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the Faith (PG-13, 2000) ... Average: 4.0
(Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, Jenna Elfman, Anne Bancroft,
I'm not really a big fan of this sort of film whose plot is the
characters themselves for the most part, but this was put together
It's a film about 3 people who grew up together through the 8th grade -
two boys and a girl - until the girl's family moved away. The movie
picks up some 16 years later. The boys, who have remained best
friends, have grown up to be a Rabbi (Ben Stiller) and a Priest (Edward
Norton). When their old friend (Jenna Elfman), now an extremely
successful businesswoman with a hectic lifestyle, returns, they are
reunited in an almost magical fashion. I say magical in that their
on-screen chemistry is absolutely enchanting. It doesn't take long
for their childhood friendships to rekindle...and for both men to fall in
love with her. (I won't say much more so as to not give away the
The film has all of the ingredients - a great cast, a great script, great
writing, great timing, just the right dose of humor, and just the right
about of feel-good emotion to tug on your heart without going overboard.
Edward Norton is, as always, brilliant. Has anyone pulled off such a
diverse range of characters? (If you haven't seen "American
History X," run, don't walk, to your nearest video store RIGHT
NOW.) As icing on the cake the film is also directed by Norton.
Jenna Elfman, also, was terrific. It wouldn't surprise me at all if
she becomes one of Hollywood's brightest female stars going into the 21st
This is a very good film, a more than worthy rental for anyone wanting to
feel good. The film has an innocent charm that is sure to please all
seen on Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page!)
Romantic comedies are not a genre of movie that I greatly enjoy.
In fact, there are only two films of that kinds which I've rated 4 ˝ (out
of 5) stars or higher: Tootsie (4 1/2) and The Truth About Cats and Dogs
(5). There is definitely something about the genre which seems to be
almost alien to my preferences. "Keeping the Faith" is a
romantic comedy which does a bit better than most.
Jake Schram (Ben Stiller) is a rabbi, and Brian (Edward Norton) is his
best friend and also a Catholic priest. After an absence of sixteen years,
their childhood friend Anna Reilly (Jenna Elfman) reenters their lives.
She has gone from being a comrade in arms to a beautiful woman (and a
high-powered business executive). Jake and Brian immediately (though
unconsciously) begin competing for her romantic affections.
By the time we are introduced to all three main characters, it is
perfectly obvious that this is to be a romantic comedy and that there will
be happy endings for all; that is in the nature of the genre. The
only question is how will these characters resolve their situation.
The answer is a rather pleasant movie with perhaps a bit more comedy than
The writing is very competent, but not earth-shattering. This is not
a movie that will change you forever. It is an entertaining
diversion from a life that frequently lacks the happy endings that we look
for in films like this. It is fun. "Fun" is not good
enough to reach the highest ranks on my five star scale, but there are
only a few moments and characterizations which detract from the truly
great. And so, I find that this would certainly be a fine film to
take a potential romantic interest of mine to see. Any takers?
Kicking and Screaming
(1995) ... Average: 4.25
(Josh Hamilton, Olivia D'Abo, Parker Posey)
Quite possibly the best movie I have seen in recent memory. Could be
I am a bit partial because I am a highly decorated English major working in insurance. 4.5 stars.
Almost reached the rarified air of Cabin Boy.
HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Surely there is no fate more horrible than that
of those poor souls forced to leave the peaceful isolation of their
college campus and (gasp!) graduate and move into the real world.
One is forced to find a job, to commit to responsibilities and people, and
even--surely the ultimate indignity--to go to the grocery store to buy
food. (Of course, it could be argued that not everyone even gets the
chance to go to college, but that never quite makes it into the
Kicking and Screaming is a good movie because it gets a fair amount of
amusement out of what could have been just endless bellyaching about the
Campus Life Left Behind. It helps that director/scriptwriter Noah Baumbach
came up with some interesting characters: Chris Eigeman (the Metropolitan
veteran, who is almost as good here) is Max, a quipping veteran of many a
discussion seminar. Not as cynical but more confused, his friend Grover
(Josh Hamilton) is busy trying to figure out what to do with his literary
and personal life now that his longtime soulmate, the brilliant Jane
(Olivia D'Abo), has made a rather trendy move to Prague. Meanwhile,
perpetual dweeb Otis (Carlos Jacott, who looks like a less threatening
version of John Malkovich) tries to find fulfillment working at (big
surprise) a video store, and Louis, the least developed of the characters
(John Lehr), goes back to school in a bid to keep his not-yet-graduated
girlfriend (Parker Posey). The happiest of all seems to be perpetual
student and bartender Chet (Eric Stoltz), which may say a lot.
