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(PG-13, 2004) ... Average:
(Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Morris Chestnut, Robert
Patrick, Balthazar Getty)
Interesting, even if you only can appreciate this film as a sort of
documentary on fire fighting and the brotherly bond that it breeds.
Excellent, as well, as a story of what it must be like to be married to a
firefighter, and the pins-and-needles you must walk on daily knowing your
loved-one may not come home that day.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Jack Morrison, a firefighter in Baltimore. The
movie chronicles his transition from rookie to seasoned veteran, and his
struggles to cope with the the balance of a dangerous risky job and how that
affects his his wife and children.
I couldn't decide if this was really a 4-star movie or a solid above average
3.5, but I'm in a good mood today, so: 4-stars it is.
(R, 2004) ... Average:
(Tom Hanks, Marlon Wayans, Irma P. Hall, Ryan Hurst,
(Directed and Produced by: Joel & Ethan Coen)
Hanks plays an eccentric professor turned criminal mastermind who
gathers a band of diversely quirky accomplices via newspaper ad. The
movie envelopes their quest to stealthily steal a large sum of money from
the vault of a nearby casino by renting out a room in the home of an
innocent old woman, and burrowing a tunnel starting from her basement.
Their plot reaches a bump in a road when the old woman senses foul-play.
This movie is both odd and wry - typical Coen production. Not much of
it is supposed to really make sense - it is, afterall, a quirky comedy.
But it was just a little too quirky, a little too odd, and only mildly
amusing. Hanks is brilliant, but we knew that before we saw the movie.
The other characters are interesting and generally appealing and loveable.
But there just wasn't a home run in this film. It's not a bad movie,
but of all of Hanks' resume, this has to be the lowlight for me. A
rental on a bored evening, and not much more. It was...OK.
Placid (R, 1999) ... Average: 2.0
(Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt,
It wasn't really boring or stupid, it was just plain silly. A movie
about a 30' long crocodile that has somehow migrated to a lake in Maine and has taken a liking to human flesh.
The movie doesn't have
much substance - which I guess is apparent by the fact that it is only 82
minutes long. I won't give away the story, but to give you an idea
of the movie, here are the stereotypical characters: Fonda plays a museum
scientist who hates the outdoors and is scared of mosquitoes and
ticks. She was sent on site by her boss who she was dating but who
left her for her co-worker. As the story goes, they just wanted to
get her out of the office for a while. So she spends the
entire movie acting like the stereo-typical primadonna
Pullman plays the Fish & Game warden -
generally, his character has no depth and is there just to give Fonda
someone to fall in love with. Gleeson plays the local sheriff who
has the most common sense of all the characters but is ignored and poked
fun at by all the other characters. Platt plays a wise-cracking
eccentric mythology professor who shows up to help hunt the croc in his
croc-painted helicopter. Betty White is also in the movie - she
plays the old lady who lives by the lake who feeds the crocodile(s) her
cows - yes, her cows.
There are some funny one-liners in the movie,
but sadly I couldn't for the life of me tell if the entire movie was meant
to be tongue-in-cheek or if I really was supposed to feel the
"intense drama" of the situation. The end of the movie
shows baby crocodiles being fed pieces of bread by White's character,
leaving open the possibility of a sequel! GO SEE THIS MOVIE NOW!...errr,
just kidding. (The movie is based on a screenplay by David E. Kelly
- of Ally McBeal and The Practice fame. Perhaps it was good he moved
on to television!)
Last Castle (R,
2001) ... Average: 2.0
(Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Clifton
Collins Jr., Delroy Lindo,
George C. Scott, Brian Goodman, George W. Scott, Steve Burton)
I always like a movie where the underdog wins in the end. I'm
not so sure about a movie where the underdogs are convicted military men,
serving time for everything from murder to brutally maiming people because
they "got mad."
And so goes the dialogue in "The Last Castle."
"The Last Castle" is the story of a 3 star general (Redford) who
is sent to a military prison to serve a ten year sentence for
"disregarding orders." The prison warden (Gandolfini) is
also a military man who seems to have spent most of his time pushing
papers rather than engaged in any sort of activities that apparently make
army men army men. Redford picks up on that immediately. Oh
boy...I smell trouble!
Redford's character just wants to do his time and get out.
Unfortunately, his reputation precedes him and everyone in the prison
knows who he is and what he is. As the movie unfolds, Redford's
stripes begin to usurp the warden's authority, and bad things happen.
There's that smell of trouble again, but it's getting more faint.
