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Most people see a shrink in attempts to work through emotional difficulties. But Adam Sandler's "Anger Management" sentence to “live” with the eccentric shrink leads to laughs, patience and perhaps attempted murder! "Bulletproof Monk" entertained me with a moderately budgeted, fast paced comic "superhero" theme and a pick pocket hero. No comparison to the special effects of SpiderMan; it works better that way! As for (ugh) "Malibu’s Most Wanted", I give it just a quarter of a thumbs up. Politician's offspring endanger elections has been a favorite recent genre, but this one comes off more hackneyed than funny. Go see “Head of State” a second time, it’s laughs are genuine and the theme more challenging. Finally, quickly catch “Quiet American” for a well acted, almost poignant story of a married reporter, a Vietnamese beauty, and a handsome American. Good historic look at the events that precipitated the “LBJ war” when the conflict was simply between the FRENCH and the Communists!

This Chris Rock(er) wins my vote! Sure, its an election fable/fairy tale, but it has subtle throwbacks to the classic "Network" (i.e. Rock's slogan). A nice blending of comedic and slightly serious elements. Just enjoy and go vote in the next election.....meanwhile, James Bond Jr. ("Agent Cody Banks") was a surprisingly pleasant offering as the teen Bond pulled off ski rescues and gadget genius mimicking the older and suave Bond. Cody's even good with the ladies after some lesson. Strictly juvenile laughs, unless you are a Bond fanatic
THE CORE Fox held this one back due to the shuttle accident. Despite the unintentional crossing with headlines, this high tech journey to the earth's core has a decent script and avoids dallances with inter-character squabbles. The destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge scene is impecable!
Don't dawdle see (and hear) award winning “Chicago” on the big screen. The fast fanciful period musical melodrama indicts an infected judicial process while singin’ and dancin’ routines both effortlessly and effectively unveil the evil “rewards” of high steppin’ ladies obsessin’ ‘bout their name in lights. This musical will convert nearly anyone who has previously claimed their dislike for the genre. Every song moves the story along!
Incidentally, if you want to laugh at a cool raunchy romp in the style of “Animal House,” you’re a candidate for enrollment at the “Old School,” where age-challenged wanna-be frat members discover mischievous ways for regression. But, Steve Martin and Queen Latifah definitely “Brings Down the House,” in a side-splitting comedy about internet mis-romance and interracial dis-harmony and harmony. As for “Willard,” he’s a geek hero with a rodent revenge army. Go cheer him on, but don’t wear sandals!

YULE FLICK WRAP : Jen Lopez toplines a sweet updating of "Cinderella" by playing a maid at a NYC hotel who meets a handsome and rich political candidate while "trying on" a guest’s ritzy threads. Blending Gere / Roberts "Pretty Woman" sauciness with a "Sleepless in Seattle" reversal (single mom not single dad), "Maid in Manhatten" merrily achieves its feel good goals with ample laughs and improbable romance. However, another comedy, "Hot Chick," places Clive, a 30something loser (Rob Schneider) body of mean-spirited Jessica Spencer (Rachael McAdams) then fails to find any unique nuances. In fact, I found myself asking myself "what’s happening to Rachael in Jessica’s body?" "Star Trek: Nemesis" more resembles "Star Wars" than the usual "heady" and philosophical challenge. I think they intentionally tried to please both trekkie and wars junkies; the result , neither will be happy.
Finally, brush up on your Gimli , Saruman and Sauron BEFORE catching " LOTR:The Two Towers." Unless you’re part of sword and sorcery loyal fan base, you might momentarily ask "who’s who," but the good versus evil odyssey which perfectly blends computer generated effects with REAL actors impresses with its story-telling and epic nature. Definitely see this one on the BIG screen. (Huntington community theatre alum Brad Dourif, who was nominated for an Oscar in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and rendered the voice of "Chucky" plays Grima Wormtongue, the corrupt evil aide to King Theoden and a slithering spy of the evil Saruman!)
Although All Hallows Eve has past, a remarkably spiritual production haunts your local multiplex. “The Ring” has the wispy, suspenseful jolts of a hardy ghost story minus the catsup squirting of Jason and Freddie. The premise: Everyone who watches a bizarre video tape dies within a week. Comparable to “The Others” or “Turn of the Screw,” the “Ring” prefers shadowy unknowns and “beat the clock” desperation to endless slashing. Don’t anticipate a tidy complex climatic explanation and resolution, “The Ring” has neither. You decide for yourself to believe or ……..
If you haven’t already heard, “I Spy” and Eddie Murphy failed to deliver spoofery , gadgetry, or tart one-liners. “Punch Drunk Love” could have been a sweet romance about over coming disabilities and inabilities; instead, Adam Sandler demonstrates he can play a tortured character without winning anyone’s empathy

