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Thank You for Smoking (2005)
Pun Alert: Hilariously Addictive
Few movies actually compel me to take action after viewing it. Sideways made me want to brush up on my wine tasting knowledge; Harold and Kumar go to White Castle made me want to go to White Castle; and now we have another movie to add to the list. Thank You For Smoking. All right, it didn't really make me want to smoke
but it could have.
Thank You For Smoking is a satirical comedy that focuses on Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), a lobbyist for the Big Tobacco Companies. We meet Naylor on the Joan Lunden Show as he defends himself against two anti-smoking groups, Robin the Cancer Boy, and Lunden herself. Naylor keeps his cool as he turns and says, "It's in our best interest to keep Robin alive and smoking." We come to learn Nick Naylor is not only a god to the tobacco industry, but he's smart and attractive. "You know the guy who can pick up any girl? I'm him on crack." Nick's also divorced with a son, Joey. He loves his son and even brings him on business trips to Hollywood to bribe an ex-cigarette spokesman to keep him from speaking out against smoking. In the end, we see that Nick is actually a good guy who's just really good at his job. That, and it pays his mortgage. What looks to begin as a satirical comedy about an industry and one man, turns out to be a comedy about a man who's just trying to keep his job, his friends, and his family.
Thank You is based off the mid-90s book by Christopher Buckley. It was directed by Jason Reitman, who's made nothing of significance until now. However, his father, Ivan, is the director of my favorite movie of all time, Ghostbusters, which is a huge plus. Reitman handles the material very well in his adaptation to the screen. He's also pretty lucky to have gotten his first-choice actors for every role in his movie. And without knowing how the movie might have been with different actors, we can safely say that Reitman was blessed with his entire cast.
Aaron Eckhart has always been a good actor; you'd just never have known it because he hasn't been given much quality material to work with until now. He's great as the suave and smart Nick Naylor. However, what's probably most enjoyable about this film is its supporting cast. William H. Macy, J.K. Simmons, Katie Holmes, Maria Bello and David Koechner all help make this film one of the best indie films of the year.
And now to end my review with a shamelessly punny sentence; Thank You For Smoking is a hilariously addictive comedy.
The Amityville Horror (2005)
a well done remake in suit of Dawn of the Dead
Van Wilder's at it again, this time, he's in 1975 and trying to kill his family.
Last year, a re-make horror movie came out and actually stood its own ground. It retold the story, but still was able to stay somewhat original. I'm talking of course about last years, "Dawn of the Dead." This year's horror movie remake is from 1979's Amityville Horror. Ironically, the original came out the year after the original Dawn of the Dead, and now, the remakes are following in the same suit.
On November 14, 1974, a chilling murder was committed in a house off the coast of Long Island. The 6 members of the Defeo family were murdered in their sleep, only one member of the family survived, Ronald Defeo. Ronald Defeo later confessed to killing his family, claiming that demon voices commanded him to do so. This is the true story that "The Amityville Horror" is based on.
The movie then picks up a year after these murders with George and Kathy Lutz looking for a house to move their new family of 3 children into. They come across a house in Amityville off the coast of Long Island that's being sold for close to nothing. The house is meant to be their dream house, but this dream quickly turns into a nightmare, as strange things begin to happen to the family every morning at 3:15.
Ryan Reynolds, most known for his role as Van Wilder, takes on the role of George Lutz, a man determined to give his new family the dream life the deserve. I've always been a fan of Ryan Reynolds, dating back to his 2 guys, a girl, and a pizza place days, and I'm happy to say that Reynolds turns in a pretty acceptable performance. He is completely believable as the George. One might fear that his Van Wilder persona, might distract the audience from enjoying the film, however, Reynolds is able to make the character his own original creation. And yes he does get away with some very funny lines; with incredibly delivery of his lines. Alias's Melissa George plays Kathy Lutz, and also does a fine job with the character. The children in the movie serve their function quite nicely. They are scared out of their minds, and yes they are also creepy as hell.
One of the things that make Amityville succeed with its horror is the movie's truth value. The Defeo family was a real family, living in the real house. The Lutzes were a real family that moved into the Defeo house and only lasted 28 days there. The film packs in plenty of jumps that will make you laugh right afterwards at the fact that you got scared. The best thing about it is that it doesn't rely on CG at all. There is one instance in which they used CG for a flood of bees. Other than that, the horror of the film is based off good old-fashioned cinematography and mood of the film itself.
I'll admit that at moments, the film left me wanting more. Especially at the end, it didn't quite do it for me. While it doesn't stand on its own as much as last years Dawn of the Dead did, The Amityville Horror is still able to hold its own and becomes the 2nd horror re-make in a row to succeed. Amityville gets 4 stars (out of 5).
The Upside of Anger (2005)
One of the best to come out in 2005 so far.
Once every so often a movie comes along that hits all the right notes with its audience. It has just the right amount of each element that makes a great film and then kicks it up a notch with more.
