Movie Review Archive - L
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The Lake House (PG)
A young man and woman (he's living in 2004 and she in 2006) engage in a romance through a series of letters that mysteriously appear in a lake house mailbox. I was amazed that this film seemed to use robotic mannequins for the lead characters until, after a few scenes, I realized that it was Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. I have always enjoyed romantic time travel films (1979's Time After Time is a favorite of mine) and though I probably wouldn't have cast them, Reeves and Bullock manage to pull it off. Directed by Alejandro Agresti. 105 minutes.
A 1969 appearance at Woodstock, and the hit single "Black Magic Woman" would have been enough. But when guitarist/founder Carlos Lantana won that Grammy in 1999, oh wait. No.........Great Aussie psychological thriller. One of those films where a bunch of strangers' lives intersect. Plenty of well written sub-plots too! After a bunch of cheesy roles over the years, Anthony LaPaglia, looking very much like a poor man's Baldwin brother, gets a great part and makes the most of it. Take a break from the mainstream and enjoy one of the best movies out there right now. Also starring Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey. 120 minutes.
The Last Castle (R)
There's nothing like a military prison movie to pass the time. Robert Redford (Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid) is an imprisoned three-star general and James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) is his evil warden in the interesting but flawed The Last Castle. Gandolfini's character is morally corrupt. But are we supposed to cheer when Redford's character organizes the other inmates, who are mostly convicted former military drug dealers and thugs, in a prison revolt? These are American soldiers that the inmates are fighting! The revolt itself is very exciting but this film sends mixed messages regarding patriotism, duty and morality. The Shawshank Redemption is still the finest prison movie ever made. Old generals never die but their privates do.
Last Days (R)
Loosely based on the life of Kurt Cobain. Gus Van Sant's (Finding Forester, Good Will Hunting) Last Days reminded me of 1979's The Rose which was loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin. Except in The Rose we see Bette Midler's character's talent and charisma. In Last Days, Blake (Michael Pitt), a drug addled, mentally ill pretty boy exhibits no worthy qualities. I suppose we are to assume that he has simply lost some great gift. Instead of being a sympathetic character, Blake comes off as a pathetic, self indulgent butt-head. 97 minutes.
Last Holiday (PG13)
A shy woman (Queen Latifah) decides to live it up after she is told that she has a month to live. This sweet story is poisoned by a lousy screenplay that features scenes populated with stereotypical characters trudging through second rate sit-com situations. Also starring Timothy Hutton and LL Cool J. 112 minutes.
The Last Kiss (R)
With a baby on the way and marriage on the horizon, a young architect's (Zach Braff) fling with a pretty college student has disastrous consequences. Advertised as a comedy/drama, this film explores love, honesty and commitment and is quite serious, with a few laughs and some graphic sex thrown in to "keep it real" as the kids like to say. Braff's 2004 film Garden State touched on similar themes but was far better. Also starring Jacinda Barrett as Jenna, Braff's fianc�e, Rachel Bilson, Casey Affleck, Tom Wilkinson and Blythe Danner. Canadian actress Rachel McAdams was originally cast as Jenna but had to bow out. Too bad because she's terrific. 115 minutes.
The Last Waltz (PG)
In 1976, one of America's greatest rock bands, The Band, decided to quit performing live concerts. They figured that it would be a great idea to film one final show at San Francisco's Winterland Arena. Many friends were invited to sit in. The resulting documentary, The Last Waltz, has been described as a combination Irish Wake and New Orleans Funeral. It has just been released on DVD and is in a handful of theaters. Judging by the audience size (me and one other guy) it won't be in theaters for long. That's too bad because this movie is thoroughly entertaining. I laughed, cried and got quite involved. It was easy to dismiss this film when it was released in 1978. The Band had already self destructed. Victims of the road, internal squabbles and substance abuse, the various members needed to get away from each other. Musical tastes were changing. The Band was seen as an anachronism. Singer-songwriters (Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, et al) were all the rage. Disco, punk and hip-hop were about to emerge. This changing musical landscape, as Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone Magazine wrote "made The Band's sepia-tinted chronicles of rural America seem fussy and old-fashioned." Watching and listening to these performances again in 2002 made me realize just how lucky we were to have a group like The Band. Songs like "It Makes No Difference," "Ophelia," "The Shape I'm In" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" still sparkle like jewels. The featured guests range from first-rate (Van Morrison's "Caravan") to throw away (Paul Butterfield's "Mystery Train") but none of them overstay their welcome. Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson are the true stars of the show. I miss them. Also starring Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, Larry Packer (Hair Of The Dog),The Staples Singers, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Ron Wood, Neil Young and Martin Scorsese. 117 minutes.
