undo his doings. Consequently, when the attack gets underway, it actually gets a little scary when you realize the possibilities of this cyber-terrorism. The power goes and parts of the nation are submerged in darkness. Traffic lights go haywire and you
can guess what happens. In what is probably one of the most intense sequences in the film,
Gabriel lets opposing traffic go towards the other in the Holland Tunnel while shutting off all the lights within.
    So this film is different from the first three Die Hard movies in the sense that those were populated by villains that relied on weapons that shot and blew up stuff. But don't worry, there's plenty of action in that league too. Especially when Gabriel's girlfriend Mai (Maggie Q) gets into it with McClaine in an extended fight scene that culminates in an elevator shaft. And then there's McClaine hurtling down the freeway in a big rig while a harrier pursues him. There is just so much awesomeness.
   What was bothering me before hand was the movie's PG-13 rating. McClaine's profane lines and catch phrase (which I will just say start off with a Yippy Ki Yay) were a staple of the other Die Hard movies. But don't worry, one Yippy Ki Yay makes it way into this one too. Loved it.
   Chich should be happy to know that his man, Bruce Willis, is still doing great and Justin Long is also very effective as the computer geek who hasn't realized what he is capable of and what those capabilities can do...
   A perfect way for a summer kick off...
RATINGFIVE STARS

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1408
a la The Flixter

    Could this be another The Shining? Well its based on a short story by Stephen King and it does have the haunted motel/hotel thing going again. But things are a little different this time around.
    Mike (John Cusack) is a writer who specializes in writing about hauntings. What he does, is go around and stay in these supposedly haunted places. Then he proceeds to write about his experience and pretty much debunks any reports of supernatural activity.  Which brings him to the Dolphin Hotel in New York.
    Room 1408 is the one where no one has lasted more than an hour. People have jumped out the window, gouged out their own eyes, and pretty much done things that could give the entire establishment a bad rep. Which is why Room 1408 is unavailable to anyone. But Mike's lawyer finds a legal loophole which makes the hotel manager (Samuel Jackson) reluctantly hand over the keys.
    Mike's first reaction upon entering the room is "Is this it?" But then things start to change. The radio plays music on its own accord. The bed spread fixes itself, and then the clock radio, instead of showing the time, starts counting down from sixty minutes. In other words, how much time is left for Mike. The thermostat goes haywire; first its too warm - then the temperature starts to drop and poor Mike has to start small fires to stay warm. Then we have the voice of his daughter who died and sent his marriage into a nose dive. There's the desk clerk with a nonchalant reaction to his panicked phone calls. Maybe Jackson's hotel manager was right when he said that, "Its an evil f***ing room."
    Will Mike make it? Well stick around and find out. The ending veers toward Hollywood but the overall experience is creepy enough. John Cusack shows again that he has come a long way from those adolescent movies that made him a star. Didn't really love it but like is good enough...
RATINGThree and a Half STARS

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Knocked Up
a la The Flixter

    Ben (Seth Rogen) is a grown up who hasn't really grown up. Yes, he has grown up habits like getting stoned all the time with his equally immature friends, but you get my drift when I say that he isn't really grown up. So when he goes out partying to a club with his friends, its nothing out of the ordinary for him. But it is something out of the ordinary for Alison (Katherine Heigl) - she is out to celebrate her recent promotion. As fate would have it, she gets a little drunk, hooks up with Ben on the dance floor, has a one night stand with Ben, and something that pertains to the title happens. Yes, she becomes pregnant.
    She confronts Ben with that "info" and he is clueless about what to do, though his stoner roommates offer him some advice by offering an alternative that they just say "rhymes with shmush-shmortion." So Ben is in big trouble since his life is mostly composed of getting high and his career ambition is limited to launching a website that pinpoints celebrity nudity in movies down to the exact second in a film's running time. But he gets serious as both he and Alison try to give their relationship a serious shot, go through with the pregnancy, and give their child a chance.
    The cast is great. Beyond the two leads, the supporting player's make a great ensemble. As Allison's at-first-apprehensive sister, Leslie Mann (who also happens to be director Judd Apatow's wife) gives a great performance as the older sister who is having trouble facing the fact she is the older sister because she is older. Her husband, played by Paul Rudd, is a little more immature, more into fantasy football and showing Ben some wild times. Plus there's a brief pop in from Harold Ramis as Ben's father.
     The movie is great. Funny, hilarious, and surprisingly touching. One thing I will hold against it, though, is when the child birth scenes get a little too graphic. Didn't really want that Discovery Channel bit coming in to put a damper on what had been a great time until then. But a pretty good movie, over all...
RATINGFOUR STARS

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SHREK THE THIRD
a la The Flixter

    Since this is an animated movie (or cartoon, if you prefer), the name of the actor appearing after a character name is the thespian providing the voice of that character. I say all that and this because I am too lazy to put "voice of" in all such occasions. So here we go.
     You know how I have loved those Shrek movies. Now we have Shrek (Mike Myers) becoming the king of Far Far Away because the actual King (John Cleese) has passed away in a hilarious death scene that has the ruler, now a frog, hold onto dear life during his final breaths. So the ogre is now king and his wife, Fiona (Cameron Diaz) the queen. But Shrek just doesn't see himself as such; he is more determined to find somebody else to take the place. That's when he learns about Arthur aka Artie.
     Cousin Artie (Justin Timberlake) is a long lost relative who can step in and save Shrek the hassle of being the ruler. So Shrek, along with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss (Antonio Banderas) sets out to find Artie. As the ship is setting off, he tries but fails at hearing Fiona's pleas for him to come home soon since she is pregnant. So there's a lot of pressure on the poor guy; facing fatherhood while trying to duck the responsibilities of being king.
     Meanwhile, there's Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) reduced to performing in a dinner theater, seeing his own chance to step in and take over the throne. This brings about probably the most hilarious sequence in the film as he tries to get Pinnochio to reveal any information he has on Shrek. (That part almost caused me to choke on my popcorn.) That and Gingy (the Gingerbread man) having a near-death flash back.   Then there's pretty funny goings on, when Donkey and Puss switch bodies.
    Yes, the movie is funny but hardly measures up to the classic first and the superior sequel. Even though it has two guys from Monty Python(huge fan) pitching in as the king (John Cleese) and Merlin (Eric Idle), it can't measure up to the first two. I was going to give it just three stars but here's what changed it.  A couple of nights after watching this, I was driving somewhere when I stopped at a red light. There was a movie theater on the corner playing five movies that I had seen. Just thinking over them, I realized that Shrek the Third was the only one worth catching again. So....
RATINGFOUR STARS

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SPIDERMAN 3
a la The Flixter

    Okay, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) has a lot of stuff to deal with here. It could be okay if it wasn't for his alter-ego of Spiderman and his attempts to rid the city of crime. Because crime is aplenty and we are not talking some muggers or bank robbers. We are talking about three brand new super-villains that are there to give our hero a hard time.
    First up there's Harry Osborn (James Franco). Actually he is a good friend of Parker, but his dad also happened to be the Green Goblin ( Willem Dafoe) in the first movie). He blames Spiderman for his death and turns into the junior Green Goblin. Up next we have Thomas Haden Church as a small time crook who gets caught in a science experiment that turns him into a shape shifting monster prone to transforming into a hulking sandstorm aptly named the Sandman. Finally, we have Topher Grace as a rival photographer at Parker's job who gets under the influence of some alien goo that turns him into Venom. Got it? So the stage is set for plenty of actiony stuff. By the way, that alien goo that I mentioned back there also has an effect on Parker/Spiderman who comes in contact with it --- whoever comes in contact with that stuff gets their aggressive side come out in a more dominant fashion.
    Anyway, their is loads of spectacular action while Peter tries to balance his love for MJ (Kirsten Dunst) with the arrival of Bryce Dallas Howard's Gwen Stacy. Yes, things are looking tough for the guy, on both sides of his persona. That is enough about the plot. Let me get to some specifics.
    The most surprising thing about the movie is how Thomas Haden Church's Sandman ends up being such sympathetic character. You feel bad for the guy on his quest to seek his daughter. Venom is plain bad and Green Goblin Jr. ends up becoming an ally.
    However, there is too much going on and the movie was a bit too long. It is supposed to have cost close to $300 million. And it definitely shows.  Director Sam Raimi does a pretty amazing job. But like I said before, the movie was a little too long and actually drags a bit in the middle. If you recall (I don't see any reason why you should), Spiderman was the first movie to which I ever gave a five star rating --- and it deserved it. Now, its just getting a little redundant...
RATINGTHREE and a HALF STARS
PS: I almost forgot to mention that there is a hilarious cameo from Raimi regular Bruce Campbell.

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NEXT
a la The Flixter

     Phillip K. Dick was a science fiction great. His works have inspired some great sci-fi films like Blade Runner and Minority Report, (final verdict alert!!!) but then his work has also inspired this sort of junk.
     Nicolas Cage plays Cris Johnson who goes by the stage name of Frank Cadillac when he is doing his show in Las Vegas. What is his show? Well he can see exactly two minutes into the future. So he makes out pretty good at the black jack tables. He even foils a would be robber at the casino. But that ends up as a chase involving him as the one being pursued by the cops since the would be robber had not taken out the weapon yet. What follows is probably the best part of the movie as he is chased around the casino by cops. Like I said before, he can see two minutes into the future so he knows exactly where they will be coming from and what they will be looking for.
     Anyway, it turns out that the FBI has recognized his so-called gift, and is very interested in him. Some terrorists (the Euro types) have gotten their hands on some nuclear weapons and are planning on setting them off...  Juliane Moore plays the "big FBI agent" who is after Cris in order to help her with this case.  Of course, he is not that cooperative at first, but then he is... (By the way, I almost forgot to mention that he also has visions of Jessica Biel's Liz who teaches some underprivileged kids. Its when she gets kidnapped by the would-be terrorists and strapped with a bunch of explosives that Cris really becomes cooperative. So you have this guy with two minute head start helping out the Feds in snaring a bunch of terrorists. Doesn't sound too hopeful. But no need to worry since the movie is pretty flexible with the rules. All of a sudden Cris can see much further into the future. First, its a few hours and then its a couple of weeks. How? I have no idea.
     When the movie ended, I turned to the people behind me and asked about this sudden change in rules. They had no clue about it either. Plus there is this whole part of the movie where Cris splits into a few separate beings and gives his pursuers a hard time. How? Once again, I can't really explain it since an explanation would require understanding. Since the later wasn't there, the former can't happen.  So the movie was pretty bad expect for a few nice touches in the beginning that wear out after a while.
    The latest from director Lee Tamahori, who got on the scene with the artsy Once Were Warriors and now churns out junk like this and last year's XXX: State of the Union.  A very disappointing effort from the makers, the players, and everyone else involved...
RATINGONE STAR

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DISTURBIA
a la The Flixter

     It starts off as a nice bit about a father and son bonding on a fishing trip, but (you just know there will be a "but") things turn for the worse on the way back as Kale (Shia LaBeouf) watches his father trapped in an overturned vehicle meet his demise when another car rams that overturned one. I think that is enough to scar a young mind.
    So its a while later and Kale still hasn't recovered. There are outbursts of anger like the one that makes him punch his Spanish teacher. What the authorities decide to do is put him under house arrest since he is still a minor and now Kale finds himself stuck at home with an ankle bracelet that insures he won't stray too far. What's a young fellow to do under such circumstances? Well, he does have windows so he becomes a peeping-tom of sorts, checking out his surroundings in ways that wouldn't have been possible if he didn't have so much time on hand.
    Sure there's hints of infidelity from the neighbor across the street, but what really captivates him is a beautiful new neighbor. Ashley (Sarah Roemer) takes time off from her sunbathing and confronts Kale. But she's not angry; she wants to be part of the voyeuristic shenanigans. So now you have Kale, Ashley, and Kale's friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) forming this club with its extracurricular activity of keeping tabs on the neighborhood. Its all fun until it seems that the cranky Mr. Turner (David Morse) is bringing women home next door and killing them.
     Further investigation reveals that it may not just seem that way... it may actually be happening. The movie switches gears and becomes a thriller as the youngster try to stop the nut, alert the proper people, and save themselves, once Mr. Turner finds out that they may know what others don't.  And things get a little complex once Turner starts going out with Kale's mom (Carrie-Anne Moss).
   I loved it. Pretty suspenseful with plenty of jumpy moments. I think this is probably the first movie I have see Shia LaBeouf in and have to say that he shows a lot of promise. But everybody does a fine job in their respective roles...
RATINGFIVE STARS

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GRINDHOUSE
a la The Flixter

     Okay, this is not looking too easy. Grindhouse is actually a double feature. Yes, there's two movies. And then there's a bunch of other stuff thrown in, like previews for non-existent movies. It is supposed to be a homage to similar things in the 1970's. I was barely around at the time so can't relate, but I will, and did, go along with it. So here it goes:
     The first movie in this double feature is Planet Terror, directed by Robert Rodriguez. Its a typical zombie movie, the likes of which have been done better by masters like George Romero. So the land is crawling, once again, by the living dead. The best thing about this would be the beautiful Rose McGowan who plays a go go dancer forced to fight the growing numbers of these zombies out for their favorite dish, human flesh.
    How these zombies came into existence, is pretty unclear. Probably something to do with a scientific experiment that went wrong. So Rose McGowan gets her leg amputated... and her prosthetic limb ends up being a machine gun. Inspired, yes. So she goes around fighting the living dead with her new leg.  Typical zombie movie stuff happens; there are some nice pyrotechnics, lots of gore, and some laughs and cameo by Bruce Willis as an army guy meeting an unfortunately gory fate.
    But the real deal is the second movie, Death Proof, directed my Quentin Tarantino. This one involves Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a former stuntman who once doubled for the likes of Robert Urich. What he is now is a serial killer with an unusual weapon - his car. His pastime now is killing women, who just happened to be pretty well-endowed. His latest choice turns into a big mistake when he picks three joy riding females.
    Rosario Dawson, and two of her female companions are joyriding when Mike sets his sights on them. What follows is an extended car chase that belongs in the archives of great action cinema. That car chase is what makes up most of Death Proof and will definitely have you on the edge of your seat ( I hate using clichйs but have no other way of describing that experience).
   Loved Death Proof and the finale to that one is just as great along with some great dialogue that Tarantino has become famous for... and let's not forget about the faux previews that are sprinkled in this double feature. The best one has to be one for a slasher-pic called Don't...
 absolutely hilarious. Then there's a serial killer movie called Thanksgiving and one actioner called Machette with Danny Trejo. That last
one is directed by Rodriguez and he fares a lot better with that mini-gem than he does with the feature length film he is helming. Then
there's a preview for Werewolf Women of the SS. That one disappoints me, doubly since its directed by Rob Zombie, of whose music I have been a pretty big fan.
    Anyway, here go the final verdicts ( keep in mind that you can't really complain too much since you really get your money's worth since its two movies for one ticket, although sitting there for three plus hours can be a little too much...
 
RATINGS
PLANET TERROR: TWO STARS
DEATH PROOF:
FIVE STARS
THE MOVIE AS A WHOLE:
FOUR and a half STARS

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BLADES OF GLORY
a la The Flixter

     Yeah, yeah, I am late. Quit your whining and read on if you want. 
    Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) is a figure skater. His competition is Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) and when I say competition, I mean competition. For instance, the two get into a little physical scuffle when they are tied for first place. That incident is an embarrassment for the skating league and results in the two being banned from the sport.
    Its three years later and Chazz is doing his skating under a big costume, entertaining kids at a wizard and sorcery themed ice show. Thanks to the costume he can carry on his drinking without the young ones seeing him pound the alcohol, even though the resulting behavior is another story.
    Meanwhile, Jimmy has been reduced to working at a sporting goods store; and then comes an obsessive fan. He has been researching ways for the two to come back and found a way. Seems that the two are banned from skating as individuals but they can still compete as a pair. Sounds simple. Really? I wouldn't think so. So you have two rivals forced to team up and skate as a pair. Who lifts who? Jimmy is the poor waif forced to lug the healthier Chazz. Plus, the duo's competition is a brother and sister pair that is murderously intent on keeping the spotlight on them. Of course, under the tutelage of Craig T. Nelson's coach, they can overcome all obstacles and win over everyone by performing The Iron Lotus --- that would be a routine that has only been attempted once in North Korea. Why once? Well, it can result in
disastrous results which may include decapitation.  So the training is on and the struggle heats up, especially when Jimmy falls for a female who happens to be the sister of the competitive siblings. 
    The movie is pretty damn funny. I think its safe to say that Will Ferrell has liberated himself from his SNL roots. No longer does he have to be that guy from SNL. He is a funny fellow on his own now. But Jon Heder doesn't seem to have strayed too far from what made him famous. You know, that little classic called Napoleon Dynamite. He's good but needs to diversify a little..
 
RATING: FOUR STARS

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300
a la The Flixter

      To say that a movie is awesomely-awesome may be grammatically incorrect. But after watching this, all I can say is that is definitely cinematically-appropriate to describe this as being such a movie. I know I just gave away my final verdict before even talking about the plot but I just had to do it. So now I go into the details.  The year is 480 BC and the Persian empire, under the leadership of its king, Xerxes, is on a rampage. A rampage of conquering the rest of the globe.
     Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) gets an offering from Xerxes to surrender quietly. His response is to kick the messenger down a long, dark well---he will go to war to defend his land. That's where the problem arises. His army is made up of 300 soldiers (hence, the title) and they are going up against an army of thousands and thousands. But they go to war and thus begins an endless barrage of awesomely displayed warfare. Meanwhile, Leo has left his beautiful wife, Queen Gorgo(Lena Heady), behind, and the poor lady has to do sexual favors to get the Council to send some back up for her warring husband. So you have graphic violence happening on the battlefield while there is sexy stuff happening back home.
     Does that sound like your type of movie? Well, even if it doesn't, you have to check it out since this has to be one of the most spectacular movies I have seen in a long time. The action, like I said before, is non-stop. Is it based on some historical event? I don't know for sure and I really don't care. What I do know is that it is based on Frank Miller's graphic novel. Yes, that guy who inspired another piece of awesomeness in the form of Sin City. I think I have used the word "awesome" and its different variations too many times. But there's no other way to describe director Zack Snyder's achievement here.
Loved it.