Mike Binder has done all this with his new film, The Upside of Anger. Upside of Anger opens at a scene from the end of a movie; a scene that stays in the audience's mind, making us trying to guess its cause all the way through the movie. We meet Terry Wolfmeyer, a middle aged woman with four daughters who is trying to keep their and her own life in balance. Terry's husband has just recently left the family causing Terry to spiral into alcohol and bitterness. Along comes Denny Davies, an ex-baseball player, current radio show host, and Terry's neighbor. He too, is a fan of the drink, and strikes a friendship with Terry along with a fatherly role for her daughters. At its root, it's Terry's story about how she deals with the continuous growing of her relationships, of her daughters, and of herself.
Mike Binder, the writer and director, has a great way of showing the lives of all his characters. He is able to make this movie just as life really is; its funny, depressing, uplifting, bittersweet, and sometimes tragic. He seems to be able to capture real life on camera and display it with all its truth and realism. The writing is completely intelligent, hilarious writing is mixed with scenes of great emotion. Binder never relies on action or dialogue that will cue laughter or tears; it comes naturally through the writing. It works differently for every person in the audience.
Joan Allen is fabulous as the angry mother, Terry. Her performance contains each the real emotion of a mother with all that she is dealing with. She plays it with vigor that strikes that fear in us that we all know mothers can emit, but we also see her lighter funny side. Kevin Costner does very well as Denny, who, surprise surprise, is a baseball player. His performance is hilarious as the washed up player who beams an empathetic hippie attitude. Costner, in his first good and well-written role in a while, is a relief to have. Also hilarious is Director, Mike Bender's Shep, Denny's radio show producer. The four daughters also add four different personalities to the family that interact very nicely.
The Upside of Anger is a wonderfully acted movie, and what's more, it is superbly written. It captures a true essence of family life. And, while its hilarious, it's a refreshing kind of humor that is very mature and not based on the stupidity that many people think we want to see. Mike Binder is successful at making a movie about the characters and about life that actually does a good job at representing both things. Upside of Anger gets 5 stars (out of 5)
Beauty Shop (2005)
different from the barbershops, but still holds its own
More of a spin-off movie than it is a sequel to 2002 and 2004's Barbershop movies; Beauty Shop comes to us as the female rendition of the popular franchise. Beauty Shop gives us the return of Gina, played by Queen Latifah, from the second Barbershop movie. Gina has moved away from Chicago to Atlanta so her daughter can attend a prestigious music school. She has made a name for herself at a posh European-style salon owned by the famous hairstylist Jorge. After a scuffle with her boss, Gina decides to quit her job and achieve her dream of owning her own beauty shop. She brings with her, a few loyal customers along with another worker at the salon. With the help of her family and the electrician slash romantic interest who lives above the shop, Gina finds success with her beauty salon.
The cast of Beauty shop follows the same formula as the barbershop movies. There's the obvious ice cube parallel with Queen Latifah's Gina. The older and wiser stylist, the male form of Cedric the Entertainer's character, played by Alfre Woodard who quotes the wisdom of Maya Angelou to her customers. The token white worker is present with Alicia Silverstone, and the one opposite sex worker played by Eve in the barbershop has her counter part with Bryce Wilson's James. Also included in the film is everyone's favorite Huxtable, Keisha Knight Pullian, famous as Rudy Huxtable. And lastly, quite possibly my favorite part of the movie and funniest character in the movie, Kevin Bacon is hilarious as the egocentric Jorge. The cast works very well together and the fun they had while making the film shows in each scene.
While the cast is fun to watch, I still felt as though something in the film was missing. When watching Barbershop, that classic old town feel emits throughout the show. The characters are so fun to watch as we see their relationships with each other and their own personalities work and clash with each other. While watching Beauty shop, while the characters were fun to watch interact with each other, that feeling just isn't the same when you walk out. I left feeling somewhat unfulfilled.
However, after more reflection on the matter, I realized, that the mood of a beauty shop is no the same as the mood of a barbershop. Maybe I didn't feel the same, because, well, I'm not a woman. As with any television spin off, a movie spin off should be able to hold its own ground. It doesn't need to be a complete reference to its predecessor. Think of Frasier. One of the things that made the show so great was the fact that it held its on ground separate from Cheers. The same goes with Beauty Shop. Yes, it relies on a few references and relations to the barbershop movies, but other than that, it completely holds its own. Which, as I thought about it, made it more enjoyable to know that I wasn't watching the same movie in female form.
Beauty Shop is a fun movie to watch with a very solid cast. Queen Latifah does a fine job as Gina and makes and, more or less, makes up for her involvement with last year's Taxi. If for anything else, see the movie for Kevin Bacon, you wont be disappointed. Beauty shop is pretty enjoyable and is the closest to a hair cut ill come to. I give it 3 stars.(out of 5)
Team America: World Police (2004)
a hilarious and creative political satire from the south park boys.
Inspired by the old TV show, The Thunderbirds, Team America: World Police is the newest comedy created by those comedy connoisseurs Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. Team America is a very fun, hilarious comedy that's a parody of all of the Jerry Bruckheimer action movies and a social commentary on the current situation our country is facing.
