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RETURN TO MOVIE
2003) ... Average: 2.5
(Cuba Gooding Jr., Ed Harris, S. Epatha Merkerson,
Riley Smith, Debra Winger)
I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker when it comes to "feel
good" movies -- especially those based on a true story. I was almost in
tears during the previews for "Radio," so I knew I just had to see it. Yep
-- I'm a sucker alright.
"Radio" is the true story of Robert James Kennedy, a mentally challenged man
in a small southern town who spends his days pushing his shopping cart
around and minding his own business. Just by chance, he parks his cart
outside the fence of the town's high school football field where the boys
are practicing. He ends up catching one of the footballs and the coach's
The coach (Ed Harris) takes a liking to Radio (the nickname he gives Kennedy
because of his love of transistors) and takes him under his wing.
Unfortunately, not everyone is enamored -- there's the obligatory jock who
taunts Radio, his dad, the town's booster who sees Radio as a distraction,
and the Coach's daughter who is going through her own growing pains.
Cuba Gooding, Jr. is amazing as Radio -- his mannerisms and child-like
innocence are right on the money. Sadly, it's not enough to carry the
"Radio" has some poignant moments and one or two laugh-out-loud scenes, but
for the most part, would have been better as a one hour "After School
Special." The story wears thin and follows suit with every other "triumph
over evil" plot you've seen. The best way to explain it is "uncomfortable"
-- you don't want anything bad to happen to Radio and you can't bear to
watch him teased by other students, but without that, there's really not
much of a story. The character is limited and so is the movie.
I gave it 2.5 stars because of Gooding's performance, but it's not worth
waiting in line with all the nitwits who bought tickets for "Scary Movie
Hearts (R, 1999) ... Average: 2.5
(Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Richard Jenkins,
Charles Dutton, Bonnie Hunt)
Dutch (Harrison Ford) is an Internal Affairs Police Officer in
D.C. Kay Chandler (Kristen Scott Thomas) is a congresswoman in the
middle of elections. Their spouses die in a commercial plane
crash. The first hour of the movie is spent with the two putting
clues together as to why their spouses were on the plane in the first
place, and why they were together. Interesting.
Then when they realize the two were having an affair (don't worry, that
doesn't really ruin the movie - you can see that coming from a mile away),
Dutch turns obsessive. Kay just wants to forget about it and move on.
Suddenly they are crawling all over each other. I just couldn't see
any two people falling in love under the circumstances, and there was really
no build up to it, either. I didn't think there was any "chemistry"
but then maybe there wasn't supposed to be. I guess the point was that two
people who previously didn't know each other were thrown together and were
both quite "vulnerable."
You also never find out anything about this "affair" other than
the fact that it took place. The last hour of the movie is
Harrison's character totally losing his mind trying to find out
"Why?" and never getting any answers. Kay just keeps
telling him "We'll never find out, they are gone, just let it
go." NOT interesting.
I stayed awake through the movie, but this would have been much better had
out the romantic plot of the movie which seemed painfully out of place.
Ray (PG-13, 2004) ... Average:
(Jamie Foxx, Regina King, Kerry Washington, Richard
Schiff, Aunjanue Ellis)
Ray is the biography of musical legend Ray Charles.
The reason that biographies are often so powerful is that they are, of
course, based on a true story, and usually tell the story of rags to riches
or some tragic start to life which ended in story-book fashion. Ray is
some of that - maybe even most of that. However, it's sad to say
considering the almost insurmountable handicap had in a time in his life
when he had few people he could trust, but Ray Charles was not exactly a
wonderful human being. And unlike the hero in most great stories, he
didn't exactly end up as one in the end either.
Further adding to the sadness is that a little research reveals that the
movie covered up even more pocks that you see in the 2 hour film: He
may have finally gotten off heroine, but he continued to booze it up heavily
and continued to be a heavy pot user; the movie made it seem like a shock
when a married Ray got one of the Rayettes pregnant - truth is that he had
children from about a dozen different women throughout his life; in the end
you lauded (questioned?) his wife for her perseverance in sticking with him
through thick and thin - in reality, she did wind up divorcing him.
