Category Archives: Movie Reviews

A.I. – Steven Spielberg’s Wet Dream, Our Nightmare, by Michelle Alexandria

I normally try not to interject myself into my writer’s reviews, but this time I must. Ken is being way too kind with this movie. I won’t say that it sucks, but, no, actually, I will say it sucks. It blows chunks. I know every film critic in the world seems to have a hard on for Steven Spielberg, but really what was the last good movie he did, “”Saving Private Ryan””? The first half hour of that was good but the rest of it sucked. I still can’t sit through that entire movie. Luckily on DVD I can just skip ahead to the body parts exploding scenes.
Much like the director himself, A.I. is a pompous, waste of time. The movie tries so hard to make you care, but it is a empty shell. The visual effects that everyone keeps talking about? Where were they? The first 40 minutes consisted of nothing but a dark, dank apartment. Ooooohh. Ahhhhhh. Wow, I ain’t never seen anything like that before. The sets and lighting looked liked they were lifted straight from Aliens (good plot, horrible effects). And I don’t mean the ship or alien effects, I’m talking about the scene where they were just in their living quarters.

Critics are calling Haley Joel Osment the best young actor ever. Calling him that is a slap in the face to all the previous child stars who had more range than this kid has shown me. Anyone remember Drew Barrymore, Anthony Michael Hall, ok I can’t think of many people. But hell, even Jerry Mathers showed more range than Osment. Will someone please tell me why this kid is so popular? Is it because he’s the perfect little blond, blue eye boy that every white moviegoer can relate to? In the Sixth Sense he barely said anything in that movie, and every time he did speak it was in monosyllables, and again, because what he had to say was sooooo important, he spoke, reeeeeeaaaaaaalllly slow, in a very soft voice, because hey, he was traumatized. In A.I. he rehashes that same bland style and mannerisms, where we are supposed to care and go woo, woo, over him. The movie starts on a bland, boring note, and as far as I was concerned ended on one. Why did I walk out? Didn’t have the patience. I sincerely wanted to like this movie I stuck with it as long as I could. The only other movie I ever walked out on was Magnolia.The red flag started with the opening scene, William Hurt, standing in dark classroom explaining the problems of robotics and how humans don’t like them and mistreats them. His brilliant idea, “”let’s make a robot that can love. One that can love unconditionally with every fiber of his being.”” Blech. Of course someone asks, “”well can you make a robot that can love?”” My response – “”who gives a shit””.Hurt’s response – “”Making a robot that can love isn’t the problem, it’s whether humans can love a robot as though it was a real child. That’s the problem.”” And of course a debate ensues about the human’s responsibility to that robot, blah, blah, blah… I check my watch five minutes into this opening sequence it felt like 20 minutes.To get his preachifying across, Speilberg has all the actors speak reaaaaaallllly, slooooooow, and quiet. You know you are watching a serious film when everyone whispers and speaks slowly. Hey they did it in The Sixth Sense (another film I despised), and everyone went slap nuts silly over it, so why not do it here?Somehow they select these two bland people to be the recipients of the world’s first robot child that can love unconditionally. Why this couple and not some one else? What process did the scientist use to pick this unstable company for this important experiment? The movie never explains it, oh I’m sure somewhere deep inside the press kit the information is there, but in the film itself, no explanation. For most of the movie (again the 45 minutes that I saw) we are led to believe that their son died, or so I thought. The movie introduced David (Osment) into the household and I swear I think they spent 30 minutes just showing close ups of Osment. Osment watching the couple eat, watching the couple talk, etc. Ooooohhhhh, that was so exciting. Then for some unknown reason, the marketing tie-end I guess, they introduce a talking Teddy Bear named Joe, I guess he was supposed to be the comic relief. At that point I was ready to get the hell out of the theater, but I decided to stick with it a little while longer, and then the killer, they brought the couple’s child back, one minute he’s in a wheelchair. The very next he’s walking and being a complete little spoiled brat at that point I whispered to Ken, and told him I was getting the hell out of there.

Rush Hour 2 – By Sean O’Connell

After the $141 million nationwide gross of its predecessor, “”Rush Hour 2″” was as inevitable as death and taxes. In New Line’s mind, a franchise was born out of the marriage of motor-mouth Chris Tucker and fleet-footed Jackie Chan. Why, then, did it take them three years to crank out a sequel, allowing the once fresh premise of this far-fetched pairing to go stale and the stars’ unique chemistry to cool?