Team America is about, obviously, Team America, a team who reside in mount Rushmore, who keep the world safe by fighting off the terrorists of the world. When they get word that a large terrorist attack will occur, Team America goes in search for the perfect person to impersonate a terrorist to find out the inside plan: a Broadway actor. Team America is then ready to defeat the terrorists and keep the world safe for all.
Team America: World Police is a hilarious comedy that pokes fun at just about anyone you can think of. When it all comes down to the basics, Team America is a commentary on the narcissism that America tends to have. Team America: World Police. They're a team of Americans policing the world. Parker and Stone poke fun at the attitude of some Americans and the way they act. Many people have shown their offense to this saying that Parker and Stone are unpatriotic. However, I don't feel this is the case. They are merely commenting and making us aware of this flaw in some of our attitudes.
Team America is just a hilarious comedy and is very original, using marionette puppets as all the actors. Seeing how the puppets "act" is one of the most fun things about the movie. Simply seeing the different things the directors can make these puppets do is such a fun sight. Things including fight scenes, dancing scenes, and how could it be complete without a sex scene, all of which are hilarious.
My favorite aspect of the whole movie is its originality. You don't see to many Marionette puppet movies. Also, the fact that Parker and Stone created their own soundtrack for the movie. All these songs are great and a lot of fun to listen to.
The movie, however, I know is not for everyone. There is a lot of content in this movie that may offend some people, watching the movie, I looked over to my right to see 2 elderly women who didn't appear to be having the best of times. So do be aware, that if you're easily offended, this movie may not be for you.
Aside from that, Team America: World Police, is a hilarious smart comedy and extremely creative and innovative. I definitely recommend this movie to all of you. We all need a good laugh once in a while, and what better way than to watch a 4-minute vomit scene. Team America gets 4.5 stars and good IL' American salute.
I Heart Huckabees (2004)
existential comedy at its best. i heart I Heart Huckabees.
"I Heart Huckabees'" tag line is "an existential comedy," and that it very much is. It is the story of Albert, an environmentalist who teams up with Brad, an executive for the popular everything-store Huckabees, to save the forest and wetlands. After being phased out of the coalition that he began, Albert becomes very distressed and begins thinking about bigger questions. He seeks the help of Bernard and Vivian, a husband and wife detective team, to help solve a series of coincidences that have been occurring. These are no ordinary detectives however. They are existential detectives: detectives that solve those real down and gritty questions that keeps us away from slumber every night as we wonder what does it all mean. Albert hires Bernard and Vivian to spy on himself to solve the mystery of Albert's life and its connection to the world around him.
I'll tell you now, that this movie may not be for everyone. It's not a comedy that you can just go to and sit back and be shut down the old cranium for an hour and half. No, no, no, my friend. You get the muscle a-cranking. Huckabees requires you to really pay attention and think and take everything in. The movie explores several questions mainly dealing with the connection between one person and to the heart, soul, and body of every other thing in existence in an ever-changing world. Huckabees is a big orgy of questioning. And who doesn't like orgies? And who doesn't like questioning? I heart Huckabees is a very original and thought provoking film that goes above and beyond any form of typicality of film.
Huckabees offers us an impressive cast with Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, and Naomi Watts. Most notable performances by, namely, Dustin Hoffman as it's nice to see him in an exceptional role. He hasn't really been given a great script and chance to portray a great character since probably 1997's Wag the Dog. It's very refreshing to see Hoffman return to really good movies as a great character as he plays Bernard, the quirky husband half of the existential detectives. Also, most notable is the performance of Mark Wahlberg, as Tommy Corn, another client of the detectives that befriends Albert. Tommy is a fire fighter who has his own environmental concerns as he refuses to ride on the fire truck and rather, rides a bike to the fire saying, "We'd all be heroes if we stopped using petroleum." Mark Wahlberg is hilarious in this movie and has his best performance since probably "Boogie Nights" and "Three Kings." However, this movie is much more of an ensemble performance than anything else. The ensemble's performance in this film is superb and the chemistry between each character is flawless.
The most credit to this movie goes to writer/director David O. Russell. Russell has obviously something going on up there in the cabeza to extract such a story. But the story is amazingly written. The script is absurd yet genius and comes out as one of the most intelligent films of the year. Not to mention, the thing is absolutely hilarious.
I could go on and on about this movie, and I already kind of have. So go, please, see this movie. See it and come find me and we can talk more about it. I heart "I Heart Huckabees." It gets all 5 shiny stars and a contemplative philosophical look.
Very disappointing....especially for those of us who share the name.
Ever since 2001's Gladiator, America has been in love with the epic historical movie. Unfortunately, there haven't been many good ones. The newest of these epic movies is Oliver Stone's tale of Alexander the Great.
Alexander is the tale of the great Macedonian king and one of the greatest military leaders in history as he conquers much of the known world of the time. We see his passion for continuing the kingdom that his father began and his never ending battle to become the greatest ruler in the world.
Now, all my life, in school, it was always "Alexander The Great? That's my name too!" So you'll understand that I really wanted to like this movie. We have the same name. And the name is quite a kickin one. So I tried to like this movie, I really did. But I just couldn't.
