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You Are Here:  Movie Reviews

Dan Heller's Movie Reviews

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This page contains links to movies I've reviewed for Movie Magazine, a radio program syndicated to about 150 radio stations across the United States. In San Francisco, it's on KUSF, 90.3 FM, Wednesday nights at 9pm PST. You can also listen to the broadcast live on the web at this address: http://www.live365.com/stations/kusf. This is a live broadcast only. You can also listen to the previous week's show on this page: http://www.shoestring.org/listen.html.

Please note: these reviews are intentionally short because I am limited in the length by the format of the radio program. In almost every case, I have a lot more to say about the movies than what I'm allotted. This may or may not be a good thing. :-)

For details on how I rate movies, read about my red-thumb/green-thumb rating system.

You can give me feedback about your opinion of any of my reviews at the bottom of each page that has the full movie review on it, or by sending me email.
Link To Movies/day-after-tomorrow.html

Day After Tomorrow

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Get ready for nature getting back at us. In "The Day After Tomorrow," Roland Emmerich's latest doomsday film, the next ice age arrives so abruptly that the movie doesn't have time to develop a real story. It just gets right into the special effects from the first frame. But that's ok; the effects are worth the price of admission, even without traditional film elements, like an engaging plot or character development. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/kill-bill-2.html

Kill Bill: Vol. 2

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html I think of Quentin Tarantino as a nouveau gourmet chef, whose meals are trendy, but exquisitely prepared, beautifully presented, and uniquely his own. His recipes include classic and traditional ingredients, which in this case, come from the rich garden of film genres. "Kill Bill: Volume 2" is Tarantino at his best, mixing together different styles, ranging from the classic entree of "film noire" to the more modern decadent dessert fare of ultra-violence. Where his true talent shows is how he blends these styles together coherently and tastefully. The best part of it all is that even if the meal (or any portion of it) isn't your cup of tea, you can't help but admire all the aspects of what it is and how it was made. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/hellboy.html

Hellboy

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Movies based on comic books are a genre all their own, and they are becoming more alike these days, as it gets increasingly more difficult to squeeze through the ever-narrowing channel of creative diversity necessary to get the green light from movie studios. Guillermo del Toro's "Hellboy" is no exception. While it's not a bad movie, it does seem to have lost the more interesting (that is, "darker") aspects of original themes that typically engender this genre. The net result is a cornucopia of wow-inspiring special effects that do more to serve the masses than to tell the more dramatic story that the creator likely intended. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/lady-killers.html

Lady Killers

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html The Coen Brothers have done it again. You know, these are the guys who usually bring you intelligently-written comedies that involve colorful people who fit meticulously detailed cultural stereotypes. They are often in situations where you gleefully watch them squirm with the consequences of their evil plans after things go terribly awry. In this case, they direct their sharply pointed camera lens back to 1955 with a remake of the movie, The Ladykillers. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/passion-christ.html

Passion of the Christ

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Amid the huge controversy around Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ," the cast of characters are set: Jewish Groups lament a new swell of anti-Semitism, the evangelical Christians praise the movie as an accurate portrayal of history, and non-religious commentary warns of the movie's ultra-violent and gory scenes. What's my view on this? As Shakespeare would say, "much ado about nothing." (Full Review)

Link To Movies/battle-of-algiers.html

The Battle of Algiers

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html "The Battle of Algiers" had become one of the most important movies of the 20th century, though no one really knew it then. In the simplest terms, it is a drama portraying the Arabic uprising in the late 1950s against the French who occupied and colonized Algeria. But, more importantly, the techniques used by the terrorists would later turn out to be the blue-print for all Arab uprisings to come, including those in use today. In fact, it has been considered required viewing for anyone on both sides of the terrorist struggle, from the CIA down to the suicide bombers. Making a film with such balance is interesting to be sure, but that it maps so well to today's environment is eerie indeed. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/the-company.html

The Company

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html "The Company" holds many quiet surprises, many of which can be easily missed if you're not paying close attention. Fortunately, the well-known veteran filmmaker, Robert Altman, and a couple high-profile actors will help bring attention to this subtle cinematic peek into some days in the life of the world of professional ballet. And while the movie is quite enjoyable to watch, its qualities ironically are better appreciated in the whole of the film, not in its parts. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/last-samurai.html

Last Samurai

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html If you go only by the previews, "The Last Samurai" looks like yet another over-budget Hollywood epic. But, to my surprise, the film is remarkably good, despite itself. One reason is Tom Cruise, whose performance is not only fine-tuned, but you can see how emotionally engaged and committed he is, as the real-life person, to his character's role and the spirit of the story. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/missing.html