PS: By the way, Xerxes, when he shows up is a huge seven-foot tall thing. Just thought I'd pop that in before I go to sleep since I am still
trying to recover that hour of sleep I lost because of stupid daylight saving time...
RATING: FIVE STARS

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The Number 23
a la The Flixter

      ... And so Agatha (Virginia Madsen) gives her hubby Walter (Jim Carrey) a book as a gift and that is a very big mistake. Why? Well, the book is about the number 23 and becomes the downfall of Walter as he becomes obsessed with it. Walter Sparrow is a dog catcher and once he starts reading the book, he starts to see uncanny parallels between his life and the life of the book's protagonist, a detective named Fingerling (also played by Carrey). The book is about the dominance of the number 23 in Fingerling's life. Despite the warnings of his wife, Walter keeps reading the book beyond its disclaimer. Everything in Walter's life starts to unravel once he starts looking at everything as numbers. Even names start to make more sense once he has disjointed the letters and found their numerical place in the alphabet. And guess what? It all ends up being somehow related to the number 23. Dates, addresses, weights, measurements all lead to the number 23.
       So Walter sets out to find the author of this novel, whose name happens to be Topsy Kretts (I don't know if you get it). He fears that his wife's life is in danger. He checks into a motel and insists on getting room 23. By the way, the book does bring up some interesting occurrences of the number 23 in history, science, and religion. And the movie jumps back and forth between Walter's world and the novel's world occupied by Fingerling. Interesting? Yes. Good? Hardly.
       Am I one of those types that can't see Carrey doing anything but comedy? No, because I love his dramatic turns in The Truman Show, The Majestic, and Man on the Moon. But this one was the kind of movie that the master of the bizarre, David Lynch, could have worked wonders with... Director Joel Shumacher is not the type and can not handle this type of thing. Plus the ending is hardly satisfying. On top of everything, the movie bothered me a lot since I happened to have fallen for a girl when she was 23. How did that work out? Let's just say that unhappy endings in movies bother me on a personal level. And that is all I will say about that....
RATING: TWO STARS

 

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DREAMGIRLS
a la The Flixter

      Its the 1960s and the place is Detroit. Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) is a car salesman with his eyes set on bigger things. He wants to start his own record label and make it big in the music business. So in come the Dreamettes, a trio of young girls looking to make it big in the music business. They are young and they are attractive so it looks like a good combination. There's Beyonce Knowles' Deena Jones, Anika Noni Roses' Larrell Robinson, and Jennifer Hudson's Effie White. Effie is the lead singer and her brother CC is the one who has come up with all their dance moves. But Effie doesn't get too much attention; Curtis wants to put the more attractive Deena in the spotlight. But what he does is get them a stint singing backup for James "Thunder" Early.... That would be Eddie Murphy's character who is making some waves with his blend of soul and rock n roll. He is a womanizer as well, focusing more on Deena's looks than Effie's talents. So, of course, things start getting a little rough as the once close knit family of the Dreamettes starts feeling some tensions within itself.
       Let me say right now that I don't like musicals. Music and songs can be a great plot enhancer, but I can't stand songs being the narrative. Which becomes the case here on a few occasions. The acting is good, and the musical numbers are well choreographed. But like I said before.... it's not really my type of thing. By the way, let me tell you folks, that I may not be going to the movies as much in the next couple of weeks. You can blame Chich. Yes, that friend of mine (real name Frankie) who is a big Bruce Willis fan. Actually he also happened to own one of my favorite hangouts, Ross Brothers. Yes, it was a bar and I spent plenty of time there. No, I am not some drunk-it was just a good place to hang out with friends and shoot some pool. Its been closed for a while and will finally be opening again this weekend. So you guys can probably find me there and discuss movies, music, and life the way we used to....... So come to where Apples was.
      Back to the movie, now. Yeah, it was okay. The best thing about it was a preview for Shrek The Third.
RATING: THREE STARS

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ANOTHER HOLIDAY BACKLOG
a la The Flixter

       Yeah, yeah, I know I am slacking off lately, but the title alone should give you reason to understand why... Yesterday was Christmas. So its been a little hectic lately. Since the big day has come and gone, I figured that I should say a few words about my recent movie going endeavors.
      So here goes: I went to see Rocky Balboa on opening night and it was jammed. In case you missed it, Rocky lost most of the fortune he made in the boxing ring. Now he owns a restaurant where he spends a lot of time mingling with the customers and telling stories from his glory days. His sweetheart, Adrian, has also died from "woman cancer."  But he still goes to her grave religiously where he puts a chair by the tombstone and talks away. His brother in law, Paulie (Burt Young) is still his old self, holding a meager job and getting in trouble with his mouth. His son is a successful broker, or something along those lines, and tries to detach himself from his father's legacy which his friends are always inquiring about.
      Then there's a virtual reality boxing match that hypothetically pits the current heavy weight champ, Mason Dixon, against the Italian Stallion... and that raises some issues regarding who would win. Needless to say, Rocky Balboa, rises up to the challenge and steps back in the ring to take on the young one. So how fair is to pit the old timer against a younger and faster opponent? Well, the boxing commission allows it to happen and Rocky gets back into the training mode, which is definitely not easy.
      I won't give anything away by saying that I saw this movie without any inkling of what the outcome may be. Is it good? Definitely. I like the other five Rocky movies and its good to see Stallone acknowledging his own shortcomings at the movies by way of his most memorable character. Funny, sad, and thoroughly watch-able.
      Next up was Night at the Museum. With a cast featuring Ben Stiller and Robin Williams, you'd expect a great time. I was stupid enough to do that. Here, Stiller plays Larry Daley, who is forced to take a job as a night watchman at New York's American Museum of Natural History. During his orientation, the two old timers (Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney) tell him that he has to make sure not to let anything in, or out, after closing time. Out? Well that's what Larry is pondering when he realizes what they may have meant. Turns out that because of an ancient tablet that accompanies a mummy in the museum, everything comes to life in the museum at night. Yes, the T Rex comes to life along with all the other wildlife and humans that are on display. There's Attila the Hun, Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), and so many more... So the job is definitely more than Larry was expecting. The first night, he is stunned. The second night, he tries to make friends and get his bearings straight. And the third night he tries to help his newfound colleagues...
     The special effects are pretty good, but the rest is not so great. The humor is childish and the outcomes predictable. I wasn't expecting much and got even less.
RATING:
 Rocky Balboa: FIVE STARS
 Night at the Museum: ONE STAR

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
a la The Flixter

       Things go from bad to much, much worse for Chris Gardener (Will Smiith). He is struggling to sell medical supplies so he can support his wife and child; but he is not doing too well at it. To put it in better terms, he is not selling anything. Then his wife (Thandie Newton) decides to leave him. He has to take care of his young son, played by Smith's actual son, Jaden Christopher Smith. Well, putting a roof over their heads becomes a struggle, when they get evicted from their apartment. Additionally, Christopher has a lot of parking tickets to pay, so his car gets towed. The two have to get in line, so they can get a spot in the local homeless shelter. By the way, Chris has gotten an internship at a stock brokerage firm. He only has a high school education and manages to land the job thanks to his charm and quick wit. But that job is not helping out at the moment since it is one based on commission and not a weekly paycheck.
      So life is a hard struggle for this single father trying to hold on to whatever he can, while things around him are crumbling. The movie is based on a true story, and there is a real Christopher Garden. Knowing that much assures us that there will be a happy ending. But getting there is one rough road. The movie, I will admit, is extremely sad and will probably bring a tear to your eye. But it also has to be one of the best movies of the year. Will Smith does an excellent job worthy of, at the very least, an Oscar nomination... And his son shows the same charm as dad. Love this movie....
RATING: FIVE STARS

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APOCALYPTO
a la The Flixter

       So a crumbling Mayan civilization is going through a bad drought. What to do? Well, how about sacrificing some people to please the gods so they will shed some rain on the drying villages. So one village attacks the other; many are slaughtered, and prisoners are taken back. Women are sold off as servants while the men are taken atop a giant pyramid where their still beating hearts are ripped out of their chests and the heads are chopped off and thrown down the steps of the pyramid. Is this it?
      Well, not really. Let me go back a little. When the village is attacked, one of the dwellers, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), hides his expectant mate (I am not sure if she is a girlfriend, fiancйe, or wife) and young son in a hole in the ground. His mind is set on escaping, reaching them, and rescuing them from that dark pit, and when he does escape and the movie changes gears. Up to that point it has just been a gore fest, with limbs and heads getting lopped off and people dying in the most horrible fashions imaginable. How horrible? Well, a guys face gets ripped off by a tiger in just one instance. Babies are ripped from the womb, people are burned... I think you get the point. So the movie switches modes and becomes a chase film as Jaguar flees, trying to get back to his child and significant other, while being pursued by some ticked off villagers.
       Up until then the movie was just an exercise in sadism. After the escape, it becomes pretty awesome. The chase is exciting as Jaguar tries all types of innovative methods to set traps for those chasing him. One thing that this movie makes clear is that Mel Gibson as a director has some serious issues. I mean, all the brutality in Passion of the Christ and now this. But the guy also has some serious skills. He knows how to set the action and raise the tension.
      I loved it. And I forgot to mention that the entire movie is in some Mayan dialect with subtitles for those of us who are not fluent in that lingo.
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Deja Vu -  Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny-  Casino Royale

THREE NIGHTS, THREE MOVIES, AND TOO MUCH TO EAT
a la The Flixter

       Well, it was Thanksgiving this past Thursday and, thank God, it was a nice day with the family. That is what the "eating too much" is about.  But after the meal, I headed off to the movie theater. What I saw on that day was Deja Vu, the new time-travel thriller with Denzel
Washington
. The movie is directed by Tony Scott and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer so you know it will be loud, actiony, and fast-paced.
       It starts off with a ferry explosion in New Orleans that kills hundreds of US sailors and their families. I feel bad about saying this but that explosion is a spectacularly staged spectacle.  It turns out that it is the work of a domestic terrorist. Washington plays ATF agent, Doug Carlin who is investigating the situation. He is approached by an FBI agent played by Val Kilmer, who invites Carlin to use a top secret government surveillance system called Snow White. This system allows them to see exactly four days and six hours into the past. What starts off as a hunt for the culprit, turns into a mission to change what happened when Carlin develops an obsession with a female whose body was found among the victims. The only thing is that she may not have been aboard the ferry. Plus her body reveals that she did not die in the ferry explosion but was already dead at the time the disaster happened. So what brought her body to be part of those victims? That is what Carlin becomes bent on finding out; additonally, he starts to feel that he knew her somehow...  And his obsession makes him realize that it is possible to save her and all those above the ferry. 
    The movie is fast-paced and entertaining, if you don't start to question the how's and what if's...which I didn't. I just went with the flow and was thoroughly entertained.  Since it was Thanksgiving day, I wasn't the only one who headed to the movies. The movie was pretty packed but I didn't have to wait in line to buy tickets. Which leads me to the next movie.
    I had bought the ticket for Deja Vu the night before when I was at the theater to watch Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny.  This one finds Jack Black's JB and Kyle Gass' KG on a hunt to find the Pick of Destiny. Their band, Tenacious D, is not doing too well. That is when a record store employee, played by Ben Stiller, tells them about the pick which is actually Satan's chipped tooth.  Whoever possesses the pick can not be held back from rocking hard. The pick has been used by all successful musicians, from Mozart to Van Halen. The only thing is that it is now in the Museum of Rock and Roll. So now the two have to break into the museum and steal it if they want to rock. Good thing that the security at the museum is comprised of guards who are busy taking hits off a bong during after hours. 
      This was just an okay movie. Not as good as Black's other music oriented classic, School of Rock. There are some laughs here and there but hardly enough to cover the movie's running time. 
      And now for the third movie: on my way out of Deja Vu, I picked up a ticket for Friday night's showing of Casino Royale.  Let me say right off that I wasn't too crazy about Daniel Craig being picked to play James Bond. Heck, I have to be one of those rare Bond fans who thought Timothy Dalton was pretty good in his two turns playing 007. But, anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by Craig's portrayal.
      Here, after a slam-bang beginning in Africa that becomes an international incident and puts him on the boss M's bad side, he sets off to the Bahamas where a multi-million dollar game of Texas Hold 'em Poker is taking place which is going to aid terrorist banker Le Chiffre. Going along to make sure he doesn't waste his 10 million dollar allowance is Eva Green's gorgeous Vesper Lynde. Of course, romantic tension happens and Bond becomes a little vulnerable after falling for Vesper.
      But plot always takes the backseat in Bond movies. Its all about the action and the babes... And the action here is pretty damn good, though far apart at times. And the babe, like I said before, is beautiful. But there is no Q and therefore no cool weapons at Bond's disposal. And, dare I say, the ending is almost a little sad. But rest assured, Craig will be back as Bond. Plus the main song in this one is from one of my favorite artists, Chris Cornell, formerly of Soundgarden and currently of Audioslave.
So here we go...:
RATINGS:
DEJA VU: FIVE STARS
TENACIOUS D IN THE PICK OF DESTINY: TWO STARS
CASINO ROYALE: FOUR STARS

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Happy Feet
a la The Flixter

       Once again I found myself facing a quandary. The new James Bond movie, Casino Royale, came out on the same day as this animated film. As you may recall, I am a fan of both. So what did I choose? If its any help, look at the title above.
       We find ourselves in the realm of the emperor penguins and we find out that a heart song is key to their existence since the use that to find a mate. Which is where Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood) falls short. But its actually his dad Memphis' fault, since he dropped him as an egg while mom Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) was off to catch some fish. So Mumble can't sing... He tries but is awful at it. So there goes his chance of hitting it off with his hoped-for mate, Gloria (Brittany Murphy). What to do?
       Oh, did I mention that Mumble can tap dance? Yes, he sure can do that. But that only further angers the elders resulting in poor Mumble getting booted from the colony. The poor kid has to wander solo, across the Arctic wilderness for some hope... And that's when he meets some Latino influenced penguins led by Ramon (a hilarious Robin Williams). Now this newly formed clan wanders together while encountering life threatening speed bumps such as killer sharks, sea lions, and an ice breaker ship. But they end up at the lair of the wise guru Lovelace (Williams again). By the way, I forgot to mention that Mumble's lack of singing talent is blamed for the lack of fish by his colony's elders. So the big inquiry from the wise Lovelace is also regarding what is happening to all the fish. They end up all joining together and forging ahead to see what is happening to the fish.
     I guess that is enough about the plot. How was it? Absolutely wonderful. The animation is beautiful and the action is swift and intense. Plus the movie is hilarious thanks in large part to Robin Williams' Ramon. And who could have imagined this sort of thing coming from George Miller, the director of what is in my opinion one of the most kick-ass action movies of all time, The Road Warrior. But he is the guy at the helm here and does an excellent job. I loved it and, in case you were wondering, mom loved it..
RATING: FIVE STARS

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BORAT
a la The Flixter

       The complete title of the movie is, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. How's that for a mouthful? Good thing I didn't have to say the whole thing when buying the ticket... but here we go.
       Sacha Baron Cohen plays Borat Sagdiyev, an intrepid reporter from Kazakhstan. Over there he shows us his home and introduces us to the his people that include, a sister who is the number 2 prostitute in the entire village, and to the traditions such as the running of the Jews (you guessed right about what it is similar to). He comes to the US and A, along with his producer and travels from New York to California trying to capture what makes this country so great and how he can bring that knowledge back home. He meets real Americans and uncovers the many prejudices we may be harboring. But then, he is also an anti-Semite and sexist fellow who doesn't refrain from sprinting nude through a bankers' meeting or taking a dump outside NYC landmarks while visible to the passing public. He crashes a feminist meeting and inquires in his own innocent manner if the members are bothered by the fact that women have a smaller brain than men... Or when he goes to a car salesman and inquires how fast the Hummer would have to be going in order to kill a Jew. Let's not forget that his character is made up but the people he interacts with and gets responses from are real and unaware that they are being fooled into the comic's act. Then he comes across a picture of Pamela Anderson and falls in love with her. So the trip to California becomes a quest so he can marry this new found love.  He shows up at one of her book signings and throws a marital sack over her, trying to sweep her away in his own way... You can guess how that proceeds.
      Does all this sound ridiculous? Yup. And it is sure as heck funny. Hilarious is more like it. I, along with the rest of the audience, haven't
laughed this hard in a long time. I do think that they shouldn't have sold popcorn or other snacks at his movie because watching this movie and enjoying a snack at the same time could be a very dangerous combination. And to think that all this is coming from a Cambridge educated, practicing Jew...
RATING: FIVE STARS

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SAW III
a la The Flixter

        Before I get into the workings of this movie, let me just say that I hope to remember to tell you why it is a bad idea to go see this type of movie on opening night.... but I will explain that later. Now for more on the third and (maybe) final installment of the sick gore-fest that has been rewarding us on Halloween for the past couple of years. As we already know, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is a dying man. His final game is to put people, that he sees as unappreciative of their blessings, in a torturous hell so they can realize what they don't appreciate. Heck, they are going to die anyway, but the fun (I know I am sick) has been in watching how they reach that demise by way of some ingenious set ups conjured by the dying sicko.
       Well now, Jigsaw has an ally. Amanda (Shawnee Smith) has been working with the J man in carrying out his missions. Now she has kidnapped an ER doctor and wants her to perform some emergency surgery on Jigsaw. Of course, the doc doesn't have much choice in the matter since she has a bomb type thingee strapped around her neck which is set to go off if Jigsaw's heart stops. But Jigsaw must live to see how his latest victim fares. That would be Angus MacFayden's Jeff, who is being put through a hellish gauntlet so he can learn to forgive those who are responsible for his young son's death in a drunken driving accident.
       So people die in gory fashion, as expected. But I like the first two Saw films. There was almost something original there. Here, its getting to be overdone. You know there will be a twist towards the end; in the first two, the twist pumped some refreshing energy into the blood fest. Here, its just there to be a twist. Am I making sense? What I meant was that here, the twist just doesn't have the same impact that it managed to convey in the first two films. And what was I talking about when I said that its a bad idea to see this sort of film on opening night?
      Well, the theater was packed and many of the people were the types that I am sure you are familiar with.... the ones who can't shut the hell up. The ones who have to make sure everyone around them knows how disgusted they are with a character's bloody demise. And the ones who feel the need to offer their tips to onscreen characters like they can be heard through the screen and alter the outcome of a scene. Yes, there were plenty of those at this movie. It got annoying as heck but it would have been okay if the movie had turned out decent. I guess I was a loser in both departments.
RATING: TWO STARS

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The Prestige
a la The Flixter

        Its nearing the end of the nineteenth century and we are in London where magic is big and magicians are doing a brisk business. At the beginning of the movie, one of the top magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) is killed in a trick that apparently goes wrong. Mind you, this is the newest film from Christopher Nolan, the great filmmaker behind such modern classics as Memento and Batman Begins. And like the former, this movie also jumps around in time... so what happens at the beginning is not necessarily the beginning. We learn in the later scenes about a bitter rivalry between Jackman's Angier and Christain Bale's Alfred Borden, another magician competing with Angier for the audience and now going to trial for the murder of Angier. They were once tutored by the same elder magician, played by Michael Caine.
       Additionally, they both were once friends and part of the same magic act until something went wrong at one of those performances and they became foes. Now they are constantly trying to top each other and lets just say that Borden is doing better. His act is better and so are the tricks. Which is why Angier sends his assistant/lover to go into Borden's camp to spy on him and get some of the secrets. That assistant, played by Scarlet Johannson starts to have questionable loyalty. Is she still Angier's spy or has she switched sides? Poor Angier even travels to Colorado (not exactly a hop/skip away from London) to meet with mad genius Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) and orders him to design a machine that will top Borden's act.
      The rivalry heats up, violence surfaces, and I was enthralled. The movie was absolutely great. The magicians and their methods are intriguing. The acting is great and the suspense is just as well. This is undeniably one of the year's best movies. Christopher Nolan, who wrote the script with his brother, is easily becoming one of the most promising directors around.  Loved it and had a great time even though I was still un-jumbling the goings on long after the movie had ended...   
RATING: FIVE STARS

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The Departed
a la The Flixter

         Yes, I am very late with this review. I can give you list of reasons but they'd just be excuses. But I feel that I have to say at least something about what just may be the best film of the year. So here goes...
         In this latest from that master of crime dramas, Martin Scorcese, we find ourselves in the midst of some Irish mobsters (for a change of pace.) But things are not that simple. Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) is the big mob boss that the cops are trying to nail. So they send in a rat and that rat happens to be Leonardo DiCaprio's Billy Costigan, a cop who manages to get Costello's attention and gain access to his inner circle.  But, like I said before, things are not that simple.
        Costigan finds out that Costello already has a rat in with the cops and that is how things are happening. Every time that Costello is planning something, Costigan lets his bosses know and the cops are already there. But when the cops are planning their moves, Matt Damon's Colin Sullivan, the cop who is actually working for Costello, lets his real boss know what is up. So you have the good guy pretending to be bad and the bad guy pretending to be good. Sound like fun? Well it sure is to watch.
        The movie, beyond its underworld theatrics, is an actors' movie. You have the senior Mr. Nicholson, doing his usual great stuff. But then there are the two younger leads who give him enough competition as to who is doing a better job. Let's just say that everyone does a great job. And let's not forget Mark Wahlberg doing great as an angry young cop, trying to sniff out the rat in the midst. This was an absolutely great movie. Maybe the year's best. Just thought I'd let you folks know that much. Now I retreat back into my autumn slump that will end, hopefully, soon...   
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Hollywoodland
a la The Flixter

          I almost didn't see this movie. Due to some circumstances I don't feel like getting into, I had been awake for seventeen straight hours when the movie started.... So let me talk about that experience.
        The movie starts off on that day in 1959 when actor George Reeves took his life and left his fans, mostly kids, with a broken heart. Who? What? When? Well, George Reeves was the star of TV's Superman back then and like I just said, he took his life... Or did he? That is what Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) is trying to find out. The actor's mother can't believe that her son committed suicide and hires Simo to find out the actual events that led to his death. As Simo delves into the mystery, we find out some more about Mr. Reeves (Ben Affleck). So Reeves was a drunk with some serious relationship problems. His biggest acting job before Superman was a small role in Gone With the Wind that nobody recalls. But that is where he met Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife of a movie executive and former mobster Eddi Mannix (Bob Hoskins). Additionally, she is the one who gets him the gig playing the Man of Steel after coaxing her husband into letting Reeves don the cape.  Anyway, Simo finds out that Reeves had actually given up Toni for some other groupie, and was considering pro-wrestling before the apparent suicide.
       Did I mention that I had been awake for seventeen hours straight when the movie started? Maybe that is the reason why I dozed off a couple of times during the movie. Or maybe its because the movie was so darn slow and boring; I think its a combination of both. Yes, the movie is incredibly slow and boring. Which is a shame since the actors do a fine job with what they are given. The period setting is also excellently detailed, but does it matter when the material within is snooze-worthy? I don't think so. The point being, I didn't like it but its the kind of movie that I am sure will have those other snooty critics raving about it.    
RATING: TWO STARS