First off, ill get this out of the way; the movie was very well made. The cinematography throughout the film was beautiful. And the movie as a whole was very well made. It being directed by oliver stone, I didn't really expect anything less. The movie also had 2 of the coolest battle scenes that I've seen lately in such films. However, unfortunately, there are only 2 battle scenes in the movie, much less than what I expected to see in a movie about one of the greatest conquerors and battlers in history. So, to recap, Alexander had beautiful cinematography and was very well made, however, unfortunately, it didn't have the actual movie to back it up.
The acting in this movie was sub-par at best. Colin Ferrall does an alright job as Alexander, but just alright. So too is Angelina Jolie as Alexander's mother, Olympius. I'd have to say that the best acting job in the movie would have to go to Val Kilmer for his portrayal of Alexander's father King Philip.
The entire course of this film was just hard to sit through. First off, the film just refused to end. At about three hours, the film dragged at several parts. There were about 18 endings, 17 of which were not actually the ending. The first 10 or so minutes felt like I was in history class as an old Ptolemy, played by Anthony Hopkins talked. That's it, just talked. Nothing else was happening. I couldn't understand why someone would desire to sit through that. The narration throughout the movie by Anthony Hopkins got to be rather annoying and too school like. Worse of all was the fact that half of what he was saying, most of the smartest members of the audience wouldn't have a clue who or what he was talking about.
There has been much talk about Oliver Stone's decision to portray Alexander as Bisexual. While, I don't know if that's historically accurate, I don't believe that it should have been as much of a focal point in the movie as it was made. The homosexual undertones were brought to the forefront of the film too often. Its something, that even if true, isn't what the story of Alexander the great should be about. Also very troubling is the fact that none of the characters were consistent. A movie that has its characters all originating from the Greece, had people talking with English and Scottish accents, nothing near Grecian. Most peculiar of all was Angelina Jolie's portrayal of Olympius as a Dracula. She maintained a good Transylvanian accent throughout the film. I guess Oliver figured that if Alexander could have gay tendencies, his mother could have blood sucking ones.
Oliver Stone's Alexander is a very disappointing movie, especially to those of us named Alexander. While it has some beautiful shots and is appears beautiful, there is no substance to fill it up. I suggest you skip out and wait for it to come out on DVD if you really must see this, even for those die hard Colin fans. I think you die hard battle between horse and elephant fans can wait too. Alexander gives Alexander 2 stars out of 5.
Son of the Mask (2005)
p-a-r-t-y. Why? no seriously....why was this movie made?
Eleven years ago, Stanley Ipkiss released his true inner self and became the hero of Edge City by finding and wearing the Norse god of mischief, Loki's mask. The Mask helped bring Jim Carrey to the forefront of comedy and reached a very popular status for its originality and just pure fun. Everyone knew how to spell party. P-A-R-T-Y. Why? Cuz I gotta! Now, eleven years later, it seems to me that the same philosophy has been applied to the new movie "Son of the Mask." Someone asked director Lawrence Guterman why are you making this? And he responds "Cuz I gotta!" Unfortunately, that answer doesn't cover it because after seeing Son of the Mask I still left the theatre thinking, "Good Lord, Why?" Guterman and the rest of the people involved in the blasphemous film need to realize that the response given to why are you making this film should not be as simple as the answer to the debate on whether or not to party.
The Son of the Mask begins with Otis the dog finding the infamous mask and bringing it back to his owner Tim Avery, a clear homage to legendary Loony Toons creator Tex Avery. Tim, played by Jamie Kennedy, is a struggling animator who is stuck working as a turtle tour guide for the animation company he aspires to one-day draw for. On the night of the company Halloween party, Tim puts on the mask and transforms into the mischievous, insane character that we all expect. After the party Tim goes home, mask still on and conceives a child with his wife. Nine months later mayhem ensues as the baby born of the mask has remarkable cartoonish powers. Otis the dog, jealous of the baby's attention, puts on the mask and partakes in Tom and Jerry type mayhem to out the baby. Meanwhile, Loki, played by Alan Cumming, is in search for his mask at the orders of his father, Odin.
First off, ill admit that I do respect the fact that this film pays so much homage to the classic cartoons such as Tom and Jerry and Loony Toons, with its Wile E. Coyote type contraptions and the infamous dancing frog type plot. However, this reverence cannot save the film and makes it less respectful and more of a waste of time.
The premise of the movie becomes increasingly silly. Silly is not always a bad thing, but in this movie, the silliness gets to the point of just plain annoying. The characters are not fun to watch, and what's worse, they're not funny. The dullness of the characters can also be attributed to the fact that so much CGI was used. One of the greatest things about the original is that while, obviously computer animation was used, so much relied on Jim Carrey and his exuberant style of just being. Jim Carrey, we were convinced, was an actual cartoon. Jamie Kennedy just doesn't have that kind of ability, a fact that is clear when you watch him wear the mask and his facial features rarely shift. The baby and dog were mostly completely animated which became increasingly distracting throughout the movie. The side story of Loki searching for the mask just became more and more stupefying.
