Movie Review Archive - C
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A French TV personality, his wife and son become the victims of a man who is seeking revenge for vague transgressions many years ago. Like going to see a play, watching a foreign film can be intimidating for many people. Because it's the "legitimate theater" or a popular movie from another country, there is a tendency to believe that if you didn't like it, it is because you didn't understand it and you are therefore hesitant to react negatively for fear of people thinking that you are stupid, shallow or artistically challenged. When this highly acclaimed film was over, a stranger asked me to explain the ending to him. This created a dialogue throughout the Spectrum Theater (a rarity) and the consensus was that THIS FILM STINKS. People seemed genuinely relieved to discover that others hated it and that they were not idiots to think that. I can forgive a film for being a bit tedious and pretentious if the ending packs a punch but the "climax" was pathetic and I just wanted all of the boring characters to die in French with subtitles. 111 minutes.
Based on actual events. After noticing a small story in The New York Times about a quadruple murder in Kansas, author Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) decides to write a non-fiction follow up to his classic Breakfast At Tiffany's, based on the gruesome crime. The project will be his last as it eventually consumes him. Slow paced and grim but fascinating. Also starring Catherine Keener and Chris Cooper. 114 minutes.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin (R)
I was fixin' to take the tractor down into the city anyway when I heard tell of a new movin' picture called "somethin' er other Mandolin", a bluegrass show, or so I thunk. When it comes to anything bluegrass, I'm all over it like Oprah on a baked ham. I reckoned that fancy new movie house was just down the street from where my cousins got hitched last summer. Well that new picture-show shed is slicker than deer guts on a door knob but them prices will kill ya. At least they give me a free courtesy cup to spit my dip inta. Weren't no fiddles, banjers, geetars 'er nothin' in this movie. I kept a waitin' fer "Uncle Pen", "Sally Goodin" or even "Dueling Mandos" but all I got was some hoopin' and carryin' on like Pal-Yat-Chee! It all takes place on this here Greek Island called Acidophilus where no one seemed to use any dairy products. Lactose, the town's doc, has a beautiful daughter (Penelope Cruz) who falls in love with a handsome Eyetalian Officer (Nicholas Cage) who's life is spared causin' he hugged another man. They did offer ta give me my money back but what the heck. It weren't that bad.
The Cat's Meow (PG13)
Set in 1924, publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst hosts a small party aboard his yacht in California. Hearst's guest list reads like a who's-who of that era's rich and famous. The film is based on an actual death and subsequent cover-up during the weekend cruise. Ubiquitous Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) is perfectly cast as the object of a romantic tug-of-war between Hearst and Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard). Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, The Cat's Meow is a clever period piece. Also starring Jennifer Tilly, Edward Hermann and Cary Elwes. 110 minutes.
Catch Me If You Can (PG13)
A smart, good-looking teenager (Leonardo DiCaprio) is able to pass himself off as an airline pilot, doctor and attorney. He eventually becomes a master at forging checks and leaves a paper trail across The United States and Europe, eventually attracting the attention of FBI Agent Hanratty (Tom Hanks). Directed by Steven Spielberg, Catch Me If You Can succeeds beautifully as a lighthearted crime drama but falls flat as a family melodrama. Too bad because this is a great caper flick. Also starring Christopher Walken. 140 minutes.
Changing Lanes (R)
Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson) are having a bad day. A really bad day. While driving on the FDR, their cars collide. Both men are running late for important legal proceedings. Benek refuses to give Gipson, whose car is disabled, a ride to court. Benek leaves an important document at the scene, which Gipson recovers and uses as leverage for revenge. As this Good Friday unfolds, the situation escalates. All this while both characters are simultaneously battling inner demons. This is American mainstream film making at it's best. A taut screenplay, an A-list cast, great New York locations and first-rate direction by Roger Michell. Big budget bucks were spent wisely. Go see this movie! Also starring Dylan Baker, Toni Collette, William Hurt and Sydney Pollack. 100 minutes.
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (PG)
Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp), an eccentric chocolatier, randomly inserts five "golden tickets" into a run of candy bars. The lucky winners receive an all day tour of the Oz-like factory. Has Wonka suddenly become benevolent or is this a desperate cry for help? Admittedly, I'm not a huge Tim Burton (director) or Johnny Depp fan. Having said that, this hyper-quirky remake is a joy to watch from start to finish. Finally, Burton's style has found the perfect story. Great music by the aptly named Danny Elfman too. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is destined to become a classic. 115 minutes.