All said, I just found it hard to really "like" Ray Charles that much.
It was more pity than "like" and I'm sure that wasn't what the directors had
in mind. Very interesting story, no doubt. Well acted,
particularly on the part of Jamie Foxx. Buuuut, I just didn't hit me
that hard. I was more like I was watching a very well done documentary
on E! without the commercials.
Red Dragon (R, 2002) ... Average:
(Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes,
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Harvey Keitel)
Anthony Hopkins AND Edward Norton?! How could it not be good?!
Let me tell you - this movie is awesome. And if you loved "Silence of
the Lambs" (who didn't?!), you will love this too.
"Red Dragon" is the prequel to "Silence of the Lambs." I thought I was going
to see how Lecter became the monster you saw in SOTL, but you really don't.
In that regard, I think the concept of "Prequel" is a bit of a stretch
because it's only the first 10 minutes of the movie where you see how
Hannibal Lecter wound up in jail in the first place. Then the movie
essentially gives you another dose of "Silence of the Lambs." If the
movie had a flaw, it was exactly that: The concept was not really that
much different from the original movie. Lecter is in jail, the
superstar FBI agent (this time Norton instead of Jodie Foster) is trying to
solve a serial killer case and uses Lecter to get ideas, filtering through
twisted but riveting dialog. Sound familiar?
Regardless of the fact that the concept had sort of been done before, there was no energy or suspense lost because of it. It was just as
creepy as the first movie, with just enough new twists to keep you guessing
and on the edge of your seat.
Planet (PG-13, 2000) ... Average: 1.5
(Val Kilmer, Benjamin Bratt, Carrie-Anne Moss, Simon
Baker, Tom Sizemore)
I'm not really certain why this movie was made. But, then again,
why is any movie made? Anyway, I saw this movie on a flight from
Seattle to Philly. I understand why Seattle was made, but don't get
me started on that trip. The movie was slightly entertaining, but
I'm having trouble comprehending the plot. If you can tell me I'd
appreciate the knowledge. Rent it if you dare, but don't expect
much. The ending it was almost too predictable. For goodness
sake, somebody explain why this movie was made? And if you go to
Seattle visit the EMP, near the Space Needle. Just stay away from
the fat chicks.
of the Day (Not
Rated, 1993) ... Average: 4.0
(Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Christopher Reeve,
Hugh Grant, Tim Pigott-Smith, James Fox)
HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
Remains of the Day is a character study of one Mr. Stevens, a career
butler (played unerringly, as always, by Anthony Hopkins) whose job fills
every corner of his life and gives him his identity. Stevens'
devotion to his profession and sense of propriety are strong even by
English standards. As a result, he sometimes seems (or becomes?)
cruel and callous. It becomes increasingly clear that this
earnestness is an individual characteristic, not merely a cultural one,
which makes his character all the more fascinating. As if to prove
this point, the story gives him a foil (Emma Thompson), also an
extraordinary housekeeper, but with a better sense of humanity; the rest
of the movie wisely chooses to follow their relationship in several moving
Meanwhile, it's the 1930's, and their blueblood Germanophile boss becomes
a cheerleader for the Nazis then taking power, forcing Stevens to answer
more challenging questions.
It might be difficult for many Americans to have a strong interest in
Stevens, but if it can be done, the movie raises very insightful questions
about what it means to work for another person, and how professional
relationships and personal ones inevitably intersect.
This is very worth renting. (As a side note, I should mention that
Christopher Reeve is excellent as an American congressman who challenges
the Nazi apologist at a formal dinner; this was probably his last role
before his harrowing riding accident. Also, Ben Chaplin from "The
Truth About Cats and Dogs" plays a small but important role as a
the Titans (PG,
2000) ... Average: 4.17
(Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, Wood
Harris, Ryan Hurst, Hayden Panettiere)
It's true I love sports. It's also true that I love Denzel
Washington. Why wouldn't I rent this movie?
"Remember the Titans" is one of the best movies I've seen in a
long time. And you don't even have to love football to get it!