There are a lot of genuinely funny and insightful moments, and I was
generally kept entertained until the end, which I found unsatisfying and
the weakest thing about the film. (I should mention that I was
pretty happy with Elliott Gould playing Grover's father, who is dealing
with a confusing life-transition of a different sort--divorce.) I would
the Girls (R, 1997) ... Average: 3.0
(Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes, Tony Goldwyn, Jay
I don't know what it is about serial killer movies - I love them...the movies,
that is, not the serial killers. But why must Morgan
Freeman be in every single one of them? (e.g. "Along
Came a Spider," "Seven," etc.) Actually, I love
Morgan Freeman, and "Seven" is one of my all-time favorite
unsung movies. If you haven't seen it, go rent it! And, of
Redemption," although not a serial killer movie, is another of
the all-time greats.
In this one, Freeman plays a North Carolina police detective whose niece
is kidnapped by a deranged serial killer who "collects"
women. Not only do these women have to be beautiful, but they also
must be highly intelligent and skilled at one thing or another. For
example, Freeman's niece is a brilliant violinist.
Ashley Judd plays a (cute) medical internist who escaped the
"collection" and helps Freeman in piecing together the clues.
Yes, this movie was fun and keeps you guessing through to the end.
But, as the movie moved on there were too many times when I thought
"OK, I guess we'll just overlook that since this is just a
movie." Like, when Judd was found in the river, obviously the
killers lair had to be nearby...you're telling me that the FBI wouldn't
think to search that area? Or, the obligatory - and frustrating -
chase scene where the girl just can't get away from the killer as she's
running through the woods because she keeps looking back and then because
she's not watching where she's going, keeps tripping over things. Or
when the killer is in Judd's house at the very end of the movie, and
instead of running after he stabs her arm, she grabs a towel and starts
wrapping it first. Can't run if I'm bleeding! And there were a
number of other things, as well. Little things, but they all added up.
So, all-in-all, a decent rental if you like these kinds of movies.
Otherwise, I'm sure there's something better out there that you haven't
Kissing Jessica Stein (R, 2002) ... Average:
(Michael Mastro, Carson Elrod, Naomi Sablan, Idina Menzel,
I watched this movie based upon Tony's review. I agree with what he
said. Stop reading this and read his.
HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Jessica (Jennifer Westfeldt), an editor for an alternative newspaper
in NYC, wants to find the right person, but has the same tough standards
in her personal life that she has in her detail-oriented work. After a
long series of dating misadventures, aided and abetted by a mother (Tovah
Feldshuh) that has a more than passing interest in seeing her married,
she sees a personal ad with a quote from one of her favorite authors.
She goes ahead and gives the person a call, even though the ad is in the
"Women Seeking Women" section. This brings her into contact with bold
gallery manager Helen (Heather Juergensen), who seems more experienced
with the whole woman-woman thing--or is she?
Westfeldt and Juergensen wrote this script based on their own play "Lipshtick,"
about women experimenting with same-sex relationships. The transition
works well; it never occurred to me that I was watching an adapted
screenplay, because I was too busy watching a fun, insightful,
As is so often the case with "gay" movies I've seen in the past--Go
Fish, Chasing Amy, Philadelphia,
and others--it gets easy to forget that the characters even are gay,
because so much of what happens is so universal (and is comic partly
because it is universal), and because the story bears so much
resemblance to similar movies past. In fact, it gets rather tempting to
think of Jennifer as the female Woody Allen--smart but neurotic, intense
but self-observing--and Heather as her perfect foil, a more
down-to-earth Diane Keaton. This is not to say that the film is
just a ripoff, however; if the material is not totally brand new, the
humor and situations really are unique, funny, and even moving on
occasion, and show real chemistry between both the characters and the
real people who created them in collaboration. (Feldshuh and Westfeldt
get far beyond their characters’ stereotypes, and capture the tension of
trying to be yourself in a suburban community where it isn’t always easy
to do so, in one especially good scene.)