Cheaper By The Dozen 2 (PG)
Sequel to the 2003 release which was a remake of the 1950 original featuring Clifton Webb and Jeanne Crain. The 2003 version was a fresh, funny and heartfelt look at the Baker family in loving turmoil. Cheaper 2 is like leftovers from a great meal that were stored in the refrigerator for a few days, tossed into a microwave and then served. We're not supposed to notice that even though all the basic elements are there it's nowhere near as good as it was originally. The kids will like it but it's really not very good. Starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Eugene Levy, Hilary Duff and Piper Perabo. 94 minutes.
This musical, staged circa 1975, was directed for film by Rob Marshall. Much like the recent Moulin Rouge, Chicago will please even the most cynical movie enthusiast. The story centers around two actresses (Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones) who are thrown into the Cook County Jail for separate murders. Chicago succeeds on every level. The many musical numbers are catchy and well done, as is the acting and choreography. Even a singing and dancing Richard Gere didn't make me want to throw up. Go see this. Also starring the great John C. Reilly (Boogie Nights, Gangs Of New York) and Queen Latifah (What country?). 113 minutes.
Cinderella Man (PG13)
A washed up Depression Era boxer is given one last bout and parlays it into an unbelievable comeback. What's good about this film is also its weakness. Because it is a big budget mainstream Hollywood film it stars a talented but ubiquitous cast, has an authentic period look and feel but no subtlety or nuance. We know what to think and feel because the dialogue is straightforward and the score directs our emotions. Director Ron Howard certainly knows how to give the masses what they want but fails to challenge them in any way. This movie couldah beenah contendah. Starring Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger and Paul Giamatti. 144 minutes.
City By The Sea (R)
Vincent LaMarca (Robert DeNiro), a troubled veteran NYC police officer, is plagued by personal problems. Vincent's father was convicted and executed for a killing in the 50's. He is an admitted wife beater and deadbeat dad. His son may have murdered his partner. City By The Sea is part crime drama, part melodrama. Great performances by DeNiro, newcomer James Franco and Frances McDormand (Fargo, Almost Famous) make an overwrought screenplay a bit more palatable. Also starring Patti LuPone (Evita), George Dzundza (Law And Order) and Anson Mount (Isn't that what director Garry Marshall used to yell at the actor that played Potsie just before he started shooting a love scene?) 108 minutes.
City Of God (R)
A remarkable look at gang life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Employing a non-linear storytelling technique similar to Pulp Fiction and Snatch, a seemingly never-ending cycle violence and human tragedy unfolds. In Portuguese with subtitles. 135 minutes.
Clerks 2 (R)
Beneath the gross out gags, foul language and inter species erotica lies a very funny film with a sweet romance and a nifty dance number thrown in for good measure. Written and directed by Kevin Smith who also appears as Silent Bob. Also starring Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Trevor Fehrman and the irresistible Rosario Dawson (Rent, Sin City, MIB II) who lights up the screen every time she appears. 92 minutes.
The basic idea of this movie is a direct lift from a classic 1960's "Twilight Zone" episode about a magic stopwatch. Michael Newman (Adam Sandler), a workaholic architect, receives a universal remote control from an apparent mad scientist named Morty (Christopher Walken). The remote has the power to fast forward Michael through entire chunks of his life, enable him to relive (but not change) the past, make time stand still, etc. Like most of Sandler's big screen work, this film is a celluloid contradiction but even more so. Throughout Click, Sandler's Newman does things like kick his son's swim team coach in the groin, fart in his bosses face and encourage his dog to habitually hump a stuffed animal. So you'd think that this is another Big Daddy, 50 First Dates or Happy Gilmore right? While all the adolescent hijinks is taking place there are a great many truly tender moments that are reminiscent of films such as It's A Wonderful Life, Peggy Sue Got Married and Groundhog Day. Had he dialed back the juvenile humor, this could have been a classic despite the stock ending. Sandler must have loved casting Fonzie and Marge Simpson as his parents and stunner Kate Beckensale as his wife. But in real life, beauties like Beckensale don't go for schlubs like Sandler. That would be like someone such as, say, Rachael Ray falling for a guy like me. Only in the movies. I saw Click twice and I laughed and cried both times. Also starring Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner. 98 minutes.