The son of the Mask is a sad sad state of affairs. What I suggest is you go rent or buy the original the Mask and thank the Norse gods, or whoever, for bringing it to us. And will consider seeing the sequel my sacrifice as I continue to ask the infamous question "WHY?" The son of the Mask gets one star, although that star should be divvied up between the classic creators of Loony Toons and Jim Carrey, who will always be, in my book, the mask.
actually quite good for a comic book action movie.
Based of the DC comic book Hellblazer, Constantine is the story of John Constantine, a supernatural detective who possesses the rare gift of being able to see the demons and angels that walk amongst us. Constantine teams up with a skeptical policewoman, Angela, who is trying to uncover the truth to her sister's suicide. Their investigation leads to the uncovering of an otherworldly attempt to transform the world into a harboring for hell's demons. The two must defeat the demons and make peace with peace with themselves and of course save the world.
To be honest, when I first saw the trailers for this movie, I had pretty low expectations. Very low. The movie pretty much looked like any other big action comic book movie, and with Keanu Reeves, it just looked too much like him following the same formula of the matrix. However, I was pleased to see that the movie was better than expected. I actually walked out liking what I just saw.
I found myself very interested in the story of an agreement between heaven and hell, that they would each control their respective domains, but could not control earth, just attempt to influence it. That story and the separate stories and lives of Constantine and Angela were rather interesting, and, in my opinion, pretty well developed for a film of this nature.
The acting is decent. Keanu is, well Keanu. If you've seen any movie with him in it, you know what that means. But this role doesn't really require him to make any big stretches. Rachel Weisz does a good job as Angela and as my friend Alex says, "She sure is nice to look at." And in my opinion a very good job was done by Shia LaBeouf as Constantine's young apprentice Chaz Kramer. Shia LaBeouf, famous from Even Stevens, does a good job as the comedic relief but also puts in his share of dramatic acting. And, I just like Shia as a young actor. Also look out for in the movie, Bush frontman, Gavin Rossdale as the demon Balthazar.
What I liked most about this film, other than the story, was the fact that the movie was believable. Many of the big blockbusters coming out, especially those based of comic books, seem to really push the computer animation. While there was plenty of CGI in the film, the makers of the film didn't over do it, and made it look much more believable than other films. I was never distracted by any fakeness of the film and was able to sit back and enjoy.
I call Constantine a mix between the Matrix, Lord of the rings, and the Passion of the Christ, and you'll have to watch the movie to fully understand. Constantine pulls of the big comic action movie better than most. Constantine gets 4 stars, and, be sure to sit through the credits for one final scene.
The Woodsman (2004)
one of Kevin bacon's best performances and a great supporting cast.
This week's review is for "The Woodsman," the directorial debut of Nicole Kassell.
The woodsman tells the story of Walter, played with an Oscar-worthy performance by Kevin Bacon, who just got out of prison for child molestation after 12 years. Walter attempts to restart his life as a normal citizen by buying an apartment, which happens to be across the street from a grade school because it was the only landlord that would take his money, and by getting a job at a lumberyard. Walter begins a romance with co-worker Vickie, played beautifully by Kyra Sedgwick, and must deal with the label that society places on him and his own self-guilt. With the help of Kyra and a young girl, Robin, perhaps the only 2 people who understand and sympathize with him, Walter attempts to forgive himself and become what he wants to be, just normal.
Kevin Bacon does a remarkable job playing the detached almost emotionless Walter. You're able see in his eyes, in his face, the anguish that he puts on himself and the reflections of society's view of him. Yes, I called his performance Oscar-worthy, and it is, unfortunately, it came out too late to be considered by the academy this year, and too early to be considered for next year's awards. Kyra Sedgwick does a great job as Walter's love interest and as a woman who has her own inner demons from her past. Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick are accompanied by a great supporting cast including Benjamin Bratt, Mos Def, Eve, and David Allen Grier, all of which pull their weight with great performances.
One of the most interesting aspects of the movie is how the topic of pedophilia is handled. Bacon plays the role not as most people see child molesters as just a person who has a sick fetish, but instead Walter is a man who knows that its wrong, doesn't want to be this way, but cannot help it. As Benjamin Bratt's character describes it, his disease. The audience, instead of disliking Walter, as we normally would, sympathizes with him and sees that in some cases it may be a mental sickness. It's also interesting to see how Walter's outlook on the world is. He is a man confused by the ideas of love and attraction as he suspects that his best friend has romantic feelings toward his daughter just because he used the term love.
What really makes this movie is the final 20 or so minutes, in which as I sat there, I was tense and on the edge of my seat and not a breath could be heard throughout the theatre. The little girl, Robin, played by first timer Hannah Pilkes, almost steals one of the climactic scenes away from Bacon and really makes her presence in the film known. While the final 20 minutes really propels the film to success, that is not to say that the first hour and ten minutes are not without their merit. However, at times, it did seem like it took a bit too long to get to where it was going.
The Woodsman is a great film that deals with a subject that you don't see too much in film and it's handled remarkably. Nicole Kassell produces a great film her first time around which gives me the pleasure to give the Woodsman 4 stars.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
One of the best films of 2004. A heavy weight Oscar contender
Heres a review for one of the best films of 2004, Million Dollar Baby. Gathering up seven nominations in this years Academy Awards, its one of the best-reviewed movie, and this one will really be no different.