Sadly, Redford is almost robotic throughout the movie. Granted, he's
a career military man and has made it through horrendous situations by
being devoid of emotion, but it's hard to warm up to him and what he's
trying to accomplish in the prison. Gandolfini is sooooooo weasely,
it's sickening. I expected slime to come oozing out of the screen
and onto the theater floor. Truthfully, there really are no
characters in this movie that I could embrace -- even if they are psychotic
"The Last Castle" is not overly violent, there's some foul
language and a few mildly disturbing scenes that have to do with
"punishment" for disobeying rules, but it's not overly offensive
for a prison flick. Actually, it's not overly anything.
And that trouble I was smelling? Must have been a rotten Milk Dud
left behind from a previous showing, because the movie never really goes
from predictable and tedious to an audience cheering, foot stomping,
"Good for them!" rallying ending.
This one is a rental.
Last Samurai (R,
2003) ... Average: 3.5
(Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly, Koyuki, Tony
(CLICK HERE for "Neurotic & Negligent")
You know what? I love a movie that doesn't make me think of any other
movie. A movie that makes me think, "Wow, I've never seen that before."
Sadly, The Last Samurai is not that movie. But it's not crap either. It's
just an okay movie. I liked the performances. The scenery was pretty. The
story seemed to drag at a few spots but that was all quickly followed by
someone getting some parts hacked off and that's always fun.
However, I'm taking away stars because these were some of the thoughts that
ran through my head while watching...
"I think Viggo Mortensen did that that in The Two Towers."
"Wow, those guys shoot arrows as well as Legolas."
(Okay, I admittedly have a small obsession with
LOTR, but continuing on
with my thoughts that have nothing to do with Peter Jackson films...)
"I think Kevin Costner did that in Dances With Wolves."
"Isn't this the part where he should paint his face blue?"
"I think Uma Thurman did that in Kill Bill, Vol. 1."
"Whoa, does that guy kind of look like Mulan?"
"Isn't this where he should look to the East and see Gandalf?"
Oh wait, there I go again. Maybe I'm not the best person to be reviewling
movies after all.
Anyway, I should mention that Carter liked the movie more than I did. Not
so much the battles, but showing how the Samurai lived. He's upstairs
chanting right now.
Legend of Bagger Vance (PG-13,
2000) ... Average: 2.0
(Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron, Dermot Crowley,
Joel Gretsch, Jack Lemon)
I once heard a comedian say, "What's with golf? Golf is
just old men in ugly pants walking."
actually had looked forward to this movie, probably just because of the
cast. I always liked Will Smith and, despite Dogma which was an
absolutely horrific excuse for media, I like Matt Damon as well. But
I should have known this would be boring - REAL golf is terribly
undramatic. Why would I think a fictitious story about golf would be
any more interesting?
OK, OK...there was a deeper philosophical meaning, I understand. But
all the metaphors between golf and getting Matt Damon's screwed up life
back on track just seemed hokey to me. "Look out into the
field, find your field." "Inside each and every one of us
is our one true authentic swing." "It's just you and the
game and it's all up to you." And on and on and on. Pure
The story, in case you don't know, is about a golfer (Matt Damon) in the
WWI era who was a teen-age golfing future legend who survived his tour of
duty in WWI and returns a shell of his former self. The Great
Depression leads Charlize Theron's character, who has inherited her
father's newly built golf course in Savannah after his untimely death, to
stage a 56-hole golf tournament to raise money to save the course.
Damon, who has sat around lounging and drinking since returning from the
war, hires Bagger Vance (Will Smith) to be his caddy and shake loose the
rust. Damon's character winds up learning more than just how to
regain his stroke bla bla bla.
Charlize Theron is just the cutest thing, but it doesn't compensate for a
character that I couldn't fall in love with. Her acting - which I
think was a product of the script - was a bit weak, and the character
oddly unlikable and kind of uninteresting.
Damon and Smith are all that saves this moving from putting me to
sleep. I just didn't find it interesting. It's not
horrible, but I can't recommend it.
Legend of 1900 (R, 1999) ... Average: 2.0
(Tim Roth, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Clarence Williams, Bill
Nunn, Melanie Thierry)
I saw this movie during our 5-hour flight to San Diego. I had
never even heard of it, but spent the $5 for the head-phones anyway just
to pass the time. The time passed but that's about all I can say for
this movie, although I admit it's hard to enjoy anything during a 5-hour
The movie begins with a trumpet player (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who is
selling his old trumpet to a music store. The store owner and he
begin chatting and the trumpet player says something to the effect:
"Everyone has a story. I could tell my story, but no one would
believe it." As he regurgitates the "unbelievable
story" the movie unveils itself. Do you want to know why no
one would believe it? Because the plot is so outrageous that you can't
believe it. Reasonable believability is pretty much a basic
necessity for any good movie.