The Closet (R)
Used to be, proof positive that the French were crazy was the fact that they regarded Jerry Lewis as a comic genius. Turns out that the French were right about "Le Grand Idiot" (check out Lewis' earliest work both on the silver screen and in nightclubs) and we are the idiots. Daniel Auteil (The Widow Of St. Pierre) stars as Pignon, a dull, divorced accountant who must pretend that he's gay in order to save his job at a condom factory. This is simply one of the funniest, most insightful and poignant films that I have seen in a long time. A must see. Also starring Gerard Depardieu (Green Card). In French. Don't be scared away by the subtitles.
Coach Carter (PG13)
An inner city high school hires a new basketball coach (Samuel L. Jackson) who promises to bring discipline and a winning attitude to the court, the classroom and the mean streets. If the 70's television show "The White Shadow" was released as a film in 2005, this would be it. 140 minutes.
Collateral Damage (R)
Hollywood is famous for it's knee-jerk reactions to current events. Collateral Damage was supposed to premier in the fall of 2001 and then the tragic events of September 11th occurred. With millions invested and fans in a state of ready, it wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Brewer, a Los Angeles firefighter who's wife and son are killed when a bomb, meant to kill diplomats and military personnel, explodes near a cafe where they are waiting for him. It's then pay-back time Schwarzenegger style. If you like state of the art American action pictures, this is your film. It's been said that Collateral Damage is the kind of movie Hollywood won't make any more. Hollywierd will certainly make less of them in troubled times but I'd bet that this isn't the last of these that we will see. Also starring (in a rare mainstream appearance) John Turturro, Elias Koteas and the always disturbing John Leguizamo. 115 minutes.
Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (R)
In 1979 while visiting my brother and his wife in Los Angeles, I auditioned for Chuck Barris' "The Gong Show". That memory came rushing back to me during a scene in Confessions where Barris (Sam Rockwell) watches a mediocre singer audition and gets the idea that she should be killed. He instead settles on guest celebrities eliminating contestants by hitting a large gong. "The Gong Show" was a brilliantly funny program but Barris was held personally responsible for the decline of western civilization because of his television programs. This man, who also created shows such as "The Newlywed Game" and "The Dating Game" and wrote the hit song "Pallisades Park" further claims to have been a hit man for The CIA with 33 kills to his credit. Whether Barris was an assassin or not isn't the point of this film. It's simply a brilliantly strange comedy, focusing on a very complex man, set in America's baby boom years. Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, like the best of Barris' work, is quite entertaining but should not be taken too seriously. A very nice job by first time director George Clooney. Also starring Drew Barrymore, Rutger Hauer, George Clooney (Ocean's Eleven), Julia Roberts (Ocean's Eleven), with cameos by Brad Pitt (Ocean's Eleven) and Matt Damon (Ocean's Eleven). 113 minutes.
The Constant Gardener (R)
A British diplomat's wife is murdered in Africa while gathering incriminating facts against a drug company. Her husband will not rest until he uncovers the plot. Suspenseful, beautifully filmed and flawlessly acted. Starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. 129 minutes.
Amongst we mortals live half-devils and half-angels who try to steer us towards good or bad. One brave man (Keanu Reeves), who has been condemned to Hell for some sort of sin, spends his last days on Earth (he is dying from lung cancer) chain-smoking cigarettes, performing exorcisms and killing half-devils in an attempt to redeem his soul. Or something like that. There's plenty of blood, goo, holy water and religious mumbo-jumbo here but most of us have already seen this stuff in superior films such as The Exorcist and John Carpenter's remake of The Thing. Also starring Rachel Weisz. 120 minutes.
The Count Of Monte Cristo (PG13)
Jim (The Weasel) Caviezel portrays Edmond Dantes, an 18th century sailor who is betrayed by his best friend Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce) in the new action/adventure picture The Count Of Monte Cristo. This film is reminiscent of an old Errol Flynn swashbuckler. The middle third of this movie takes place in Chateau d'If, a French island prison and features veteran Richard Harris as fellow inmate Faria. Faria teaches Edmond how to read, write and defend himself. He also provides Edmond with a map that leads to a fabled treasure submerged off the island of Monte Cristo. Once Edmond escapes, he can use the riches to buy a new identity and sweet revenge. This is not a great film and Mr. Pearce's perpetual effeminate sneer becomes an annoyance but it will make a very good TV movie in a few years. Also starring Luis Guzman and Dagmara Dominczyk.