The Missing

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Ron Howard has been known for his family-friendly, cinematic epics. But with "The Missing", Howard dips his toes into the turbulent waters of the Western/Drama genre. Add in a "thriller" component, and you've got a formula for a potentially great film. Yet, in doing so, it spreads itself a little thin by attempting to incorporate too many elements, effectively diluting it into a traditional western movie. A good one to watch, but not to be remembered for long. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/21Grams.html

21 Grams

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html If the Academy Awards ever found an opportunity to recognize a small-budget film from relatively inexperienced directors and screenwriters, "21 Grams" is the best bet going for 2003. It is almost perfect in every way, from the direction to the acting to the musical score. It's Achilles heel, however, is also its greatest strength: it's sophistication, complexity and very mature relationships are not for the mainstream or casual film-goer. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/gothika.html

Gothika

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html What do Haley Joel Osmont and Halle Berry have in common besides their first names? They both see dead people. But unlike the 1999 psycho-suspense film The Sixth Sense, Berry's film, Gothika, is riddled with problems, the most important being that it doesn't know what kind of movie it wants to be. A surprise, given the top-notch cast, film crew and production company behind the wheel. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/matrix-revolutions.html

Matrix Revolutions

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html In The Matrix Revolutions, the final chapter of the Matrix trilogy, the war between man and machine reaches what the production notes call, "a thundering crescendo." I call it, "a shoulder-hunching, 'HUH?'" The movie does a great job at showing the latest visual special effects capabilities that unlimited money can buy, but somewhere along the way, someone forgot that there was a story to tell, or people to care about. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/veronica-guerin.html

Veronica Guerin

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html It's interesting to see how people talk about how amazingly "real" and lifelike movies have become, yet they are mostly referring to fictional dramas, like The Godfather. Ironically, movies that are, quote, "based on a true story", oddly appear anything but realistic, often to a point where it actually does the film more harm than good. Veronica Guerin is the latest victim of this phenomenon. (Full Review)

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An Analysis

This article analyzes the "plot twist": those surprise endings in the horror, suspense and thriller genres. We are entertained because we love the surprise and the feeling of being duped, but is the filmmaker doing it at the expense of his own plot? Are his characters acting consistently with the profiles they've been endowed with? Does the surprise ending even make sense? Included in this article is an analysis of various movies, including "The 6th Sense", "The Ring", "The Others", and other current and past films. Some do it well, while others are just looking for the cheap thrill, fun though they may be. (Read Article)

Link To Movies/camp.html

Camp

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html In the new indie film "Camp", young teenage actors, singers and dancers go to Camp Ovation to learn and develop their skills in the fine art of Broadway stage productions. Yes, this troop of young teens are so incredibly talented, they can perform all the hits from Broadway, past and present, and you'll be as thrilled as if you were actually in Manhattan itself. But, what makes these kids—and thus, this movie - so engaging, is that they are real teens, with all the teenager issues we all know and love. While rough around the edges with some sloppy editing and cliche script in parts, the movie is still fun and poignant about the life of the "artsy" teenager. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/freaky-friday.html

'Freaky Friday'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Included in what seems to be an ongoing series of comedic dramas featuring rising teen stars is "Freaky Friday". So far, such films in this summer of 2003 have been a mixed bag, but this one rises unexpectedly towards the top. While it starts slowly, with a formulaic an overly-acted and simplistically-scripted introduction, the film gradually solidifies into a solid piece, bringing together the story, characters, humor and human interest that can appeal to many. A tough job, since the genre rarely appeals to those outside of the demographic. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/seabiscuit.html

'Seabiscuit'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html The true story of a knobby-kneed racehorse and three men is the latest Docu-Epic from Hollywood, beautifully filmed in California, with its signature late-afternoon golden light, intimate close-ups of emotional faces, and the freedom-like feeling of a horse running freely. Seabiscuit is the American dream: a depression-era drama about down-trodden misfits and an unlikely animal hero who overcome the odds. This two-hour and twenty minute cinematic masterpiece is sure to grab the public by their little heartstrings and...
Had enough? Do you have a cavity yet? Wait till you see the film... (Full Review)

Link To Movies/johnny-english.html

'Johnny English'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html James Bond he isn't, but he's also not Inspector Clouseau. Instead, Rowan Atkinson is "Johnny English", Secret Agent "1", a sort-of hybrid of the suave Roger Moore, and the bumbling Peter Sellars. While the film has some fine moments of comedy, it doesn't quite hit its target on overall creativity or ingenuity. This really isn't Atkinson's fault, but more that of the filmmakers, none of whom have ever made a comedy before. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/spy-kids-3d.html