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World Trade Center
a la The Flixter

          Here's the second movie to take us back to that terrible day, September 11, 2001. The first one was director Paul Greengrass' United 93.  This one is from director Oliver Stone.  It follows two Port Authority cops as they go into the twin towers to help in the rescue efforts after two planes go crashing into the buildings.  John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) start their day off like they have done so many days before....  then the unthinkable happens - a plane crashes into one of the twin-towers. They go inside as a second plane crashes into the other tower. And its while they are inside that the two buildings come crumbling down on top of them. The two are pinned under tons of rubble. The two struggle to keep themselves alive, waiting for rescuers. The hardest part is for the two exhausted officers to stay awake since falling asleep may mean never waking up. They talk and tell each other stories about their loved ones above ground. The loved ones, by the way, are in a state of torture themselves since they don't know if the two are still living. Their first impression is that the two didn't go into the towers. Once they find out that they were part of the first responders who went it before the buildings crashed, their hell begins as well.
          Meanwhile, the two officers are trying to find ways of telling the world above that they are still alive down there. The action goes back and forth between the underground hell and the above ground efforts at rescuing any survivors.  The two leads, Cage and Pena, give excellent performances as the two fight pain and exhaustion while keeping hope alive. The above ground cast is also superb. We know that two were part of only 20 people who were pulled from the rubble. This movie made me react in the same manner as Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List. How so, you may be thinking. Well, in Schindler's List, the rescuing of a few in the midst of millions killed during the Holocaust, gave a ray of hope. Over here, the reaction was almost the same when two lives were saved. Does that make sense to you? For me it showed a sign of hope. And who could have thought of something like that coming from a director like Oliver Stone?
Excellent movie..    
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Superman Returns
a la The Flixter

          So Superman has been gone for five years. Well, I am not talking about being gone from the screen. I don't really remember when the last Superman movie came out. Yes, it was that long, I guess... but back to the movie.
        Supe has been gone for five years and the reason for his absence is that astronomers found remains of his home planet, Krypton, and he went to see what else he could find. Five years later, he returns since there isn't much to be found. He crashes/lands his spacecraft on the Smallville farm of his adoptive mother, played by Eva Marie Saint. Then he returns to Metropolis in his layman guise of reporter Clark Kent (Brandon Routh).
        The boss at the Daily Planet ,Frank Langella, welcomes him back. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), who was in love with Superman, has given up on the Man of Steel since his disappearance; she has written a Pulitzer Prize winning article on why Earth does not need him... gotten knocked up, and is now engaged to the newspaper chief's nephew. So things are a little bungled up on the personal front... And now for the superhero part.
       Villain Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is making his own sinister plans in another part of the city. He is planning on flooding most of the East coast, including Metropolis, with the aid of crystals he has obtained from Superman's Arctic hideout, the Fortress of Solitude. He causes a massive blackout which causes a plane overhead to short circuit and plunge towards the ground. But its not just any plane. This plane happens to have Lois Lane as one of its passengers. So Superman jumps into action, saves the plane, and brings it safely to the ground in the middle of a baseball stadium, packed with audience. Yes, that sure does make a nice entry back into the populace. From then on, its back to heroics and an effort to redeem himself in the eyes of his lost love.
        The movie, directed by Bryan Singer, who did awesome with the first two X-Men movies, is pretty spectacular to look at. But I should also mention that it is very slow for long periods of time. So slow that the guy next to me was snoring pretty loud on occasions... The highlight of this movie going experience happened off screen when the movie ended and the lights went on. My group, friends and cousins, were scattered around since the theater was packed. So when the lights went on, I saw that the four people
next to me were all sleeping. What woke them was the laughter of the people who saw them as they left the theater. Yes, it did get that slow and boring. But like I said before, it is pretty amazing to look at, and the action, when it happens, delivers. Brandon Routh does a pretty decent job as Clark Kent/Superman..    
RATING: THREE and 1/2 STARS

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Nacho Libre
a la The Flixter

          So what is my excuse for the delay this time around? Well, my cousin is in the army. Thank God, he is stationed here in the US and he is visiting home these days. So I have been kind of busy on that front. But here it goes:
         Jack Black plays brother Nacho, a cook at an orphanage/church in Mexico. Let's just say that he is not too good at cooking... and on top of that there is the financial problem. He doesn't get enough money to buy any decent ingredients. Well, ever since he was a kid, he had a passion for wrestling. But, of course, he can't participate in this type of activity while being a man of the cloth... and then he sees an open casting call for a luchador (or wrestler). So he throws on a mask, puts on a cape, and becomes Nacho Libre, a hot new thing on the wrestling circuit. Well, he's not too hot, actually. He gets his ass kicked a lot, but he still gets paid. He uses the money to buy some decent food for the orphans under his care. By the way, he also finds himself a partner for those tag team bouts. and this partner is just as incompetent at the game. Esqueleto, as he is known on stage, is a skinny and homeless thief. He and Nacho go up against more talented
competition, lose disgracefully, but walk away with money. But Nacho is not happy being a loser. He wants to win (or vin, like he says it). And there's a nun in his church that he develops a crush on... Yes, things are quite complicated.
       This is the new movie from Jared Hess, the guy who directed Napoleon Dynamite. And like that classic, this one also features a loser as the protagonist. But will this loser redeem himself by the end? What do you think?  The movie was absolutely hilarious. A great time. Just seeing the tubby Jack Black as a wrestler is worth a few laughs. I loved it.     
RATING: FIVE STARS

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BACKED UP, BUT STILL HERE
a la The Flixter

      Like the title says, I am a little backed up in my film critique. But, like the title also says, I am still around. So here it goes... 
      Movies open on Wednesdays or Fridays. But an exception was made in the case of The Omen. It opened on a Tuesday. Why? Because the date happened to be June 6 of 2006... or 6-6-06. Get it? The number of the beast and/or Satan. 666. I am not really superstitious but let's just say that I am not going to push my luck. So I waited till Wednesday to go see this one.
      Liev Shrieber plays an American diplomat in Rome. His wife, played by Julia Stiles, is pregnant, but consequently the child dies during birth, however, she doesn't know. The priests at the hospital offer him a deal. He can take the orphaned child from a different bed and claim him as his own and he goes for it. Somewhere else, a bunch of priests are telling the Pope that Revelations is coming true and the Antichrist is now going to surface. They show the Pope some news reels about global events that confirm the signs. There's the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and weather catastrophes around the globe. Yes, the Antichrist is coming.
      Meanwhile, the diplomat and his wife are at the fifth birthday party for their son, Damien. That is where, in front of all the kids, Damien's nanny hangs herself after dedicating her suicide to Damien. Things are definitely not right. By the way, the ambassador is now settled in London. That's where a priest, possibly nuts and played by Pete Posthelwaite, contacts him and tries to tell him about his son, because he knows what actually happened to the boy's mother in Rome. Then there's a photographer, played by David Thewlis, who has been following the couple and their child, taking photographs but finding only smudges where Damien should be. Like I said before, things are definitely not right. 
      I will admit that I have never seen the original or its sequels. So this was something new to me. How was it? Definitely creepy. Especially the young boy who plays Damien. I bet the child actor is going to be scarred for the rest of his life. The violence is brutal, and the acting fine. Yes, my sick mind loved it. Which brings me to the next movie.
     Cars. Yes, the G-rated latest from those geniuses at Pixar animation. This one takes place in a world of cars; yes, all the main characters are automobiles. When the cars are racing, the audience is other vehicles. Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is the hot shot that wants the coveted Piston Cup; that race is in Los Angeles.  And its on his way there that he ends up stuck in the hamlet of Radiator Springs. There he is caught for traffic violations and sentenced to fix the town's road before he can move on. The judge is voiced by the great Paul Newman. McQueen makes friends with a buck toothed tow truck (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy). Additionally, he starts to develop a crush on a Porsche (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) who runs a local motel. McQueen happens to uncover the truth about the harsh judge's past. Will he fix the road and move on to his dream race? Or is he going to help out this disheveled town? Well, just hang around and watch what unfolds in this absolute pleasure.
    Yes, as you already know, I love cartoons. And this one was just an awesome spectacle. The animation is absolutely awesome and the story is unbelievably touching. Plus it is hilarious. I can't even begin to cite the greatness of this motion picture. One of the year's best.  So here are the final verdicts:     
RATINGS:
THE OMEN: FOUR STARS
CARS:
FIVE STARS

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The Break-Up
a la The Flixter

      I was having second thoughts about writing a review for this one. Mainly because its been a few days and you have probably heard a lot about it already. What changed my mind? Tomorrow's date. Well tomorrow is 6-6-06 and some people are calling for the end of the world. So I figured that I might as well write something in case, God forbid, it does happen. You know, a last thing type of thing. So here goes...
     Gary (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) meet at a Chicago Cubs game. Things happen, sparks fly, and the two move in together... flash forward three years. The two are still together. Gary is a tour guide who just sits around playing video games and watching sports on TV. Brooke works at an art gallery. Things are not going too well since Gary doesn't do much around the house. He won't even help with the dishes. Things get bad when Gary doesn't pick up what Brooke asked him to pick up for a family dinner. That's when the two decide to split. But neither one will move out of their condo.
      So the split happens and the two continue living in the same condo but with separate areas for each. And that is when things are funny as Brooke distracts Gary from his video game play by marching around naked or when Brooke's brother (is he or is he not gay?) brings over his friends to practice their choir group's numbers... then Gary brings over his friends, complete with a bunch of girls for some strip poker.  Yes, things get funny with the unrelenting stubbornness of the two lovers. But, dare I say, when the ending happens, its almost a little sad. Yes, I said it. Its a little sad watching the two fall apart even though they managed to get together in real life. So there are funny bits but you have probably seen bits of them in the previews.  And that, folks, is my take on it.  If you are reading this, then the world has not ended and we have made it..    
RATING: THREE STARS

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The DaVinci Code
a la The Flixter

       Yes, I know I am a little late. Even though I saw the movie on opening night, I am finally getting a chance to tell you folks about it. Why? Well, there can be a few reasons, the main one being the one I hinted to in my confession. Or to sum it up, because I feel like crap. But let us move on.
       I always try to read the book, before I see its cinematic adaptation.  So I was reading the DaVinci Code when, bam, the movie came out. I think I am halfway through the book but this isn't a book review, is it? Harvard symboligist, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is summoned to the site of a suicide in Paris. Seems that the chief curator (or something along those lines) of the Louvre museum has taken his life and arranged his body in the manner of a famous DaVinci art work. All he has left behind are some symbols and numbers which the cops need help deciphering. So that, plus a scheduled meeting between Langdon and the dead guy, is the reason why Langdon is brought in. He has no clue that he is also the primary suspect since part of the dying man's message mentions him by name. That's where the dead guy's granddaughter, Sophie (Audrey Tatou), comes in. She knows that Langdon is innocent so they both end up making a run for it. And as they try to solve the dead man's cryptic last message, they are pursued by a monk (Paul Bettany) who happens to be an albino with a fondness for self flagellation. In other words, he beats himself up.
      So the two are on the run, trying to solve the old man's riddles and dodging the authorities. Therefore, watching this movie ruined the book for me since I found out what is at the core of these strange happenings. But I don't think I have ever been to a movie theater that was as packed as this one. I guess all those who read the book, halfway or entirely, wanted to see how Hollywood would screw it up.
     But they would have been disappointed since the movie was excellent. Director Ron Howard shows, once again, how far he has come from playing the likes of Richie Cunningham. Additionally, Tom Hanks gives another great performance. I still think he is the best actor around. And the ending may be offensive to many, but it is definitely one that may make people question their beliefs and ponder the "what ifs".
    I Loved it. And I will still continue to read the book, even though, I know where it is headed...    
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Mission Impossible III
a la The Flixter

       Well its been a while since I saw this one. Why the delay? Well one reason would be the one I hinted at in my confession. But the other reason is that we are having some work done at my house... And those guys show up at seven in the morning. So there goes the beauty rest. But let us move on...
      Tom Cruise returns as Agent Ethan Hunt of the IMF. (That would be the Impossible Mission Force.) Well, Mr. Hunt has just gotten married when one of his bosses calls him up and tells him he's needed. So, of course, he lies a little and tells his wife that he has to go on an emergency business trip --- the subject of the lying. There seems to be a secret arms deal going down and its his mission, if he chose to accept it, to track down the guys involved.
     The main bad guy is Owen Davian, played by recent Oscar winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Davian is captured but, of course, manages to escape when the convoy carrying him as a prisoner, comes under attack by his allies. Additionally, he snatches the new Mrs. Hunt, played by Michelle Monaghan. Tables get turned as he demands Ethan get a device called the Rabbit's Foot for him. That would be in Hong Kong, hence, the globe trotting continues. We never really realize the purpose of this Rabbit's Foot. So I took it as more of a McGuffin than anything. What? That was a term used by the great Mr. Hitchcock to describe a plot element whose purpose is just to drive the plot without ever being explained fully. You just know its there, and must be gotten. The great David Mamet used it superbly to hurtle along his awesome The Spanish Prisoner. Over here, it is designed to do the same. And to an extent, it does while poor Tom spends the whole movie running all over the place so he can find this thing and save his honey. Does it work? Like I just said, to an extent it does. But things get a little overcomplicated and you just don't care as much as you had started to.
     There is some cool action and an excellent supporting cast which includes Laurence Fishburne and Ving Rhames. By the way, the movie is also jumbled up chronologically. The opening is what happens towards the end and what follows is what lead to that. Follow me? Not too bad but you get just about your money's worth...
RATING: THREE STARS

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United 93
a la The Flixter

       And here is the first movie about that dark day in American history. September 11th, 2001. Planes crashed into the World Trade Center
buildings and as the nation watched in horror... the two buildings came crashing down and left a hole in the New York City skyline. British writer-director, Paul Greengrass, turns back the clock and takes us inside United Airlines Flight 93 which was destined for a similar fate until the passengers on that flight decided to sacrifice their lives while protecting the nation's capital.
      We start off with the hijackers praying in a hotel room before they embark on their mission. We see the passengers board their final flight. The action goes back and forth between the in flight plane and the ground control officers who are seeing more than they have ever had to handle. Two planes have been hijacked and as they all watch in horror, one plane goes crashing into the WTC. Then a second plane crashes into the other tower. The terrorists on 93, hijack that plane with similar intentions towards its fate. The passengers are herded around and eventually decide that they will rise against these hijackers.
      Flight 93 crashed in the fields in Pennsylvania and its passengers thwarted the hijackers intentions of crashing the plane in the nation's capital.  The movie is hard to watch since it brings back so many memories from that day. You know the eventual fate of that flight but find yourself on the edge of your seat hoping that what is going to happen, won't. But it does.  An extremely sad and powerful film. That is about all I can manage to say...
RATING: FIVE STARS

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AMERICAN DREAMZ
a la The Flixter

       So there are a lot of parallels to the current state we find ourselves in... The country is at war and the President is pretty clueless about what to do... Therefore he spends a lot of time ducking the cameras and tries not to make too many public appearances and/or statements. That is where the Vice President comes in handy. He is the spin-doctor giving excuses and/or explanations. The hottest show on TV is American Dreamz. Its pretty much like American Idol (which, honestly, I have never seen). The host, Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant), hates his job and wants to end the show. In the Midwest, Sally (Mandy Moore) is preparing to make her big break on that show. And in the Mid-East, a terrorist in training, played by Sam Golzari, keeps screwing up during training exercises because his mind is too preoccupied by his other passion which is to sing and dance to Broadway tunes. So they all come together to make this movie a pleasure.
   The Vice President (Willem Dafoe channeling Cheney) sees a perfect PR opportunity in getting the President (Dennis Quaid) as a judge on the show. Omer, the terrorist guy, comes to the US and is told to get on the show so he can use the opportunity provided by the President's guest appearance to blow himself up and become a martyr.  And, of course, Sally is the one who is driven to snatch her one opportunity to make it big. The competition gets heated and Omer starts to have second thoughts about his mission. Of course, that would have been inevitable in a comic film from Hollywood. But, like I said before, the movie is a great pleasure. It is hilarious. Grant's Martin Tweed is designed after the cocky host of American Idol and does a fine job of making his character just as loathsome when he is judging the contestants. Quaid is great as the clueless President while Willem Dafoe is uncannily too much like the current VP.  It was all fun with an ending that will manage to make the crowds happy without compromising the entirety of the situation...
RATING: FOUR STARS

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movie reviews, NJ, movie critics NJ, movies, New Jersey's own, The Flixter Movie
The Flixter

CONFESSION TIME
a la The Flixter

       In case you haven't noticed, there has been a little lapse in my movie critique. The last thing I reviewed was Basic Instinct II. Was it so bad that it killed the movie-goer in me?  Well, it was pretty bad but I don't think it was enough to kill the movie fan.  No, there are other reasons behind my recent silence.
      The main ones to blame would be MS and drugs. No, I am not some coke-addict with a masters in science. I happen to have MS and the one I am dealing with is the disease. Of course, I had to get a disease as stubborn as myself. So, this incurable disease, has been acting up on me lately. Maybe its the
changing weather or whatever. I try not to pay too much attention to it, which I know is not good. But I just go along with it. I take my weekly shot and keep popping my pills (the medications that I mentioned earlier)... So that is basically it.
Thank God that I can go about doing what I can.
Thank God for my family and friends who go along with me.. and part of what I have been doing is going to the movies and writing about them. Lately, I have gone to the movies but just haven't gotten around to writing about them.  Anyway, here is a briefing about the post Basic Instinct II era.
     I saw Inside Man, the Spike Lee change-of-pace flick about a perfectly planned bank heist. Clive Owen is the master who plans it and Denzel Washington is the cop who comes in to save the day. Jodie Foster also comes along as an additional player brought into also help save the day.
     Yes, it was great fun. The performances were great, and the action pretty cool. Of course, Spike Lee couldn't resist putting some racial drama into the mix, but it was all good.
     Then I saw Lucky Number Slevin. Josh Hartnett plays Slevin who gets mistaken for a friend who is in some trouble with the wrong people over gambling debts. Lucy Liu is that friend's neighbor and she also gets pulled into the whole scheme of things when rival crime lords, Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley, go after the poor guy to get their money... Additionally, there is Bruce Willis as a hit man, serving both those mobsters in trying to get their money. The movie was twisted, complicated, funny, and ultimately very dark. I loved it.
     And lastly, I went to go see Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. It follows the gang from the first Ice Age as the try to face an impending end to the Ice Age. How will they survive? Moreover, Manny the mammoth is constantly reminded by his friends that he may be the last of his kind... And that puts him in a depressed stage--- until he meets a female of his kind. She is voiced by Queen Latifah; Manny is Ray Romano. There is also Denis Leary as Diego, the saber-toothed tiger. But the movie belongs to that little rodent type creature (I forgot what it actually is) and his quest to get the ever eluding acorn.
    This one was a decent movie. Not as good as the first but fun while it lasted.
... So that is all of it, folks. I am not going to give these three any stars or whatever. Just wanted to let you know that I am still around and hope to get back into the normal routine soon. Thank you...