Quick; what's the difference between coincidence and irony? Paul Haggis' (Million Dollar Baby) thought provoking new film is full of both. Its exploration of racism in contemporary Los Angeles is a bit contrived but forgivable given the story's impact and its fine ensemble cast. Even much maligned actors such as Sandra Bullock and (gasp) Tony Danza shine. co-in-ci-dence: A seemingly planned sequence of accidentally occurring events. i-ro-ny: Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually happens. Also starring Matt Dillon, Don Cheadle (Boogie Nights), Brendan Fraser, Ridiculous, Ryan Phillippe and Thandie Newton. 100 minutes.
The Crime Of Father Amaro (R)
A young handsome priest is sent to a small town where he immediately falls in love with a beautiful young woman. There are also sub-plots involving drug money, the catholic church and guerrillas fighting a drug lord. I found the film disappointing and found myself waiting for the beautiful young woman to remove her clothing. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal (pick TWO names hunky Latin dude). In Spanish with subtitles. 120 minutes.
The Crocodile Hunter - Collision Course (PG)
If you are anything like me, your first thought was: Great, a Paul Hogan rip-off. Whereas Hogan's Crocodile Dundee was a hunter/killer, Aussie Steve Irwin is a capturor/relocator. Irwin and his wife Terri wrangle crocks, orphaned baby kangaroos, poisonous snakes, giant spiders and the like. There are sub-plots involving the CIA, a satellite beacon and a colorful cattle rancher but this is mostly an hour and a half of entertaining Discovery Channel programming. Irwin is full of down-under wit and energy and damned if he isn't really rolling around with huge crocodiles. The theater was full of moms and their surprisingly well behaved children. Crikey! 89 minutes.
As time goes by, the line between adult and child entertainment becomes more and more blurred. Kids want and get mature themes and situations while many adults opt for more juvenile content. The brilliant social satire of a television show like The Simpsons is a perfect example. Crossroads, Britney Spears' big screen debut, is a real dilemma for any parent of a young teen. Three pretty high school graduates who are childhood pals decide to run away from their Georgia hometown. Ben, a mysterious musician who they barely know agrees to drive them to Los Angeles. Let's see, Lucy (Spears) talks about touching a boy's reproductive organ and later loses her virginity to the 30 year old Ben who it turns out has served time in prison. Her unmarried and pregnant friend Mimi (Taryn Manning) confesses that she was actually raped by Kit's (Zoe Saldana)fiancé. Mimi loses the baby after a tumble down a flight of stairs. Want me to go on? I actually liked this film a little. Bottom line: I don't think that I would want my 13 year old daughter to see this movie and isn't that Spears' core audience? Also starring as Ben, the aptly named Anson Mount, Dan Aykroyd (who has made a second career out of playing dorky dads) and smutty Kim Catrall. 90 minutes.
Best friends Kate, Janine and Molly are single, forty-something professionals living in England. Kate (Andie MacDowell) falls in love with a 25 year old organist and her friends strongly disapprove. They pull an absolutely unforgivable trick on the happy couple that Kate eventually forgives them for. This is an uneven but watchable chick-flick. Romantic comedies aren't necessarily supposed to be believable anyway. 110 minutes.
The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion (PG13)
Woody Allen is a lot like a Slim Jim. People either love him or hate him. And then there are those that still love him but consider his post Annie Hall/ Manhattan/ Hannah And Her Sisters work to be spurious at best. Much like the recent Small Time Crooks, Jade Scorpion isn't a home run but it's a stand-up double. This funny film involves Allen as a detective who is trying to solve a string of jewel heists. It's far from The Wood-Meister's best movie but it is way better than most of what's on the screen these days. Also starring Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Wallace Shawn, Elizabeth Berkley, Charlize Theron and David Ogden Stiers (Pick TWO names there, Charles).
No pre-screen, a cameo by the talentless Scott Baio and a lame performance of the dreadful "Little Red Riding Hood" by Bowling For Soup were bad omens. This comedy/horror film about werewolves in the Hollywood Hills is a disaster on every level. Skip this dog. Starring Christina Ricci, Judy Greer (Get some sleep!) and Jesse Eisenberg. 96 minutes.