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Fahrenheit 9/11 (R,
2004) ... Average: 3.5
(Michael Moore, George W. Bush, Lila Lipscomb)
The latest movie by irreverent left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore isn't
meant to be fun or entertaining, although it is screamingly funny in
places. The real purpose of this documentary, as most people already know,
is to express just how much Moore hates George W. Bush, how Bush lied to get
into office and to get us into war with Iraq to cover up his inability to
prevent or retaliate for September 11, and how much he needs to be booted
out of office. I have no problem with any of that (I certainly can't stand
Bush, myself, and I pray every day that he gets booted out of office), and
Moore does make his case, but it sometimes seems like he does it in spite of
Moore is way too eager to believe ridiculous conspiracy theories (he
reprises the idiotic we-invaded-Afghanistan-for-their-gas idea, thoroughly
discredited by the noted right-wing magazine The American Prospect). He
also seems to lack a sense of proportion, or fairness; for (only one)
example, he rightly takes the Bush administration to task for not doing
enough to prevent terrorist attacks, but doesn't direct enough of his
outrage at the people most responsible for the attacks, those who
Sometimes, he indulges in good-old fashioned TMI: did we really need to
hear John Ashcroft sing, or to see Assistant Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz (a prominent pro-war leader in the administration) practically eat
his comb to get it wet enough to keep his hair down for a TV appearance?
In the film's lowest moment, we see happy pictures of Iraqi children
playing, as if Moore wanted us to believe that Iraq was some sort of earthly
paradise before the big, bad US invaded it. Luckily, this doesn't go on
much past the first third of the film; once we get to the real subject,
Moore really does make a powerful case about the costs of war, and does his
part to demolish the administration's shoddy reasons for war (like the
non-existent link with Al Qaeda) and probe some of the untold reasons (the
profits that flowed from the battlefield through an inexplicably
non-competitive contract to a company that Vice President Dick Cheney used
to run, Halliburton).
Moore is a master interviewer; he knows when to be confrontational, but he
also knows when to let people say their piece. A series of scenes with a
woman from Moore's hometown whose son was killed in Iraq really are
heart-rending, as is the footage of dead and dying Iraqi children, a tough
thing for the father of a young child to watch. Moore wisely keeps his
presence minimal during these scenes, although he does use his technique of
ambush interviews to good effect elsewhere, showing up on Capitol Hill to
try to "recruit" lawmakers to sign their own children up for the armed
Moore is also a master of the quick, cut-them-down-to-size edit; although he
uses the technique one too many times, it can be blistering at its best.
Never has American pop culture looked more inane and brain-dead than in a
scene where Moore cuts abruptly from an Iraqi woman distraught over the
destruction of her house to an interview with Britney Spears in which the
pop star insists that we should "trust our president in every decision that
he makes" (I wonder what conservatives would have made of that statement if
it had been made in, say, 1998).
It helps that to his great credit, Moore does not fall into the traps that
have snared some other antiwar activists. There are no half-hour-long
diatribes about every real or imagined thing the US has done wrong since
1776, no angry anti-Semitic words directed at Israel, no rationalization of
how America really "deserved" 9-11. Moore also lightens up the whole
cut-them-up thing with clips from old movies and TV shows (during the
invasion of Afghanistan, Bush, Don Rumsfeld, and the gang become the cast of
Bonanza!). This gets silly at times, but it does provide most of the movie's
The great irony of the film may be that for all of Moore's editing and
interviewing and footage-finding, the most damaging thing may be a clip that
Moore doesn't have to mess with at all. It's the one where we see our
esteemed president being interviewed by the media at a golf course,
expressing shock at a new act of terror in the Middle East--and then,
moments later, telling everyone to watch his golf swing.
Yes, Michael Moore may be irritating and a bit of a jerk, but the real
irritating jerk is the one in the White House, and I hope and pray that this
movie, for all its faults, does its part to get him out of there come this
Fat Albert (PG, 2004) ... Average: 3.5
(Kenan Thompson, Dania Ramirez, Shedrack Anderson III,
Aaron Frazier, Omari Grandberry)
HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
the first question that Fat Albert raises: Is there some kind of law on the
books that says that every last old cartoon and lousy 60's sitcom
absolutely, positively MUST become a live-action movie? Is Hollywood really
this stumped for ideas? Oh, wait a minute, I already know the answer to that
Now that all of that is off my chest, I actually think that while it is
symptomatic of everything that I'm pontificating about here, Fat Albert
isn't actually THAT bad a movie. Granted, the plot is just a rehash of the
old Woody Allen movie The Purple Rose of Cairo--this time, instead of an
action hero jumping out of the movie screen to meet a fan who needs him in
her life, Fat Albert and his buddies jump out of the TV screen to meet a fan
who needs THEM in her life.
