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The Family Man (PG-13, 2000) ... Average: 3.5
(Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Piven, Amber Valletta)

'MAN' AT WORK Cage and Leoni go face to face in ''Family Man''Chris Mal
The Family Man is a compassionate story about a wealthy and seemingly happy business man (Nicolas Cage) who wakes up one day in what his life would have been like had he married his college girlfriend 13 years earlier, sort of in a "It's a Wonderful Life" kind of way.  A majority of the movie is spent during his "glimpse" of his alternate life where he realizes that wealth and power aren't everything in life, and begins to see all the things that he was missing.

The movie mixes a pleasant blend of heartwarming holiday charm and the humor one would expect from throwing a rich bachelor into the role of a middle class father of two whose job is now a tire salesman.  The writers do a good job making it all flow.

Nicolas Cage is the clear-cut star of the movie - he's in every single scene and gives a good performance.  (All of you big fans of his - like Bev - will get to see a few PG-13 scenes of him in nothing but underwear.)  Tea Leoni is easy on the eyes...definitely wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers.

Overall, I have nothing bad to say about this movie.  It wasn't a killer, but it was above average and recommended if you're looking for a decent feel-good flick.
 

Fahrenheit 9/11 (R, 2004) ... Average: 3.5
(Michael Moore, George W. Bush, Lila Lipscomb)

Tony Porco
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 himself.

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 perpetrated them.

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 forces.

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 lighter moments.

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 November.
 

Fat Albert (PG, 2004) ... Average: 3.5
(Kenan Thompson, Dania Ramirez, Shedrack Anderson III, Aaron Frazier, Omari Grandberry)

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Here's 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 question.

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.
 

15 Minutes (R, 2001) ... Average: 3.0
(Robert DeNiro, Edward Burns, Melina Kanakaredes, Kelsey Grammer, Avery Brooks, Charlize Theron)

Rory Pfeifer
Sue Hohenadel
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 exception.

"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 reporter.

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 killer.

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 you?
 

50 First Dates (PG-13, 2004) ... Average: 3.5
(Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin, Missi Pyle, Rob Schneider, Dan Aykroyd)

Mike Capilo
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 scenery beautiful.

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.
 

Finding Forrester (PG-13, 2000) ... Average: 3.5
(Sean Connery, Rob Brown, Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham, Tom Mullica, Busta Rhymes, Matt Damon)

Tony Porco (CLICK 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.
Rob Brown and Sean Connery in "Finding Forrester"Chris Mal
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 winning novel.

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)

Chris Mal
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.
 

Flawless (R, 1999) ... Average: 2.5
(Robert DeNiro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Miller, Chris Bauer, Rory Cochrane)

Chris Mal
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.
 

Flightplan (PG-13, 1999) ... Average: 2.5
(Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean, Kate Beahan, Michael Irby)


Chris Mal
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.  Gasp!

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 mildly entertained.
 

For the Love of the Game (PG-13, 1999) ... Average: 2.0
(Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston)

Chris Mal
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".
 

Forget Paris (PG-13, 1995) ... Average: 4.0
(Billy Crystal, Debra Winger, Joe Mantegna, Julie Kavner, Cathy Moriarty
Cameos by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing.)

Tony Porco (CLICK 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?

The 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: 3.0
(Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Gary Sinise, Alfre Woodard, Anthony Edwards)

Chris Mal
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 else could.

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 good story.

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.)
 

Freeway (R, 1996) ... Average: 5.0
(Reese Witherspoon, Kiefer Sutherland, Dan Hedaya, Amada Plummer, Brooke Shields)

Chris Bragg
A raucous trip through white trash America that is a must see.  Reese Witherspoon is flawless.
 

Friday Night Lights (R, 2004) ... Average: 2.5
(Billy Bob Thornton, Derek Luke, Garrett Hedlund, Jay Hernandez, Lucas Black, Tim McGraw)

Chris Mal
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.
 

The Full Monty (1997) ... Average: 4.0
(Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, William Snape, Steve Huison, Tom Wilkinson)

Tony Porco (CLICK HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Winning story (sorry about that trite description, but it applies!) about laid-off industrial workers who start a male strip group; more fun than I expected. Robert Carlyle, who was disgusting in Trainspotting, is much more likable here.