Overall, this is an old story told in an original way, and that is just
about all that anyone can expect in a romantic comedy. (Before I close,
mention must be made of one other supporting actor--Scott Cohen is
terrific in a rather complex role, that of Jessica's
ex-boyfriend/current friend/foil/nemesis/boss. Many people know that
this film was one of the first made in New York City after September 11;
as my friend and fellow movie reviewer Dean Oman pointed out, the
filmmakers make a point of avoiding shots of downtown NYC without the
World Trade Center, and confine themselves to midtown. While I can
understand this, I hope it doesn't go on forever; sadly, September 11
and its aftermath are facts of life in New York now, as we found out
when we were there two years ago. But I digress.)
Guys (R, 2002) ... Average: 3.0
(Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Seth Green, Andrew Davoli, John
Malkovich, Dennis Hopper)
I wasn't sure that I was going to like this movie -- I've had my fill
of mob-related "tough guy" flicks. I was pleasantly
"Knockaround Guys" is the story of a mob top dog's son, Matty
(Pepper), who is torn between trying to make a life for himself in a
"legit" job, and doing what is expected -- working for his
father (Hopper) as part of the "family." He's got major
strikes against him no matter his choice -- he can't seem to land a job as
soon as a potential employer finds out that his father is Benny Chains,
and his father doesn't think he's "cut out" to handle business.
After being beaten down by yet another failed interview for a job, Matty
convinces his "uncle" (Malkovich) to talk to his dad and give
him an opportunity to do a big job. The job is to get to Spokane,
pick up a half million dollars, and bring it back to New York. Just
so happens that Matty's pal Marbles (Green) has a little prop plane and is
willing to make the trip. That's when things go horribly wrong.
The movie takes time to develop the characters and the story line --
something a lot of mob movies don't do. There's violence -- Vin
Diesel gives some corn pone in this jerkwater town the ass beating of a
lifetime, but it's violence that adds to the plot. And you really
feel for Matty and his pals -- stuck between wanting to make a name for
themselves and always being in the shadows of the original
There are some genuinely funny moments in the movie as well as some
wincingly painful scenes. The friendships between the old guys and
the young kids develops in a strange way. And Malkovich is just too
bizarre with his accent that's a cross between New York, Great Britain and
If you're looking for "Casino" or "Scarface" -- skip
it. You'll be disappointed at the lack of people getting killed with
a chainsaw. "Knockaround Guys" is just a solid movie
that's worth, at the least, the price of a rental.
(PG-13, 2001) ... Average: 4.0
(Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Alfre Woodard, Aaron Paul,
K-Pax stars two of the most brilliant actors of my time - Kevin Spacey
and Jeff Bridges. Spacey plays what the audience must decide is
either just a mysterious delusional patient or what he confidently and
calmly claims to be - someone from a planet named K-Pax, located 1000 light-years
away. Bridges plays a psychiatrist (Dr. Powell) who is assigned to Spacey's
character (Prot). Spacey and Bridges are right on the
money, and the brilliance of their acting is entertainment in itself.
Prot's descriptions of life on another planet awaken a sense of
possibilities in the other patients. His affect on everyone around
him - including Dr. Powell - is undeniable, but just how much of it is
otherworldly is left for you - and Dr. Powell - to decide as the
plot thickens. Powell becomes consumed with his strange patient and
baffled that he cannot reach any conclusions using standard medical
techniques, as he slowly begins to wonder if this mild-mannered seemingly
harmless man could really be...from another planet.
The story is excellently written, purposely leaning the audience one way
or another in what you believe to be reality or delusion in parallel with
the feelings of Bridges' character. As the concluding facts are
discovered and unfold, the movie ends in dramatic fashion with a
surprising, creative, entertaining and very interesting twist.
This is definitely one of the best movies of the year. It's profound,
inspirational, and speaks of love and tolerance in a time when it's
desperately needed. Very much recommended for all age groups.