Million Dollar Baby is the story of Maggie Fitzgerald, played by Hilary Swank, a wanna-be boxer who has made it to her level by sheer determination and raw talent. Maggie seeks out the help of aging boxing trainer, Frankie Dunn, portrayed by director Clint Eastwood, who co-owns a boxing gym with retired boxer Eddie Dupris. Frankie, who has been burdened by his relationship with his estranged daughter, finds something remarkable in Maggie's determination, and is able to open up to a relationship with her. The film carries these characters through the pains and struggles of, not only boxing, but life as well to an astonishing and beautiful ending.
I have to admit that all the other reviewers have been right. This movie is one of the best of 2004. The performances are remarkable along with the direction. Hilary Swank is astonishing and not only deserved the nomination for best actress, but also deserves the trophy. Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood both do a great job playing off of one each other as old boxing friends. The chemistry throughout the movie is spectacular. The script works on so many levels. The movie looks like a heavy drama, and is, but does not nerve away from adding some other great, heart-warming characters and some great lines.
Clint Eastwood, as one would expect, truly grasps this story and makes it come alive with his directing. He is definitely a big contender in the best directing category for the Oscars, and may even walk away with the statue. Eastwood is able to make this movie about the boxer, and the trainer instead of about boxing, as some other directors would have. It's a movie about the life behind boxing, and that's what makes the film great.
When reviewing a movie, a critic always looks for not only what was great about it, but also what hinders it. And I can honestly say that I cannot think of a single item. The only, for lack of a better word, problem I had with the film, is how much it looked like it reeked of "gimme Oscars!" However, it's less obvious in the actual film itself than in the trailer. And this "fault" is, by no means, a bad thing.
Million Dollar Baby is a fantastic use of celluloid, and after my many reservations about the movie, I must concede to the professional reviewers and give this movie five stars. Because it is that good. While Sideways is my top pick for best film, Million dollar baby is definitely, soul crushing pun alert, a vicious right hook knock out.
The Polar Express (2004)
one of the best holiday movies made
Get ready for the Holiday season. I've seen this week's movie twice now and it hasn't even come out in theaters. The second Christmas movie to come out this year, after the poorly marketed Ben Affleck movie 'Surviving Christmas,' that came out in October, is the third collaboration between Director Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks; Polar Express. Polar Express is the new animated movie inspired by the book of the same name written by popular children's author, Chris Van Allsburg, the man who also brought us Jumanji.
Polar Express tells the story of a young boy who's struggling in his belief of the big man upstairs. By upstairs, of course, I mean up north, and by the big man, I mean, of course, Santa Clause. On Christmas Eve, this young boy lays awake in his bed, pondering the question of his existence hoping to hear the jingle of his sleigh. He soon hears a noise, not of sleigh bells, but of a train whistle; the Polar Express. After meeting the train's conductor, played by Tom Hanks, the boy goes on an adventure of a lifetime to meet Santa along with several other great characters.
Polar Express is a superb, innovated animated film. They use the technology used for sports video games, attaching sensors to the actors' body to capture their facial features and body movements, making the animated characters look like the actual actor. Now, I, personally, have been getting sick of this computer animated movie fad. However, this movie is completely different from any other animated film. The feel of the entire film is as though it's live action. The animation in this film perfectly captures the soul behind the story and illustrations of author Chris Van Allsburg.
It's safe to say that the acting in this movie is very well done. I know, its weird to say that regarding an animated film, but it actually is acting.
Tom Hanks does a fantastic job lending his voice to, and becoming the character of not just one, but five different characters. I won't ruin the surprise as to the different characters that he plays, because I found it fun trying to figure out which characters are, in fact, Tom Hanks. However, his acting for each character is unique and rather flawless. Look out, also for a cameo by an animated Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, as he puts on his daughter's shoes and becomes and elf. The children characters are beautifully created and, while watching, you're really able to remember what it was like to be a child having these grand feeling for the holiday season.
Robert Zemeckis, director of other Tom Hanks films, Forrest Gump and Cast Away, does a fantastic job at turning the popular children's book into a fun, inspiring movie. It is beautiful to see his vision come to life in this movie. The film is animated with gorgeous scenery and awe-inspiring shots. The cinematography is some of the best I've seen in recent films. It is simply beautiful. Zemeckis is able to capture the spirit of the holiday with wonderful vigor. He takes us into the mind and heart of the child and recaptures what if felt like to be a child and have such wonderful excitement about Christmas.