Amongst the heavy hitting special effects of "Star Wars" and "Spider Man," comes an awkwardly romantic Hugh Grant comedy. He's a boring bachelor , by choice, sitting around all day watching tv, listening to cd's and sipping cappachino's living on the royalities from his father's hit song, "Santa's Super Slay," (sounds like it belongs in a Wheeling Mystery Theatre production?) By not feeling anything for anybody, he guarantees himself a Prozac-free life. Ironically, Hugh's use- her-loser character brags of mastering the 21st Century creed: "every person must survive on an island by themselves." Still, he preys upon vulnerable single moms, who literally swoon when he tells them what they want to hear . Fate intervenes when , the 12-year-old son of a suicidal "hippie" mom attaches himself to Grant like a puppy in the rain. Unlike predictable romances, "About a Boy" spreads laughs and sentiment into catchy one-liners, dysfunctional familial groups, and inventive circumstances. And we watch Grant's character bloom into a more compassionate and mature man. (Me? I'm stuck in the "how do you mend a broken heart" 90's, looking for a woman who can go out without confronting something more complex than a simple curfew --- the babysitter!)

George Lucas finally whisks us to " a familiar place, a long time ago." His "Attack of the Clones" re-captures the visions created by his "Empire Strikes Back" and the original "Star Wars." From the openingreel that includes an incredible air-car chase through a skyscraping future metropolis to the frequent light saber duels, "Clones" delivers much more than a mustard seed. True, the computer generated backgrounds seldom maintain a suspension of disbelief, but they have their moments. The glaring prob is their heights are depth perception impaired. More than one Jedi knight hops from these flying discs and land effortlessly on their feet. Otherwise, Lucas has effortlessly interwoven three story lines --- one of them a non-disruptive romance --- into the saga. Galaxy hopping, air cruising, or lights dueling , this planetary war delivers. Didn't "Star Wars" propel an invasion of galactic video games? "Clones" has the potential to awaken the inkling for dodging asteroids, planets, chunky machines, and buildings with joysticks. I think it has legs (movie talk for strong repeat viewing potential).
Incidentally, the Keith Albee's main auditorium has installed a techno-lighting system that dramatically increases image brightness on the large screen. Honest, its like going from a subdued drive in theatre image to near perfection. The same system has been installed in Charleston at two Park Place auditoriums!)

SLINGING WEBS...........

Although an ole' comic book collector myself, it took me a week to find enough courage to watch most of "Spider Man." I have a phobia for webs. When I reviewed "Arachnophobia", I itched for a week and my companion felt something crawling over her sandaled feet. Without relying on someone to give me open and close eye cues, I found the superhero saga riveting and worthy in depicting an "every-teen" accidental, insecure boy struggling keep his geeky school existence from interfering with web slinging.