Still, Keenan Thompson seems to be having a really good time in the title
role, capturing his characterís likability, and the script gets more clever
as it goes on (the real-life/cartoon interplay is entertaining, and I loved
the ending). Furthermore, the gorgeous Kyla Pratt and the really
gorgeous Daria Ramirez (who looks like Jennifer Lopez's little sister) do a
pretty good job as the two real-life folks who host the fish-out-of-water
Cosby kids in the modern world.
If the rating seems low, it's because I didn't find the movie all that
funny, not because it was offensive or took itself too seriously or anything
like that, but just because I just didnít laugh that much. Of course, I was
never a huge fan of the old TV show, even though I love most of the other
things Bill Cosby has done--I was more of a Bugs Bunny fan, myself.
Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
Minutes (R, 2001) ... Average: 3.0
(Robert DeNiro, Edward Burns, Melina Kanakaredes, Kelsey
Grammer, Avery Brooks, Charlize Theron)
It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads these reviews that I
rate any movie starring Robert DeNiro high. Alas, here's the
"15 Minutes" is the story of two immigrants who come to the
United States to collect money owed them by a fellow immigrant, a hot shot
homicide detective, a by-the-book fire marshal and a cheesy TV tabloid
The movie starts with two of the immigrants -- who have done jail time for
some apparent reason -- coming to New York to find their
"friend" -- another immigrant who got out of doing time and fled
to the U.S. with the money. Bad move on Immigrant #3's part.
The guy that came to the U.S. also spent the money when he got here.
Really bad move on Immigrant #3's part. You can pretty much bet that
by the time the next 5 minutes of the movie has gone by, we're back down
to 2 immigrants and a lot of blood. One catch -- there's a witness.
The murderers are psychotic. One loves killing and the other loves
filming the killings. By the middle of the movie, the killer really
made my flesh crawl. His mannerisms, his psychotic genius, his
absolute lack of remorse -- the guy that plays him is a convincing actor.
His character is beyond sick. But, I digress.
Homicide + burning building = DeNiro and Burns. DeNiro is an
alcoholic detective who seems a bit blasť about his job and Burns is a
wet-behind-the-ears nozzle nut who is both intrigued and repulsed by
DeNiro's way of doing things. They, of course, clash and then join
forces as DeNiro takes Burns under his wing to teach him how to catch a
While all this is going on, the nut job is on a killing spree as he tries
to find the witness and the other nut job (who calls himself "Frank
Capra") is filming everything. They are convinced that they can do
what they want, when they want, to whomever they want, and get off scott-free
through the insanity plea.
If my review sounds disjointed, it is. The movie is disjointed.
Nothing ever really develops the way it has the potential to develop,
except for the graphic violence. THAT comes across loud and clear!
I can't reveal too much more or I'll give the ending away, but I was very
disappointed that a great actor and an up-and-coming actor -- DeNiro and
Burns -- were so underutilized in the movie. And Kelsey Grammer was
his usual slimy, egocentric self. Does this guy ever play anything
else? I stopped watching "Frazier" years ago because I
couldn't take his character's pompous, annoying, incessant jabbering.
I watched the whole movie, but I'm not proud of it. I've seen worse,
but certainly not by Robert DeNiro. Bobby -- what have they done to
50 First Dates (PG-13,
2004) ... Average: 3.5
(Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin, Missi Pyle, Rob
Schneider, Dan Aykroyd)
Haole (Adam Sandler) meets wahine (Drew Barrymore) falls in love. She
has no short term memory and has been reliving the same day (Groundhog Day
style) for the past year, since her memory left. They begin dating, sort
of, with the help of a friendly ka'aminaa (Rob Schneider.) What follows is
craziness. It's a very funny/cute movie. It was filmed on Oahu making the
Best line in the movie: "Sorry I'm not better looking," uttered after
Barrymore is told by her father that she is dating Sandler.