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Basic Instinct II
a la The Flixter

       Talk about a long gap between the original and the sequel... When the first Basic Instinct came out, I was still in high school and not old enough to go watch the racy flick. But these restrictions cannot keep an adolescent male from his calling... So I did go see it and liked it despite what the budding critic in me would categorize as mediocre acting on Ms. Sharon Stone's part.  But I, along with many peers, didn't go to see her thespian qualities. What we went to see, we saw, and it was cool... and, honestly, the movie wasn't too bad.  And now, fourteen years later, we have an unnecessary sequel.
      Novelist/tramp/serial killer Catherine Trammel (Sharon Stone) has relocated to England, but she is still up to her old tricks. The movie begins with her driving a fast car while fooling around (I think that's all I should say) with her male passenger. She drives the car off the road and into the river (or some other body of water). She leaves, while the guy dies.  She is apprehended by the cops and goes on trial for murder, but she doesn't get convicted because there were no witnesses. However, Scotland Yard sees the need for a psychiatrist and puts her in the care of a shrink.  Dr. Glass (David Morrissey) starts to develop his own obsession with the blonde and falls into her mind games. So, basically, we have an unstable shrink trying to delve into this cold killer's mind but only falling victim to her games since she is always a step ahead, without him realizing this... Is she going to have him meet the same fate as other unfortunate lovers?
      I think that is enough about the plot, which is probably what the screenwriters of this crap fest thought as well. The movie is bungled, boring, uninteresting, and un-involving. There was a certain entertaining quality in the first one that is found nowhere in this one. Maybe its because Ms. Stone is an old lady now (come on, fourteen years have done their deeds on me!!). Maybe its because we have already been there in better hands (director Paul Veerhoeven there instead of Michael Caton-Jones here). Maybe its because I lost an hour of sleep thanks to stupid Daylight Saving Time. I don't know. All I know is that the movie was terrible..
RATING: ZERO STARS

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V For Vendetta
a la The Flixter

       The year is around 2020 or something. London is under the tyrannical rule of a chancellor (John Hurt) who appears before the public through TV broadcasts. The public has been scared into submission by threats of terrorism. Gays, Muslims, and anybody with a different political opinion is carted off to internment camps where they are subjected to medical experiments. This is where V (Hugo Weaving) comes in. He was in one of those camps and now rises up against the establishment with a Guy Fawkes mask on. Well his face was burned in an accident so the grinning mask serves a dual purpose of hiding his identity and disfigurement. ( Guy Fawkes was a rebel who tried to unsuccessfully blow up Parliament in 1605. ) Now V intends to do the same.
       V finds an ally in the form of Evey (Natalie Portman) whom he rescues from a group of attackers. So Evey sees V as a sympathetic rebel and joins him in his quest to do what Guy Fawkes failed at doing some four hundred years before. 
       There is the constant underlying tone of the film that compares this Orwellian England of the future to the current United States. Terrorists and threat of terrorism is used to keep the masses in control. Beyond a political allegory, the movie is just plain incredible. The action is constant and the threats believable. Its based on Alan Moore's graphic novel (or comic book, if you prefer) and adapted by the Wachowski brothers (the pair behind the Matrix movies). It raises quite a few questions regarding how justified one's methods of rebellion are... Hugo Weaving is great under that mask and Natalie Portman delivers a fine performance complete with a British accent.  By the way, the movie is directed by the Wachowski brothers frequent collaborator James McTiegue.
       Just a plain awesome movie. Loved it. Eye candy with a lot of depth...
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Failure To Launch
a la The Flixter

        Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) is a 35-year-old boat salesman.  He has the perfect relationship set up: he meets girls, has fun with them and does his manly things.  When he has had enough and its time to end the romp, he brings them home.  A home that he shares with his parents.  Yes, the 35-year-old is still living with mom (Kathy Bates) and dad (Terry Bradshaw).  When the girls find out about his living arrangements, they flee.  So Tripp has had his fun and nothing is lost... but his parents have had enough.  They want him out.  Instead of just facing the guy with their desire, they hire Sarah Jessica Parker's, Paula , who is an expert at getting this growing number
of the male population, those who still live at home, out of the parents' places.  She will meet the guy, start a thing, get them to fall in love
with her, move out, and then end the relationship.  Sounds simple.  Sure its cruel on the guys, but that's her occupation. 
      She proceeds to do the same with Tripp.  She goes along with all his demands, which include meeting his friends (also live-at-home guys) and participating in their manly sports.   Tripp starts falling and, in case you didn't know, this is a romantic comedy, consequently, so does Paula.  She goes past her professionalism and actually starts to take a liking to this man-child. 
      Like I said before, the parents' solution to getting their kid out of the house seems a little cruel.  Come on.  What parent wants their child with a broken heart?  Apparently, judging from Paula's professional success, a lot of them do.  But moving on from the plot's believability constraints, the movie is pretty disappointing over all.  There isn't much comedy in this romantic comedy... and the romantic part is undermined by predictability.  You know where its headed.  You usually do so in romantic comedies but the trip there is what makes or breaks the movie... and that trip here is not so entertaining.  How many jokes about To Kill a Mockingbird can you take?  Oh yeah, Paula's roommate is very perturbed by the annoying mockingbird outside their window and that's where those jokes come in.
RATING: TWO STARS

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16 Blocks
a la The Flixter

        I would have written this review last night but I was up a little late watching the Academy Awards. Sure, my pick for best picture (Walk the Line) was snubbed but it was fun watching Jon Stewart (big fan of the Daily Show) and seeing Crash win best picture. Anyway, let me get to the movie in question here.
       Detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is supposed to escort Eddie Bunker(Mos Def) to a courthouse where the kid is supposed to testify before a grand jury. His testimony is supposed to nail some corrupt cops in the department... 16 blocks is the distance they have to travel. Sounds simple enough, except for the fact that there are people who don't want this kid to make it there. Traffic is another problem and yet another problem is Mosley's alcoholism which makes him stop by a liquor store on the way since the traffic is not moving too much. That is where the first bunch of killers comes to dispose of this reluctant witness. Mosley sobers up pretty fast, disposes of the killers, and realizes the severity of the situation.
       They only have a short amount of time to get to the courthouse, so their mode of transportation goes from vehicle to foot in order to avoid the traffic and make it on time.  It turns out that the assassins are actually dirty cops, some of whom are Mosley's colleagues. They including a fine David Morse, want to stop Bunker from a testimony that will get them grilled.  So, thus begins a pretty tense movie going experience.
       The action is fast and to the point. My buddy Chich (a big fan of Mr. Willis) should be happy to know that this has to be Mr. Willis' finest performance in a long time. Mos Def, is also pretty good even though his nasal voice gets to be a little annoying after a while. But like I was saying before, the movie is pretty intense and action packed. Some may refer to director Richard Donner as a hack, but the guy behind the Lethal Weapon movies does a fine job here.  A very good time.
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Running Scared
a la The Flixter

        Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) has to get rid of a gun that was used in some crime. Actually, Joey is in the mob and the gun was used
to dispatch some crooks who ended up being crooked cops; Joey hides it in his basement. His young son is friends with the Russian kid living next door.  That kid has a very abusive father with a John Wayne obsession. An obsession that has resulted in a giant tattoo of the Duke on the guy's back. Well, the Russian kid is over at the Gazelle's one day and the two kids come across that gun. He takes the gun home and ends up shooting the dad while he's on an abusive turn against the mom. Then the two kids panic and disappear with the gun. And it becomes Joey's quest to find them before the gun turns up and points towards its actual origins.
       So in the next eighteen hours you have the kids fleeing any signs of discovery and Joey in hot pursuit. The kids end up getting abducted by a couple of child pornographers, finding an ally in an abused prostitute, and going through a hellish gauntlet that no child should ever suffer. Additionally, Joey is chasing after them while there are some cops, crooked and straight, after him.
       Does it sound like your type of movie? Well, if you are still reading then it probably is. Was it my type of movie? Not really but I really got sucked into the seedy state of affairs. It is extremely violent and bloody.  Probably escaped an NC-17 rating barely. But, boy, did I like it or what; I had a really great time. It is probably Paul Walker's finest performance to date. Very dark even though there's the typical crowd
pleasing twist at the end which I could have done without. Writer and director Wayne Kramer shows signs of joining the likes of Tarantino and Lynch with his perverse cinematic vision. A sick movie but so much fun..
RATING: FOUR STARS

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Freedomland
a la The Flixter

        Brenda Martin (Julianne Moore) is from Gannon, New Jersey, a poor white-town neighbored by Dempsey, an even more impoverished, black-town.  She stumbles into the emergency room, bleeding. She was the victim of a car jacking. In comes police detective Lorenzo Council, played by Samuel L Jackson. He starts to question her, the main concern the point being if she was at all, raped. No she wasn't,but what she reveals is an even bigger shocker. The thief took her car not knowing that her four year old son was sick and sleeping in the back.
       Council knows how crucial things are since the crime happened in Dempsey. He knows that a race war will erupt once word gets out, so he rushes to get things done before this war erupts. He even turns to a group that specializes in finding missing kids. There are complications, of course, since Brenda is a former junkie. And why was she in Dempsey? And then her brother, who is a cop in Gannon comes in; he wants to find his nephew.
      Word gets out. There is a lockdown of Dempsey as the search for the missing child begins. Council was seeing some holes in Brenda's story which he overlooked in the panic caused by the revelation of her missing child. Things start getting messy. More so, since the incident comes at a time when tensions are running high between the cops and the citizens.
     So how was it? Well the acting, from both Moore and Jackson, is great. And you may not be able to tell from what I have said about the plot, but the movie was really slow and boring. So much so, that when there was quiet on the screen, I heard the loud snoring of a guy sitting in front of me. Movie prices are expensive but I guess its still cheaper than checking into a motel. Anyway, like I was saying, the performances are great but the movie is not so great. Pretty boring is more like it. The revelations at the end are pretty good but then there's the slow prelude that you have to sit through to get there.  An okay movie that seemed inclined for greatness...
RATING: TWO and 1/2 STARS

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Firewall
a la The Flixter

        Jack Stanfield (Harrison Ford) is the security head at a small Seattle bank; his wife, Beth (Virginia Madsen) is an architect. They have a nice quiet existence living, with their two kids (a boy and girl, of course), in a house that was designed by Beth. A perfect little family with perfect little goings on... That is until their home gets taken over by a gang of baddies, led by Paul Bettany's Euro-accented Cox. What could they possibly want? Well, since Jack is the man behind the security set-up at his bank, they want to have him help them to some money. Jack is supposed to go to work as normal and do his usual thing; but he is supposed to skim some money from his wealthiest clients and deposit it into an offshore account. He is supposed to pick the wealthiest clients and just take a few thousand from each
one; an amount that they won't notice but which will be quite significant once it is all added together.
      It seems like a nicely put-together plan.   Jack's family is being held hostage to make sure that he doesn't stray from the bad guys' intentions.  So Jack starts to do what he is supposed to do but you know that he is not about to play into the game all too easily. There is, of course, a change of mind as he starts to turn the tables on these thugs.. and his family starts to do the same on the home front.
      So how is this hostage/heist movie? Well, it wasn't too bad. There is enough suspense for your money, but Mr. Ford is getting a little old for physical action. It is kind of hard to be convinced of his ability to out-strength his much younger nemesis. But its a Hollywood movie, so you know that's what is going to be fed to you. And, of course, one of the kids has to have some health problem that will surely come into play. 
      Not too bad and not too great. This could also be the review that almost didn't happen since our Garden State got hit by a blizzard that dumped a couple of feet of snow. But I guess that criticizing Mr. Ford could be my way of venting some of the frustration caused by this storm. Well, whatever....
RATING: TWO and 1/2 STARS

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When a Stranger Calls
a la The Flixter

        I have been in a review slump lately. Sure, I have been hitting my local Cineplex regularly but just haven't had the chance for any critiques. But I figure that I should do something to let you folks know that I am still around. I know I am telegraphing the final verdict but I wish I could have ended my slump by reviewing something better. So here goes... 
       Jill (Camilla Belle) has been acting irresponsible with her cell phone. She has put 800 or so minutes on it recently, so her punishment is that she can't go to the bonfire that her high school is having. It is a big social thing where she would have the chance to hook up with the guy she has a crush on, so not going there is a fitting punishment in her parents opinion.  Instead she has to go babysit for some ultra-rich doctor's kids. The house is huge and gorgeous, but in a very isolated locale.
        Dad drops her off, and the doc and his wife show her around the home. The only thing is that the kids have the flu really bad and are up in their rooms sleeping. All she has to do is Just let them rest and keep an eye on things while the parents are away. The phone numbers are listed in case of any questions or emergencies. The folks leave and Jill is left alone in the house.  But there is also a house keeper who lives off the main house in her own little cottage... and there is pet cat so you know there will be plenty of false alarms where some noise will turn out to be just the cat. Then the phone rings; nobody says anything. But after a few more such phone calls the caller speaks. And its not a friendly voice. Instead, its a menacing and hissing voice of some guy who asks Jill if she has checked on the kids.
        Alone in a huge remote house, Jill starts to panic. It seems that the guy is watching her and knows where she goes in the house. She calls the police and they tell her that she has to keep the guy on the phone long enough to put a trace on the call. She tries but the guy seems to hang up just short of the required amount of time. Things start to get tense and then, well, the movie starts to get hectic in trying to wind up the eerie state of things. Then there is a physical confrontation between Jill and the Stranger which is pretty badly lit and edited. And, yes, the kids also become part of the game when Jill takes them out of their rooms to hide them somewhere. Like I just said, the movie is tense but when the ending starts to near, it just turns out to be a dud. Don't want to give away any details in case you are curious and want to check it out for yourself. But I was pretty disappointed. Good thing that the movie was less than ninety minutes long;  by the way its a remake of a 1979 film..
RATING: TWO STARS

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Hostel
a la The Flixter

        It starts off as an odyssey of lust and drugs for two American students back packing through Europe. Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson are the two tripping dudes who are having a heck of a time with their Euro trip. Amsterdam, with all its legal offerings of drugs and sex, serves as just an appetizer. Then a fellow backpacker tells them about an almost mythical spot just outside of Bratislava; they check into a hostel there. The only thing is that they have to share their room with two hot girls. (And, by the way, the two hot babes don't bother with clothing too much.) Things look good until the girls slip them some pills and the two wake up chained to chairs... then begins the horror. They are now part of a club where wealthy folks pay big bucks to torture and kill helpless victims... and the torturing begins.
       The movie won't be easy on the eyes. Fingers are snipped off, eye balls are gouged, faces are seared with blowtorches, and everything unimaginable is brought to reality for the thrill of the sickos. (I hope you are starting to get the picture.) The movie paints Slovakia as a land of violence where even young kids will turn to violence in exchange for some bubble gum. Now I have been to Europe a few times. I even went through Amsterdam but, of course, didn't see that side of the city since I was young. So this movie actually showed me something about that city that my parents shielded me from. But Slovakia is the main course in this European roast. However, the movie is extreme, to say the least. Blood flows so opulently that you will start to look at your clothes from time to time to see if any spilled off screen... and body parts are hacked and severed aplenty. There is a twisty ending that serves the entirety of the situation pretty well.
      By the way, this one is directed by Eli Roth who was a protege' of directors like David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino. And you can see how they have influenced him. Tarantino is actually the producer here, but you are probably wondering what I thought of it? It may surprise you but I, despite having a great fondness for cartoons and escapist romantic-comedies, loved this gore fest. It was just so over the top and well executed.
      I had a great time. And that may qualify me as a sicko in your opinion. But I got what I paid for... It was fun, though, a little too overtly sickening at times.
RATING: FOUR STARS

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Munich
a la The Flixter

        This movie is based on true events that happened during the Munich Olympics in 1972. The Black September terrorist group attacks the Israeli compound in Munich's Olympic Village. People die and the calamity ends at the airport in a fiery confrontation, however, the men responsible escape. Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir orders a five-man assassination squad to track down and kill the 11 Arabs that are supposed to be responsible. Part of this squad is Avner(Eric Bana) who is forced to leave his government job and pregnant wife....and Avner is the central figure of attention as he begins to question his superiors' orders or the way he is supposed to carry them out. The shadowy Mossad leader(Geoffrey Rush) who commands them doesn't inspire much faith. Then there are two French informants who provide the whereabouts of the targets. The targets are located and eliminated one by one, along with a few innocents. But Avner is scarred; so much so that when he is making love to his wife upon his return, he is flashing back to the killings. 
     The movie is three hours long and, boy, does it feel like its three hours long. I am sorry to say that it was extremely boring. I may have even dozed off during a few occasions. The acting, though, was pretty good. Especially Eric Bana, whose only other performance that I have seen was in The Hulk. Director Steven Spielberg does a pretty good job of bringing the events of that horror, and its aftermath, to the screen. But like I said before, the movie is boring and slow, which was not to be expected from a movie dealing with terrorism, espionage, and assassinations.  An okay movie that will surely be hailed by many mainstream critics. But I am not mainstream, am I?
RATING: TWO STARS

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King Kong
a la The Flixter

        Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is a struggling actress in Depression-era New York City. Her struggle becomes harder when the play she has been in, closes, down and she finds herself searching, like many others, for any sort of employment. She just happens to catch the eye of Carl Denham (Jack Black), who sees her pained and desperate reflection in a store window into which he is peeking...  He also happens to be desperate, but he is a desperate director/producer who is looking for someone to replace the spot left empty by an actress. He sees the perfect fit in Ann (not in terms of dress sizes, though, since the actress who left was a size four). So he and his crew, which includes a reluctant screenwriter (Adrien Brody) who is literally forced along, add Ann to their ranks and supposedly head off to Shanghai.
       But Denham's intended destination is Skull Island. When they arrive there, they aren't really welcomed since the island is populated by some nasty looking, and acting natives, and hordes of dinosaurs. Around an hour into the movie, the giant ape of the title enters the film and is instantly smitten with probably the first blond he's ever seen, in the form of Ms. Darrow. She in turn enchants him with her tricks consisting of singing, dancing, and juggling. The ape falls hard for her and becomes her protector in the hostile environment. By the way, he also snatches her from the rest of her crew and runs off into the woods with her. Along the way, there are some confrontations with
dinosaurs who make the mistake of trying to attack Kong's new love. But the rest of Ann's crew catches up with the two and Denham sees a bigger prospect than the picture he was shooting. Kong is subdued and brought back to New York City where he becomes part of a show that Denham puts together. However, Kong is still looking for his love and things get nasty when he sees his blond replaced by another performer on stage.... And things get messy when he breaks free and goes searching for his love. It is hilarious how he picks out any blond he sees among the panicking crowds, and hurls them to the ground when he realizes that she is not the one. Of course, he finds his and the two reach their fateful destination atop the Empire State Building.
       Anyway, the point is that the movie is an absolute spectacle. Amazing to look at, hilarious at quite a few times, and ultimately tragic. You know how it will end and are still saddened when it does.... Director Peter Jackson does an amazing job. It may seem long, at over
three hours, but its a fast moving three hours once you get past a slow first hour.  The performances are great, and the special effects are equally so.  Loved it... Can't wait for a sequel as long as it doesn't involve Godzilla or some other Japanese movie monster..
RATING: FIVE STARS

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Aeon Flux
a la The Flixter

        The year is 2415, and it turns out that 99 percent of the world's population was wiped out by a plague some time ago. Survivors live in the walled city of Bregna under the leadership of Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas). As always is the case in these sort of situations, there are rebels trying to overthrow this dictator. Part of this insurgency is leather-clad Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron), who besides doing gymnastics all over the place (stunt double, of course) is able to catch flies in her eye lids. She is given orders by the leader of the rebels, a Carrot Top inspired Frances McDormand, to assassinate Trevor. So Aeon goes about trying to accomplish this, but a slight complication rises when she realizes that Trevor was actually a lover. But now business comes first, so assassination is a must. 
       Now let me digress a bit, but you will find that this digression is a key to my review. Before the movie, when I went to get my popcorn, I fell victim to a very forceful sales pitch. I usually get a regular-sized popcorn. But the girl said that for only fifty cents more I could get a Value-sized popcorn; for some fateful reason, I gave in... which is why I kept sitting through this film. No, not to see the outcome of the crappily-staged action sequences, but to finish this huge thing of popcorn I had so naively purchased.  As soon as the popcorn was gone, so was I.
     Now back to the movie. Yes, it sucked. The plot was jumbled up to the point where you didn't give a crap anymore; disappointments were aplenty. Can the Academy ask for an Oscar back once a winner has proceeded to shame herself by doing a movie that should have been done at the beginning of a career in hopes of getting some footing in the business? Because that is clearly the case with Ms. Theron and she is not the only disappointment here... there's also Frances McDormand and Pete Postlethwaite (playing a character whose purpose I don't even remember). By the way, this movie is based on an MTV cartoon, which makes me long for another cartoon (a great one) that also aired on that channel. I refer to Beavis and Butthead.  But I figured that I would write something about this piece of crap before I forget it any further. The popcorn, though, was good..
RATING: ZERO STARS