Awesome must be utilized when describing "Changing Lanes," a dark road rage odyssey. The premise ignites with a collision between an elitist lawyer and a telemarketer (who can't afford counsel) both on their way to two different courthouses. The arrogant , double breasted Lexus driver on a mission to sham a charity (Ben Affleck) can’t afford a few minutes to be civil. A legal referral to Samuel L. Jackson hurrying to a child custody hearing pro se would have been a “win-win” twist of fate. However, Affleck dropped important court papers. Instead of behaving like a gentleman, manipulation, vengeance, and anger envelopes both men as they steer themselves down a deadly turnpike of self-destruction.
"Murder by the Numbers" has a zealous and hurting Sandra Bullock running away from her own victimization by working as a homicide scene analyst. Initially, the premise looks like a serial killer scenario, but it quickly shifts to an oddity about a couple of privileged high school boys who may have embarked onto a deadly chess game with the police. Despite its intricate curves, the film fails to leave enough “clues” to keep audiences enveloped and has enough dysfunctional potential villains to leave one just satisfied, not smiling in amazement at the complex mystery. ****

Caught the "new" "Time Machine" , but they should have just re-issued the George Pal version! The new production has promise until it jumps to future earth where the species consist of underground cannibals who can not stand light and their prey who live a near idyllic existence on the surface. When the focus plunges into those subterranean bowels, the director, writer, and everyone just forgot to inject any expository sequence. Having viewed the original film, I understood what was occurring, but I'll bet most of the moviegoers had not watched the Pal movie or read H.G. Welles novel. Thus, the intended dramatic finale with a dastardly villain goes south! We just see his horribly mutated head as he explains (kinda like a Wizard from Oz) how he's a descendent from humans who hid underground after they accidently blew up part of the moon and plunged earth out of orbit.
They say something happens every Spring (besides allergic reactions). The dreams of boys and men suddently become filled with visions of diamonds. This year, "The Rookie," takes first swing at major league dreams, Complete with nuns, saints, kids and a thirtysomething high school coach with a 98 m.p.h. fastball, "The Rookie" brings the Jim Morris' story to the screen. The uplifting, feel good film relates the story of the oldest rookie to ever pitch in the majors. It fervently underscores that one should never give up on your dreams (especially if you have a pretty wife who's willing to support dash for the "fantasy") .
At the risk of not wrapping Arnold in red, white and blue, "Collateral Damage" appears toxic. When the film opens with Arnold and fellow fireeaters battling an inferno in a multi-story building (as the credits are flashed on screen), the production blazes with potential. Then , his wife wakes up. She's been dreaming. Her hero is in the kitchen playing with their son. Two scenes later, while awaiting his arrival near a sidewalk cafe, his wife and son fall victim to a terrorist attack.
Did I miss something? The valiant flame footage at the front now makes no sense at all. Did the editor inhale too much smoke or has this footage been sanitized for political correctness? Perhaps, if Arnold's wife had a premonition of a bombing or succumbing in a high rise disaster as her hero struggles to save her, then the footage would properly flow. She'd then beg Arnold not to go to work that day.
Thus, the much delayed movie seems improperly touted as "disturbing" to 9-11 survivors.
Unfortunately, no one will clap or pull out a flag in the theatre. The D.C. scenes have potential but by that time terminal collateral estoppel has enveloped the movie. (for non-legal types, that means please no more like this one!)
Meanwhile, Denzel Washington pulsates and emotes as an average father turned hostage-taker in order to raise money for his son’s heart transplant! “John Q” pounds the medical and insurance establishment in much the manner that “Network” slammed the television industry. More than once, you will want to raise your arms and shout, pound your fist, and put your hands together at the heart-rendering 21st Century’s first cinematic slam – dunk about the plight of men, women and children in the United States with little or no health insurance.

December’s limited Golden Globe and potential Oscar flicks have started unspooling at area cinemas. As I pen this col, GHTC theatres are attempting to obtain prints of several others that have yet to open, including “The Shipping News” and “In the Bedroom.” On the mainstream front, “Collateral Damage,” postponed due to the “9-11” events will debut this month. Could be quite popular with Arnold starring as a courageous mercenary / hero who attempts to avenge the deaths of his family from a terrorist attack.