As a result, “”Rush Hour 2″” is a lukewarm serving of similar material, microwaved long enough for audience consumption, but one that will leave you unfulfilled and hungry for something else. And don’t think the door hasn’t been flung wide open for “”Rush Hour 3,”” but more on that later.After a hurried intro, the sequel catches up with Detective Inspector Lee (Chan) and Detective James Carter (Tucker) as they attempt to vacation in Hong Kong. The problem is Lee, who’s incessant desire to work keeps interrupting Carter’s R&R. After a bomb delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Hong Kong takes out two undercover customs agents, Lee and Carter reluctantly get involved.The duo’s suspect is Ricky Tan (John Lone), the wicked leader of the criminal Triads. Conveniently, Tan happens to be the ex-cop partner, and probable executioner, of Lee’s deceased father. And Tan’s not alone. He’s employed a silent, bloodthirsty female strong-arm named Hu Li (“”Crouching Tiger”” star Zhang Ziyi) who’s as quick with a kick as Carter is with a quip.Through no feats of exceptional detecting, Carter and Lee uncover Tan’s true motivations involving counterfeit plates issued by the United States Treasury department to the Shah of Iran that create undetectable “”super bills.”” An undercover Secret Service agent, coolly played by Roselyn Sanchez, even tags along for the fun, though her primary role seems to be feeding these dull-witted detectives somewhat obvious clues. It’s all just a tremendous excuse to jet Carter and Lee from Hong Kong to L.A. and, eventually, to Vegas, where the inexhaustible Carter can blend in with the tawdry scenery and ceaseless noise.Since Tucker hasn’t worked on another film since the first “”Rush Hour,”” it’s easy to see how or why he would bring nothing new to his predominantly one-dimensional character. It’s hard to tell if this is Tucker’s vision of Carter, or just his acting style. Tucker’s delivery resembles a blindfolded man in a closet full of chairs; sooner or later he’s bound to hit something. So for every minute of screentime director Brent Ratner allows him, Tucker fires away. Mathematically, he’s bound to say something funny in time, and he does manage to hit a few zingers, all at the expense of some race or ethnicity. You sift through a lot of jibber before you hit the jabber, and the payoff isn’t always rewarding.Even Chan looks tired next to Tucker, and it’s not because if his grueling action scenes. While the nimble karate expert no doubt performed his own stunts in this film, as he’s wont to do, his well-choreographed scenes in “”Rush Hour 2″” are decidedly shorter than we’re used to in a Chan film. No sooner does the elfin fighter build up steam aboard a cruise ship or in the back room of a casino then he’s felled by a well-placed kick, usually delivered by Ziyi. Waiting for a knuckle-cracking face-off between the two martial artists? Keep waiting. Ziyi must fight, and lose to, Tucker at the film’s climax, while Chan has to resolve his conflict with a gun, which definitely isn’t his style.While the plot of “”Rush Hour 2″” does improve over the simplistic kidnapping elements of the first installment, there’s still not a lot to work with here. Hoping not to alienate its core audience, the film takes few chances, borrowing set-ups and jokes line-for-line from the original. Ratner and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (“”Speed 2: Cruise Control””) leave plenty of room for improvisation, which Tucker just can’t fill with his scathing racial observations.The highlight of the film comes in the outtakes that run during the credits. At some point, we need to see a feature-length film of just Chan outtakes, as they always prove to be so entertaining. The much-lauded chemistry between Tucker and Chan finally shows when the two loose-lipped stars aren’t tied to a tongue-tripping script and they can just be themselves. And it’s here, buried in these clever clips, that Tucker shrewdly mentions the inevitable sequel, “”Rush Hour 3.”” At least we should have until 2004 to prepare.GRADE: C

Serendipity

“”Serendipity,”” which stars John Cusack and “”Pearl Harbor””‘s Kate Beckinsale as star-crossed lovers chained to the whims of fate, exists solely in the saccharine-sweet fabrication of Manhattan reserved for romantic films like “”An Affair to Remember,”” “”Breakfast at Tiffany’s,”” or even “”When Harry Met Sally.””