Football just happens to be the setting, but it is certainly not the
Denzel is the new head coach of a predominantly white high school that is
in the process of integration. To say anymore would require that I
tell you the story and I can't do it justice.
Denzel is intense; his face says a thousand words. The supporting
cast is great, too -- keep an eye on "Coach's" daughter. A
piece of work for a nine-year-old.
Rent the movie and watch it with the kids -- no swearing, no violence.
An amazing, true life, "feel good" movie.
"Remember the Titans" is a true inspirational story about
the football team of the first segregated high school in the state of
Virginia. It is also another movie that will amaze you with the
ignorance prevalent in our society in 1971 - a time that really was not
very long ago, relatively speaking. Your heart will be warmed by the
bonding of these black and white high school students thrown together in a
time when they grew up learning only to look as far as someone's skin
color. The ascent to a state championship in their first season
ultimately rallies their families, the school and their town to overcome
Denzel Washington is his usual mesmerizing and powerful self in his role
as head coach of the new team brought in to oversee the transition to
integration. (Although he should be getting really good at these
Denzel-against-the-world racial prejudice movies...see also, Hurricane,
Malcolm X and Glory.)
The white assistant coaches' 9-year old daughter (Hayden Panettiere) is
inspiring spit-fire sure to be seen again in a key role in future
movies. Where did they find this little one??!! Watching her
act is almost worth the cost of the rental all by herself!
This is a Disney movie, so (1) you know it's good, (2) you know it's done
in good taste, and (3) you know you're ultimately going to come away
feeling good about life. Be sure to see this one - it's a perfect
movie for the entire family.
The writers did an acceptable job replicating realistic football scenes,
but they could have done better. The only negative thing I can say
is that not all of the on-field were completely realistic. For
example, in the final dramatic game scene, all of the dialog and moves
made by the coaching staff indicate that the Titans defense is being
walked over by the powerful opposing offense. They go to the extent
of taking their best offensive players and moving them to defense...and
yet the score is 7-0 at the half and 7-3 in the 4th quarter. Well,
how bad could the defense have been playing if they only gave up one
score???? That's, of course, nit-picking.
This is a very good movie. Highly recommended.
HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
As longtime readers know, I try to avoid reacting to other critics'
comments in this newsletter. Sometimes, however, this is a difficult
rule to follow. Many of said critics (who will remain nameless,
except for Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post) have been trashing
"Remember the Titans" these past few weeks, taking it to task
for having (gasp!) an idealistic vision about the ability of different
races to function together in this country, and (shudder!) actual faith in
people's potential to All Just Get Along! I can't quite get on this
bandwagon, because I would take the optimism of this movie over the tired
cynicism so common in too many quarters of our culture any day. True, the
critics also point out that this is not a very subtle movie, which is a
fairer objection. On the other hand, it has to be said that
Hollywood has been unsubtle many times in the past, and usually for far
less worthy causes. When movies are genuinely entertaining and inspiring
– and this movie is both – I am more than willing to overlook
obviousness and other more or less minor faults. After all, I am too
busy enjoying myself!
In case you're wondering who the Titans are, they were the football team
at T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia in 1971. Just
as their schools were integrating, they were themselves charged with
integrating what had been two different championship teams, and ended up
acting as a sort of advance guard for the rest of the student body.
Denzel Washington is more than believable as their Vince Lombardi-like
coach. That said, Bill Paxton, playing his assistant (one of the men
passed over for the head coach job) has a more challenging and nuanced
role, and handles it with careful control, one of the movie's few
subtleties. The most charming performers are the various
ballplayers--my favorite was Ethan Suplee, the fat comic relief from
Mallrats and Chasing Amy, finally cast in a more intelligent role.
The only major complaint is the overbearing music score, which swells when
it is supposed to swell and broadcasts every emotion we are supposed to
feel. Why does Hollywood do this, particularly when they have a
story that is moving enough without this kind of excess? That aside,
see this, and preferably in the theater--its impact (excuse the pun) will
be significantly softened on television!
to Me (PG,
2000) ... Average: 4.0
(David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Carroll O'Connor,
Robert Loggia, Bonnie Hunt, Jim Belushi)
"Return to Me" is an incredibly touching heart-warming
romantic movie about a man (Duchovny) whose wife is killed in a car
accident and has her heart donated to a woman who is dying of a heart
disease (Minnie Driver). The man and the woman with the new heart
meet coincidentally - the man doesn't know that she has had a heart
transplant and is carrying his X-wife's heart, and she only knows that his
wife passed away years earlier.