Whoever defined “Gosford Park” in contention with an absorbing Agatha Christie mystery levied too much hype on the Robert Altman ensemble English comedic mystery. More aptly the film mocks the “snobs” of society and the “gossip” that their lowly servants pass on to their employers. Altman’s depiction of “segregation” of valets, butlers, maids, visiting servants and kitchen workers (including requirements to utilize certain staircases) seems to provide a rich metaphor for “classes” and “casts.” The mystery does not arrive until half way through the flick. Afterwards, I observed several “artsy” film connoisseurs apologizing to their friends for yawning during the film.

“The Royal Tenanbaums” turns out to be my favorite. This nearly campish depiction of most gifted dysfunctional child prodigies maturing into extremely neurotic dysfunctional adults raises the roof in laughter. Gene Hackman earned well deserved recognition as their attorney father who lost his license for tampering with his young sons multiple real estate investments. Now, Hackman wants to mend fences before he passes, but that turns out to be a con. Meanwhile, the rich characterizations turn the household into a mini- coven of “You Can’t Take It With You” eccentrics.

Finally, “Blackhawk Down” graphically depicts a Special Forces raid gone amiss. Ironically, one soldier remarks , “Things change…once you’ve seen combat.” With buckets of blood realistically oozing, this production delivers start to finish action and a little political commentary.

now out on video footnotes....
Although some critics have described “Pearl Harbor” as a cinematic bomb, I thought the picture expertly integrated the two guys one girl love story into the war action. The special effects --- visual and audio --- place you on a ship at Pearl on the deadly day that started World War II for the U.S. (Of course, Hollywood probably saw it as a way to remake “Titantic,” instead of sinking one boat, they sinks lots of boats!) Call me “soft” or “sentimental,” but I enjoyed the pic. (Even ex-Huntington St. Joseph Catholic religion/Latin/film teacher Fr. Ken Meehen gave it a thumbs up in D.C.) Historically accurate or not, the romance elements draws viewers into the lives of the pilots and nurses, creating solid empathy than found in many special effects extravaganzas!
Aside from "Shriek," the summer's second pleasant surprise stars John Travolta as a cunning and cocky heartless bad guy. "Swordfish" combines tension filled hostage drama with a twisting , hack the computer caper. You’ll be hooked by its firecracker opening sequence………
As for "The Animal,” Rob Schneider set records for uttering gutteral noises. Too bad, only seeing eye dogs are allowed at theatres. I could have taken Danny , my irishsetter. He would have howled with hyper barks of enjoyment (just like when he tries to climb a tree after a squirrel!). The film has an off-beat, raunchy sense of humor, especially when the bionic half man/half beast responds to natures mating calls!

As the Summer Sunshine raises temperatures and tempers, Hollywood unleashes its annual mix of feel good antics and high flying testosterone action thrillers. This year expect to see mucho macho action heroines inspired by Buffy and Xena -mania. Dreamworks re-structures (and pokes fun ) at nearly every fairy tale character and cliche in its ambitious and hilarious "Shrek," more aptly titled "Beauty and the Green Ogre." Kids will adore the state-of-the-art animation and grown-ups will giggle and grin at such one-liners as , "You're an ogre.I was expecting Prince Charming!" "Shrek" upsets "once upon a time" legends, introduces new ones (Eddie Murphy's smart-mouthed Donkey) and injects a "modern" not-so-fragilic and not always beautiful princess who kicks and shouts.