Spy Kids: 3D 'Game Over'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html This third installment of the popular "Spy Kids" series is like its predecessors in that it's high-tech, high-energy, high-fun, and high on the pro-family moral messages. What's more, it's in 3D! On the downside, the theme seems worn out, the actors have out-grown their roles, and the strong family-values messages are disingenuous and schmaltzy. While still fun, the cow's been milked for all its got. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/pirates.html

'Pirates of the Caribbean'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html A Swashbucklin' Pirate story that involves fair maidens, a hero to save her, royalty, and an intricate intertwining of relationships that make things oh so juicy. Here, Johnny Depp leads the pack as Jack Sparrow, a lone pirate on the Caribbean Sea, looking for his lost ship, the Black Pearl. Fun for the whole family, but with enough action, computer graphics, suspense and witty dialog to entertain even the most demanding of movie-goers, while not straying too far from being lighthearted. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/bruce-almighty.html

'Bruce Almighty'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html There's nothing like a good comedy flick to lead in the summer, and Jim Carrey's, "Bruce ALMIGHTY!" is the best of its breed. It's formula, to be sure, and all been done before, but "Bruce" is funnier, wittier, smarter, and - odd as this might sound - more sophisticated than its predecessors. It's as though Carrey and his filmmaking partners refined the comedy/romance formula to a science, because this film does exactly what it intended to do: entertain. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/respiro.html

'Respiro'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html "Respiro" reminds me of Woody Allen's film, "Hollywood Ending", where a movie director makes a movie so bad, only the French would love it. While Allen's film is fictional, the plot is similar to the reality of Emanuele Crialese's "Respiro:" it's a pretty bad movie, but the French still gave it the Critic's Week Prize at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. I bet Woody had chuckled in his hand quietly over this one. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/in-laws.html

'The In-Laws'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html What do you get when you put a neurotic Jewish foot doctor from New York together with a CIA agent on a case to bust an arms-smuggling ring? And then have their kids get married? You get Albert Brooks and Michael Douglas as "The In-Laws", a remake of a film by the same name from 1979. Unfortunately, the marriage of these two actors doesn't seem as compatible. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/head-of-state.html

'Head Of State'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Chris Rock is a successful and well-known comedian who's been in almost 60 feature films; a writer and co-writer for movies and TV shows like Saturday Night Live; and is a man with strong political opinions. So, with all that talent and experience, you'd think that if he were to write and produce a political satire, it'd be a mix of biting comedy with a message. But, instead of biting satire poking fun at the political system, there's a collection of gag jokes that, in themselves are funny, but neither politically pertinent or satirical. What's more the romantic-comedy subplot is way too prominent, elbowing out the main theme of the film. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/hunted.html

'The Hunted'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html The way William Friedkin's latest film, "The Hunted", appears, you'd think it was the next sequels of the "Fugitive" movie series. It's the same type of formula, where a fugitive is running from Tommy Lee Jones, who directs a team of FBI agents in hunting him down. However, other than a copious amount of blood in many fight scenes, the film essentially adds up to nothing. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/phone-booth.html

'Phone Booth'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html "Phone Booth" feels like a really poor attempt at a movie like "Speed", where the bad guy plays the good guy like a puppet for his own musings. "Phone Booth", however, is an example of just about everything that can be wrong with a movie. The script was dreadful from the outset, with logistical errors and manipulated dialog that begs for a tomato to be thrown at the screen. Obvious things take place that go entirely unnoticed by the characters for the sole reason of building "suspense", but it only leaves you on the verge of screaming at the screen in anger and frustration. (Full Review)

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'Chaos'

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html It has been said that satire should be like a very sharp razor blade: you don't know you've been cut until you see the blood. The same thing can be said of movies with a social agenda: it's better if you don't see it coming, which makes it all the more effective when it's over. If only filmmakers that preach their social or political views had a better sense of knowing when to stop "preaching", and let the audience draw their own conclusions, we'd have more movies with positive social messages. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/dark-blue.html

Dark Blue

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html The previews for the movie "Dark Blue" look fantastic. Even after I saw the film, I still see trailers for it in theaters and on TV, and think, "wow, that looks like a great film!" It's such an artful talent to construct such compelling material from such a bland and awful movie, that I feel compelled to give the production company a big "thumbs-up" for doing a job well-done. Why can't the people who make these movies try to retain the exciting and interesting promises seen in the trailer? (Full Review)