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Walk the Line
a la The Flixter

        A brooding Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) is backstage in his usual black. The stage manager comes and tells him that they are ready. "You look like you are dressed for a funeral," he comments. "Maybe I am," is the response from the Man in Black. We then flash back to his childhood; its an impoverished childhood. He and his older brother are growing up on a farm where much of their time is spent picking cotton under the supervision of a stern father (Robert Patrick). His brother dies in a bloody accident and Johnny is left scarred with the memories of his bloody demise. From then on its one long journey. He joins the army, gets sent off to fight, returns and tries to pursue his musical ambitions. He also marries a childhood sweetheart, with whom he fathers four children. He manages to finally convince a music producer to give him a chance, and he becomes a hit.  Its while on tour that he meets June Carter (Reese Witherspoon), a fellow performer whom he has admired since childhood. They hit it off, performing together, and getting closer. Johnny has finally found the love of his life, but he still manages to develop a booze and drug addiction. Needless to say, his marriage to his first wife, Vivian, comes to an end and he marries June, who also has kids from a first marriage. He goes to jail, he lives on the edge, and it all comes out through his music.  So how does it all play out?
       Well, I have to say that this is by far, the best movie I have seen all year. Director James Mangold actually worked with Johnny and June Carter Cash about bringing their life to the screen. And Johnny Cash, from what I have read, was a big fan of Joaquin Phoenix in
Gladiator and wanted him to play himself on screen. This also has to be Reese Witherspoon's best performance since she was in Man in the Moon as a teenager (not to be confused with the Andy Kaufman bio-pic Man on the Moon). Both Phoenix and Witherspoon do an excellent job, both acting and singing. Yes, all the songs are performed by the two and no lip synching is involved. So their acting is great but what about the singing? Well I had to go pick up the soundtrack for the movie the next day. That's how much I loved it.  Loved it!  Just the reenactment of the performance he did at Folsom Prison, once he found out that many of his fan letters were coming from inmates, is
worth the price of admission...
RATING: FIVE STARS (or the BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR as of now)

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CELLULAR
a la The Flixter

       California dude Ryan (Chris Evans) is hanging out with his buddies at a Santa Monica pier, checking out the girls. He gets in his car and is driving somewhere whe he gets a call on his cell phone. He answers, not realizing that this "hello" is about to change his life.....  High school science teacher, Jessica (Kim Basinger), is seen getting kidnapped in the beginning of the movie, and it is her on the other end of the phone call. She has been thrown in an attic somewhere and she uses her science background to resurrect a broken phone she finds there. She manages to dial some number at random and it happens to be Ryan's. Of course, Ryan doesn't believe her story. That changes when Jessica's kidnappers come back in the room and Ryan hears her ordeal and starts to believe what he is hearing. The next logical step is to take the phone to the police, but they don't believe this tall tale. So its up to Ryan to locate the woman. 
       There are some detours on the way, though, since the kidnappers are planning on snatching her son from school. So Ryan has to try to beat them to it. Does he? I won't say. Plus the phone battery is not going to last forever and he can't hang up the phone because then he won't be able re-establish contact. Things aren't getting easier since he has to deal with cops who start suspecting him of some foul play when he goes into a phone store and manages to get a charger at gun point (but he does pay for it). Desk Sergeant Bob Mooney (William H Macy) starts to rethink about a ridiculous story that a young man had tried to tell him earlier in the day. He checks on some things that the young man (Ryan) had said and ends up becoming the only ally Ryan's got.  He has to put his retirement planning on hold, of course (he is planning on opening a health spa after retiring). 
       I think that is enough explanation of the plot. The movie is great fun; very fast-paced and a great time.  Jason Statham is pretty loathsome as the chief kidnapper. So why was Jessica kidnapped? Well, watch the movie. There is a decent enough explanation for the goings on. I guess Larry Cohen has developed a certain telecommunications obsession. This is based on his story and he wrote the screenplay for another great phone-calls-gone-to-hell movie, Phone Booth.  A couple of decades ago he directed the great monster movie Q: The Winged Serpent about a giant dragon-type creature hiding atop the Chrysler Building. But the guy is good. He can definitely show
you a good time.
PS:  I almost forgot but this movie brought out a side of me that I had hoped did not exist. However, I found out out that it does and maybe that is why I am trying to forget it.  .....But enough is enough..... These two people (I'm sure you know the type) behind us could not shut up. My cousin, who was sitting next to me, was also getting agitated.  So I finally turned around and shouted, "HEY, SHUT THE HELL UP!!! IF ITS THAT F#@$*&G IMPORTANT, THE DOOR IS RIGHT THERE. GO OUTSIDE AND TALK!"    They were pretty quiet after that.
      Sometimes, you have to do these things. And after the movie, these other folks who were sitting close by were telling me that I did a good job. The two who were at the receiving end of my fit, left as soon as the movie ended. Yup, I am pretty damn tough.   

RATING:
FIVE STARS
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PAPARAZZI
a la The Flixter

       Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser) has just become a big star thanks to his action vehicle Adrenaline Force, but fame comes with a price he had not counted on.... Since he is no longer a nobody, his personal life becomes "tabloid material."  People want to know more about what goes on in this guy's personal life. What is his young son up to? What is his wife (Robin Tunney) like? How is their marriage? Are there any chances of infidelity from either partner? And that is where Paparazzi comes in; that happens to be the title of a big super market tabloid. Their sleazy photographer, Rex Harper (Tom Sizemore), uses every grubby technique, plus a camera, to get the dirt on Bo, but enough is enough. Especially when these hounding photographers end up causing a car accident that puts Bo's young son in a coma. So Bo goes on the offensive.
      He ends up killing one photographer, which brings a Columbo-esque homicide detective into the picture. That detective, played by Dennis Farina, is sure that Bo is behind that homicide. He just needs some evidence. Meanwhile, Bo continues on his avenging against the photographers and that is the best part of the movie --- how Bo goes about stalking and getting back at these photographers. It is fun watching the devious tactics he uses to trap and, ultimately, kill them off one by one. But getting there is pretty tedious. Heck, its boring, but once we get there, its a little better. The most unbelievable thing
about this movie is that it is produced by
Mel Gibson. Yes, the guy who made Passion of the Christ. I guess this was inevitable since he has made so much money off of that one.  Now he seems to be just killing time by producing crass material like this; he does make a quick and silent cameo in this one. 
      Not that good. You should go watch Garden State, instead..      

RATING:
TWO STARS
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TWO MOVIES. ONE GREAT AND ONE NOT
a la The Flixter

       So last week, I had to make a choice again. Thursday night, I could either go to my favorite watering hole or go see Garden State, which opened a little while ago but is still in limited release; I opted for the latter.  (And that was a very good choice, which I am not too famous for making.)
      Anyway, the movie marks the debut of Zach Braff as a writer/director. The guy is on some TV show called Scrubs, which I have never seen. Here he plays Andrew Largeman, a New Jersey native who has been away from the Garden State for nine years. He's been living in L.A. and working as an actor, doing
small TV jobs.  What brings him back is the death of his mother. Most of his life has been a drug-induced daze; he's been on anti-depressants and lithium, to name a few.  His father,
Gideon (the always great Ian Holm) is a psychiatrist and the trip back to Jersey leads to an uncomfortable reunion, but it becomes more than that when Andrew meets some old friends. One is a grave-digger, another is a knight at Medieval Times and then he meets Sam (Natalie Portman), a beautiful young girl who is everything he is not.  He pulls out his old motorcycle and Sam becomes his constant companion, and the two go all over with Sam riding along.
         The movie is an absolute pleasure. Funny, sad, surprising, and ultimately rewarding. Plus the soundtrack is great (picked that up the next day, of course). Natalie Portman is the real star here, delivering what is probably her best performance since Beautiful Girls
         Then on Friday, I went to see Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid.  This one follows an expedition into Borneo to find the flower of the title (the Blood Orchid, not the Anaconda). The flower blooms for six months every seven years and is supposed to contain some amazing healing powers that can be used in the groups pharmaceutical ventures. What they were not counting on was the tough path leading to those flowers and the giant anacondas that populate the area. The group manages to find a guide, in a bar of course, who agrees to take them where they need to go in exchange for a huge sum of money. The boat gets wrecked and they are forced to trek on foot........ and then the anacondas (pretty fake looking) come along and start picking off the crew members.
        I like the first Anaconda; it was entertaining. The snake didn't look too real back then either, but the movie had a certain campy air about it that made it entertaining ---or maybe it was Jennifer Lopez. I don't know. Maybe it was watching Garden State the night before that made this one seem so horrible. Could I be getting old? Once it used to be all about special effects and action. Now I am loving a movie because of the story and dialogue and everything that used to make me sleepy. I don't know. But I will definitely watch Garden State again. Anacondas, on the other hand was terrible.

 

PS: I just went and saw Garden State again. It is an absolutely great movie. I realized how downright hilarious it is before it turns poignant.  The whole part where Andrew goes to Sam's house for the first time is funny as hell. When he meets her brother and is shocked to see that its a big, black guy played by rapper Method Man. It turns out that her mom adopted the kid from one of those Sally Struthers adoption programs. When they stopped paying after a while, the kid just showed up at their door since he comes to the US as a student at New Jersey's own Rutgers University.  Then there's a little funeral for Sam's hamster, one of the latest to meet a tragic fate at the little hamster wheel; there's Andrew's grave digger friend who has a whole collection of Desert Storm trading cards. There's just so so much that is great in this movie. Like I said, very funny but also very touching. GREAT MOVIE....

RATINGS:
GARDEN STATE: (MAYBE TOO SOON, BUT DEFINITELY THE ONE TO BEAT FOR
BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR)


ANACONDAS: ZERO STARS.
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EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING
a la The Flixter

       Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) lost his Faith when witnessing Nazi atrocities during WWII. Now he is an archaeologist who finds himself in Africa trying to find a buried church, amongst other things. But it turns out that the part of Nairobi that he is in has been victimized by the devil for quite a while. Demonic possessions are aplenty and the only help the villagers have before Merrin's arrival is a pretty nurse played by Izabella Scorupco. Merrin is no longer a man of the cloth, so a romance seems possible.
      There really isn't much to say about the plot. Of course, Merrin manages to re-gain his faith and go up against the devil. There are plenty of shocks. A little boys gets ripped apart by a pack of hyenas; a woman gives birth to a baby that is covered with maggots, but the most effective scene happens to be a flashback to the time when Merrin lost his Faith. As a priest, the Nazi's put him in a position where he has to pick their targets. The poor man is forced to point to a person and the soldiers kill that individual. So there's the burden of that guilt.  Anyway, like I was saying before, there are plenty of shocks. But shocks do not equal scares. Sure there may be a couple of instances that will make you jump in their suddenness, but that's about all. The beginning of the movie is pretty boring. Then things pick up a little but still not enough.
       I think the first Exorcist was boring as hell. This one is a prequel to that and things weren't too exciting back then either. Izabella Scorupco channels Linda Blair when she ends up getting the demon inside her.  From what I hear, pretty much the entire movie had to be re-shot when the studio didn't like the first version. Director Renny Harlin was brought in ---and this is what he delivers.  What can be expected when the guy responsible for blow 'em-up-actioners like Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, is relied upon to deliver theological horror? Not much, I guessed and I was right. The only thing that really disappointed me was that a great author like Caleb Carr was involved with the story and screenplay. Read The Alienist if you get a chance and you will know what I am talking about..

Rating:  1 STAR

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ALIEN VS. PREDATOR
a la The Flixter

       Billionaire Weyland (Lance Henricksen) is financing a scientific expedition to Antarctica.  It seems, according to his satellites, that there is a "hot spot" underneath a long abandoned whaling station.  So his expedition, consisting of a few other folks, makes its way up there.  They find a tunnel, which isn't from too long ago, that leads deep down into a pyramid beneath the ice.  The pyramid is of many designs including Egyptian, Cambodian, and Aztec.  The hieroglyphics lining the walls are easily translated by one of the team members.  What is revealed from those deductions is that the Predators came to Earth and trained all three civilizations.  In return they made human sacrifices to attract the reptilian Alien thingees.  Then every hundred years they come and hunt those things as a rite of passage.  (I hope this is making sense to you because I have no clue what all this means.)  But that is what happens; these humans come to that pyramid just around the time for the Predators' hunting season.  They also arrive and all hell breaks loose as the Aliens are awakened and the humans are caught in the middle of all this. 
      I think that is enough about the plot.  Now let me tell you why NOT to go see it.  The movie's tag line is: Whoever Wins, We Lose.  How true, I realized after watching this, since I had lost $9.50 on the ticket.....  And another warning sign I should have taken is that the movie is rated PG-13.  Both the Alien and Predator movies were pretty gory.  How the hell do you combine the two gore-fests and come up with a PG-13 movie?  Even, though, there's all these three way battles going on,  the movie is boring as hell.  Another thing:  Lance Henricksen played the android Bishop in the first two Alien movies.  How did he turn up playing a human in this one?  And is Sanaa Lathan's Alexa thinking of kissing that disgusting looking Predator who has become an unlikely ally.  Who knows?  Point is, definitely skip this one, unless you are a really big fan of this type of stuff.  And there were quite a few of those applauding when their favorite freak came out on top in the battles.   This face-off makes Freddy vs. Jason look Oscar-worthy.

Rating:  0 STARS

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Collateral
a la The Flixter

       Max (Jamie Foxx) has been driving a taxi in LA for the past twelve years and its been twelve years of unfulfilled dreams. He wants to start his own limo service, but that hasn't happened. All he has is a picture of a beautiful, tropical island on the back of his visor.  Whenever he feels like it, he pulls over, lowers the visor, and imagines himself in the tropical paradise. He shares his getaway with a fare when he picks up a beautiful lawyer (Jada Pinkett Smith). The traffic is rough, of course, and the two share some wagers on what may be the fastest route to her destination. She starts to like the guy and gives him her business card. So, maybe, things are starting to look up. But then he picks up his next fare.
      Vincent (Tom Cruise) pulls out a wad of hundred dollar bills and tells Max that the money can be his if he chauffeurs him around for the night --- he has five stops to make. Sounds like a good deal to Max, so he agrees. (That all changes after the first stop.) Max has just dropped off Vincent at the first stop. He is sitting in the cab waiting for him to return when a body falls on top of the cab. Vince returns.  "Did you kill him?", is Max's panicked inquiry. "No, I shot him. The bullet and the fall killed him," is the suave response.  So Vincent is a hit man..... And the five stops he had mentioned were five jobs he has to finish before the night is over.
     Stop number one is enough for Max but now he is in it too deep; he's in it for the long haul and thus begins a totally awesome ride. For the audience, at least.
     Tom Cruise has played loathsome characters before (re: Magnolia) but this is his only his second role as a straight-out bad guy (the vampire Lestat in Interview with a Vampire was another...) and he is pretty good at it.  But Jamie Foxx is the real star here as his Max learns from his situation and finds the courage to do what he thinks he can't. There are plenty of tense situations and foot chases and there's almost a moment of tranquility when Vincent takes Max to a jazz club to ease some of the tension in the cabbie. But even that doesn't last too long. The final twenty minutes or so, are pretty draining as the tension escalates to the max.  Cops on the trail start suspecting Max as the culprit and things aren't looking too good for the poor guy. Sure, some will say that Max has the opportunity to flee quite a few times but then where would the movie go if that happened?  A really, really great time.  Another great one from director Michael Mann.

Rating:  FIVE STARS

    _______________________________________

The Village
a la The Flixter

       Edward Walker (William Hurt) is the leading elder of a small community in the 19th century. The village is surrounded by woods that are inhabited by, as he tells, the children, "Those We Do Not Speak Of." Those creatures won't harm the town's people as long as they stay out of the woods, but those simple folk have been waking up to find their livestock slaughtered and red marks on the doors. That's another thing: the color red is pretty much forbidden in the town. It is a bad color and will cause troubles. But Walker's blind daughter, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard), has to venture out through those woods to find some medications for her dying boyfriend, Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix). Since this is the latest movie from M. Night Shyamalan (the man behind The Sixth Sense and Signs), there are some surprise revelations and a major twist towards the end. But the events leading up to that twist are so damn slow that I almost fell asleep a few times --- and when we get to that twist, it is pretty ridiculous. From the packed theater, quite a few people walked out. But I stayed, expecting some revelation of The Sixth Sense caliber, so, man, was I disappointed!!!
      I went to this movie with a pretty big group. Ten people consisting of cousins, friends, and neighbors. And we all came out with the same opinion. So I guess what is good about this movie is that it unites those who may disagree most other times.  Anyway, the director makes an appearance in this one just like he has done in his past movies. And you can tell that even he is a little ashamed since he has his back to the camera in the entire cameo. Plus there's Oscar winner Adrien Brody, in a pretty embarrassing turn, as the village idiot.  Watch it make a bundle on the opening weekend and then drop fast once word starts spreading.

PS:
Bryce Howard is director Ron Howard's daughter, by the way.

Rating:  0 STARS

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The Bourne Supremacy
a la The Flixter

       In case you missed out on The Bourne Identity, here's a quick recap: Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) was pulled out of the ocean by a fishing boat. Someone had tried to kill him and dumped his body. But he lives, although he is suffering from amnesia. So he tried to piece his memories together and found out that he had been a highly trained assassin. But for some reason, his bosses wanted him dead. Could it have something to do with his last job? Anyway, when the last movie ended, he had cleared some of his mess up and found a love interest.  Now he is living a pretty tranquil existence in India with his girl friend, but those higher ups still want him dead. They send a killer after him which results in a pretty cool car chase through some very congested and busy Indian streets. He lives, but his love ends up dead..... and that does not make him happy, so he begins a globe-trekking quest to find out those responsible.
      The movie goes all over the place as he uses his lethal skills to trek down those people who originally gave him those skills and to find out why they want him dead. The CIA honcho in the first movie was played by a fine Chris Cooper. He has died since then and only appears in some brief flashbacks. Now the chief baddie is played by the always great Brian Cox. Him and his cohort, played by Joan Allen, are trekking Bourne as he hunts for them.  There are many action set-pieces, some memorable and some not so much. The most memorable instances are when the pursuers find out that Bourne is actually way ahead of what they are planning. The first movie had a really awesome car chase. This one has a few but that's what my problem is --- they are so choppily edited and hard to follow that your head will start to hurt. That's why I gave up on trying to sort what was going on after a while. The same goes for some fight scenes. Why strain my brain, I figured; I'll find out who wins when the fight is over.  Robert Ludlum had written three Bourne books. The third one, The Bourne Ultimatum, will surely see the big screen and it turns out that someone else has taken over for Mr. Ludlum. There's another book out called The Bourne Legacy. This surely is becoming a franchise.  Hopefully, the next movie version will be a little better..

Rating:  TWO & 1/2 STARS

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I Robot
a la The Flixter

       Del Spooner (Will Smith) hates robots. That doesn't sound like such a big deal, but he is a homicide detective in Chicago in the year 2035, when there is one robot for every five humans. The robots have pretty much taken over most of the menial tasks. They walk the dogs, do the shopping, baby-sit for the working parents, and so on.  But Del hates them. Why? Well, we find out in a little revelation in the final half.
      As the story goes, a robot is accused of homicide.  Impossible, says the manufacturer, since all robots are programmed with the Three Laws of Robotics, which makes them incapable of harming any human. The guy heading the corporation (Bruce Greenwood) is pretty much the villain who is mass-producing these robots and is, of course, too preoccupied with the profitability. Spooner finds a reluctant ally in a beautiful robot psychologist, doubling as a potential romantic interest, played by Bridget Moynahan. (She is also a believer in the harmlessness of these robots.) Then there's the prime suspect, Sonny, a CGI generated robot who emerges as the most sympathetic character. The man who is the murder victim, is the inventor of these robots, played by James Cromwell, who was almost a father-figure to Sonny.   Revelations occur and eye-candy galore is unleashed on the screen.
      There are more than plenty of amazing action set-pieces, which seem to be inspired by everything from the Matrix movies to Spider Man. Robots climb up walls and do slo-mo leaps. Its pretty much a dramatic role for Will Smith, which is good since any comical roles result in him practicing his musical abilities (which I am not too crazy about) on the movie's soundtrack. The director here is Alex Proyas, who did The Crow (overshadowed by Brandon Lee's accidental death during filming) and Dark City (LOVE that one). I don't know how much, beyond the title and the Laws of Robotics, that this movie is related to Isaac Asimov's works. But they are the apparent inspiration behind this movie. 
      Anyway, pretty damn good; another summer escapist romp.