Layer Cake (R)
Violent British organized crime story in the tradition of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. The protagonist is well dressed, smart and cool. He wants to retire but "they keep pulling him back in." If this all sounds a little familiar, you are correct. Very well done but extremely derivative. 110 minutes.
Legally Blonde (PG13)
Nashville native Reese Witherspoon is pretty in pink but without Molly Ringwald's taste. She's also intelligently clueless but lack's Alicia Silverstone's insight. What we are left with is a pleasant comedy with a few laughs and a courtroom finish with no drama or suspense. Rent the superior Election to see Witherspoon at her best.
The Legend Of Zorro (PG)
A repugnant blend of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Batman and "The Wild Wild West". The year is 1850 and The Republic Of California is on the verge of statehood. Some very bad men, allied with The Confederate States, have developed nitro glycerin. They plan to blow up a bunch of stuff in order to keep California out of the Union, thereby preserving a southern power advantage and ensuring slavery and unhealthy cooking for years to come. Can Zorro stop them? This film has a plethora of explosions, gun battles, sword fights, chases and winking at the camera. Every time Zorro fights with his sword, his enemy's guns seem to magically disappear. Long and stupid. Starring Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Adrian Alonzo. 129 minutes.
Life As A House (R)
Kevin Kline (French Kiss, A Fish Called Wanda) stars as a cancer victim who's final wishes are to build a house and to win the respect and maybe even the love of his teen-aged son in Life As A House. The story touches on (I'm not kidding) terminal illness, love, hate, human contact, drug abuse, dysfunctional families, sexual promiscuity, divorce, drunken driving, spousal abuse, homosexual prostitution, endangering the welfare of a child, anger in the workplace, self-esteem, coming of age, zoning laws, cliff diving and redemption. These issues are unfortunately handled in a made for TV kind of a way. Both Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas (pick TWO names honey) who plays his ex-wife, are excellent, but they are not quite able to rise above the material that they are given to work with. With some editing, this will be a very good tear-jerker on commercial television. If you like that kind of thing, I suggest that you wait. Also, starring as Mrs. Robinson, Mary Steerburger.
The Life Of David Gale (R)
A reporter (Kate Winslet) is sent to Texas' death row to interview a man (Kevin Spacey) who is awaiting execution for the murder of a friend (Laura Linney). During the course of their conversations she becomes convinced that he is innocent. This film has gotten horrible reviews and Ms. Linney has taken an unfair media beating for exposing her less than perfect body. Have you seen those naked photos of Roger Ebert that are floating through cyberspace? Despite some occasional overacting by Winslet this is a good film with a great twist. 145 minutes.
Life Or Something Like It (PG13)
Lanie Kerigan (Angelina Jolie) is a pretty and highly organized on-air local news personality. Pete (Edward Burns) is a handsome free-spirit who is Lanie's photog (camera person). Lanie is up for a promotion that could move her from her Seattle affiliate to the network in New York. And this just in: Street prognosticator Prophet Jack (Tony Shaloub), who seems to be able to accurately predict everything from sports scores to plane crashes, has a vision that Lanie will die in a week. Will Lanie get the job? Will Pete teach Lanie how to wake up and smell the latte? Will Lanie check out? Like most romantic comedies, Life Or Something Like It is goofy, preposterous and sappy. Is it just me or do Ms. Jolie's lips seem to get bigger and more chapped as she gets older? Also starring Stockyard Channing. 104 minutes.
