Thursday, February 27, 2003

Well here i am bringing reviews with a Latino flava, let's get started.

Beyond The Mat (1999)

This is a heartbraking wrestling documentary (an oxymoron), i was a fan when i was 14 or so,
after i found out it was fake, i stopped watching.
This movie makes me find a newfound respect for wrestling, the Jack the Snake story was the saddest, that father daughter reunion almost made me weep, and the referee story probably the most pathetic. They don't explain what makes Jack so great tho.
In all this deserves a spot in doc's heaven right next to Hoop Dreams.

Grade: A

Jump Tomorrow (2001)

Oh Natalia Verbeke is so cute, and has a great but too, and Tunde Adembipe is so cute too, and the crazy french guy , and this story is the cutest story ever. But the marriage between the pretentious film school genre, and romantic comedy, doesn't work well, and probably alienates fan from both camps, its not funny enough, the weird funky directing style is interesting at the beggining, but it becomes more conventional. Tunde gives an awesome performace, would love to see him working again, too bad this was so predictable, kudos for the disco scene.

Grade: C+

Piñero (2001)

Benjamin Bratt give a great peformance, in this ho-hum uninvolving biopic. Unconventional edited, ripping off American History X using black and white for the flashbacks, doesn't tell us much about what makes the man tick, but does show us some of his teenage angry pseudorevolutionary poetry, which is similar to my poetry style btw. Overwritten, overdirected. Talisa Soto is the hottest bad actress workin in Holywood right now.

Grade: C-

Ali (2001)

Was 2001 the year of the dissapointing biopic?.
Terrific performances all around, with Jamie Foxx a standout, well deserved Oscar turns for Will Smith and Jon Voight, horrible make-up job tho, and a horribly miscast Van Peebles.
Beautifully filmed, but so slow, and no film can do Ali's stature justice, only 10 years of his life? , only 1 Frazier fight?, it leaves you wanting more.

Grade: B-

The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
This movie tries so hard to be an intelligent psychological thiller, and it had grat potential, can't blame then, but did they expected to be succesful by casting Richard Gere and the very creepy Debra Messing?, Richard Gere is kinda creepy now that i think more, isn't the guy 60 years old and still look the same?. Mark Pellington has a nice eye for framing, but the video directing style doesn't work well here, its pretty similar to Arlington Road, and the screenplay its just too loopy, and wrap things a little bit to thightly in the end. Also cliches, SPOILER, the girls says she's getting married for no reason at all, i wonder what would happen COME ON.

Grade: C, it should be more.
'R Xmas (2002)

The biggest compliment I can pay this film is to say that I didn't despise it. That's bigger praise than you'd think, since this film comes from none other than Abel Ferrara -- the man who, until this film, was my pick for World's Worst Living Director. (That award has since transferred to talent-free Woody-wannabe Eric Schaffer.) I've never had a problem with Ferrara's intellectual pretensions, honestly. It's just he elucidates them in films that are nonsensical, pushy, unpleasant and aggravatingly, well, pretentious. (I still have nightmares about New Rose Hotel.) But here he's managed to take his trademark obsessions with guilt and redemption and harness them to an actual plot -- you know, a series of setpieces that have a logical progression. In doing so, he's made his best film (and perhaps his only watchable one, though I haven't seen King of New York) since his attention-getting breakthrough Ms. 45. I won't say much about the actual plot, since seeing the film cold might be even more effective, but it works for what Ferrara wants to get across. And in the moments where he threatens to wander, he's anchored by a fiery performance by Drea de Matteo, who alone makes the film worth seeing. It's -- dare I say it? -- too short, and it flames out with a non-ending, but it's a promising step. For the first time in my life, I'm anxious to see what Ferrara's got next.