As expected, the ideal date picture enchants, but in unconventional ways, as various “”new age”” detours addressing destiny and soulmates, as well as a jazzy soundtrack of original tunes by Alan Silvestri, make the familiar material seem lively and original.In a crowded Manhattan department store, Jonathan (Cusack) and Sara (Beckinsale) meet over a pair of gloves they both intend to buy for their significant others. The mixup leads to coffee and conversation, but since they’re both involved, they reluctantly part ways. To be safe, though, the superstitious Sara conducts two tests, writing her name and phone number on the inside cover of a book while having Jonathan do the same to a five dollar bill. She then explains that if either of them should find the book or bill, they’ll know they’re relationship is meant to be.Fast forward what we’re told is a “”few years”” later. We assume the book and the bill have gone undiscovered, as Jonathan and Sara are both set to marry different people, though neither of them seems to have forgotten the magical evening they spent together. In a last ditch effort to find his true love, Jonathan recruits best friend Dean (Jeremy Piven) to help him find Sara, just as she hops a plane with her friend Eve (Molly Shannon) bound for the Big Apple and what she hopes will be her soulmate’s arms.With a tender blend of self-effacing sarcasm and sentiment, as well as a “”lovers on opposite coasts”” subplot, “”Serendipity”” draws comparisons to Nora Ephron’s “”Sleepless in Seattle.”” But Peter Chelsom’s wistful romance embarks down a different path, actively pursuing the requisite coincidences that typically drive such fare instead of merely relying on them. Sara would refer to them as “”twists of fate,”” though we call them plot devices, and they move Cusack’s fruitless search for Sara along all-too-smoothly. The last one, involving a jacket left on a park bench, is a doozy, but completey acceptable in the context of the film. While Cusack continues to prove he can regurgitate fluff like this in his sleep, it’s Beckinsale who confirms she’s capable of carrying a picture that’s not bogged down with B-52 bombers and Ben Affleck. In all, “”Serendipity”” spins some magical moments from its leads’ natural charms, though they’re all-to-often left holding the bag as the delightful supporting cast of Shannon, Piven and an acerbic Eugene Levy run away with the show.Grade: B-By Sean O’ConnellOct. 5, 2001

SCARY MOVIE II – By Sean O’Connell

Last summer, the Wayans brothers snuck their witless horror spoof “”Scary Movie”” into theaters in the shadow of studio blockbusters like “”The Patriot”” and “”The Perfect Storm.”” To the dismay of analysts, critics and executives, the little comedy that could broke box office records and entertained audiences with gross out jokes that would gaga Farrelly brother.

After the first “”Scary Movie”” converted its $19M budget to a whopping $156.9M gross, Dimension Studios fell over themselves in an effort to crank out the sequel. Having skewered the teen horror genre made popular by Wes Craven’s “”Scream,”” which itself was a spoof of horror flicks, the Wayans needed a new target. They reportedlyspent months locked up in hotel rooms watching everything from “”The Exorcist”” to “”Charlie’s Angels”” in a no-holds-barred quest for material. Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris), “”Shorty”” Meeks (Marlon Wayans) and Ray Maker (Shawn Wayans) all return. It’s years after the massacre of the first movie, and the three misfits attend Thomas Jefferson University, the setup for acheap joke. Not sure whether it’s borrowing from “”The Haunting”” or “”The House on Haunted Hill,”” “”Scary II”” signs the three up for an experiment run by an underhanded professor (Tim Curry) to spend the weekend in a mysterious castle. Joined by the typical assortment of babes, boneheads and handicapped assistants, the volunteers bumble through dozens of gags that alternately work (a “”Rocky””-style fight between Faris and a black cat) and fall flat on theirfaces (a never-ending hand joke that involves the painfully unfunny Chris Elliott). Dimension’s first mistake occurred when they saddled the unfilmed production with a July 4 release date, forcing the Wayans’ to cut corners to nail the deadline. “”Scary Movie II”” opens practically one year after the original. It shows. With no hint of rhyme nor reason, the comedy skates by on an anorexic setup, transparent spoofs and dull gags. Hints of intelligence or originality that surfaced in the first film are buried under waves of vomit jokes, mounds of poop references and the haze of marijuana smoke that emits from Marlon Wayans’ character. Faris brings nothing new to her character, a bizarre blend of every horror heroine from Heather Langenkamp to Jennifer Love Hewitt. She’s the living setup for every crass joke, and she does it all with her mouth constantly ajar. It’s bizarre. Press notes list Kathleen Robertson’s character as Jamie Lee Curtisto, a funny joke despite the fact that her name is never mentioned in the actual film. The acting in general hovers around “”90210″” level, which is appropriate because the film casts the wooden Tori Spelling in a purposeless role. And James Woods, in a role reserved for Marlon Brando, completely humiliates himself. We now know why Brando bailed out with a cryptic “”illness.”” As a director, Keenan Ivory Wayans does have chops. He accurately copies the likes of John Woo, George Lucas and Alfred Hitchcock. When necessary, his camera pans and zooms like he’s directing a stylish action flick, and his pace is lively. If he can avoid tossing in a bathroom joke every 15 seconds, he might crank out a suitable follow up to “”A Low Down Dirty Shame.”” However, that might be the most we have to look forward to.Final Grade: D

American Pie 2 Pie for the Course– Reviewed by Ken Rosenberg

With its palatable blend of hormonal teens, bawdy gags and screwball antics, 1998’s “”American Pie”” went down easily enough; a surprise hit, it finished north of the $100 million mark and earned bucketloads of cash for its makers. So a sequel was inevitable. To the surprise of no one, “”American Pie 2″” reheats the same combination of ingredients, ratcheting up the raunch factor a notch with a non-stop barrage of outrageous hijinks reminiscent of “”Road Trip.””