Little Miss Sunshine (R)
Seven year old Olive Hoover is entered into a children's beauty pageant held in Redondo Beach, California. She and her dysfunctional family pile into their old Volkswagen hippie bus and begin a hilarious journey from their home in Albuquerque. Pitifully overmatched by the other Jon-Benet Ramsey clones, Olive is tested by both the pageant and her bickering family. Don't miss this one. Starring Greg Kinnear (The Matador, Auto Focus, Sabrina), Steve Carell (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Anchorman, Bewitched), Alan Arkin (Slums Of Beverly Hills, The In-Laws, Catch 22) and Toni Collette (About A Boy, The Sixth Sense, Muriel's Wedding). 103 minutes.
The Longest Yard (PG13)
A disgraced former pro quarterback (Adam Sandler) is sent to a Texas prison. The warden (James Cromwell) directs his new guest to assemble an all inmate football team for a tune-up game against his semi-pro prison guard squad. Lame remake of the classic 1974 film. Exactly what you would expect if The Longest Yard was made now. The cast includes many current big names from pro football, pro wrestling, rap and sports journalism. Sandler's performance is not exactly memorable. The jokes and gags are strictly lowest common denominator. In other words, 2005's The Longest Yard will most likely be a hit. Also starring Burt Reynolds and Chris Rock. 113 minutes.
Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (PG13)
Truly great sets, casting, locations and photography punctuate this captivating film. The Fellowship Of The Ring, which tells a timeless story of the corrupting power of evil, is the first of three already completed movies based on J.R.R. Tolkein's The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. It makes me wish that I had really read them like I was supposed to in Miss DiNova's 10th grade literature class. Ian McKellen is a most commanding presence as Gandalf, and how great is Cate Blanchette as Galadriel the elf queen? She is so different from project to project that most people don't even know who she is. That's what I call range, baby! Fellowship is not to be missed by any fan of action/fantasy/sci-fi films. It ranks just below the mother of all movies of this genre, Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Also starring Elijah Wood, Liv Tyler (That Thing You Do), Christopher Lee, Sean Bean and Viggo Mortensen. Bring your jammies and a toothbrush. 180 minutes.
Lord Of The Rings: Two Towers (PG13)
Wow. Two Towers, the second installment of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy (they may make four) is even better than the first, albeit much more violent. These films are sort of a combination of The Wizard Of Oz, Braveheart and Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Enough said. Starring Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen and Eiijah Wood (Have you seen him on a talk show? He takes himself sooooo seriously). Bring your jammies and a teethbrush. 179 minutes.
The Lost City (R)
As Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry Callahan used to say, "A man's gotta know his limitations." When a select few Hollywood actors reach a point in their career where their fame and wealth allow them to, many produce and or direct and star in a pet project. Eastwood has succeeded many times, scoring with great films like 1995's The Bridges Of Madison County and 2004's Million Dollar Baby. Other stars have not done as well. Remember Warren Beatty's 1995 snoozer Reds, the story of two really good looking people and how The Russian Revolution affected their sex lives? And who will ever forget Kevin Costner's 1995 disaster (literally) Waterworld? Former heartthrob Andy Garcia produces, directs and stars in this drawn-out turkey set in pre-revolutionary Cuba. The musicians, soldiers, rebels, family and lovers and their dialogue and sets all seem unnatural. Bill Murray plays "The Writer" and every time his mouth opens you want to laugh out loud and not in a good way. Even Garcia's presentation of Cuban nightclub entertainment is wrong. It's used gratuitously and even manages to become boring. The Lost City is one big, long disappointment. The one bright spot is the casting of Jason Bateman as Fidel Castro. Who ever knew that Castro was such an accomplished song and dance man and so popular with the ladies? Also starring Dustin Hoffman as Meyer Lansky. 143 minutes of my life that I will never get back.
Lucky Number Sleven (R)
About 50 minutes in, I was not happy. Sleven really really wants to be Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs or any number of contemporary quirky organized crime films. Too much gratuitous violence and macho posturing already. Josh Hartnett and Lucy Liu making flippy-floppy almost caused me to throw up. Despite the contrived romance and the film's derivative nature, the ending is quite clever and spelled out in such a way that even a moron can understand and appreciate it. Also Starring Sir Ben Kingsley, Sir Morgan Freeman, Sir Bruce Willis and Sir Jerry Mathers as The Beaver. 109 minutes.