Grade: B
Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969)

Even weirder and more laborious than that title would suggest, this is the notorious vanity project that snuffed Anthony Newley's career quicker than you can say Trampolena Whambang. It's mostly an overstuffed, underthought disaster that muddles along like a bizarro-world Fellini, filled with indifferent acting and juvenile writing and way, way too much George Jessel (five seconds would be too much, honestly) and more pretension and navel-gazing than you could shake a dick at. And yet, I find something curiously irresistible about it. I was a lot of things during this movie. I was confused, stunned, put off, irritated, resigned, quizzical. But I was never bored. And aside from the insufferable Jessel segments, I was never openly hostile. There's just something undefineable about this film, the same sort of thing that makes you wanna hug a mangy dog or take home a beat-up raggedy old stuffed toy. Maybe it's the sheer balls of brass Newley shows in making what is quite obviously going to be his undoing. Maybe it's the cheerful, incongruous musical numbers. Maybe it's the occasional filmic signal from Newley that screams, "I know this film will slaughter my career, but dammit I had to make it but geez, all the same I'll never work in this town again." Maybe it's just the film's loopy, go-for-broke spirit. Maybe this film tickled the same nerve that Freddy Got Fingered hit upon. Except that, for all its disgusting humor and childish mindset, Freddy might also be balls-out brilliant. I can't cut this film the same slack, simply because it's more introspective and less entertaining. Ultimately, it's a occasionally interesting curiosity. But I can't say I'd change the channel if I happened to stumble across it on cable. And the score really is quite catchy. (Although having Joan Collins try and sing was a bad idea.)

Grade: C+

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

$la$her$ (2002)

Shot-on-video horror flick has an irresistible premise: The latest game show craze in Japan is like a volunteer-happy version of The Running Man, a show wherein six contestants try to survive running through a maze whilst being pursued by three vicious serial killers. Essentially all that's required for this film to succeed is to avoid fucking up that surefire idea, and thankfully writer-director Maurice Devereaux keeps things moving nicely. There's some fun black humor, some nasty gore, a couple o' neat plot twists and not-bad acting, considering the film is A) Canadian and B) non-union. Bonus points go to Devereaux for adopting an all-in-one-take style for extra verisimilitude, and more bonus points go to him for hiding his edits well enough to make that ballsy gamble work.

Grade: B
The Candy Snatchers (1973)

Praise be to Greywizard from The Unknown Movies -- without him, I never would have seen this wonderfully grimy (and criminally obscure) exercise in drive-in sleaze. The film kicks off with three villainous hoods kidnapping a girl named Candy off the street with the intent of getting a ransom out of her father (hence the title). Ladies and gentlemen, these three are your most sympathetic adult characters. The drama in the film comes from the gradual botching of their plans as the world around them turns out to be even more vicious and cruel than them. In its criminal milieu and its disgusted stance on humanity, the film seems a cousin to Mario Bava's great 'lost' film Rabid Dogs, especially in its grim ending, wherein the film's cynicism curdles into full-blown nihilism. Needless to say, this ain't feelgood entertainment, but it still packs a lurid kick. Fans of '70s shock cinema should make an effort to find this one.

Grade: B+
Up to His Ears (1965)

Fun French adventure flick with Jean-Paul Belmondo's depressed millionaire playboy encountering one damn thing after another after he signs a life-insurance policy and asks his best friend to kill him. At times, it seems to be a study in cinematic perpetual motion -- the danger keeps coming and the bullets keep flying and Belmondo keeps narrowly escaping death and running into Ursula Andress (hot as always, by the by) and generally having an exhausting time of it all. It does push things a little longer than they really should have gone (past the point of excitement overload; for a comparative experience, see Die Another Day), but it's a hoot and a holler the majority of the time.

Grade: B

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Hey kids! Since Steve's "browser" supposedly ate his reviews (suuuuuuuuure...), I thought I'd pick up some slack and entertain y'all with some more GROOVY GUEST REVIEWS! And LOOK....LOOK....I linked the movies to IMDB!! All by myself. Where's my prize, dammit? Yeah..yeah. What else is there to do when it's 10 degrees out and a hellacious winter storm is headed our way? I've actually seen a wide array of movies in the past few weeks, so let's get this party started....YO. (I'll probably run out of steam after 3 or 4 reviews....LIKE YOU DO.. Oh yeah, amusing entertainment news of the day (especially for Steve-O): Mick Jagger's 18 year-old daughter, Elizabeth, is dating 44 year-old actor, Michael "The Crow" Wincott! WHOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO.....that's some deliciously ironic turnabout for an aging British hound-dog rock star, eh?? OK, on with the reviews:

Tonight's reviews:

Old School (2003)