Link To Movies/david-gale.html

The Life of David Gale

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Billed as a thriller, with top-notch actors and suspenseful moments, the film has its share of entertainment value. But, it never really rises above the fact that the "mystery" is a weak, thinly veiled wrapper around a overt political statement against the death penalty. It's use of tired old arguments heard a million times before makes it hardly thought-provoking, nor a basis for an interesting movie. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/25th-hour.html

The 25th Hour

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Spike Lee's "25th Hour" is interesting both as a movie and as a sociological perspective of the director himself. It's essentially a "portrait film", where the hero is Montgomery Brogan, played by Ed Norton, an unsuspecting drug dealer, who reevaluates his life in the 24 remaining hours before facing a seven-year jail term. To Lee's credit, he not only painted clear, believable characters, but was ambitious in his desire to profile a subculture outside of his own. But, the film's effectiveness in the end required more storytelling elements to breath life into the project. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/nemesis.html

Star Trek: Nemesis

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Star Trek has touched audiences around the world, but one has to follow "The Next Generation" series to best appreciate this film. To be sure, "Nemesis" is definitely good material, despite its dependence on prior knowledge of the characters and ongoing plot lines. But no matter what you think, remember what William Shatner once said to a group of Trekkies at a convention, "It's just a TV show! Get a life!" (Full Review)

Link To Movies/equilibrium.html

Equilibrium

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html In a fascist future where all forms of feeling are illegal, a man charged with enforcing the law rises to overthrow the system. That's the basic premise of "Equilibrium", the latest formula flick from Kurt Wimmer, whose past writing and directing credits are sparse and unimpressive (except for 1999's "Thomas Crown Affair"). Unfortunately, this film adds another clone to the already deep stack of similarly-themed films, even the most mediocre of which is better. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/femme-fatale.html

Femme Fatale

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html "Femme Fatale" is Brian De Palma's latest foray into the challenging, but artful world of contemporary film noir. The genre is not new to De Palma's repertoire, but this one was a difficult undertaking, for its complex mix of cinematography, genre interplays, characters and plot developments. I have mixed feelings about this film because where it succeeds, it does so extraordinarily well, but it's failings are too important to ignore. I felt more saddened that De Palma, who wrote and directed it, didn't just choose less loftier goals and come out with a much stronger piece. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/autofocus.html

Autofocus

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Paul Schrader's film about Bob Crane (played by Greg Kinnear) of Hogan's Heroes fame, examines how fame and Hollywood contributed to his sex-obsession to the point of self-destruction. While it was very strong in cinematic technique and Kinnear's depiction of the deteriorating effects of an obsessive-compulsive, it was weak in developing other characters or relationships. We all knew what happened, but the movie didn't really give us more than a superficial viewpoint and simple storyline. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/satin-rouge.html

Satin Rouge

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Lilia is a widow who wants to live life again. When she inadvertently discovers a cabaret, she finds herself both horrified and intrigued at the women belly dancing to men, who them feed money, like a strip club in America. Her desire to find individuality and break the moralistic mold of her upbringing sees her frequenting the cabaret nightly. The appeal to American audiences will probably be limited to the art-film culture, which is unfortunate, since what the film has most to offer is the stuff that mainstream Americans should see: a look into every day life in a Middle Eastern country where Arab and Western cultures interrelate well. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/tuck.html

Tuck Everlasting

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html The latest disney film adaptation from a children's book is about a girl who inadvertently stumbles upon a family of immortals and learns important lessons on life and death. The theme is presented thoughtfully, with ethereal and heavenly cinematography that's a sure crowd-pleaser. But, I came away with a sense that it tried to please too many audiences— the kids didn't really get the main moral, and it's a tad simplistic for the adults. While enjoyable, this isn't the type of movie that should be so lukewarm, especially given a strong cast of four academy-award winning stars and a backer like Disney at the helm. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/alabama.html

Sweet Home Alabama

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Sweet Home Alabama is a fine example of the perfect "formula" movie for the comedy-romance genre. Not only is the film enjoyable from beginning to end, it's refreshing to see it intentionally avoid all the mistakes that most formula movies make. No gags. No oversimplifications. No diminutive treatment of subcultures to garner a laugh. Instead, it focuses on precisely what makes great movies great: strong character profile and development, intelligent script, believable motivations, strong supporting roles, and a very honest and real portrayal of people behaving in believable ways. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/signs.html