I really can't remember the last time I cried, but I actually shed tears
during this movie. Yes, this is totally a "chick flick",
but, hey, it made me cry, so it must've been a pretty damn good one!
There were also some great light-hearted moments in the movie as well,
which is why this was considered a "romantic comedy".
The four old men - the girl's Irish grandfather (O'Connor), his Italian
brother-in-law (Loggia) and their two friends - were fabulous, as was Jim
Belushi who played a minor role. O'Connor has come a long way since
his days as Archie Bunker, but is no less brilliant in this movie than he
was in "All in the Family." This movie is worth seeing
just to see him in a role so totally opposite of his Archie-character and
see him do so flawlessly.
And that dog is totally cool, too!
The Ring (PG,
2002) ... Average:
(Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox, Shannon
Cochran, Lindsay Frost)
On the creepy scale this one rated a 9 out of 10. Unfortunately,
on the made-sense scale, it was somewhere down around a 4. Still, that
didn't detract from the fact that this movie scared the bejesus out of me,
and had me laying awake in bed that night listening for the creepy-crawlies.
And, to its credit, it wasn't so much that it didn't make sense, as much as
nothing really got tied together when the movie ended. It left Bev and
I talking about it for the next few days trying to figure out why certain
things happened and how everything was linked together. And, well,
maybe that was the intention.
To very briefly summarize, the movie is about a disturbing video tape that is nothing more than a couple minutes of video footage of
someone's twisted nightmare. But, once you've watched it, you die a
mysterious death exactly seven days later...unless you figure out what is
going on! How did the tape get made? What is its bizarre
history? What clues are on the video? What are all of the creepy
things that happen to you during those last seven days of your life?
Oh, sounds a bit silly to describe, but oooooooooooooooooooh is it
creeeeeeepy scary scary scary!
So creepy, in fact, that there is a special part of the DVD in the "Special
Features" section that was listed as "Don't Watch This." I can't even
describe what that part was, it was so spooky...but Bev made me turn it off
because she was too freaked out.
If you like scary movies with eerie imagry, nail-biting tension and
excellent chills, this is most definitely worth the rental.
The Road to Perdition (R,
2002) ... Average:
(Tom Hanks, Jude Law, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason
Leigh, Stanley Tucci)
As My Pal said, well worth a rental! Hanks is excellent.
Tom Hanks plays the father of a family in 1930. He is also a gangster hitman (for his boss, played by Paul Newman.) He's devoted to his
job, and equally as devoted to his wife and two boys. Ultimately
however, those two worlds collide in a twisted tangled web, leading to a
pool of lies, deception, revenge...and more people getting shot in the head
than you'll see in the average movie. When Hanks' wife and youngest
son are murdered, a gut-wrenching, heart-stopping, mournful - and shocking -
journey begins for Hanks and his oldest son.
This is a very new and different role for Hanks, as I'm sure you've heard if
you've seen anything about this movie. He doesn't play his usual
lovable nice-guy...although, in the end, that character shines through
brightly, albeit with a loaded machine gun blowing people away. (Trust
me, here!) He comes through with flying colors, proving that he is one
of the greatest actors of our generation. For that matter, everyone in
this movie was star-quality. Brilliantly acted all-around.
The movie plays a bit dark, needless to say, and I got a bit confused as to
exactly what was going on at first, but the plot did quickly clean itself
It's a good evocative movie, definitely worthy of the rental. And it's
got Tom Hanks in it, so you're obligated to see it - the man is a theatrical
2005) ... Average:
McGregor, Halle Berry, Robin Williams, Mel Brooks,
Greg Kinnear, Drew Carey, Jamie Kennedy, Paul Giamatti)
Robots is another in a long line of quality animated films, each one
filled with a star-studded cast of voices, tongue-in-cheek adult puns to
keep the adults amused, and graphically better than the last.