You won't miss too much if you wait for video, some of the scenery might be
lost if you do.
2000) ... Average: 3.5
(Sean Connery, Rob Brown, Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham,
Tom Mullica, Busta Rhymes, Matt Damon)
HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Excellent story of young black high school student in the Bronx and
his challenging friendship with legendary but has-been (fellow) writer
(Sean Connery). Takes a slow pace wisely, making an improbable
relationship very believable; the ending is an absolute winner in Dead
Poets Society tradition.
In "Finding Forrester" Jamal Wallace (played by Rob Brown)
is a black 16-year old student in the Bronx who is, on the outside, a
typical teen with average grades in the ghetto, and has a gift for writing
and a stellar IQ on the inside that he has kept a secret. William
Forrester (played by Sean Connery) is, to the outside world, a aging
recluse who hasn't left his Bronx apartment in decades, but, on the
inside, he is hiding his past as a brilliant writer of a Pulitzer Prize
This rather long movie chronicles the unique and unexpected odd-couple
intersection of their two lives. Forrester secretly tutors Brown,
while Brown's devoted friendship leads the eccentric Forrester to realize
and fulfill all that he had been missing in his life.
It's a touching story, but I felt that it moved along rather slowly.
The production of the movie was very odd - a lot of long pauses for
introspection. This probably pleased the art cinema world, but, to
me, it just made the movie seem to drag a few too many times. The
movie was also very "dark", I suspect to signify the life that
William Forrester had been leading in his dusty old apartment, and the
life of a teen in the ghetto with seemingly no where to go.
An average movie. Rent it if you are a big Sean Connery fan.
Finding Nemo (G,
2003) ... Average: 4.5
(Alexander Gould, Erica Beck, Albert Brooks, Ellen
DeGeneres, Geoffrey Rush, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett)
If you've seen the commercials, you get the gist of this. Nemo
is a young Clown Fish that gets captured and put into a fish tank at a
dentist office. His Dad, whose voice is Albert Brooks, partners with
Dory, a ditsy cheerful Blue Tang, whose voice is Ellen DeGeneres, and a
school of other assorted ocean fish and creatures to try to get him back.
It's another in a line of fabulously animated films in the spirit of Toy
Story and Shrek. Although the quality
of the animation and the story in general are top-notch as expected, the
formula is approaching been-there, done-that. I wouldn't say they're
there yet, but I'm using this review to tell them that they might be coming
close. Toy Story, gotta get the Toy back.
Monsters, Inc, gotta get the
little girl back. Shrek, gotta get
the princess back. Finding Nemo, gotta get the baby fish back.
All sprinkled with clever playful puns to keep the adults amused, and
occasionally in hysterics. So far it's been a near-flawless formula,
but how many more times can it be done?
In the mean-time, though, since we're still riding the wave of that premise,
this one doesn't disappoint, thanks almost entirely to Ellen DeGeneres.
What would Shrek have been without the
donkey, voice by Eddie Murphy? What would Toy Story have been without
Buzz Lightyear, voice by Tim Allen? What would
Monsters, Inc have been without
Monster Mike Wazowski, voice by Billy Crystal? Following suit, Finding
Nemo would have been "just a kid's movie" without the Blue Tang fish, played
by Ellen DeGeneres. She's hysterical here and totally steals the show
following in the footsteps of Murphy, Allen and Crystal.
I thought Shrek was much better, but
Finding Nemo was about on par with the original Toy Story move, and better
than Monsters, Inc and Toy Story
II - definitely a good movie for both adults and kids, and even better for
adults watching WITH kids. It was Jolie's
first movie, although we had to put her to bed half way through it.
I'm not sure she really understood what was going on, but if the amount of
popcorn she ate and number of times she yelled out "FISHIES!" was any
indication, it clearly met with her approval.
(R, 1999) ... Average: 2.5
(Robert DeNiro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Miller, Chris
Bauer, Rory Cochrane)
It's not often that you see a movie dominated by actors dressed as
Drag Queens. Yes, Drag Queens.