Signs & The Sixth Sense

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html M. Knight Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense", and his latest film, "Signs", have both done very well at the box office, not to mention gaining some critical acclaim. He brings a wonderful sense of mood to the screen, portrays human emotion effectively, and takes the audience through wonderful psychological distresses. His signature surprise endings dupe the audience, but they leave happy. Yet, this deception comes at the cost of leaving very important character development unreasolved. This essay/review deconstructs Shyamalan's approach to filmmaking and the pros and cons associated with his "surprise ending" technique. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/one-hour-photo.html

One Hour Photo

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html One Hour Photo is a thriller where Robin Williams plays a psycho with a conscience. It's a nicely paced, intelligent suspense film, where its qualities lie with its aesthetics: pace, soundtrack, and dramatic elements. This is not a movie that relies on surprise, shock, or intrigue. However, the characters lack a sense of depth, and their actions are too illogical and unexplained to appeal to a linear-thinking audience. Nevertheless, the technique is well-crafted enough that it will probably be well-accepted by an art-film audience, where symbolism and other aesthetics are regarded more highly. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/simone.html

Simone

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Al Pacino plays Viktor Taransky, a down and out Academy Award-nominated director who creates a computer-simulated actress that becomes a new celebrity icon, saving his career. But, Taransky's sense of self, which had always been lacking, falls further into an abyss, causing him to attempt to destroy his own creation, but to no avail. While making fun of Hollywood and the spectre of celebrity culture is humorous, too many important aspects of basic story-telling are hand-waved away, putting the film more in the category of gag comedy at its own expense. More should be expected from this exceptional filmmaker. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/spykids2.html

Spy Kids 2

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Spy Kids 2 picks up where the first left of by the formalization of the "kid" division of the CSS, a loose reference to the CIA, where the Cortez family of spies - who also happen to be tastefully understated multi-ethnic - are vying for prominent positions. The father, Gregorio, played by Antonio Banderas, is expected to become the head of the agency, but is suspiciously usurped by the father of the Spy Kids' nemesis, the brother-sister team of Gary and Gerti Giggles, who are also vying to displace the Cortez children as the leading spy kids. When the disaster happens that calls each team into action to save the world from destruction, the plot becomes a three-way competition - good guy against good guy against evil-doer. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/bloodwork.html

Blood Work

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Clint Eastwood returns to the cop-thriller genre in the film noire-ish "Blood Work", where he plays Terry McCaleb, an FBI detective who is forced to retire after collapsing from a heart attack while pursuing a serial killer. Two years later, he gets a heart transplant from a donor who happened to be the victim of an apparent store robbery. When the victim's sister points out that his new heart is her sister's, she convinces him that he owes it to her to help solve her unsolved murder. It isn't long before he begins to piece together subtle clues, and before he knows it, he's reinvigorated by the chase again, yet torn about the realization that it's his presence that's the cause of it. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/possession.html

Possession

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Leil Labute's 6th film is a quiet romance drama, adapted from A.S. Byatt's 1990 novel of the same name. Here, Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaran Eckhart play two Victorian-era researchers who discover a cache of love letters that appear to suggest a love affair between a famous poet Laureat to Queen Victoria and a little-known poetess named Christabel LaMotte. As they collaborate on uncovering the romantic mysteries between the poets, Paltrow and Eckhart also discover romantic mysteries between themselves. Fun for the whole family, although the plot line may make it difficult to get the testosterone-laden boyfriend into the theater. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/k19.html

K-19: The Widowmaker

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html There are pros and cons to making movies based on successful formulas. On one hand, a good cookie-cutter formula makes a film easy to make, and will likely to be a sure hit with certain target audiences. On the other hand, formula pictures tend to have lots of competition, making it more difficult to rise above the fray. The film, "K-19: The Widowmaker", is an action thriller that suffers so much from the mundane "been there, done that" of the standard formula for the genre, that its better qualities come too late and are weak to save it. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/road-to-perdition.html

Road to Perdition

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html While I enjoyed Perdition for its qualities, and enjoyed watching it in the theater, I felt it ultimately lost its grip on its purpose, and was ultimately more disappointed that it didn't live up to its potential. Essentially, the movie was intended as a portrait of a family-man torn between his love of his family and the loyalty to his mob boss. But, the portrait was never completed, as the film abandoned its heartland landscape and the slow moving rhythms of the portrait of Sullivan, to a semi-comedic farce about a man and his son on the run, robbing banks. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/cinema-paradiso.html