The entire likable, enthusiastic ensemble cast from the original “”Pie”” returns here, shaking and baking under the helm of head pastry chef J.B. Rogers, the former Farrelly Brothers assistant director whose over-the-top first feature, “”Say It Isn’t So,”” flopped earlier this year. While this confection is in no danger of being mistaken for a main course, it packs just enough empty calories to add up to a guilty pleasure.

Crazy/Beautiful Film Review – By Sean O’Connell

Rich, spoiled, party girl Nicole (Kirsten Dunst) meets responsible Hispanic boy Carlos (Jay Hernandez) as she completes community service on the beaches of Santa Monica. Given his casual good looks and success on the high school football field, she’s immediately smitten. He, on the other hand, is prompted by a domineering mother tostay focused on work, school and his future at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

But eventually the natural opposites date, forging a passionate relationship that tests the patience of their parents and friends. As things heat up, Nicole’s erratic behavior clashes with Carlos’ priorities, jeopardizing the very different futures they have planned.Unlike the progressively crass and insulting teen comedies that shoot down the pipe, “”crazy/beautiful”” works wellon multiple levels. Dunst, a proven talent, finds an emotional equal in relative newcomer Hernandez, who injects a calming sense of reality into the pair’s labored coupling. What starts as a contrived interracial romance melts into an acceptably difficult bond between teens who are rightfully unfamiliar with such a level of love. One scene, where Nicole uses her finances to fund Carlos’ first flight, rings particularly true. You can almost feel the young couple’s happiness.Phil Hay’s script takes risks, daring the audience and his leads to advance one giant step further. He forces the characters he’s developed to face undeniable problems before they can ride off into the sunset. It’s a dose of reality rarely seen in teen fare. Young adults hitting theaters can do much worse this summer than swallow the lesson””crazy/beautiful”” preaches. Final Grade: B

American Pie 2 – By Sean O’Connell

Since the audience patiently awaiting the release of “”American Pie 2″” probably refuses to read lengthy tomes on the merits of the cinema, let me get right to the point: if you enjoyed the first “”Pie,”” you’re guaranteed to gobble up its superior sequel with a spoon. Those who care to find out why may continue.

It took them two years, but the team behind “”American Pie”” finally figured it out. As successful as the first foray into the heart of the teenage hormone was – it went on to gross over $100 million during it’s U.S. theatrical run – it spread itself far too thin by juggling no less than 13 main characters. I always believed the original bogged itself down in superficial characters we never had time to care about. In theory, the film should have belonged solely to the four friends at the center of the film, but the unfocused farce lost sight of the guys in a sea of semen. While “”Pie 2″” delivers much more of the same sex-soaked “”hilarity,”” it also focuses its lens back on the guys who started it all: long-faced Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), dreamy jock Oz (Chris Klein), eccentric Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and hapless Jim (Jason Biggs). The script, penned by David H. Steinberg and “”Pie”” scribe Adam Herz, accomplishes this by shuttling the female characters from the first film out of the spotlight. They’re not quite afterthoughts, but they’re nowhere near as important as they were in the first jumbled film. At the end of their first year at college, Heather (Mena Suvari) kisses Oz goodbye and embarks on a summer jaunt through Europe, Kevin’s Vicky (Tara Reid) has moved on to another guy (or three), Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) is spending her vacation at band camp (where else?), and Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) is in Manhattan, though she assures Jim she’ll visit him by summer’s end.This leaves the guys, along with frustrated friend Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), on their own, so they opt to rent a cabin on nearby Lake Michigan and make the most of their first summer as college men. The script, however, doesn’t give them much to do. Oz practices overseas phone sex with his absent mate. Kevin characteristically moans and sighs over his blown chances with Vicky. And Finch, preparing for his anticipated reunion with Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge), discovers the art of tantric sex. Of all of them, it’s Jim who grows up. His quest to sexually satisfy Nadia steers him right into the arms of another, but not before he’s forced to jump through the requisite series of embarrassing scenarios that involve everything from porno tapes and quick-drying glue to a trombone and a retarded summer camper. What more did you expect from a kid who humped pastry?””Pie 2″” starts off with an unsettling sense of deja vu, and you can feel a formula being molded. Eugene Levy appears as Jim’s dad, whose purpose is to create yet another awkward situation for the ill-fated teen. And then the boys are at Stifler’s house for a blowout party, where the memorable semen-in-a-cup-of-beer scene from the first “”Pie”” is unnecessarily outdone. But it tiptoes out of that mold once the guys shed the confines built in the first film and hit the lake. The new scenery allows the reasonably talented male stars the chance to further shape their personalities from traits scarcely established in the original. Or two of them manage to, at least. Oz’s long-distance relationship and Kevin’s pining for his lost love admittedly are the two situations the majority of teens in the audience will identify with. That also makes them, unfortunately, the two most generic, uninspiring situations in the film.Since Stifler lacks the intelligence or drive to mature, that leaves Finch and Jim. One can even argue that with “”Pie 2,”” Biggs’ Jim finally rises to the challenge of being the main character the first film desperately needed him to be. “”Pie 2″” belongs to him and, in turn, the woman he pursues. And the role of Jim remains the one perfectly tailored to Biggs’ naturally sheepish personality, which he failed to duplicate in bombs like “”Loser”” and “”Saving Silverman.”” Who knows? With the next “”Pie”” film – and there’s bound to be another – screenwriter Herz may turn his attention to Finch, a goldmine of idiosyncrasies just begging to be analyzed. Or maybe Kevin will be given a reason to exist, as he lacks one now. Time will tell. Until then, it’s the ability of the four guys to rise above the barrage of bodily fluids required to make a comedy fly in today’s desensitized marketplace that will continue to lure us back. I certainly wouldn’t mind checking back with this crew every other summer to see how far they’ve come.FINAL GRADE: B