Rating:  FIVE STARS

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ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY
a la The Flixter

       Its the 1970's and Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is the hottest thing on TV. Believe it or not, he's just a news reporter and he's damn good at feigning an intelligent personality when reporting the top stories;...... but that's all thanks to the teleprompter. He just sits there and says what it tells him to say, and he's great at it and the nightly news is apparently a very hot market. The competition is very tough but Ron's news team has managed to get to number one.
     His news team includes sports reporter Champ (David Koechner), field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). Once the reporting is done, the crew has some pretty wild parties since it is the 70's.  What throws their stability into chaos is the arrival of female to the newsroom. Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) joins the team in the station manager's attempt at "diversity", which Ron thinks was a large wooden ship used during the Civil War; the guy is a total moron.  Now he starts to feel threatened by a female that he finds attractive yet loathsome for her attempts at becoming an anchor. They tell her, "it's Anchorman, not AnchorLady."  But she is steadfast in her attempts and handles the fluff assignments that are handed her way. One day Ron gets held up in traffic and there's no choice but to let her take the center seat. She is great at it and the station manager has to question the decisions he has to make. Ron becomes a wreck, of course. How can this woman that he has the hots for become his co-anchor?  But I think that is enough blah blah.
     The movie is funny as hell. I love The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Steve Carell is great on it, but I think here he is the scene stealer as the totally moronic weatherman.  I think this is the funniest film yet from Will Ferrell. Plus there are numerous cameos including Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Tim Robbins. The highlight is a fight between TV station news teams that escalates into a giant rumble that brings in pretty much every channel including the Spanish news team of Telemundo.  Very funny. Though there are quite a few misfires since so much comedy is being attempted. But pretty much on target......    

Rating:  FOUR STARS

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SPIDER MAN 2
a la The Flixter

       Poor Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is really over-worked.  He has the editor at his job breathing down his neck about putting some stories on his desk.  His sweetheart, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), is making her debut as an actress on Broadway, but he keeps missing her performances.  Who's to blame? Well, his alter-ego, the crime fighting, Spiderman is one to blame. Crime is always a hot occupation and Spidey has to fight those who are committing these deeds. 
     Along comes Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina). The guy has some super plans that are supposed to help mankind. But his demonstration for those plans misfires. His wife is killed and he ends up with these
giant octopus-like, mechanical tentacles. Of course, the brooding widower turns to a life of
"evilry" (is that a word?) as Dr. Octopus, so Spiderman has even more work to do in trying to stop this super-villain from his ciminal rampage.  MJ pretty much gives up on Parker and gets set to marry an astronaut, who played football on the moon, but enough is enough for Parker. He hangs up his alter persona and lets the rampaging criminals do what they want. Crime sky rockets and Dr. Octopus goes about his super villainy. But eventually, of course, you know that Parker will return to being Spiderman. What matters is how he will come to that realization and what will perpetuate. What perpetuates is one of the best superhero movies ever.
     The movie is an absolute great time. As funny as it is dazzling. If you recall, four stars used to be the highest rating I gave. That was until the first Spiderman, which was such a great time that I added another star and this one is actually better. Director Sam Raimi works wonders with a bigger budget this time around. There is a hilarious cameo from his regular Bruce Campbell as a snotty usher at one of MJ's performances.  An amazingly great time.  Bring on the sequels....    

Rating:  FIVE STARS (OF COURSE!!!)

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TWO GREAT MOVIES AND WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
a la The Flixter

       Due to some time constraints, I am forced to review two movies in one package. I hope you folks don't mind; you probably know what I would say in case you do mind.  Anyway, let me start off with what might have been.  Last Friday I was supposed to go see The Notebook with nine females. Yes, nine. I was kind of wary about the whole thing since the movie was supposed to be a real tear-jerker and I didn't want it to become an emasculating experience. However, one female ended up ruining the plans by having to go to work early the next morning. So that plan went nowhere and I ended up watching The Terminal.
       Yes, The Terminal is the first great movie that is the subject here. The fantastic Mr. Tom Hanks plays an Eastern European guy, from a fictional Eastern European country, who finds himself stranded at a US airport terminal. He has come here to fulfill his deceased father's wish. Dad was a big jazz fan and had been collecting autographs from some famous jazz musicians. One more autograph is needed and that is the reason Victor (Tom Hanks) has come to the United States.  But as soon as he lands here, a military coup takes place in his homeland. The government is overthrown and the homeland is no more and Victor finds himself in a limbo at the airport terminal. He can't go out into the United States since he no longer has any official papers. So he basically ends up making the terminal his home, where he manages to find a romantic interest in the form of a stewardess, played by Catherine Zeta Jones. She has some romantic problems of her own since she is involved with a married pilot who treats her not too well. She thinks that Victor travels a lot since he is always around the airport. Victor manages to find a nemesis in the airport manager (Stanley Tucci) who considers the vagrant a nuisance.
     Anyway, its a great concept given some equally great treatment by Steven Spielberg.  Mr. Hanks proves once again why he just may be one of the best actors around.
    Then, on Sunday, I managed to go see Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. It basically deals with the Bush Administrations mishandling of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centers. Let me say right here and now that I didn't vote for this guy in the last election.  And the movie starts off with those elections and how most people in the US did not vote for Mr. Bush, but thanks to some influential backing, he still managed to become President. Then September 11th happened, and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden began. He didn't pop up, so all of a sudden Saddam Hussein entered the picture.
    I really don't want to get too political, but the movie really paints the Bush Administration in, what some might say, an unfavorable way. The so called War on Terrorism has gotten bungled up and resulted in so many American deaths. What really burst the bubble, and brought tears to my eyes, was the realization that the woman crying over a son's death wasn't some actress performing, but a real person.  So when this documentary ended, I along with the rest of the packed theater, had to applaud and hope for a better electoral outcome the next time around and deliverance from this mess that we are in.  I am sorry if you disagree but isn't that one of the greatest things about this country? That you can openly say what you feel, despite what the populace may deem appropriate or inappropriate.   

Rating:  WHATEVER MAY BE APPROPRIATE FOR THIS THOROUGHLY MOVING, MOVIE-GOING WEEKEND.

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Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
a la The Flixter

       Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) runs a pretty small, average gym. Even the name of his establishment is Average Joe's.  Further complicating his survival is the mega-sized and ultra-modern gym right across the street from him. Globo Gym promises to "turn Frankenstein into Franken-fine." The owner of that establishment is the ego-maniacal White Goodman (Ben Stiller). Then an attorney(Christine Taylor, who is Stiller's wife in real life) tells Peter that he has 30 days to come up with $50,000 or face foreclosure.  It turns out that there is a Dodgeball tournament in Las Vegas with the top prize being $50,000.  So Peter and a few of his misfit regulars, enter the thing, having no clue or physique, about the game. Luckily they find a coach in Patches O'Houlihan (Rip Torn), one of the original masters of the game. But he is in a wheelchair now and that is where he trains from; his mottos are simple: "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball", or "If you can dodge traffic, you can dodge a ball." So he sits in the wheelchair and hurls stuff at the guys who get pretty banged up, but they make it to the tournament where Goodman has entered his team as well. But his team is tough, consisting of a female hulk and three huge body-builders (Blade, Laser, and Blaser). While Peter's team includes a wannabe male cheerleader and a wacko who thinks he is a pirate (complete with a pirate outfit and lingo).
      The movie is funny as hell; I laughed my behind off.  Ben Stiller is just absolutely loathsome, yet hilarious, as Goodman. Vince Vaughn is much more of a straight-laced guy in all this looniness. Jason Bateman is also hilarious as a pretty ditzy commentator covering the events.  In an introductory tape to playing Dodgeball, the narrator says that "Dodgeball is a sport of violence, exclusion, and degradation." Which is why I am glad I was never involved in it.   

Rating:  FIVE STARS

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The Stepford Wives
a la The Flixter

       Joanna Eberhardt (Nicole Kidman) is a pretty successful TV exec; she has gotten to the heights by producing some reality TV shows that are hugely popular with the viewing public, even though many of the participants have been left humiliated and scarred.  So much so, that one victimized husband tries to kill her after she ruins his happy marriage. Then her bosses decide to get rid of her; she is fired and suffers a breakdown. Her husband, Walter (Matthew Broderick), who had been working under her, also leaves his job and decides to move the family.  So they pack up and make their way to Stepford, along with their two kids. 
     The place seems perfect; all the women are dedicated wives and all the husbands are happy. Glenn Close is the top Stepford wife who is pretty much like a principal of a prep school. She and her husband, Mike (Christopher Walken) are the top honchos of the community. She deals with the women while he commandeers the men at the local gentlemen's club.  I don't think I am really giving away anything but it turns out that the women of Stepford have microchips installed in their brains that make them so dedicated and perfect. Joanna manages to find allies in Bette Midler and Roger Bart.  The former is an author and the latter is the half of Stepford's first gay couple.  Secrets are unearthed and the battle forges on to liberate the women of Stepford from their slavery. Some pretty funny stuff happens. But the novel from Ira Levin that this is based on was a horror novel. Even the first movie adaptation. back in 1970s, was a horror movie. So I guess what scared us back then, makes us laugh now.  Nicole Kidman is pretty good and Mr. Walken is strange, as usual. A decently funny movie. Just not a laugh riot.   

Rating:  THREE STARS

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The Day After Tomorrow
a la The Flixter

       Meteorologist/scientific guy Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) is trying to warn people about the danger of global warming. According to him, the polar ice caps will melt and cause all kinds of havoc, however, nobody listens in DC. He gets no support from the ditzy President or his (almost villainous) Vice President. And then it all begins.
       Snow starts falling in New Delhi. Los Angeles gets hit with tornadoes that come in pairs or more; Tokyo gets pummeled with hail the size of giant oranges. Oceans rise and Manhattan gets hit with a giant tidal wave the floods the streets and sends an ocean liner cruising down the once busy avenues. ( Maybe the guy was onto something. ) To make matters worse, temperatures plummet so fast that many unprepared ones are literally frozen in their tracks; the water on those avenues freeze.  A group of people find sanctuary in the New York Public Library where book burning becomes a way of survival. In that group is Jack's son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has ended up there as part of a group of scholastic bookworms that he joined to get close to a girl he has a crush on. Now he is with her but the circumstances aren't overly romantic.  Meanwhile, Jack begins a trek from DC to NYC to save his son. He is joined by a few friends but they end up going the way that so many secondary characters do in disaster films. Yes, this is a disaster film. But one for the 21st century where ships turned upside down or buildings on fire won't do. The subject is timely and may cause a rise in interest over what we are doing to our environment. I am no tree-hugging hippie but the movie did make me think; at least for its duration. It is one hell of a spectacle. The special effects are pretty damn awesome. But the characters are pretty one-dimensional. So you don't really care about who falls through the ice and who manages to pull themselves up........and the ending seems too Hollywood.  What else to expect from the summer movie season kick-off? Escapist, yes, but not much beyond that.  Did I enjoy it? Yes. But shouldn't a movie like this make me concerned instead of entertained? I don't know. You tell me...   

Rating:  FOUR STARS

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Shrek 2
a la The Flixter

       Before we start, let me start by saying that, this being an animated movie, whoever's name appears in the parenthesis, is the actor providing the voice for that character. That way, I don't have to stress my fingers by typing "voice of" before each name. Got that? Ok, then... In case you haven't seen one of the best films of the 21st century, Shrek (Mike Myers) was a "green ogre". Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) was a beautiful princess who had a curse on her. Her parents had her locked away in a tower,  awaiting the arrival of Prince Charming, whose kiss would undo the curse. Instead, Shrek came along and his kiss just turned Fiona into a "green ogre".  But the two fell in love, got married and now they are on their honeymoon, when the parents, under the impression that Fiona married Prince Charming, summon them.  Shrek is reluctant but, eventually, agrees.
      So they are off to the Kingdom of Far Far Away, which is pretty much like a medieval Beverly Hills, with stores like Versarchery lining up the roads. The parents, when they see their daughter and son in law, are horrified. The queen (Julie Andrews) is a little more subtle about her feelings than the king(John Cleese) who immediately goes on the offensive against his son in law. Also not happy, is Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Sanders) who was eyeing the kingdom once her son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everet) got married to Fiona. Let's not forget that also accompanying Shrek and Fiona is Donkey (Eddie Murphy), who like the name says, is a donkey. And Donkey does not shut up. The king turns to a feline assassin, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), to take care of Shrek. Puss ends up becoming an ally which makes Donkey feel threatened. Anyway, there are so many characters and so much going on that I would be up all night if I tried to cover it all.
     There are homage's to movies starting off with the honeymoon (From Here to Eternity) and a daring jail break (Mission Impossible). The latter is just plain hilarious as Shrek's friends, which include Pinocchio (who knew about the wooden boy's kinky side), try to bust him out of a dungeon. I don't want to give too much away but its Pinocchio's nose that comes in very handy.

     I don't think I have laughed so much and so hard in a loooooong time. 
Eddie Murphy is great as Donkey, but Antonio Banderas steals the show as Puss. I think I'll be watching this a few more times because the DVD release is a long way off...   

Rating:  PROBABLY THE MOST FUN YOU WILL HAVE AT THE MOVIES ALL
YEAR (HOWEVER MANY STARS THAT IS EQUIVALENT TO....)

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The Matrix Revolutions
a la The Flixter

        Neo (Keanu Reeves) is in limbo between the machine world (the Matrix) and the real world. His followers, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), are trying to figure out a way to bring him back. They consult the Oracle (a know-it-all old lady), who is predicting an epic final battle. Neo gets back; Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) comes back, along with hundreds of clones... and the battle to save humanity begins. Plus, Neo is apparently a Christ figure meant to deliver humanity from this mechanical demise.
       The movie made me think a lot. About all I have (thank God) & about all I don't (sucks, but I am patient), and about a friend who passed away recently (rest in peace, Ronnie). Oh yes, did it make me think about what's going on on the screen? Sure.  How come that hottie Monica Bellucci doesn't have more screen time? And what the hell are the film-makers thinking by piling on a messy heap of special effects? Is that guy, sitting a few seats away, leaning forward in anticipation or did he fall asleep? I know its a packed theater, but why is that couple just standing by the door for the entire movie? Sit on the floor, for God's sake.
       The first Matrix was great. It redefined the sci-fi genre by mixing some amazing special effects with a new thought process and awesome kung-fu fights. The second one wasn't bad (that highway demolition derby was just plain incredible). But this one totally sucked; it was just philosophical mumbo jumbo and none of the eye-candy that made the first two bearably good.  Hopefully, this is the end. I'd rather see Keanu Reeves in another Bill and Ted movie.  Wish I could say more but I still have a headache from watching this movie. And I saw it last night!!

Rating:  ZERO STARS

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Mystic River
a la The Flixter

        Jimmy, Sean, and David are three pals growing up in an Irish neighborhood of Boston during the seventies. Walking down their street they see a part of the sidewalk that has just been freshly paved. They decide to go past the caution tape and leave their names in the wet cement. Both Jimmy and Sean engrave their names in the cement. David has just put a D and A in, when a couple of cops pull up. They scold the boys and David is taken away since his house is the furthest from the spot. The boys run home and tell the adults. Turns out that David has actually been abducted by some pedophile; the car was not marked so they didn't know if the driver was a real cop or not. David manages to escape a few days later but the damage has been done.
       Flash forward twenty-five years. Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a cop, and it is his job to bring the news to Jimmy (Sean Penn) that his nineteen year old daughter has been murdered. The friends had been separated until now; this tragedy brings them back in contact. The problem is that one of the last people to see the daughter alive was David (Tim Robbins) who saw her at a bar, while she was bar-hopping with a few friends... and David had also walked into his house on the same night with blood on his hands. His wife, an excellent Marcia Gay Harden, doesn't know how to divulge that piece of information.  It is a mystery but, ultimately, a tragedy.
       I won't give away too much but I will say that The Flixter was extremely sad after this movie. The performances are great, especially Penn, as the grieving father. There are moments of extended silence in the movie which just sucks you into the setting. The score, by director Clint Eastwood, is extremely haunting. Brian Helgeland returns to doing what he does best -- writing a great screenplay and not directing some tripe (re: The Order).  Usually I reserve the word, "great," to describe movies that are very good and escapist. This was very good but not really escapist. But, I guess, great is the only way to define this movie. I am still depressed, though.

Rating:  FIVE STARS

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Scary Movie 3
a la The Flixter

        Pam Anderson and Jenny McCarthy, in all their 'bimboesque' glory and falling out of their negligees, are having a sleepover at one's house. Then one starts telling about a videotape --- whoever sees it dies seven days later. It turns out that one of them saw that tape and its the seventh day. The phone rings, lights flutter, panic ensues and when its all over, death has made its mark. Sound familiar? Welcome to Zuckerization of horror.  Yes, the Zucker brothers, along with pal Pat Proft, are at it again.  The team behind comedy classics like Airplane and The Naked Gun movies, take a shot at horror. The Ring isn't the only movie they are aiming at; they grill everything from The Matrix to 8 Mile.
       A mysterious crop circle appears in farmer Charlie Sheen's corn field (re: Signs).  Investigating the incident is Cindy Campbell (Anna Farris reprising her role from the first two movies). It all ends up getting tied together, when it turns out that the aliens are using that tape as part of their invasion.  But that isn't the point here. The point is to make fun of anything and everything that the cinema has been bringing us. There's the white boy farmer who longs to be a rapper and his brother (Sheen) who is a former priest dealing with questions about his own faith. There's the young boy in Campbell's custody who keeps drawing freaky pictures and prophesizing about what is to be. Then there's Leslie Nielsen's President who is trying to calm a nation dreading an alien invasion. That last one should draw a picture of what you are in for -- Leslie Nielsen as The President? 
       The comedy is non-stop as it all gets filtered through the Zucker blender. But, of course, there are just as many misfires as there are direct hits. I hated the first Scary Movie where the Wayans brothers showed a little too much dependency on phallic jokes for comedy. This one has to be the best of the three.  (Let's not forget a small appearance from the great George Carlin.)  Airplane is a classic; The first Naked Gun was hilarious.  This one is pretty OK; you will get your money's worth in terms of laughter. But nothing beyond that.

Rating:  THREE STARS

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Runaway Jury
a la The Flixter

        Nick Easter (John Cusack) is like most of us --- he dreads the inevitable when he gets a jury duty notice in his mail box. He tries his darnedest not to be picked, but maybe its his apprehension that gets him picked, as he finds himself sitting on the side lines during a big trial involving a widow who is suing gun manufacturers in the death of her husband. Taking her side is Dustin Hoffman's Rohr, a lawyer in the mold of Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. The opposition, taking the gun manufacturer's side, is Bruce Davison whose greatest ally is Gene Hackman who runs a high tech operation, to insure that the verdict goes their way. The trial begins and the game is afoot. But Nick is not just any juror; he and his girlfriend (Rachel Weisz) have some plans of their own; they will swing the jury in the direction of the highest bidder.
       The bargaining begins with Nick on the inside and his girlfriend on the outside. That about does it for the plot. I have read a couple of things from John Grisham (The Firm and The Pelican Brief) but don't consider myself to be a big fan. The plots are good but his prose is banal, in my opinion, which is why I think that his work translates better on the screen. This was the case here; the novel had the villain being big tobacco -- here its gun manufacturers, which kind of suited me since I smoke but don't carry a gun. Anyway, this was great fun. Both Hackman and Hoffman prove why they are Oscar winners. And Cusack and Weisz are great as well. Some beautiful turns towards the end just add to the pleasure.