Cinema Paradiso

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Everything that has become the best of Italian film-making clichés can be found in Giuseppe Tornatore's "Cinema Paradiso." Originally released in 1989, and nominated for an Oscar for best foreign-language film, the movie has been re-released today as a directory's cut, with a whopping 57 minutes added, bringing it to only moments shy of three hours. But the effort was worth it, as the movie virtually reinvents itself, while remaining true to its original rendition. The story's themes of puritanical censorship, male coming of age in post-WWII Italy, and a heart-felt tribute to the role of cinema in every day life, have all been expanded to more acutely emphasize the depths and intertwining relationships among them. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/minority-report.html

Minority Report

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Stephen Spielberg's action/thriller starring Tom Cruise, a cop from the year 2054, who works in the pre-crime division of the Washington D.C police department. The division's ability to stop murders before they happen is based on the psychic ability of three people who were mutant byproducts of a failed genetic program designed to help babies born from drug-dependent mothers. This may sound a little like The Fugitive, but in this case, you don't know if the man on the run is - or, rather, will be - guilty. A well-paced, exciting plotline, with Spielberg's singature filmmaking make it a fun summer action film, outweighing its marginal attention to far-fetched details. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/insomnia.html

Insomnia

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Al Pacino plays Will Dormer, a cop under investigation by his own internal affairs department, who kills his partner by accident while in persuit of a murder suspect. While I certainly enjoyed the film a great deal while watching it - it has a great script, great storyline, and a good pace - I was mildly disappointed that Chris Nolan made a "safe" and "traditional" film by comparison to his previous work, "Momento." The film also didn't need, demand or exercise the talents of Pacino or Williams, so it might have been a stronger film had it had unknown actors give it more indie-film feel. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/crush.html

Crush

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Andie MacDowell plays Kate, one of three forty-something single women who get together to smoke, drink, and reward each other with chocolates for who has the most pitiful "man story" of the week. Kate, who is the headmistress at a strict all-girls school in England, has a quick fling with a 25-year old boy named Jed, who plays the organ for the church. The movie was supposed to be about how the friendships between the women is challenged by Kate's having fallen for a man, but the entire movie holds no interest because the relationship between Kate and Jed is essentially meaningless. None of the humor entertains, and minor characters are shoddy. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/crush.html

Kissing Jessica Stein

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Jessica Stein is in that perpetual pursuit of a man, only to find that the entire pool of available men is either crazy-weird, gay, or married. After a series of hilariously depicted disastrous "first dates" with men she finds in personals ads, she ends up hearing about, and responding to, an ad from a woman named Helen, who's seeking another woman. The movie does a good job at bringing the two women together and developing their relationship, but loses sight of its original theme and the very framework of what Jessica's personal challenge is, which explains why she can't establish relationships in the first place. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/sum-all-fears.html

Sum of All Fears

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html As Tom Clancy movies go, "The Sum of All Fears" seems to fit the bill. Starring a name-brand cast such as Morgan Freeman, Ben Affleck, James Cromwell and others, it's yet another war-thriller set in modern times, that strives to give a haunting and apparently realistic view of what might happen if a nuclear war broke out between the US and Russia. The "villain" is two-dimensional and unnecessary (except for the fact that they needed someone to start the troubles), but the movie still did a fine job at completely distancing itself from reality, while maintaining a balance of suspense and entertainment at the same time. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/saltan-sea.html

Saltan Sea

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Val Kilmer plays Danny Parker, who, after suffering from an unexpected and brutal crime that killed his wife, has sunk so low that his life is empty, leaving him only with despair. His only way out is to completely transform himself into something else, someone new, in order to avenge her death. But, the task is so demanding, requiring a full and complete commitment, that he loses a sense of himself - who he really was, or is, or will become. Great for Kilmer fans who want to watch his career evolve. While the movie is good, it's just not strong enough to stand out in the crowd of movies of a similar vein. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/panic-room.html

Panic Room

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Panic Room, the latest film from David Fincher, starring Jodie Foster and Forest Whitaker, is a suspense/thriller, where a mother and daughter are holed up in a protected "safe room" while three villains try to break in. While the script is intelligent and there are certainly suspenseful moments, the movie tries too hard to build suspense for its own sake, failing to develop characters and their motivations or relationships, the primary ingredients for what makes a thriller thrilling. That said, it's not bad as a light pop-corn matinee flick or video rental for the sole purpose of sharing in a few knee-grabbing suspenseful scenes. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/showtime.html