The recipe for each one has the zany side-kick played by a comedian designed
to steal the show: Shrek had Eddie
Murphy as the donkey, Monsters Inc
had Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski,
Finding Nemo had Ellen Degeneres as Dory, etc. Robot's show
stealer was played by Robin Williams who essentially plays a robot version
of Williams' stand up persona. If you are amused by that, as most
people are, then this is your movie because Williams has 75% of the lines
that will crack you up.
The best lines of the movie came at the very beginning when Mr. Copperbottom
is rushing home for the delivery of his new son. He gets home and his
wife disappointingly tells him that he's missed the delivery......and then
holds up a box which is the kit for putting together their new son.
She smiles and says "But the making of the baby is the best part!" As
they're putting him together he says, "Oh, he has my mom's nose and my dad's
eyes...I'm glad we saved those parts." Funny stuff.
My mistake is comparing all of these types of movies to
Shrek, which is terribly unfair because
it's unlikely that anything is ever going to match. However, there
definitely seems to be two tiers developing - the upper eschelon being
Finding Nemo, and Toy Story which I consider to be the best of this
genre of movie, and then slightly below those are all of the rest.
Robots is definitely good - a 3.5 rating is nothing to be ashamed of - but
that puts it on par with that 2nd tier of similar movies like Fish Tales,
Monsters Inc, A Bugs Life, etc.
HERE to go to Tony Porco's Movie Reviews Page)
I've now seen a lot of the
movies now, and it's clear that they are becoming a genre. I've seen the
formula done with fantasy cartoon characters (Shrek,
my personal favorite), fishes (Shark Tale),
and now Robots. Of course, as I've said before, I don't necessarily have
any problems with formula movies just because they're formula movies,
especially if they are well-written and and well-acted, as Robots is.
The story revolves around our hero, a young android-type thing named Rodney
Copperbottom (Ewan McGregor), who has a talent for invention and for
fix-it-up work (which, in a community of robots, makes him kind of like a
doctor). He heads for the big city to make his fame and fortune with the
ultimate fix-up guy, Big Weld (an excellent Mel Brooks). Unfortunately, he
finds that a crafty and slick mechanical executive (Greg Kinnear, playing a
character kind of like the one he played in Someone Like You) has eased Big
Weld out of the company and plans to force all the lesser robots to pay for
expensive upgrades (sound familiar?) Luckily, Rodney has help from both
inside the company (Cappy, a beautifully-designed exec voiced by Halle
Berry) and outside (Piper and Fender, two robots voiced by Amanda Bynes and
Robin Williams, and their motley crew of robot friends).
The planned-obsolescence theme is surprisingly subversive for a Hollywood
movie, and that alone makes it quite enjoyable; in fact, I can think of
certain software companies who wouldn’t have objected if this movie had
never seen the light of day.
There are also lots of great lines (written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo
Mandel, who are best known for collaborating with Billy Crystal), many of
which are delivered (big surprise) by Williams.
I was also surprised by how impressed I was by the animation, since I'm now
getting jaded by that kind of thing--the sequences where Rodney and Fender
hurtle through an increasingly complicated big robot city really are
stunning, and become almost surreal.
The only major thing I didn't like was that some of the characters are
really annoying, and are given more screen time than they deserve; I
actually found even Fender to be kind of tiresome by the end.
Star (R, 2001) ... Average: 2.0
(Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, Dominic West,
Timothy Olyphant, Jason Bonham, Carrie Stevens)
I never planned on renting this movie, but it was Saturday night at
9:00, and the only things left to rent in Hollywood Video were Rock Star,
Love Story and some 1980s Care Bear movie. I couldn't stand one more
night of my husband whining about watching "stupid figure
skating," so I brought home Rock Star.
The movie is about a guy (Wahlberg) who is the lead singer in a cover (or
"tribute," as he keeps correcting people) band. He's
obsessed with the real band and the lead singer to the point where he
looks, lives, speaks and acts just like him. Not TOO freaky.