Bandits

In his latest comedy “”Bandits,”” Baltimore native Barry Levinson (“”Diner””) dares to modernize the George Roy Hill classic “”Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,”” portraying Butch as a blathering hypochondriac and saddling old Sundance with anger management issues. The result? A two-hour marathon therapy session for two insecure bank robbers who couldn’t buy happiness with all the gold in Fort Knox.

Rarely does one film squander such potential so rapidly. Right off the bat, the casting of Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton as escaped convicts turned bank robbers seemed intriguing. They even concoct an appealing plot device: Willis, as the strong, silent Joe Blake, and Thornton, as the agitated, neurotic Terry Collins, earn the name “”The Sleepover Bandits”” by spending the night at a chosen bank manager’s home, then knocking over the person’s facility in the morning. Throw in the immensely talented Cate Blanchett as the third leg of a potential love triangle, and you simply have to sit back and count the box office cash, right? If only it were that simple.Bandits’ problems start early and come often. Almost immediately, the fate of its antiheroes is revealed by a television journalist reporting from the Sleepover Bandits’ final heist, which takes place at the Alamo Savings & Loan – not the first joke Levinson hits us over the head with. From there, the jumbled narrative dashes in all different directions, alternating from the duo’s last stand to a pre-heist interview conducted with the aforementioned broadcast journalist, and finally to their prison days and eventual rise to media infamy as daring bank robbers. Such weaving is forgivable if there’s a purpose, but here it just seems like poorly planned editing.The director isn’t completely to blame for the film’s listless disposition. Harley Peyton’s mundane screenplay boasts so many dry spells, it practically cracks. Bored with its own concept, the film eventually invents desperate gimmicks in hopes of providing a spark, stooping so low as to claim one bank manager suffers from a rare offshoot of narcolepsy, prompting him to fall asleep at inopportune times. Oh, the hilarity. Even the chemistry between Willis and Thornton seems forced. Unlike Butch and Sundance, who were friends long before they were criminals, Joe and Terry rob banks out of necessity, not out of camaraderie. You never even get the impression that these guys like each other, let alone that they respect a code of honor among thieves.Blanchett careens into the story like a breath of fresh insanity, and her purpose is two-fold. Initially she’s meant to disrupt Joe and Terry’s constant bickering, but eventually she serves as the picture’s final and most contrived gimmick, nitiating the inevitable and inconceivable love triangle that ultimately tears these men apart. At first, Blanchett finds a sparring partner in Thornton, their interactions crackling with an untamed wit and energy previously unseen in the picture. But in time, even these two are left spinning their wheels under Levinson’s utter lack of direction. And when Blanchett can’t save your picture from the doldrums, you know it’s time to lock this one away in a bank vault and pray no one ever lets it out.Final Grade: DBy Sean O’ConnellOct. 11, 2001