Meanwhile, "Angel Eyes" places Jennifer Lopez in the role of a stone-hearted, jaded, still single police person hoping to "make a difference" by busting bad dudes. Facing a giant dose of goal deflating reality, Lopez meets a mysterious man known only as Catch (Jim Caviezel). After Catch saves her life, she re-examines her attitude toward the male species. He exudes kindness and selflessness, but he dodges all inquires into his past. In short, he has only a deficient apartment where he sleeps on a mattress and keeps a collection of toy soldiers.
> Nicely blending not-so-new love at first sight and mysterious stranger fables, "Angel Eyes" inspires an smigen of hope for the 21st Century. Try seeing the flick with a precious someone whom you love and who loves you. Or, say a humble prayer to St. Jude that someone who once upon a time shared your love discovers diva Lopez's tear-shedder and experiences a passion revival.
> Does this sound Holly-hokey? Actually, I can attest to love's magical potion working like in "Angel Eyes." However the couple must remain "in love" together for their scars from badly broken hearts to fully mend! (If my "Sunshine" had remained with me, I'd have gotten back behind the wheel Catch! ) Nuff said. or I'll spoil the show!

> Finally, "Mummy Returns" invokes more memories of the Indiana Jones series than "The Mummy", so it's certainly an enjoyable roller-coaster of fun. "Knight's Tale" pits a humble peasant against jousting champions with predictable results. It's ok, but no bulllseye.

….. “ Along Came a Spider” glued my eyes to the screen from almost the opening credits. Morgan Freeman captivates us as this suspenseful kidnapping melodrama exudes formidable mystery and intrigue. I didn’t want to see “the end” finally flash. Unfortunately, I could not wait until “Josie and the Pussycats” ended. The 60s cartoon turned live action failed to entertain. The bubbly blonde is the film’s only redeeming quality. Surprisingly, “Kingdom Come,” which features Whoppi Goldberg as a widow, has a torrid element of family dysfunction that earns it lots of laughs and smiles (especially when the minister is late for the funeral).
…… Have to send tremendous praise to Signorney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt. They’re a super cool mother/daughter “con” team in “Heartbreakers.” Weaver and Hewitt have mastered tongue-in-cheek manipulations of the male species. Their fav plan has a rich man marrying Weaver, getting caught with Hewitt soon after “I do,” and Weaver, her ex, and the lawyers meeting to hand 50% of the former rich man’s estate to his cheated upon wife. Designed as a “Thelma and Louise”-esque drubbing of conceive and leave males, the “dark” comedy evolves into a nicely twisted romantic tome of psycho mom attempting to cheat her only daughter out of true love. It’s fair to say, you occasionally ask “who’s conning whom” by the time this flick reaches its final reel. Stephen Segal’s “Exit Wounds” entertains with lots of car crashes and “chop socky” action. So adrenalin junkies who crave death-defying driving will appreciate this crash and burn junket. You’ll find the story about Detroit cops battling drugs (and other cops in on the take) tolerable with a touch of Lethal Weapon one-liners, especially when Segal is compelled to attend a Rage-a-holic twelve step program.

HANNIBAL'S HUNGRY By now you have heard the "Hannibal" hype and perhaps already tasted Lector. Despite the distasteful delicacies that flicker before your eyes, I can name "Survive," "Dawn of the Dead," and "Mark of the Devil" as having more carnivorous cannibalistic depictions. Departing from the taboo, the flick itself lacks the suspenseful intensity of "Silence of the LamBs" which had a bizarre Buffalo Who subplot with the kidnapped woman in the pit. Faithful to the novel or not, I missed Jodie Foster.
Chris Rock failed to generate any heavenly chills in "Down to Earth." Billed as a remake of the 70s "Heaven Can Wait, " it's actually a re-make of a 40s heavenly boxing fantasy, "Here Comes Mr. Jordan." The predecessors blended drama and comedy with a spiritual reverence; however, "Earth" depicts Heaven as a giant nightclub and the angels as blue-coated bouncers. The "Black Like Me" substitute body twist had potential, but viewers see Rock in the elderly white billionaire's body too often to catapult the racial switcheroo into hysteria.

"Traffic," an intricate expose of drug cartels and the horrors of addiction , wins the best of the month award. Affections of useage and involvement upon families proves heart wrenching. Whether the affluent judge's teenage daughter "experimenting" on the other side of the tracks, a Mexican hubby working for a drug lord, or a D.E.A. the loss of a friend, the threads together resound with addiction's horrific impact upon individual lives. >