And the odd part is, his parents, friends and girlfriend think it's just
fine. Alrighty then.
As life would have it, he gets a chance to audition for the lead singer's
part in the REAL band when the actual lead singer is fired. Of
course, he gets the gig and the movie starts to unfold as his life begins
Aniston is great as the girlfriend/manager. She sticks by him,
guides him, tolerates a lot more than most women would, and then finally
has to make a decision when the "rock star" thing gets to be too
"Rock Star" made me smile in the beginning - thinking back to
the days of cover bands and wannabes, long "metal" hair, leather
pants, stupid cover band groupies -- it's all dead-on. After awhile,
though, it started to work on my nerves. How lame can these people
be that they try and LIVE someone else's life? Get a job, get a
life, and for God's sake, get a haircut. By the end of the movie, it
was just sappy and I was glad it was over.
"Rock Star" is an ok rental if, the next time you get to
Hollywood video, it's one of your only three choices. Me? I'm
sticking with the stupid figure skaters until the Olympics are over.
Bride (PG, 1999) ... Average: 2.5
(Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack)
We've all seen the previews - Maggie Carpenter (Roberts) has been
engaged to be married multiple times, and every time she reaches the alter, she panics and bolts. When the movie starts, Ike (played by Gere)
is a columnist for USA-Today who writes biting editorials about women, and
his latest story is about Maggie and her propensity to run at the last
minute. It doesn't take the great Creskin
to see where this is going. Then you just have to wait out two hours
for it all to unfold - basically you just saw the entire movie by reading
those two sentences.
It's totally predictable, but it's meant to be
a comedy, so I guess the goal isn't to have the audience on the edge of
its collective seat. I think I chuckled twice - not bust a gut
chuckles, just hardy-har-har-that-was-cute chuckles - but that was
it. Overall, basically just a weak chick flick.
I'm surprised I didn't fall asleep because there wasn't anything special about this
movie. It isn't terribly funny, it isn't really moving, and it isn't
super romantic - just a very average bland movie. (Note that Bev was
asleep for about a half hour in the middle of the movie and I'm sure that
says more than everything else I've written.)
Hour 2 (PG-13, 2001) ... Average:
(Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, John Lone, Zhang Zi-Yi,
Roselyn Sanchez, Chris Penn)
If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I can die knowing that I have joined
the ranks of the "lemmings" that flock to theaters to see a
movie on opening weekend.
I never saw the original "Rush Hour," and really had no
intention of seeing "Rush Hour 2," but friends invited us to the
movies and this is what they picked.
"Rush Hour 2" is an action-packed movie full of amazing
stunts, some funny banter between the stars and serious Kung Fu fighting
(I sincerely hope that last reference will make you hum that song until
you want to vomit, as I have since Saturday night!). However, it is
not my kind of movie.
Hour 2" is about two detectives who happen to be in Hong Kong when a
mysterious woman delivers a bomb to a building in which two American
embassy officials are stationed. KABOOM. Then the same
mysterious woman delivers a bomb to a Hong Kong police station. KABOOM.
We soon learn that these bombs are being sent by the Triad, a powerful
Asian gang who is hell-bent on eliminating anyone who they think is going
to stop them from printing and distributing counterfeit money all over the
world. Chan and Tucker are dispatched to save the day.
I have never seen a Jackie Chan movie. I respect what the man does
-- especially when I learned that he does all his own stunts. His
hands and feet are like lightning, and he is more limber than any Olympic
gymnast I have seen. I have seen Chris Tucker in some bit parts, and
although I'll grant that he can be amusing, I don't know that he can carry
a movie. Those two things, coupled with the fact that I can do
without someone getting kicked in the teeth every six minutes, made
"Rush Hour 2" one of those movies that kept me looking at my
watch. I know I was in the minority based on two very glaring facts:
I was older than 95% of the audience, and I didn't clap when the movie was
I gave the movie 3 stars because it really was amusing at some points, and
I am still impressed by Jackie Chan's moves. It just pained me to
try and decipher what he was saying during parts of the movie.
If what I've described is your bag, go see "Rush Hour 2" -- I'm sure you
won't be disappointed.