Polar Express is an adventure ride that not only keeps the heart in suspense, but warms it as well. At its heart, Polar Express is a film about believing, as the conductor says, 'Sometimes the most real things in this world are the things we can't see.' This film is beautiful as it warms the heart and inspires us to return to our childhood attitude toward the upcoming season. It truly is a beautiful film, and is one of the best Christmas movies ever made. And, it certainly gets my nod for best animated feature of the year come Oscar season. I can only wonder if Tom and his wife, Rita, are going to argue about who has the better Holiday movie; her Jingle All the Way or his Polar Express. While I love Rita Wilson and the Governator's Jingle All the Way, my vote goes to you, Tom. Please, I beg of you, see Polar Express. It will certainly inspire all who watch it whether you are the youngest of children or oldest of adults. Coming to theaters and to special 3-D Imax theaters this Wednesday, Polar Express gets all 5 bright Christmas stars and three Christmas season 'Ho Ho Ho's!'
a great movie for all ages + David HASSELHOFF
Earlier this year, on visits to the local cinema, millions of people were promised to be answered that question that has plagued mankind for years now. Finally, as of Friday, this question has been answered. This question is of course, 'Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?' And the answer, as all people know, or should know and hopefully will soon find out, is SpongeBob SquarePants. The newest Nickelodeon feature film is the big screen version of the popular children's show. Now, I know that several people that read reviews for this movie will not heed to all that is said, thinking that they will be seeing it solely because they will be dragged by their eager children. Well, parent, and other adults, I direct this review towards you. Don't be frightened of this children's movie. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a film that, like its preceding television show, will not only appeal to the children, but to the adults as well.
The story of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie carries on with the story from Nickelodeon's TV series. SpongeBob still lives in that pineapple under the sea in the town of Bikini Bottom, and works at the famous underwater fast food joint, the Krusty Krab, owned by Eugene H. Krabs. Mr. Krabs has decided to diversify his popular restaurant and make a Krusty Krab II, his only task, now, is to appoint the manager of the restaurant. Much of Bikini Bottom are expecting this position to go to the Krusty Krab's most loyal and hardest working worker: SpongeBob. However, to the shock of everyone, the position is handed over to, none other than, Squidward Tentacles, the monotonous and less than enthused worker because of his seniority. After all, SpongeBob is just a kid. Meanwhile, Plankton, Mr. Krab's arch nemesis and owner of the Chum Bucket, plans his evil plan to get the secret recipe to the Krabby Patty. Plankton frames Mr. Krab of stealing King Neptune's crown. King Neptune threatens Mr. Krabs execution unless his crown is returned. It's up to SpongeBob and his trusty friend, Patrick Star, to retrieve the crown from the dangerous Shell City, and more importantly prove that they may be young, but they can still save the day.
All of the voice talents from the television series return for the movie. Tom Kenny is back as the voice of SpongeBob, as well as Bill Fagerbakke and Clancy Brown as Patrick and Mr. Krabs respectively. Each voice brings the liveliness of the TV series to the big screen and is a joy to listen to. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie also has several guest voices that further the excitement of the movie, with Alec Baldwin as a bounty hunter hired by Plankton to kill SpongeBob and Patrick, Jeffrey Tambor as King Neptune, and Scarlett Johansson as his peace keeping daughter. The movie also adds live action to interact with the animation, most notably the hilarious performance of David Hasselhoff. Director and Creator, Stephen Hillenburg brings the exciting world of Bikini Bottom to life in a wonderful way. The animation is exciting and colorful and never fails to keep the audience's attention. It is one of the best parts of the movie, and, it's very nice to see an animated film that isn't completely computer animated.
Most people are under the notion that this film is just for those hyper kids that need their longer dose of SpongeBob. However, this film appeals to all ages. The humor that is presented spans generations. Many of the jokes presented are funny to all audiences in their different ways. I take you to one scene in which SpongeBob and Patrick go to an ice cream place and we witness them getting 'wasted' on the treats and the ensuing hangover. This entire sequence is hilarious to kids and adults in they're own different understanding of the joke. Equally hilarious are the parody of 'I Wanna Rock' by Twisted Sister song by SpongeBob and the entire joke of David Hasselhoff's appearance. The comedy in this film and the way the story is presented is appealing to all ages.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a hilarious movie that you shouldn't be nervous about taking your children to. Don't worry; you will be able to enjoy the movie along with your young ones, which will enable what is sure to be fun conversation afterwards. My only gripe with the movie is that the wide range of characters weren't put to their full potential. As a fan of SpongeBob, I would have liked to see more of Sandy the Squirrel and Squidward. That aside, The SpongeBob SquarePants is one of the most fun children's movies out and deserves a viewing. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie gets 4 out of 5 stars.
one of the top 4 of the year
Every year, countless buddy comedy films are spewed out from Hollywood's biggest production studios; Dumb and Dumber, Tommy Boy, Rush Hour, and Stuck on you, just to name a few. While fun to watch, few of these types of films give us that sense that we love to walk out of movies with. That feeling of awe and wonderment, that you just saw something that gives you a different outlook on the way life is or can be. More of them tend to leave you with no feeling at all. Recently, however, this has changed with Alexander Payne, the man who gave us Election and About Schmidt, and his new film Sideways. Sideways, while being a buddy comedy, is very different from any other; it's funny, it has an immense amount of heart, and it emits rays of truth throughout its two hours; the latter two being those aspects in which most other buddy films lack. Sideways is a refreshing addition to the buddy film genre, and perhaps even adds a new dimension to it.