Three words: Naked Will Ferrell. Hey, *I* was hysterical for a good portion of this movie, and so was the rest of the crowd at the sneak preview I was at. And for all you FEEEELM critics, please don't overanalyze this movie. It's good, dumb fun. Probably one of the most amusing "dumb" comedies I've seen since Outside Providence. OK, not nearly a raunchy as those Farrelly Brothers, but it doesn't purport to be, nor does it aspire to anything more than to make people laugh their asses off. Vince Vaughn is his usual sarcastic, dead-pan self, and how can ANYONE not laugh at Will Ferrell's antics? Luke Wilson is a good straight man (who ends up with the nickname - The Godfather - C' could I NOT LOVE THAT??) for Vaughn and Ferrell, and they work well as a trio of 30+ something year old guys who decide to start a fraternity in a convoluted attempt to recapture their irresponsible youth. My only gripe is the casting of Jeremy Piven as an uptight, nerdy, preppie college dean who will do anything to shut the fraternity down. He seems like the lone fish out of water here, which is a shame, because I'm rather fond of Piven. But, Dean Wermer of Animal House, he's not. So, if you want a break from the serious (and droll) Oscar fare, take your serious hat off and see this flick. I INSIST. And if you're not amused by this movie, I will cut you.

Grade: B

The Hours (2002)

Speaking of serious, droll and just a tad frustrating, ladies and gentleman, I give you: The Hours. OK, don't get me wrong, this movie has some outstanding performances, or should I say, some outstanding "moments". Nicole Kidman has one particularly impressive scene as the schizophrenic writer, Virginia Woolf. IF she should win the Oscar for Best Actress, it will be because of said scene at the trainstation, where she delivers an extraordinarily subdued diatribe to her overprotective, overly patient, long -suffering husband, who realizes the futility of his role in Virginia's life, yet continues to love her unconditionally. Kidman's performance stands out for me because you really are given a sense (through her dialogue and writing) of the helplessness and inability to make herself better. I was underwhelmed in comparison to Kidman's character, by Julianne Moore's 1950's manic-depressive wife and mother, for whom domesticity is unbearable and completely overwhelming, much to the trauma of her young son, who is keenly perceptive to his mother's diminished mental state. Nor did I find Meryl Streep's "formidable" overwraught, frustrated modern woman of the 2002, to be very compelling. All 3 women's characters are interwoven with each other via Virginia Woolf's book "Mrs. Dalloway". Kidman writes it, Moore reads it like the Bible and Streep is nicknamed "Mrs. Dalloway" by her former lover, Ed Harris, who's gaunt, sickly, AIDS-stricken character is both poignant and strong. I love Ed Harris, the man is without a doubt, one of the most talented actors around. And there is a rather interesting twist involving his character, which I was not expecting. I'm just not feeling the Oscar-vibe about the overall movie (save for the outstanding editing...). And as much as it pains me to say this: John C. Reilly needs to take a break....can you say OVEREXPOSED? I love Reilly, but he's showing up everywhere lately, and if you want to see him in a much more satisfying performance as a husband who doesn't have a clue.....see The Good Girl. Having said all this, I feel somewhat guilty for having the "audacity" to judge the performances of 3 of cinema's most talented actresses. Their acting is top-notch as always, I just feel that Streep's and Moore's characters are not as satisfyingly fleshed out as Kidman's role, and in my opinion, the film suffers because of it. And what exactly was the point of Kidman, Moore and Streep each liplocking passionately with another woman? OK, Streep's character IS gay? bisexual?, although you don't see one moment of physical interaction between her and her partner, Alison Janney, save for the kiss, which comes at the end of Streep's storyline (and NO, that's not a spoiler). My very bored and eventually twitching movie partner (Ray) summed up the movie in his own succinct and amusing manner: "Frustrated lesbians". Oversimplification? Absolutely. But a witty observation, nonetheless.