Tim Roth plays a man who was abandoned at birth on a cruise ship in
1900. He is found as an infant by one of the ship's grunts who
raises him in the belly of the ship. For his entire life he never
leaves the massive ocean-liner. He steps up to the piano at an early
age and immediately begins playing like Beethoven. He becomes a
mysterious piano legend, and people from all over begin hearing about him
and coming to see him play - but, again, he never leaves the ship.
The greatest piano player alive (played by Clarence Williams) shows up one
day and challenges him to a piano dual. Oooooooo.
Many years later the ship is dry docked and is scheduled to be destroyed
by dynamite. The ship owners don't know that he is still on the ship
(don't ask me, just accept it). His friend (the trumpet player)
comes back to try to convince them that there is still someone somewhere
on the ship. He finds him (of course, not with the people who are
going to blow up the ship), but he refuses to leave his
"home". The ship is blown up. End of movie.
Yes, I know, I ruined the ending for you, but on the other hand I just
saved you a rental fee.
The good point of the movie is that the music was, indeed, fantastic -
particularly if you enjoy piano that you and I could only dream of
ever being able to play. In fact, Bev plans on buying the soundtrack
at her next opportunity.
Loggerheads (Not Rated, 2005) ... Average:
(Tess Harper, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Kelly, Michael Learned,
Let me just start off by saying that this film moved me to near tears.
Seriously. I had a headache not long after the movie because my eyes
hurt so bad from making sure I wouldn't start balling right in the theater.
And I'm not a guy who cries. That isn't to say that this was an
all-around tear-jerker, because you felt the love in the movie, but it was
that love and the way everyone was torn apart by their own circumstances,
how they got there - and in some cases their own prejudices - that touched
me to the core.
The heartfelt movie - based on a true story! - centers around the triad of
interwoven stories of people all at a crossroads in their lives - a birth
mother, her son and his adoptive parents. The mother and father have
abandoned their adopted son years ago and haven't seen him since. The
son, a soft-spoken drifter - who is dying - is living with a kind hearted
sole who he befriends and falls in love with. And the son's real
mother who gave him up at the age of 17 attempts to find her son and come to
grips with an emotional void.
I don't want to say any more about the story so as to not give anything
Religious freaks should be required to see this movie. Your heart will
be torn in many directions. It teaches a good bit about compassion.
The acting in this film was flawless. I'm not sure there has been a
film more well acted in recent memory. To me, if you're a fan of
drama, this is a must-see film.
It's an Independent film, and we had to go to the old "Civic Theater" in
Allentown to see it, but it was worth the trip. It's been getting rave
reviews by critics, winning the Best Feature Film in the Dramatic
Competition at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. That said, I have a
feeling many guys might hate this movie. Die Hard it is not. (If
you're looking for explosions and special affects - go see Star Wars III.)
Still, one of the most moving films that I have ever seen.
of the Rings (R, 2001) ... Average: 4.17
(Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Ian McKellen,
Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Liv Tyler)
K Carter RN
Amazing, awe inspiring and accurate retelling of the First Book of the
Lord of the Rings Trilogy!
After reading most of Tolkien's works I was most impressed how closely the
film followed the original storyline. The imagery was so detailed and
authentic that you actually felt as if you were there, so intense that you
forgot for a while (3 hours in fact) that you were anywhere but along the
journey with the Fellowship of the Ring!
After even one reading of the Lord of the Rings books a reader might
develop images in their mind of what "Middle Earth" and the
world therein would appear like and the film produced instantly
recognizable places, characters and moments. The special effects did not
overwhelm the movie, but complemented it so engrossingly that you didn't
want it to end. The entire cast & production team obviously poured
their heart & soul into this film.
Congratulations on a triumphant piece of cinema! It is a wonderful movie
that you will want to see again and again and is destined to become a
This movie's like cool and stuff.
I won't go into the basic plot since everyone should have read the
1954 Tolkein classic by now.
Translated onto the silver screen, it would be easy enough to write
countless words praising the films tremendous stage sets, make-up and
trailblazing digitally generated special effects. The various creators
were spectacular, and the scenery even better. Even the
reduction of lead actor, Elijah Woods, from his real-life 5'-6" to
his character Frodo Baggins height of 3'-6" was done flawlessly.