Sideways is the weeklong journey of two forty-something best friends. Jack, played by Thomas Haden Church is an engaged to be married out of work actor who after years of being off the screen, is forced to introduce himself by asking, 'Do you recognize my voice?' and goes on to recite his sped up famous lines, 'two percent financing, 0.9 percent APR.' Jack is joined by Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, an eighth grade teacher and wannabe author, who, after two years of being divorced, is still depressed and drinks his worries away with his fine tastes for wine. A week before Jack's wedding, Miles takes him on a trip to, fittingly enough for Miles, the wine country of California. The two plan to take up some golf, eat some good food, and taste some fine wine. Plans change when the two meet two women, Maya and Stephanie, played by Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh, respectively. The four enter each other's worlds and pursue affairs of friendship, passion, and love.
I take you two one of the most beautiful scenes in the movie in which Maya and Miles are having an intimate conversation and she asks why he likes Pinot Noir wine so much. Miles delves into a beautiful monologue about the exquisite nature of the grapes. A description so well told that you can practically taste the wine. Note that in his description, he is, clearly, also talking about himself as he talks about the grapes' need for care, its vulnerability, and its thin skin. The characters are perfectly explained in their surrounding throughout the movie. The scenery of wine country and the wine itself play as a wonderful metaphor for the life of the characters in the movie, and they take on a character of their own. All the characters in this movie are fantastically written and are mixed like a fine wine to give the most wonderful taste of life.
Paul Giamatti strikes gold in his second starring role; the first being the under seen American Splendor. He does not miss a beat, at all, throughout the movie as the dry, cynical, humorous, and depressed man that he is. He's able to speak and make what he says linger on the tip of our mind for a long time afterwards like the taste of a good wine. His portrayal of Miles is perfect and reaches into our hearts and minds and really makes us want to enter the movie and give him a hug. Thomas Haden Church, most notably famous for his role as Lowell on the sitcom Wings, is great in what hopefully will be a comeback role of sorts. Sandra Oh gives a great performance as a woman who has, unknowingly, an affair with Jack. And Virginia Madsen gives one of the best performances in the movie as Maya, Miles' sweet love interest; the woman who is the only woman who has been able to take Miles' mind off his depression. Her performance parallels Giamatti's perfectly, and their chemistry is beautiful to witness.
The casting in this movie is superbly done by Director Alexander Payne. The cast, which is not really filled with your famous Hollywood names, is perfectly chosen. Alexander Payne is able to make these actors portray these characters in such a way in which the audience will not wonder why 'so and so' wasn't cast, but realize that they could not imagine any other actor as the character. Payne captures the beautiful land of wine country and plays it into the movie wonderfully; a place that sometimes so sharply contrasts the feelings of his characters, and yet is so fitting to the characters as you witness Miles getting drunk off the wine.
Like a fine Wine, Sideways is a beautiful combination of ingredients and flavors. It is humor; it is heart, it is human. The after effects of the movie will linger on the pallet of your mind long after the film is over. From beginning to its marvelous end, you will taste the truth of life breathing through the film and brings a new meaning to the term 'buddy movie.' One of the best movies of the year, Sideways gets all five stars
1 of 6 movies in 2004 with that jude law...and its pretty good too
Tonight we have one of six movies this year with Jude Law. The third to have come out: Alfie. Alfie is a remake of the 1966 movie of the same name that put Michael Caine on the map. Alfie, or as I like to call the story of my life, is about Alfie Elkins, a suave British lady-killer residing in New York, working as a limo driver. Known to all the women of New York for his
well lets just call it his 'reputation,' Alfie goes by his own guidelines of love by means of never getting emotionally involved. However, throughout his affairs, he realizes that the one person he would never get emotionally involved with, Julie, played by Marisa Tomei, he in fact was. The movie follows a year in the life of Alfie, as he realizes that settling down isn't such a bad thing. However, after a lifetime of being quite the playa, as you young folks like to say, settling down is easier said than done.
While watching, I realized that this movie is different from almost any other movie. While its categorized as a romantic comedy, its presented in a very different manner; a very unique manner. Its not to the basic formula of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. This film, while romantic at heart, is a story about a man who comes across many hurdles in his attempt to find some sort of happiness or at least self-satisfaction. Alfie brings the audience into his life, by speaking to us, the audience, throughout the movie as if we were one of his friends, similar to what Zack Morris does in Saved by the bell. I enjoyed the presentation of this film very much as it brings the audience member more closely, more intimately to the movie itself.
For the first time, Jude Law is given the chance to carry an entire movie and shows that he can do this task wonderfully. Jude Law does a magnificent job playing the lead role Alfie. And is cast wonderfully as somewhat of a sex god. I say this because most of the girls that I've talked to, have no trouble in devoting their time in worshiping this god of sexiness.
Be sure to keep your eye out for another character in the movie, one that doesn't seem as obvious to the average viewer. This character being several billboards throughout the movie. Exclaiming words such as Search, Destiny, and Desire, these billboards take on a character of their own and show the physically the mood and emotion sent out through the scenes. I found these signs a very intriguing addition to the film.
Alfie is well presented film with beautiful cinematography and good acting. It's a fun movie to see in this upcoming holiday season. It makes for a good date movie. Coming out on November 5th, Alfie gets 4 stars out of 5.