Grade: B-

XXX (2002)

WHAT WAS I THINKING??? Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Aghhhhhhhhhhhh. Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. My visual and auditory senses have been permanently damaged! For the love of all that is holy, who the HELL wrote this mess and worse, what powers that be gave the greenlight to Vin Diesel to star as an action hero star? In brief: Diesel plays Xander Cage, an extreme-sports athlete recruited by National Security Agency biggie Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to infiltrate a Russian gang in Prague. No need to further explain plot or characters, trust me. The movie contains the cheesiest, most embarrasing dialogue in the history of action flicks, and that's saying something. Just when I thought Diesel uttering the stupid "I live my life a quarter mile at time" was horrifyingly embarrassing in the Fast and the Furious (which looks like a Shakespearean play by comparison)....Diesel proceeds to deliver not one horrendous line, but GOBS of excrutiatingly horrible dialogue that just left me slackjawed. Apparently, Vin Diesel fancies himself as an amusing, take-no-prisoners, ball-busting hero. His dialogue is delivered with such smarm and cockiness, you'd think the movie was called "Dude, I'm Vin Diesel - Bow To Me". Diesel is SO narcissistic that you're inclined to believe that the entire cast and crew had instructions to tell him repeatedly how awesomely cool he is. I know HE thinks he is. Did I mention...his "acting" is atrocious? Message to Vin Diesel: As an actor, you're a GREAT bouncer. PLEASE GO BACK TO NEW YORK AND RETURN TO YOUR OLD JOB. Holy shit, this movie SUCKED. And with all due respect to Steve, Asia Argento didn't help matters. I will give her bonus nacho points for looking hot, but WHAT A MESS this freaking movie was. Oh yeah, like you're surprised. Obviously I'm NOT in the "Xander Zone". PLEASE MAKE IT STOPPPPP. And Vin Diesel's MAKING AN 'XXX" SEQUEL! NOOOOOO. Come rescue me, Paul Walker.......

Grade: Are you SHITTING ME? How about TRIPLE "F". PS: Roger Ebert LIKED this movie??? What the hell?

Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Hahaaaaaaaa. I can hear Steve screeching in sheer agony. I've beschmirched your website, DUDE!! Deal with it, cuz you know what? I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this movie, cheesy dialogue, polyester suits and gold chains coming out the wazoooooooo. All that aside, Saturday Night Fever remains one of my (and the late critic, Gene Siskel's) favorite coming-of-age stories. If you're wondering why, I'll tell you in 3 words: JOHN TRAVOLTA, BABY. Yeah, that's right. From the infamous opening pan of Travolta's feet strutting along to "Staying Alive", 23 year-old Travolta delivers an incrediby heartfelt, realistic performance as the brash, cocky, sexy, misogynistic, Brooklyn-bred, 19 year-old Tony Manero: paint-store clerk by day who LIVES to tear up the disco dance floor on the weekend. And tear it up he does. He is the undisputed king of the dance floor. All men should remember this unspoken rule: Woman LOVE men who can dance. It's a fact. Only problem is that there's really no long-term future in being a disco-dance king. The journey on which Tony Manero discovers this painful reality makes for a powerful, provocative and tremendously poignant (can you tell I like that word...) story, which is as relevant today as it was in 1977. Although the movie is defined through it's late's 70's style and music, Saturday Night Fever remains first and foremost, a story about dreams, disillusionment and heartbreak. I remember when this movie premiered, I was 17 years old and I sat there in awe watching Travolta own the screen for the entire movie (OK, I confess....he looked damn HOT in those black bikini briefs....which at the time, didn't exactly hurt the appeal of his damn indeed..) This is one of the first "non-musicals" where the music was integral to the essence of every single frame. The interesting aspect of watching this movie 25 years later is that Travolta's soulful performance (his eyes are incredibly expressive...) emerges to the forefront, and you can truly appreciate his non-dancing screentime (in case you missed his dead-on performance the first time out...). While the dancing and the record-breaking soundtrack will be what people ultimately remember about this movie, Travolta's acting performance is nothing short of legendary. As an interesting side note, during the first two weeks of filming Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta's long-time girlfriend, 41 year-old actress, Diana Hyland, succumbed to breast cancer. There are a couple of key scenes in which John Travolta's eyes well with real tears, which reflect his real-life heartbreak, and it's a revelation and moving to observe. Some potent stuff from the actor formerly known as Vinnie Barbarino. Way to go, Johnny. I will forever be enamored with the tour-de-force called Saturday Night Fever and your balls-to-the-walls performance. OK, this isn't really a review - it's a love letter to Travolta and a belated thank you to John Badham. So be it. Gene Siskel would understand.

Grade: A

DUDE...this writing gig is exhausting. :-)