Showtime

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Showtime, the latest buddy-cop flick to hit the silver screen, is, in fact, supposed to be a spoof of such films. What's more, it also pokes a satirical finger at the television media in all its forms: news coverage, cop shows, reality TV, and over-the-hill personalities, trying desperately to keep their careers alive. Yet, despite the shoe-in ease of ridiculing a cliché movie format, and the movie's top-shelf talent of Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy and Renee Russo, the script's humor is mediocre at best, and it's buried by its feeble attempt at also having a serious plot. It may have worked if the satire was contained within a certain realm, but once the satire went over-the-edge to slapstick, which wasn't all that bad, the serious stuff should have been left on the cutting-room floor. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/collateral-damage.html

Collateral Damage

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html What makes the new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, Collateral Damage, so interesting isn't the plot, or the action, or any of its superficial features. It's the haunting juxtaposition of its scheduled release amid the attack of September 11. It was held back for obvious reasons, but it has just now been released in theaters nationwide (February 8, 2002), and gives food for thought on just how interestingly American attitudes have changed in such a short period of time. In fact, I find that aspect so intreguing, that the movie may remain, unfortunately, as a small milestone that marks the end of an old era of movies and the beginning of a new one. This is the only quality of the movie that gives it its unintended positive vote. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/sex-with-strangers.html

Sex With Strangers

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Sex with Strangers positioned itself as a documentary to give serious insight into swingers and their lifestyles, but I have reservations about its credibility as an authentic documentary. Rather, it appears to rely on the gimmick of lying to the audience much the same way Jerry Springer did, where the appeal was the assumption that the "guests" were real people, and that they were primed or coached, or worse, "scripted" into the scenes they played. Sex with Strangers feels more like a soap opera where the characters are accentuated to punctuate the "reality-based documentary" effect. Whether the movie is authentic or not, it failed even in its stated goal of peering into the lives of the swinger crowd—instead, it focused only on a few selected "trailer park" couples without giving a true and dynamic context about their broader culture and lifestyle. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/storytelling.html

Storytelling

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Storytelling consists of two completely separate stories, one called Fiction and the other, Non-fiction. The irony of life is expressed in these stories, and their proximity to one another shows how, in various contexts, reality is perceived as fiction, and fiction is perceived as reality. The film is by Todd Solondz, who is known for his extremely dark, yet uncomfortably hilarious portrayals of the darker side of suburban life. His narratives peek behind the scenes of the lives of everyday people and tell stories that reveal the true side of human nature. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/black-hawk.html

Black Hawk Down

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Director Ridley Scott re-creates a fierce 15-hour battle between besieged U.S. troops and Somali fighters on the streets of Mogadishu in 1993, in which 18 Americans were killed and 73 injured, along with thousands of Somali militia. Scott's exceptional visual sense is expressed to perfection, putting you directly in the center of action, from beginning to end, as if you were one of the soldiers themselves. But, don't think it's just another testosterone-laden war film. It's not. It is an intelligent and ambitious effort to accurately portray the soldiers'

Link To Movies/shipping-news.html

The Shipping News

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Lasse Hallstrom's convincingly life-affirming story about the strength of the human spirit, where characters come to terms with the unearthing of long-held taboo secrets. In reality, moral boundaries are crossed more often than not, and everyone eventually has to face the skeletons in their closets. The problem with the film is its adaptation from the Pulitzer-prize winning novel by E. Annie Proulx, and films often pale in comparison to their literary counterparts. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/gosford-park.html

Gosford Park

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Robert Altman is at it again with a deep, complex look at the human condition, this time set in a 1930's English estate where a murder takes place over a hunting holiday weekend. The classic whodunit style provides the backdrop for a deeper look into the class hierarchy between masters and servants, and love and revenge. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/beautiful-mind.html

Beautiful Mind

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Ron Howard's latest film is planned and packaged just for the Oscars, and just in time for Christmas. Russell Crowe plays the real-life John Forbes Nash, the mathematical genius who struggled with schizophrenia, almost destroying his family and himself. The film's ace-in-the-hole is that it's based on real people and events, giving it a disproportionately stronger emotional effect than fictional films on the same themes. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/vanilla-sky.html

Vanilla Sky

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Surrealistic psycho-thriller starring Tom Cruise as an heir to a mega-publishing empire, who finds it difficult to discerne between reality and psycho-induced paranoia fantasies. Like a cross between The Matrix, Total Recall, and Fatal Attraction, only this production takes the worst-common-denominator of the three. That they were good films with creative ideas and vivid characters is what keeps Vanilla Sky above water, but won't likely be appreciated by a more sophisticated audience. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/i-am-sam.html