Rating:  FIVE STARS

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre
a la The Flixter

        The year is 1973. Five college students are on their way back from Mexico and on their way to a Lynryd Skynrd concert in Texas. Its the seventies, and of course a couple of them couldn't help but pick up some pot ( two lbs., I think ) which they start consuming on this drive.  Its during a heated debate about their contraband cargo, that they almost hit a girl walking in the middle of that lonesome highway. They stop and see that she is a mess, nonetheless, they get her in their van (a more shabby version of the Scooby Doo gang's Mystery Machine) where she keeps going on about people dying. "They're all dead", she keeps repeating. Whoever "they" are, she joins, by pulling a gun out from between her legs and blowing her brains out. Everybody is panicking and trying to find some help. They stop at a mill-type place and, like all sensible horror movie players, split up. Thus begins their odyssey through a white trash hell. 
      The sheriff, when he appears, is no help. The only person that seems to have a conscience, though severely retarded, is a little kid, who seems to be designed after that schizophrenic troll from the Lord of the Rings movie. Oh yeah, there's also this nut running around and hacking away with a chainsaw. Blood baths ensue; limbs are amputated, bodies are maimed, and those living or dead are painfully ( you feel it ) hung on meat hooks. The nut, Leatherface. suffers from some skin disease and is collecting new skin.  There are a few jumpy scenes but most of them are just fake ones where the intruder turns out to be a rat or just plain wind.
     The setting is suitably dreary and disgusting. So much so, in fact, that I felt filthy just watching the screen. Here's what I hold against this movie: 1)gore substitutes genuine fright and 2)the characters are so undeveloped that you don't feel much sympathy for whoever is at the receiving end of the chainsaw.  They keep trumpeting this as being based on actual events. What happened, some clumsy fool hacked off a limb with a chainsaw and then Hollywood took some liberties telling the tale?  Not too good, but stupid fun, nonetheless. What else can be expected when a former music video director (Michael Bay) is producing and another (Marcus Nispel) is directing? Its a remake of Tobe Hooper's classic (some might say) and may result in lots of unnecessary sequels.

Rating:  TWO STARS

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Kill Bill: Volume 1
a la The Flixter

         Uma Thurman, known simply as The Bride, wakes from a coma and gets to work on putting the pieces together. There was a bloody massacre on her wedding day and everybody was slaughtered (and I mean SLAUGHTERED). She was left for dead as well, but here she is four years later. She was pregnant at the time, so even her unborn child is no more. It turns out, she was part of a deadly assassin group known as the DiVAS and all her former partners had a hand in her killing. Their boss was Bill, unseen but voiced by David Carradine. She awakens from the coma just in time to dispose of the pervert who gets to have his way with comatose females....and the blood bath begins. \
        The first colleague she tracks down is played by Vivica A. Fox, who is now leading a suburban life as a wife and mother. That turns violent. Of course, Tarantino is not about to tell a story in a straight forward manner. We skip around and see how Bill had tried to dispose of The Bride while she was in the hospital. Pretty soon, she is off to Japan to track down one of her former colleagues, O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), who is heading the underworld in those parts. But first, she gets in touch with a samurai master so he can craft her a sword. The confrontation that results is just plain awesome.  I am not a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino; he's good but not that good----until now.
         The film is being heavily touted as Quentin Tarantino's fourth film. And, boy, was it a film. The fight scenes are so incredibly awesome and gory. The part where The Bride has to face off with dozens of samurai assassins is just unbelievably incredible and let's not forget the incredibly great soundtrack that accompanies all the action. Plus there is a whole part that is animated (Japanese style), and gives us a little glimpse into Ishii's origins. And the final utterance from the unseen Bill just makes the anticipation for Volume Two that much stronger.  Unbelievably awesome movie. Now that I think about it, we never really  find out who The Bride was supposed to be marrying, but who cares.        

Rating:  FIVE STARS

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School Of Rock
a la The Flixter

         Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is a rock 'n' roll guy, but he is getting old and his dreams of forming a great rock band are still unattained. He has been mooching off a friend, and the friend's girlfriend wants this bum out of the place.  Plus, his passion for going into guitar solos during the band practice gets him kicked out of the band.  It happens that one day, while lying around the house, he answers the phone. Its the agency that gives his friend substitute teacher jobs. They have one open, and out of nowhere, Dewey accepts the job, impersonating his friend. The job is at an elementary prep school; Dewey goes in and basically bums around in front of the kids, some of whom are actually pretty passionate about their education. One day, when the kids go for their music class, Dewey strolls by the room and sees the kids playing their instruments. Why not start a band with these kids? So he gets the kids to start playing the instruments of rock. The room is sound proofed and the music goes on. All the kids are given their respective jobs, as players or as technical support. Security is established to keep an eye out for the principal (Joan Cusack). All eyes are set on the upcoming Battle of the Bands. The name is established, appropriately, as School of Rock.
        This was not a good movie; it was an absolutely GREAT movie. Jack Black stole the movie from John Cusack in the great High Fidelity and here he is just great working with his young co-stars. Joan Cusack is great, as always, as the very stuck up principal. Plus the soundtrack is awesome as hell, featuring some classics from AC/DC, Led Zepplin, and The Clash. I am also a music geek, so I loved the movie for its sights and sounds. An absolutely great time.        

Rating:  FIVE STARS

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Out Of Time
a la The Flixter

         Matthias (Matt) Whitlock (Denzel Washington) is the chief of police in some Florida county. He is separated from his wife and has to carry on by having an affair with a married woman.  This woman, Ann-Marie (Sanaa Lathan), has an abusive husband (Dean Cain) which always helps in justifying marital infidelities.  Matt learns that Ann has cancer and will die unless she gets some life-saving surgery. The only problem is that the surgery will cost a bundle, but Chief Whitlock happens to be in supervision of a huge amount of cash that he got from some drug-dealers and is holding for the DEA. --- What to do? --- His love needs life-saving surgery; she doesn't have the money. He does but its not really his; a mere technicality. So he takes the money and gives it to her. The plan is to meet back at his place; she doesn't show. Her house goes up in flames and two charred bodies are found. The DEA decides to come for the money.  Chief Whitlock is in a major poop-hole. That about does it..... Oh yeah, the homicide detective investigating the house burning is the Chief's ex-wife, played by Eva Mendes(looking hot as ever).
          And the title of the movie kicks in as the chief tries to find out what the heck is actually going on. Another complication is that Ann had named Whitlock as the beneficiary on her million dollar life-insurance policy. And there's also an old lady who saw him snooping around the house before it went up in flames (that part is absolutely HILARIOUS).
         The movie was absolutely awesome. I LOVED it. Denzel Washington is as great as always and its good to see director Carl Franklin returning to the top of the game after the horrible High Crimes. And Eva Mendes is lookin' great (I think I said that already). There is a twist towards the end that the movie could have dealt with in a better way but its still good.  As a whole, the movie was extremely rewarding..        

Rating:  FIVE STARS

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The Rundown
a la The Flixter

         Beck (The Rock) longs to be a chef. He wants to open his own restaurant and do the dishes, which he has been jotting down in his little note pad, but that day will come when he has enough money. Until then he has to raise the money by going around as a debt collector. His hulking personality comes in handy as he goes around busting heads and getting people to pay up. However, Beck is also a gentleman, so he always gives the people the option to pay easily or else he needs to get violent. Of course, no one takes the easy way and he has to get forceful.
        His big score comes when he is offered a chance to go to Brazil and bring back a client's son. The son, Travis (Sean William Scott) is in some little mining village on a quest of his own to find an almost mythological artifact. The town, by the way, is run by a sadistic Christopher Walken, who employs (or enslaves) the residents in an equally sadistic fashion. Beck finds him and runs into all kinds of trouble trying to bring back the very reluctant son. Meanwhile, there is some romantic tension involving the local barmaid/freedom-fighter trainer played by a very good Rosario DawsonWalken has a huge militia behind him which results in some great action involving Beck, who refuses to use guns but finds other ways to bust heads.  There is one scene, involving Walken's analogy of a tooth fairy and the  two guys who have made off with his possession, that is so incredibly hilarious because it needs translation for the slave labor to understand.
        Did I like this movie? I absolutely loathe wrestling and its players who have turned
the orgy of simulated violence into a family affair. But this movie was such incredible fun that I can't believe I loved it.
The Rock is looking to be the next action hero. He has the moves and even gets a pat on the back from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who pops in for a quick cameo to tell the new hero to have fun. And fun he has. And you will too if you just let yourself to be strung along. Absolute fun..

Rating:  FIVE STARS

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Underworld
a la The Flixter

         The war between vampires and werewolves has been going on for thousands (or was it hundreds?) of years.  I am not really sure when this movie takes place, but we are dropped into the middle of this battle.  Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a vampire roaming the streets in a black leather-type suit right out of The Matrix.  She and her vampire friends are fending off the opposing werewolves.  In comes Scott Speedman's ditzy human, who is being pursued by the werewolves.  She saves him and is plunged into trying to find out why the wolves are in such eager pursuit of this guy.  Meanwhile, there is a power struggle going on among the vampires. The vampire elder (Bill Nighy), who has been napping for a few hundred years, is brought back by Selene for assistance. (It turns out that he also doubles as a father figure for Selene.) The guy who had his eyes set to reign over the vampires is not so happy with this return. So poor Selene is forced to fight the werewolves while trying to keep her composure among the throngs of vampires getting restless.
         Vampire movies, in my opinion, have fared better than werewolf movies.  Mainly because the transformation sequences in werewolf movies haven't been that impressive. The best werewolf movie, though not that great, has to be The Howling. Beyond that, they have been pretty cheesy, even when Stephen King adapted his own novel in the form of Silver Bullet. Vampires are easier to do - just give them a pair of pointy teeth and a cape, if necessary, and you have a vampire movie, set to go. But the wolves in this movie are pretty good; vicious and ferocious. The only problem is that in a movie populated mostly by monsters, and not too many humans, there isn't much left for scares. The human element is what instigates the scares, hence no humans, no scares.  Are you going to root for the blood suckers or the big vicious dogs? Get my point? But the movie is pretty amazing to look at.  (And Ms. Beckinsale isn't too hard on the eyes either.)  Not a bad movie, but not that great either..

Rating:  THREE STARS

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Cold Creek Manor
a la The Flixter

         Cooper Tilson (Dennis Quaid) is a documentary film-maker. His wife, Leah (Sharon Stone), is a corporate something or other. They have two young kids, a son and daughter, and this perfect little family is living in NYC.  But things are too hectic there and the point is hammered in, when the son almost becomes a victim of a car accident.  So they pack up and move to the country where they buy a huge house (re: the title) and start doing their renovations. The house is a bank foreclosure and needs lots of work and they get right to it. 
         In comes the house's previous owner, Dale Massie (Stephen Dorff), who had been doing time for a crime that is never really clarified. He wants to help the family with the work and they reluctantly agree. Of course the guy is a nut job and starts making things difficult by creeping everyone out, especially the daughter who becomes a target of his advances. Since his origins are questionable, Cooper does some investigating which includes contacting the elder Massie living (barely) in a nursing home. Much disturbing information is revealed....
        When the movie ended and the lights came on, someone in the theatre was clapping.  Meanwhile, somebody else yelled out "Refund!" I wanted to slap the former and hug the later because this movie had totally sucked. Dennis Quaid is a fine actor (watch Frequency) but not in this; Sharon Stone is okay but even less here --- and Stephen Dorff seems to be trying to corner the market on trashy and hackneyed villains. Let's not forget that the director here is Mike Figgis who directed Nicolas Cage to an Oscar with Leaving Las Vegas.  I managed to stick around for the ending and that was nothing redemptive. Just a hurried attempt to pile on some twists as a cover-up for a horrible movie.

Rating:  ONE STAR

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Once Upon A Time in Mexico
a la The Flixter

         El Mariachi is back. El (Antonio Banderas), as his late wife used to call him, is still walking around Mexico, slinging his guitar case. This time the guitar case actually contains a guitar, instead of all the ammo he used to carry. But that doesn't last for too long. In comes Johnny Depp's CIA man who has been looking for the legendary Mariachi. There are plans to assassinate the president of Mexico and El's help is needed; reluctantly he goes along. Partially because this will bring him face to face with the evil army general that killed his beloved Carolina (Salma Hayek) and their young child (I forgot if it was a son or daughter).
      The guy who wants the prez dead is Willem Dafoe's evil drug lord. But El has to bring in his two partners who also carry guitar cases that are actually a rocket launcher and flame thrower. Depp gets his eyes gouged out and must use a young boy selling gum on the streets as his guide. There are many, many characters. There's Mickey Rourke's American fugitive hiding out in Mexico; there's Ruben Blade's former CIA agent. The list goes on and on. All I know is that director Robert Rodriguez is talented as all heck. He writes the movie; he directs; he edits; he even has a hand in the score. He made El Mariachi for a mere $7,000. Once that became a hit (how could a movie that cost that little not generate a profit), he was on his way. He got a thousand times that ($7 million in case you are reaching for a calculator) to make Desperado. He is behind the Spy Kids movies; the guy has major skills.  But the movie is a little too complicated. Not like Desperado which was just blow-'em-up fun. But there is loads of action and quite a few laughs.  But once again, a little too complex....

Rating:  FOUR STARS

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Matchstick Men
a la The Flixter

         Roy (Nicolas Cage) and Frank (Sam Rockwell) have a nice little business going ---- conning people out of their money, by selling them bogus products with promises of a big payoff.  Roy also suffers from a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder which makes him extremely obsessed with keeping things clean; he is also afraid of going outdoors.  But his shrink hooks him up with medication that helps him along; the shrink also urges him to gain contact with a child Roy thinks he has fathered, since his wife left him while she was still pregnant.  The child turns out to be a daughter who is fourteen year old Alison Lohman ( of White Oleander ); she enters his life and some major adjustments are needed on Roy's part.
        Once she finds out that her dad is a con-man (or con artist as he likes to refer to it), she wants to learn the tricks of the trade too.  At first dad is a bit apprehensive but soon realizes that she could be a very productive ally. Their big score is to con some big-wig out of a whole load of cash which is a change of pace from their usual petty crimes. The game is on and the big score is near. 
       That is about all that can be given away. The movie seems to be a light hearted comic, caper but the director here is Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator) so you know that things are bound to get dark. The performances are great, especially Cage, and the final pay off is extremely satisfying. The kind of fare you might expect from the master of confidence capers David Mamet. I loved it.

Rating:  FIVE STARS

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The Order
a la The Flixter

         A young priest Alex (Heath Ledger) is investigating the mysterious death of his mentor, an excommunicated priest. This brings him in contact with Eden, the sin-eater. That is some mythological being who has been around for thousands of years, but manages to look as young as the protagonist. In this case, the sin-eater ends up being the supernatural villain. Like the name says, he eats up people's sins and does God-knows-what.  Also back in the picture, is Mara (some hottie), who was in a mental institution since she tried to kill Alex during some exorcism ceremony.
       The movie does a lot of globe hopping in pursuit of this evil sin-eater.  Of course, Mara puts up some theological challenge for the young priest sworn to celibacy.  An hour and a half into the movie I looked at my watch to see what time it was -- turned out that I had only been watching the movie for thirty-something minutes. Yes, that is how slow this movie was and all the over-complicated theological banter was just more of a sleep inducing narcotic.
       I really didn't like this movie at all. I just managed to stay around for another half hour or so. Then I left. Totally sucked. The previews and credits showed so much potential for an intriguing religiously-themed supernatural thriller. Heck, I am just making up stuff now since I can't even tell you what this mess was really about. My apologies....

Rating:  ZERO STARS

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JEEPERS CREEPERS 2
a la The Flixter

         So this is how it goes: every 23 years, the Creeper thingee gets 23 days to feed on human flesh. Why? I don't really know. The origins of the thing are kind of iffy. Anyway, I can't believe that it has been 23 years since I saw the first Jeeper Creepers. Actually, it hasn't been that long. But in movie studio timings, time really flies.  So the Creeper is back and he has gone on a feeding frenzy once again.
         The opening is pretty cool as we see a farmer putting up scarecrows in his cornfield. His two sons are helping, when one finds a scarecrow that is not that inanimate, which is the Creeper and he makes of with the younger son. You see, the Creeper is actually a gargoyle-type monster. So it has wings and can fly around with his prey. The dad is, of course, distraught and becomes obsessed with getting this thing that made off with his son. So he turns his pickup truck into a hunting wagon with a harpoon-type gun mounted on the back and becomes the Ahab of dry ground.  Meanwhile, a school bus is returning from a football game and is disabled by the Creeper on a lonely stretch of highway. The Creeper starts knocking off the passengers as part of his 23 year ritual. Since the bus is coming from a football game, the passengers are either cheerleaders or football players. The adults are quickly eliminated and the kids have to fight on their own......and so it goes.  The kids manage to get in touch with the farmer and they all join forces to fight this thing. For some reason, one of the cheerleaders keeps getting these psychic visions which tell her about their stalker and how to fight him.
          I really liked the first one. But this one is just overkill. And guess who produced this? Francis Ford Copolla's American Zoetrope Films. If the studio was smart they would advertise the film as follows: FROM PRODUCER FRANCIS FORD COPOLLA, THE OSCAR-WINNING DIRECTOR OF THE GODFATHER TRILOGY AND APOCALYPSE NOW, COMES JEEPERS CREEPERS 2.   He is not the director but people would come see this expecting something esteem-able and not just gore galore.  Many would be disappointed but its not like movie studios have to give refunds to unsatisfied audience. If that was the case, I'd be a lot richer.   Anyway, go rent the first one.  Its a lot better..

Rating:  TWO STARS

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The Medallion
a la The Flixter

         Eddie Yang (Jackie Chan), as a Hong Kong cop, is responsible for helping Interpol nab a bad guy. One knows that the bad guy is bad, since his name is Snakehead (cheesiness to the extreme) --- and guess what? Snakehead (Julian Sands) wants world domination. To go about getting that, he needs the medallion of the title, which is in the possession of some young kid in a monastery. So Eddie ends up babysitting the boy after the temple gets raided by the villains. His only help is a klutzy Interpol agent (Lee Evans) and his partner played by Claire Forlani. Eddie dies while protecting the kid, and is brought back to life by the kid and the magical medallion; now Eddie has super powers --- now he can really kick ass.
       If this sounds like a good movie, then I must apologize, because it is not. I am a pretty huge Jackie Chan fan and hate to say that this movie totally sucked. The fight scenes, choreographed by Sammo Hung (another Hong Kong favorite of mine) are so badly edited and lit, that you will be lost if you try to follow them.  The action is not that thrilling and the comedy is not that funny. No wonder this movie has been sitting around for two years. (And we never really find out how Evans' wife, an ordinary housewife, manages to pop in, kick lots of ass, and then disappear from the movie.)  Very sorry, Jackie, but this movie makes The Tuxedo look like a masterpiece.

Rating: 1/2 A STAR (for those couple of smirks).

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Freddy vs. Jason
a la The Flixter

         Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) has lost his popularity; nobody even remembers him. The only way that he can make a comeback is by instilling fear in people again and regaining his fame.  So how does he go about doing that?  Well, he can get the other famous one, Jason Voorhees, to go on a rampage again --- and maybe that will get people to start recalling Freddy Krueger, so he does just that.
       Right smack in the center of this mess is teen hottie Lori.  Her boyfriend, who she thinks has split without notice, has been in a mental institution, where they are trying to make people forget about Krueger; he comes back as does Jason, and the blood bath begins.  The only problem is that Jason just starts hacking away on his own and not leaving much for Freddy. This starts a competitive combat between the two. The only way the kids have of getting rid of both fiends, is to have them face off against each other. That's a problem, since Jason is in the real world and Freddy does his deeds in the dream world --- so they have to get Freddy out of the dreams and into the real world.  I think that is enough about the plot......
       The movie was really cool.  The only problem is that it doesn't really have too much in the scares department, however, there is a load of blood.   I don't really care much about either guy but in terms of favorites, I like the Friday the 13th movies more than the Nightmare ones.   (And its not because I have a friend who shares the same last name as Jason.) The first Nightmare was good, then it just became banal.  At least with Friday the 13th, there were all those cool, hack-em up death scenes.  There were people at the screening with t-shirts showing their respective favorites and lots of cheering when both came to the face-off moment. Could this be the end? As I recall there were also Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. As long as there's money to be made, those two will never die and I don't care. As long as they keep entertaining with their massacres and its good to have a director like Ronny Yu handling the affair. Check out his Hong Kong classic The Bride With White Hair (subtitled and not dubbed)..

Rating: THREE & 1/2 STARS.

