Movie Reviews

The Weather Man

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Artistically, this may be Gore Verbinski’s best film — certainly it’s his most ambitious and daring. And that in itself works against it in a twisted way with many film snobs crying out, “How dare this commercial filmmaker presume to tackle something weighty?” After this, they conclude that it’s not weighty at all, thereby proving […]

The Legend of Zorro

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Nothing’s sexier than a guy who knows how to handle a cape. If he also wears a black hat and high boots with silver spurs and rides a maniac black stallion that thinks it’s a gazelle — well, viva El Zorro! Antonio Banderas was born to play “The Fox,” the California folk hero who hides […]

Saw II

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I had the pleasant experience of seeing Saw II in pretty distinguished company, which included Don Mancini (the creator of the homicidal Chucky doll and writer-director of Seed of Chucky) and Barry Sandler (the writer-producer of the Ken Russell film Crimes of Passion). We tried to get Ken Russell to go with us, but he […]

Prime

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Everyone in Prime is in therapy, so they’re always chirping, “What are you feeling?” I’ll tell you what I’m feeling: I hate this movie. It’s pointless, self-absorbed, puerile and witless. Worse, this so-called romantic comedy is about as sexy as snoring. Climaxing its sins, it is so-o-o boring that a hapless critic has to perform […]

G

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I’ve no clue why anyone thought of turning F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby into something that might better be called Hip Hop in the Hamptons. Perhaps director and co-writer Christopher Scott Cherot thought that since no one had made a really successful film of the novel by approaching it in a straight manner (though […]

Charlie Chan in Paris

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When Fox Films ran out of novels to adapt for their immensely profitable series of relatively inexpensive mysteries featuring the Chinese detective, the studio hit upon the idea of sending the supposedly Honolulu-based sleuth on a run of globe-trotting adventures where he could solve murders in exotic locales — even if those locales actually never […]

Charlie Chan at the Opera

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Far and away the most popular of the Warner Oland Charlie Chan films, Charlie Chan at the Opera owes much of its success to the presence of guest star Boris Karloff (given special billing with “Warner Oland versus Boris Karloff”) as a deranged opera star and the undeniable horror element this adds, combined with atmospheric […]

Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams

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This late-in-the-day offering from Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa — with its compendium of stories drawn from the director’s own dreams — is undeniably uneven, owing to the fragmented structure. As is often the case with “portmanteau” films, it’s simply a case of some episodes being more interesting than others. Even that can be a subjective […]

Thumbsucker

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I thought the phrase “inspired by a true story” consisted of the most horrifying words I would encounter this weekend. That’s only because no one told me that “Music performed by the Polyphonic Spree” would be emblazoned on the opening credits of Thumbsucker. I know a lot of people hold a different point of view, […]

The Devil and Daniel Webster

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Perhaps the last great filmmaker of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” yet to be fully recognized, William Dieterle was a master stylist with an intensely personal style. He hit Hollywood in 1931 and immediately turned out the brilliant — and far too little known — The Last Flight, and followed it up with Her Majesty, Love, a […]

Stay

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It’s not surprising that Marc Forster’s Stay has taken a drubbing from many critics (though by no means all), nor that it has been less than enthusiastically greeted by audiences, who are not flocking to see it. The fact that Stay has been gathering dust on the shelves for some time, of course, indicated a […]

North Country

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The very fact that there’s nothing wrong with North Country may be what’s wrong with it. The film is so efficient at being exactly what it sets out to be that it could become the classic text for a filmmaking class called “Crafting the Message Picture 101″ (as well as a supplementary teaching aid for […]

Murderball

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Everybody’s talking about it. It’s won numerous awards and will probably get nominated for an Oscar, but this is the kind of movie that no one wants to see. We don’t really want to remember how fragile the human body is. Let’s pretend there’s no such thing as the statistical inevitability caused by sports, accidents, […]

Mardi Gras: Made in China

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First-time documentarian David Redmon takes an unusually cinema verite (well, with the addition of rather non-verite subtitles on occasion) approach to what would otherwise have been yet another dry-as-dirt, dull-as-ditchwater tract on the evils of globalization. Rather than preach on the topic, he allows his footage to speak for itself — crosscutting footage of Mardi […]

Kids in America

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Like North Country, which also opened this week, Kids in America is a fact-“inspired” picture with a message — but of a much more modest scale. Kids is low-budget, low-profile and a bit ragged, and it unfortunately trades on the fortunately very limited presence of Paris Hilton nemesis Nicole Richie in its cast. But I’d […]

Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story

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While you’re watching this movie and wiping the wayward tear, the full title keeps nagging — inspired by a true story, not based on a true story. You can’t help but wonder: Which parts of this movie should you pay attention to because their truths have meaning for your life and the lives of all […]

Doom

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How do you review a movie like Doom? Why even bother? Doom is exactly what you think it is — a noisy, gory, silly movie taken from a video game, populated with disposable cardboard characters running around corridors shooting guns and/or being chased and eaten by nasty monsters. You already know whether it’s on your […]

Word Wars

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As Word Wars proclaims, the game played in National Scrabble Association tournaments is “not your grandmother’s Scrabble.” And what a shame — according to this fascinating but ultimately unpleasant documentary about cutthroat Scrabble competition, grandmother’s game was a lot more fun. The Scrabble champions in Word Wars, most of them men, are unlikable, obsessive fanatics […]

The Fog

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I saw The Fog, a singularly pointless remake of John Carpenter’s fairly enjoyable 1980 ghost story, with one friend who can best be described in this context as a “jumper.” That’s to say that he’s an easy mark for a shock effect. Even the slightest such attempt will normally have him nearly leaping from his […]

Elizabethtown

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The first thing you encounter in Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown is a narration by Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) that discusses the difference between a failure and a fiasco — the idea being that anyone can fail, but that it takes a special type of person to create a fiasco. If that’s so, then Crowe himself is […]

Domino

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About a week ago, I changed the water in my aquarium. What a fool I was! I realize now I could have sold the thing to Tony Scott to shoot his next movie through. At least, I could have if he plans on making his next film look anything like Domino, which appears to have […]