I am Sam

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Remember when Dustin Hoffman played the autistic and retarded adult, Raymond, in the 1988 film, Rain Man? Now imagine he had a child, and tried to raise her, entirely on his own and unassisted. A preposterous premise for movie, you say? Ok, then try this on for size: after losing custody of the child due to an observant social worker, a feature-length film dedicates the bulk of its time and emotional capital on the expectation that the audience will believe, let alone support the notion that this poor, helpless soul can or even should regain the custody of the child. Even more preposterous, you say? Well, this is the entire premise of the movie, I am Sam. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/oceans-11.html

Ocean's 11

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html This year, Soderbergh applies his academy award winning filmmaking technique to Ocean's Eleven, a remake of the 1960 film of the same name. Here, George Clooney assumes Frank Sinatra's role by playing the leader of the rat pack, Danny Ocean, who dons his dashing looks and charismatic confidence to recruit eleven consirators to pull off the perfect heist: taking $650M simultaneously from three Las Vegas Casinos. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/porn-star.html

Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Many a guy has fantasized about being a porn star at some point in his life, especially when he feels insecure about his protruding pot belly and hair growing where he doesn't want or need it. Yet, to be all this, and have gorgeous, blond, sex-crazed teens and twenty-somethings crave your sexual being, well, this is what makes the porn business the multi-billion dollar industry that it is today. The irony of Ron Jeremy is that this is his life, but he doesn't want it. And, this is what makes the movie so interesting and appealing. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/spy-game.html

Spy Game

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html The buzz about the new film, Spy Game is true: it's an engrossing, yet flawed film, well made with the highest-quality Hollywood production technology, but with a plot that eventually droops to a mild yawn. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/shallow-hal.html

Shallow Hal

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Shallow Hal touches nerves and invokes laughter at the same time by poking fun at political correctness and superficiality through Hal, an exceedingly shallow 30-something who's only attracted to gorgeous, supermodel knock-out chicks. He becomes hypnotized to see people for who they are on the inside, not the outside, which is the source of humor for most of the film. While it could have sent a message, or make a point, or even tell you something you don't know, it instead chose to just have fun. And fun, it is, if you're not offended by laughing at parts of yourself. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/man-not-there.html

The Man Who Wasn't There

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html The Man Who Wasn't There, the 2001 entree from the Joel and Ethan Coen, is hallmarked for its exquisite attention to detail as a 1940s film-noire. Shot stunningly in black and white, and complete with the camera angles and minute caricatures that give the film its nostalgic qualities, it's fun to watch. Yet, like the classic noirs, the film presents more style, atmosphere and quirkiness of the genre than plot, so don't expect to be entertained with stirring character developments, subplots or climactic drama. In short, it's not On the Waterfront, despite its fantastic appearance. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/monsters-inc.html

Monsters, Inc.

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html This latest computer-animated gem from Pixar is fun for the whole family, including adults. Each night, monsters emerge from the closets of children rooms through magic doors that connect the human world to the Monsters Inc. factory in Monstropolis. The monsters jobs are to scare the children, and harness their frightful screams into canisters, which powers their city. The movie follows the delightful characters of the top-scarers, James Sully (John Goodman), and his sidekick, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) as they try to outdo their chief competitor, Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi) by seeing who can collect the most screams. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/life-as-house.html

Life as a House

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Kevin Kline plays George Monroe who, after being fired from his job and learns he's dying, reassesses his life, and so doing, decides to tear down his shack of a house, and rebuild it... and with it, his relationship with his 16-year-old son, Sam (Hayden Christensen). The film is a fine platform for the star to show the potential for his true dramatic range. With a rather straightforward plot with no twists or unexpected turns, the movie sets up and spoon feeds you all the necessary elements for a well-intended drama that pulls at the heart-strings. This is fine for Kline, and while I found the movie somewhat enjoyable, it's certainly not deep. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/last-castle.html

Last Castle

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html "The Last Castle" is about an inmate revolt in a U.S. military prison, led by Robert Redford, who plays General Irwin, a highly decorated three-star general whose been court-marshaled and convicted to ten years in prison for a crime that isn't immediately apparent. The plot, as it was intended, provides a reasonable backdrop for what could have evolved into a thoughtful portrayal of human character. Unfortunately, the movie is a hollow shell, where life isn't breathed into the characters, and the story suffers from apathy. (Full Review)

Link To Movies/riding-cars.html

Riding in Cars with Boys

Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Drew Barrymore plays Beverly D'Onofrio, who, at the age of 15, gets pregnant and has a child. Instead of following her dreams of going to college and having a writing career, she marries to avoid embarrassing the family. After years of a turbulent marriage with the drug-addicted father, she eventually decides to leave him so she can go to school. Despite a weak script and plotline, Barrymore does a pretty good job at a character profile. (Full Review)


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