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S.W.A.T.
a la The Flixter

         Jimmy Street (Colin Farrell) gets booted from LAPD's SWAT(Special Weapons and Tactics) after a little foul up, that saves a life, but results in a lawsuit against the city. Six months later Sergeant Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson) is given orders to put together a new team. His picks are Deacon Kay (LL Cool J), Boxer (Brian Van Holt), Chris Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez), TJ (Josh Charles), and Street. The movie goes into training camp mode as we see the recruits polish their skills.  Then Olivier Martinez's Alex Montel gets pulled over for a busted tail light. When they run his records, they find out that he is actually a mega-criminal wanted by many nations.  As he is being escorted by the police, he tells the many news cameras present that he will give 100 million dollars to whoever gets him out of there. People find out that he is from a rich-ass family and all hell breaks lose as everybody with a gun tries to set him free. And it is the SWAT team's job to escort him to his incarceration.
       The movie's tag line, "Even cops dial 911" says everything about it. It is an absolutely kick-ass spectacle that action fans dare not miss. With 100 million dollars as reward, even the escorts start getting second thoughts. Who becomes the traitor? I won't say but if it sounds like your type of flick, then definitely check it out. It delivers what it promises. I love action movies and this wasn't an exception. Very kick ass. And its good to see the great Samuel L. Jackson returning to greatness after the stinky Basic.

PS: Its based on some TV series of long ago..

Rating: FIVE STARS.

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Seabiscuit
a la The Flixter

         The stock market crashes and the country is hurled into the Great Depression. The Pollards give their son up to a family that will
provide better for him. A few years later,
Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) is still longing for his family.  He manages to find a father figure in the form of Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), who is an auto magnate, now deep into horse racing. What brings the two together is Seabiscuit, a wild horse that Pollard manages to tame --- and Pollard is the only one who can ride that horse. He does so and is quite successful as a jockey.  The horse is too small and the jockey is too big but together they work wonders. The ultimate goal is to take on War Admiral, an equally successful horse on the opposite coast.  As the face off nears, the movie delivers some of the most exciting race scenes on screen. Oscar winner Chris Cooper is absolutely great as the horse's trainer and William H. Macy is equally great as a radio commentator covering the races.  I have never been to a race track but loved this movie. It may be too soon to say, but this has to be very close to being one of the best movies of the year.

Rating: FIVE STARS.

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Lara Croft Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life
a la The Flixter

         Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) returns for some more adventures; she would be the bodacious heroine based on the video game of the same title.  What she does is pretty much the equivalent of robbing graves, but the graves here are ancient tombs, and the robbing is more like unearthing exotic treasures that happen to be in those tombs. Here, the quest is to find Pandora's Box, as we commoners know it. But its not that easy, since an evil corporate guy is also bent on finding the box for his own purposes. First Lara has to get an old flame (Gerard Butler) out of prison for help. He happily tags along, however, he seems more keen on getting Lara back in the sack than finding the box.  There are many exotic locales as the hunt takes them through Africa. The action is pretty wild and the special effects just as good, but despite all that, the movie manages to remain un-involving.
        Jolie sports a pretty good English accent while kicking lots of ass. But like I just said, it is very un-involving and pretty damn boring. If you are in this kind of mood, nothing beats any of those Indiana Jones movies. Heck, even the B-movie treatment of King Solomon's Mines with Richard Chamberlain is better than this piece of crap.  I just don't get the desperation these movie execs display by turning to video games for inspiration.

Rating: ONE STAR.

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Bad Boys II
a la The Flixter

         Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Lowrey (Will Smith) return to fight crime in Miami. This time around they have to get the guys bringing loads of the club drug Ecstasy into their turf. The tone of the movie is set when they are chasing a truck loaded with cars. The truckers, bad guys of course, start dumping those cars at their pursuers in order to slow them down. The only thing is that they are all going down a pretty busy highway. That scene alone is absolutely awesome as a spectacular demolition derby ensues and the heroes prove that they can't be slowed down --- no, really.  Action fans will get their moneys worth. Once past that, the movie slows down a bit and relies mostly on comic mishaps as the two near their target.  Along comes Burnett's sister, a DEA agent, also on the same case. He is overly protective of the sister in gigolo Lowrey's presence, unaware that the two have already had a fling. The great Peter Stormaire is pretty wasted in a petty role as a Russian mobster and, of course, there's a scene in which Martin Lawrence goes berserk while under the influence (unintentionally) of Ecstasy. ( Or when one partner accidentally shoots the other in the behind.)
          There are plenty of laughs and plenty of ka-booms. The only thing that I am really glad about is that director Michael Bay has abandoned some of the many slo-mo action scenes that unnecessarily filled the first movie.
          All fun, but nothing different.

Rating: THREE & 1/2 STARS.

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
a la The Flixter

         Alan Quatermain (Sean Connery) is living in Africa when the Queen summons him for some help. Reluctantly, he returns to help queenie, in a way to avoid a war that will engulf the entire globe. The year is 1899, by the way, and the League starts forming under a British Intelligence officer, simply named M (an homage to Bond, I guess). The other members are the immortal Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde's creation), The Invisible Man, Captain Nemo (from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), the vampiress Mina Murray (from Dracula), Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and the American rifleman, Tom Sawyer. I think that about does it. The villain is simply known as the Fantom and
he is planning on destroying Venice, which will ignite the war.  It is up to the
League to stop him before that happens. Captain Nemo provides the transportation in his sub, which looks a little too big. There are some pretty amazing special effects, especially when Dr.
Jekyll's
alter-ego emerges as a behemoth Mr. Hyde. That is pretty awesome, but is it enough to redeem a cheesy, quasi-super-hero-type movie that sinks under its own aspirations? I didn't think so. In fact, I was pretty bored and couldn't believe I sat through the whole thing. Sean Connery USED to be so great. Well, he's seventy-something now and, I guess he's going a little senile, making (and Executive Producing) a piece of crap like this. Very good special effects though.....
.

Rating: 1/2 STAR.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
a la The Flixter

        Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is a has been. He was a pirate until his mutinous crew abandoned him on some island, and left with all his loot.  When he makes his entrance, he doesn't even have a ship, but let's go back to the beginning.
       A young Elizabeth saves a young boy adrift on a plank.  While she does that with the help of her shipmates, pirates board their vessel and do their thing. All is lost, but Elizabeth gets a gold coin that was hanging around the boy's neck. In the future, she has grown into the gorgeous Keira Knightley and her father (Jonathan Pryce) wants her to marry a newly promoted officer in his regime. The young boy that she helped rescue, Will Turner, is now played by Orlando Bloom. He is still pining for her, however he is just a blacksmith. His chance comes when a pirate ship attacks the town where they are, and makes off with Elizabeth. They (the pirates) want that gold coin and their ship is the infamous Black Pearl, which was once captained by Sparrow. Now their captain is Geoffrey Rush's nasty Barbossa. So Will teams with Sparrow, a motley crew is put together, and the pursuit of the Black Pearl begins.  Why is that gold coin so eagerly wanted by so many?  The previews may have given away some of the details but I won't ruin it for you.  All I know is that it was one hell of a ride.
       Johnny Depp, channeling Keith Richards (from what I hear), is absolutely great. Everyone is great. Geoffrey Rush is absolutely loathsome. And Keira Knightley is absolutely gorgeous (I think I said that before). And there's the whole supernatural element to the quest. Lots of action and everything else you'd expect from a summer movie.  The only thing that bothers me is how it is based on the Disney theme-park ride of the same name. For me, the only thing that the movie and the ride have in common is the name. How you can associate these two entirely different experiences is beyond me.  But who cares.   It was all fun and actually better than that ride.

Rating: FIVE STARS.

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Terminator 3- Rise of the Machines
a la The Flixter

        In the first Terminator, John Connor was conceived. In the second Terminator, John Connor was a teenager and now in T3, JC (get it??) is 23 years old, and he is still wanted dead by the machines of the future. He is living like a homeless person; consequently, breaking into a vet clinic, he manages to get some drugs that help him along. That's where he meets Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), who happens to be a vet that young John went to school with and had a crush on.  But then an assassin from the future arrives, to get rid of this future leader of the war against the machines. This time its a TX model, in female form, played by Kristianna Loken (thank God). She arrives and gets started on her hunt, destroying whatever lays in her path, equipped with an arm that is a chainsaw/machine-gun/missile launcher/you-name-it. Of course, the good guys from the future, also send back someone to defend Connor (Nick Stahl).  That would be Arnold Schwarzenegger's T 101, a model not as high tech as the TXThe arrival is hilarious, as he tries to get some clothes and his signature sun-glasses.  It happens that Kate's dad is the head of SkyNet, the military off-shoot, that is ultimately responsible for the fall of humanity and the rise of the machines. So he must be contacted and made aware of what he is unwittingly bringing about.  And the action begins....
       The movie was absolutely awesome. The action scenes are so over the top and, umm, actiony that you will get way more than your money's worth --- one kaboom after another ---and the ending is just so damn great. I loved it. Its good to see Arnie doing what we like to see him doing; more action and less acting.

Rating: FIVE STARS.

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Charlies Angels - Full Throttle
a la The Flixter

        A pair of decoder rings is stolen that contain the real identities of everyone on the witness protection list. So Charlie's Angels are called in to retrieve them. That would be Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore), and Alex (Lucy Liu). From then on, its one over the top action set-piece, one after another. But before any of that happens, there's a really over the top intro where the Angels' have to rescue a fellow spy. The Angels' still get their orders from a voice box. Their human contact is Bosley. In the first movie, Bosley was played by Bill Murray. Here, Bernie Mac steps in as Murray's brother (adopted). The arch-nemesis here is Demi Moore's fallen angel Madison. She used to work for Bosley but just got tired of getting her orders from a speaker phone. And John Cleese is also there as Alex's father who is in the dark about his daughter's profession. That provides a few comic moments but even they run out of gas before the movie is done.
         The director, once again, is McG. He used to be a music video director and it is obvious, from watching this, how he got big in that field. There is loads of flashy editing and a loud soundtrack to accompany that action. But most of the action here is computer generated. Oh yeah, there is also a very small cameo from Bruce Willis.
        Not much to write about. All I know is that I have to dig through my cds and find the White Zombie cd that has Thunderkiss '65 on it. Its part of the very good soundtrack here and I haven't heard that in a pretty looong time........

P.S. There's also a small cameo from one of the original
Angels, Jaclyn Smith.

Rating: TWO STARS.

_______________________________________

28 Days Later
a la The Flixter

        Animal rights activists break into an animal testing lab to free the subjects of the experiments that are being conducted there. One of the scientists there tells them that the monkeys they are about to free, have been infected with a deadly virus. They don't listen and free those monkeys anyway. One of the monkeys attacks its liberator and the consequences are nastily gory. The liberators realize what they have done, but its too late. 
        Twenty eight days later, Jim (Cilian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital bed. He had come there for an accident or something, and doesn't know anything that has gone on during his medicated slumber. The hospital is abandoned....  There isn't a soul around.... He stumbles around and walks out into the London streets; there isn't a soul there either. Streets are strewn with garbage; cars are in disarray and there's a double-decker bus lying on its side.  Dazed and confused, he continues his exploration. He finds a priest by a church, but the padre just lurches and attacks him - two people come, save him, and dispose of the priest in a very violent fashion. Then they tell him what has happened. It turns out that everybody has died as a result of the infection unleashed by those liberated simians and the dead are walking around killing those that were spared from the infection. There aren't too many of the later. These two survivors are just glad to see a third who is not infected, but the number drops to two again when one of the rescuers is infected and has to be hacked up. So Jim and Selena (Naomie Harris) have to team up and look for a way out. Their search for answers leads them to two other survivors, Frank (a great Brendan Gleeson) and his young daughter Hannah. The four unite and head for a location that is supposed to have more survivors. That location turns out to be a small outfit headed by an army Major and his platoon of survivors. They are all male and the introduction of the two females brings further complications. But the quest for hope continues. The living dead over here are not the sleep-walking zombies like the ones in George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. They are fast and vicious, which results in some very brutal confrontations. Danny Boyle does a great job directing this horror flick which is hugely different from his other movies (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, etc.).
       There are many jumpy scenes, but in the end its all about hope. Very bloody. Very disgustingly gory, but also very good.

Rating: FIVE STARS.

_______________________________________

Alex & Emma
a la The Flixter

        Alex Sheldon (Luke Wilson) is a writer in trouble. He owes a lot of money to the mob and has only thirty days to come up with it. His first novel was a moderate success and his editor will give him the money, if he can put something on his desk.  He starts writing and discovers that he is suffering from a severe case of writer's block whenever he sits at his typewriter.  So he decides to hire a stenographer that he can tell the story to; in walks Emma (Kate Hudson) who thinks she is applying at a law office. She is about to walk out on the prospective employer, but he wins her over with his tale of woe.  She stays and the novel begins. Its a romance set in the 1920s and we go back and forth between the novelist telling his ode to romantic disarray, and the world of the novel as it is being told.  But things keep getting changed around since Emma, the stenographer, keeps giving her input about what the reader would expect from a romance novel.
       Luke Wilson plays the protagonist of the novel's world as well; there he is a language teacher teaching English to a French widow's children.  (He is also trying to capture that widow's heart.) He has plenty of competition there, since the widow (Sophie Marceau) has money. Kate Hudson does a great job as she pops up in the novel's world as quite a few characters. So the novel is being created, as the author and stenographer start falling for each other.  It starts to become obvious to Emma that there are quite a few parallels between the author and his work. There are plenty of laughs and some great performances from the two leads especially Kate Hudson, who plays a few roles and Alex's editor is played by the director Rob Reiner (Meathead from All in the Family).  Yes, I am a wuss but I enjoyed it.

Rating: FOUR STARS.

_______________________________________

The Hulk
a la The Flixter

        Scientist Dave Banner is toying with nature in the late '60s. His fooling around, for an ultimately noble cause --- as he says ---- goes so far, that he doesn't even spare his newborn baby boy.  But the Army cracks down on him. His wife dies (under circumstances that are explained much later in the film) and he is sent off to prison.
        Flash forward thirty years. Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) is working on some scientific stuff of his own. He has no clue about his origins; all that happened when he was four years old is, maybe, a part of his sub-consciousness. He lives alone in his apartment, works long hours in his lab, and pines for one of his colleagues, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly). That all changes one day when he is heroically, but accidentally, subjected to some radiation. No one, including him, can understand how he managed to live through the catastrophe. But the radiation brings out what his father had implanted in him as a little baby.  When he gets angry then.... boy, does he get angry.  He becomes a giant hulk, or as the title says, The Hulk. He has some super super strengths and he can leap giant distances that would almost equal flying. (Of course he doesn't understand what has happened in the periods that he has been spacing-out.)  But he learns to harness what has been inside him and Dad returns in the form of a very grizzled looking, Nick Nolte. Daddy's got some ulterior motives of his own for the son.  And Betty's dad, the Army General who was responsible for putting away Pop, enters the picture to take care of this new threat. Meanwhile, there's a group of people after the green giant so they can capture him alive and use him for their purposes. 
      Watching this movie was a pretty strange experience. Having seen the previews, I wasn't too crazy about watching a CGI generated hero pouncing the sidewalks. But I liked the movie in the beginning, then when all the special effects hit, I wasn't too crazy about it. But when the movie ended, I was pretty sure I loved it.
        There's a human side to all that's going on. The whole bit about suppressed anger and a potential love for the young Mr. Banner. The Hulk here is completely computer generated, as compared to the TV series where Bill Bixby played Banner and Lou Ferrigno (who has a small cameo) played the Hulk. There are some pretty wild action scenes as the Hulk takes on fighter jets and tanks and what not. They look cheesy in the previews but were not that bad after all.  Eric Bana is very good, while Jennifer Connelly is great and gorgeous. Sam Elliot as the General dad is pretty good and Nick Nolte as the nutty father is just as well.  I can't believe I loved it.

Rating: FIVE STARS.

_______________________________________

Hollywood Homicide
a la The Flixter

        There's a shootout at a very happening hip-hop club. When the smoke clears, an up and coming hip-hop star, along with a couple of other folks, are found dead.  In comes LAPD's finest to investigate what has happened. Of course, there's the mismatched pair of detectives; in this case its the older, jaded Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) and the young KC Calden (Josh Hartnett). Once the premise is set, a very standard buddy-movie materializes. Joe has been there and seen it all; KC is a new-age type who thinks philosophically and practices yoga on the side. ( Oh yeah, he also teaches yoga.) I don't think there is much more to say about this movie beyond that.
        I am a huge fan of Monty Python. When I saw Eric Idle in the beginning as a man accused of soliciting a prostitute, I got my hopes up, but that only lasted a few seconds.  After that, this movie becomes such standard tripe, that if it wasn't for laziness, I would have walked out of the theater. There are a few smirks towards the end during an over-long ( and I mean OVER ) chase, as the two cops pursue their suspects. Harrison Ford is (or was) such a great actor. Here he is just plain wasted and he's not the only one. Lena Olin, as his potential romance is wasted.  Bruce Greenwood, as an internal affairs investigator, is wasted. Its all a big waste.  Let's not forget the money I wasted.  Absolutely HORRIBLE movie.
 

Rating: 1/2 STAR.

_______________________________________

Dumb And Dumberer
a la The Flixter

         Did you ever wonder how Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne met? (Those would be the dim-witted heroes of Dumb and Dumber). Well, in case that was the question on your mind after watching that movie, here's the answer.
          In the original, Lloyd was Jim Carrey and Harry was Jeff Daniels. That movie was hilarious, and here we go back to 1980-something to see how the two met.  Lloyd lives in the school's basement with his father (Luis Guzman), who is a custodian there. Meanwhile, Harry has been home-schooled by his over-protective mother (Mimi Rogers). On their first day of real school, they literally bang into each other as each is running from his own problem.  A bond is formed and the two can't be parted. The school's principal (Eugene Levy) wants a grant from the state and the only way to do it is to have some special-ed classes. Looking out the window, he sees the two as perfect candidates to start the program. Lloyd and Harry are recruited to bring in more kids to further populate the special-ed class. The two get to work and bring in some normal students by tempting them with the privileges of being special: less studying, more fun, and no homework; and they're pretty damn good at it.  But the principal just wants the check, so he can run away to Hawaii with his girl-friend. A female reporter for the school paper sees that something is not right and gets on the case to expose the hidden motives behind the class. Of course, she turns to the two dim-wits for more on the expose. Lloyd is especially helpful, since his custodian father has all the keys in the school...... and the fun begins.  The two friends fight over the girl since both think that she's in love with them. Then Lloyd starts to think that Harry's mom has a thing for him because she gives him a goodnight kiss when he is staying over with his friend.
        I didn't think I would but I did find myself laughing pretty hard. Eric Christian Anderson plays the young Lloyd, while Harry is played by Derek Richardson. Both do a pretty good job of channeling their older counterparts.  There is plenty of gross-out stuff, but like I said before, it will make you laugh. Hopefully, if you go see this you will know what you're in for.

Rating: THREE and 1/2 STARS.

_______________________________________

2 Fast 2 Furious
a la The Flixter

         Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) used to be a cop. For some reason (from the first film) he was kicked off the force. Then one day, he gets a call from a friend. This friend organizes these late-night drag races on the empty streets. He needs a driver to fulfill the quota and Brian is the one who gets the call. Brian goes and  the race begins; it is an absolutely awesome, visceral spectacle.  But when it ends, cops arrive and Brian gets arrested. The only way out for him, is to help the US Customs Service bring in a money laundering big shot, Carter Verone. Of course, Brian agrees to do it if he can have the partner of his choosing. That would be Roman Pearce (Tyrese) a friend who hates Brian because he holds him responsible for sending him to jail for three years. But amends are made and the two join forces to bring down Carter in exchange for a clean set of records.
        There's already an undercover agent in Carter's den, and that would be Eva Mendes' super hot Monica. And the game is afoot.  There are many, many ultra-fast car chases. ( And there are also plenty of hot babes along the way.) I would have never expected this kind of movie from director John Singleton who has mostly done earnest affairs like Boyz N The Hood, Rosewood, and Baby Boy. But he shows here that he can also handle action, pretty well.  Don't expect depth in this one; expect escapist, action-galore and you will get it. Not much to write about, though. One demolition derby after another, but it was all fun.

Rating: THREE and 1/2 STARS.

_______________________________________

 

New Jersey movie reviews by the NJ's own " Flixter"..............

email: The Flixter@metrojersey.com

New Jersey movie reviews by the NJ's own " Flixter"..............

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