The acting here is also of highest quality. I was particularly taken
by Ian McKellen who played the noble, subtle, wise and omnipotent
magician, Gandalf. For that matter, all of the characters are filled
with genuine spontaneity. (Although Bev did think some of the
closing scenes were a bit overdramatic.)
Since it followed the legendary Hotter Potter film in the theaters it's
probably worth comparing the two. While HP deserved its acclaim as a
magical tale for children, Lord of the Rings is an altogether higher adult
achievement. That said, I'm a little surprised they are marketing
this so heavily for children. No doubt in my mind that anyone under
the age of, say, 13 is going to be almost totally lost. And, quite
frankly, there are a number of scenes that I think smaller kids would find
a bit TOO scary. The movie definitely reflects the book in that
there are a number of scenes that are extremely violent. I
definitely wouldn't want to take an easily frightened 6 year old to see
The flaw in the movie for me was its length, which I suppose was necessary
to mimic the original book. But when translated to a movie, there
was a sequence of events in the movie that almost felt like the same thing
over and over and over again as our adventurers encountered one obstacle
after another, each one with just a different monster. There was a
period where this sort of battle scene seemed to repeat itself too many
times to the point of monotony in a way.
Like the book, you also had to seriously pay attention. There were
many characters, and how certain things came to be took some effort to
All in all, though, the film works. It's a good "relationship
story" at its core: The bond between Gandalf and Frodo, the camaraderie
between the four hobbits, the growth of mutual respect between
the various do-gooders. Recommended.
in Translation (R, 2003) ... Average:
(Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Anna Faris, Giovanni
Ribisi, Fumihiro Hayashi)
This is one of those films you will either love or hate. If you need
lots of talking or action or sea bass stay away. On the other hand, if you
like art films this almost qualifies; there are some beautiful shots. I
enjoyed Bill Murray's character. Some of the scenes he is in are
hilarious. It's out of video so if you find anything interesting in what
I've said get off your bottom and enjoy. Just remember it's one of those
love/hate movies and you may find it repulsive!
HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
has-been action movie star (Bill Murray, brilliantly cast) hangs out in a
luxury hotel in Tokyo while waiting to shoot a whiskey commercial. A young
wife (the lovely Scarlett Johanssen) hangs out in the same joint, leaving to
see the occasional tourist site and being neglected by her jet-setting
husband. They are bored, and as my mother always used to say, bored people
are boring. Fortunately, we don’t wait too long before they meet each
other and strike up a friendship; even more fortunately, they have real
chemistry, humor, and a curiosity about each other and (eventually) the
place where they temporarily find themselves.
Sofia Coppola’s movie captures well the isolation of being in a huge,
strange city, and the feeling of not having much to do. This gets old after
a while, but the relationship between the Murray and Johanssen characters
redeems it after a while.
As with other movies I’ve reviewed (Finding
Forrester, Strawberry and Chocolate), the movie’s slow pace makes a
hard-to-believe relationship more plausible, although this one pushes the
envelope a lot more than the other ones did. It helps that Murray is still
quite funny; one gets the sense that his character’s deadpan humor is
keeping him sane throughout the whole experience. The scene where
Murray films the commercial and tries to keep up with his interpreter and an
eccentric Japanese director is absolutely hysterical, especially for anyone
who has worked as an interpreter!
The plot holds together reasonably well, except for one thing that bothers
me enough to mention it: the two leads go out soon after they meet with some
of her Japanese friends to sing Karaoke. It’s another funny scene, bringing
to mind Murray’s old lounge-singer act on Saturday Night Live (you haven’t
lived until you’ve heard Murray singing the Roxy Music song “More Than
This,” or Johanssen sing “Brass in Pocket”), but I have to wonder why
Johannsen’s character was lounging around at the hotel if she had these
friends to hang out with all along!
Overall, however, I enjoyed the movie once it got going, and I hope that
Murray’s recent career renaissance continues. (By the way, I was amazed to
find out that the annoying Japanese talk show host Matthew, who appears in
the film to interview Murray, is an actual TV personality. Coppola’s
cinematographer gave me a pretty good idea what downtown Tokyo looks like,
although the film is far less “touristy” than a lot of other movies I’ve
seen that were shot in non-US locations--this movie is much more of a
character study than a time-and-place film. Lastly, if you rent or buy the
DVD, watch the deleted scenes. One of them is funny enough to make me wonder
why they cut it.)