DeNiro plays a New York police officer who has a stroke while attempting
to stop a conflict in his apartment complex. The stroke results in
partial paralysis on his right side making it very difficult for him to
walk and to talk. Stuck in his complex unable to leave due to the
weather, DeNiro befriends a Drag Queen (Philip Seymour Hoffman) located in
an apartment upstairs who agrees to help him with his speech therapy.
The story revolves around the developing "forced" relationship
of DeNiro's character, a bitter homophobe, and depressed over his
condition, and Hoffman's character struggling with the reality of who he
is. DeNiro proves yet again that he is a brilliant actor, and
Hoffman does a "flawless" (sorry, couldn't resist) job in his
role as a drag queen.
The movie has its cute moments, a touch of occasional humor, and a touch
of drama (the subplot of the drug lord who controls everyone's lives is a
bit violent, hence the R-rating). I thought the movie started out a
bit too slow. It took while for the movie to grow on me. Early
on I thought it was clearly driving towards a 1 or a 1-1/2 stars. By
the end, it turned out to be an OK film. Not DeNiro's best of all
time by any stretch, but I've definitely seen much worse movies.
(PG-13, 1999) ... Average: 2.5
(Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean, Kate Beahan,
Jodie Foster plays a woman whose husband just died in an accident in
France, and is flying back to the U.S. with her 6 year old daughter - and
her husband in a casket. She and her daughter fall asleep and when she
wakes up her daughter is gone. No one has seen her, and she can't be
found...in fact, there's no record of her ever getting on the plane.
It kept me interested, but by the time it was over, the point of the
plot revealed, and you begin reflecting on what you just saw, you realize
just how preposterous this movie really is. Furthermore, about 90% of
the movie is the setting up of the notion that everyone on this plane is on
is starting to think that Jodie Foster's character is dellusional. OK,
jeesh, 2 hours of that - we get the point, the passengers get the point,
EVERYONE GETS THE POINT: she's a wack-job......or is she? Because we
know she can't be or there wouldn't be any point in the movie - now GET - TO
- THE - POINT. They spent way too much time setting up the foundation
of the movie only to unravel the "AH-HA! NOW I GET IT!" part in about 5
minutes at the very end, then role credits.
And why do I doubt that a hatch above every bathroom on a major jet plane
leads you to all of the plane's electronic controls and the bowels of
the plane where they keep the luggage?
If you can overlook the many gaping holes in the plot, you'll probably be
the Love of the Game (PG-13, 1999) ... Average: 2.0
(Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston)
If men generally don't like love stories and
women generally don't care for sports stories, this movie was domed at the
box office before it even debuted. Regardless, I don't think anyone
likes slow moving boring stories and that's what this
was. The story was about a Major League veteran pitcher
at the tail end of his career. The movie plays through his last game
and, inning by inning, flashes back to the development of his relationship
with his girlfriend. Personally, I seriously thought the relationship between Costner's character and his
catcher (played by John C. Reilly) was more touching than his relationship
with his girlfriend (Preston). Half the time I kept wondering why
she was with him in the first place - the chemistry just didn't seem to
jell in their characters. A smarter woman would have left him long
before his last game.
The end of this movie - the last inning of the game - moves excruciatingly
slow. You knew what was going to happen in the game so you just
wanted it to end so you could find out what was going to happen between
Costner and Preston.
And what was with "Clear the Mechanism"? That's what
Costner would say to block out the crowd before each inning. Was
that the best catch phrase they could think of? Bull Durham this
movie is not.
Not that this really matters but...I think Kevin Costner is a
really great person and has played in some fine movies, but I can't help
but think he's not really acting but just being himself. Is it just
me or does he play the same mushy good-looking sensitive male role in just
about every movie he's been in?
Also, Bev noted that this movie should have been called "For the Love
of Jane" because this was more about Costner's love for his
girlfriend, Jane, than it was about "The Game".
(PG-13, 1995) ... Average:
(Billy Crystal, Debra Winger, Joe Mantegna, Julie Kavner,
Cameos by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing.)
HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Wisecracking professional basketball coach Mickey (Billy Crystal) goes
to France to bury his World War II-vet father, only to find that the airline
lost his Dad's body. Airline employee Ellen (Debra Winger) is charged with
finding the body, and sincerely wants to help Mickey. You know what happens
from here... or do you?
great thing about this comedy (which Crystal directed and co-wrote with his
frequent collaborators, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel) is that it's a more
mature version of When Harry Met Sally. It goes out of its way to explore
the adult side of romance, especially marriage and its toughest
aspect--ensuring that both husband and wife actually DO live happily ever
after. This is only one part of adult life that the movie appreciates; it
also celebrates adult friendship, and the close ties that old friends, and
especially couples, can have. All of this is a rare blessing in a culture
that worships youth as much as ours does.
The movie isn't perfect by any means--there are too many one-liners, and
Crystal is really just playing an older version of his When Harry...
character. The way that the story is told--in flashbacks related by Mickey
and Ellen's friends, with the "friend" stories eventually paralleling the
main one--comes off as clunky at first, although it works well by the end of
the film. In any event, the presence of Crystal makes this film easy
to compare with When Harry..., but the truth is that Forget Paris is the
more mature film, and arguably the better film.
The Forgotten (PG-13, 2004) ... Average:
(Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Gary Sinise, Alfre Woodard,
Julianne Moore plays Telly Paretta (no relation to the Sesame Street
character, and no indication that she has an affinity for triangles), a
mother whose son had died in a plane crash a year ago...or did he? OR!
Is she just freaking nuts as everyone is trying to make her believe?
Turns out none of that is right - how could you not have guessed that the
aliens took him as an experiment, and then erased everyone's memory of him.
No, seriously. I couldn't make this stuff up...but apparently someone
No, really, it isn't as bad as I just made it sound, and certainly more
clever than that. The movie is decent - not great, but OK, and
definitely original. It is suspenseful, and certainly didn't lack a
punch-in-the-gut knock-me-off-my-seat didn't-see-that-coming scary
scene - BOO!
A review that described this movie as the next "Sixth
Sense." Well, now, I wouldn't go that far. I definitely
didn't see where it was going - not unlike "Sixth Sense," but the whole idea
was a little silly. Fortunately, you don't really know the "whole
idea" until the end, and up until that point, the movie is pretty good if
you like to be spooked while trying to piece together clues. It's just
one of those movies with an interesting premise where the writer clearly
didn't have a very plausible ending but didn't let that get in the way of a
Definitely a rental, not theater-worthy. (Although if you are us, you
always forget to return movies before their due date, making them almost as
expensive as seeing the movies as soon as they debut.)
Friday Night Lights (R, 2004) ... Average:
(Billy Bob Thornton, Derek Luke, Garrett Hedlund, Jay
Hernandez, Lucas Black, Tim McGraw)
Based on a true story, Billy Bob Thornton plays the head coach of a
high school football team in small impoverished hick town in west Texas
where life for everyone revolves around the ebb and flow of their
high-powered Panthers, and losing is considered a mortal sin. (The
head coach actually makes more money than the principal of the school.)
Their high school football team is like a religion to everyone in the town,
and resulting pressure on these 16 and 17 year old boys is ridiculous,
intense, and results in some dramatic life situations.
The movie cronicles their 1988 season, a season where the team is expected
to go undefeated and challenge for the Texas State Championship.
Unfortunately, their star player goes down with an ACL tear in the first
game, and so it goes...
For me, the movie played out much too much like a documentary of their
season, thanks to a number of annoying quick edits from one scene to
another. It was certainly dramatic at times, but if I wanted a
documentary, I would've just popped in my new "History of Philadelphia
Eagles" DVD. There was virtually no character development until about
3/4 of the way through.
Oddly, when the film deviates from the "true story" is when the script
actually gets most interesting. The "real" 1988 Panthers reached only
the semi-final game, played in the pouring rain at the University of Texas.
The movie has them making the finals, and has them playing at the Astrodome.
(One has to wonder what the point was of changing the venue in the movie.)
It's at this point that you actually start to feel connected to the
characters, and where the film delivers its best punch. Thornton's
half-time speech is moving and uplifting, and the ending of the game and the
scenes which immediately follow rip your heart out. (By this point Bev
had already fallen asleep for quite some time, by the way...the true test!)
The football action scenes where amazingly well done - you could almost feel
the bone crunching hits through the screen. And, if you like sports
movies, I'm sure you'll love this one. It wasn't bad, but pretty
typical for a sports flick.