Category Archives: Movie Reviews

The Royal Tenenbaums

Quirky – adj: informal terms; strikingly unconventional [syn: far-out, kinky, offbeat, way-out] Knowing the textbook definition of the term “”quirky”” before viewing The Royal Tenenbaums may help you better appreciate the film, because it is a state director Wes Anderson tries desperately to achieve. Whether he reaches it or not will depend on your tastes, and how you feel about such elements as pacing, plot and character development.

The film centers around a jerk of a fellow named Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), the type of character who describes himself as an “”asshole,”” but is corrected and told he’s “”just a real son of a bitch.”” Royal and his wife, Etheline (Anjelica Houston), have been separated for years, and the negligent husband had little to no part in raising the couple’s three children: Chas, Margot and Richie. Now, evicted from the hotel suite he’s occupied for the past 22 years, Royal attempts to patch things up with his family and, in the process, put a roof over the head of himself and his loyal servant, Pagoda (Kumar Pallana). Since Royal possesses very few endearing traits, however, the only way he can think to get close to his family is to fake a life-threatening disease.This creative premise, brimming with possibilities, would have provided most directors with an adequate springboard to dive in a number of different directions. Unfortunately, director Wes Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson, the team responsible for the equally quirky Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, never know when enough is enough. They’re combined sense humor goes to great lengths to avoid the pedestrian, which means Royal’s children can’t be average, they must be geniuses. Chas (Ben Stiller) was a financial wiz who bred Dalmatian mice. Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) was a playwright who staged productions by the age of 12. And Richie (Luke Wilson) was a tennis pro who eventually had a breakdown on the court and left the tour. Nothing, however, grows from these clever scenarios. As quickly as they’re introduced, they’re forgotten, replaced by new sets of foibles. Chas could have been a male stripper at age nine, and Richie the world’s youngest fireman, because in turn we forget their initial traits in favor of their deeper, more emotional pulls. Margot, who hides her chain smoking, escapes the doldrums of her loveless marriage by indulging in trysts with a family friend, Eli Cash (Owen Wilson). Chas, who recently lost his wife in a plane crash, has become a safety fanatic, and it

Rock Star – By Sean O’Connell

Have you ever worshipped a band? Members of the KISS Army might know what I’m talking about, but few others will. I’m not talking about buying all of the band’s albums, or requesting their songs on the radio, or even hanging a poster or two on your wall, because that’s not enough.I’m talking about pledging your undying love for a band. Emulating each member, not by copying their wardrobe but by mastering their on-stage body movements or distinguishable dance steps. I’m talking about drinking in each recorded note of every imported B-side, even if it’s part of the soundtrack for that crappy Freddie Prinze Jr. movie.

When you go to a party, regardless of whose house it’s in, you walk over to the stereo and slap in the tape of your favorite band for all to hear. In time, as delusional as it sounds, you might even consider yourself a distant member of said musical act. Have you ever worshipped a band that much? Because Chris Coles has, and “”Rock Star”” tells his extraordinary story.Pittsburgh-based Steel Dragons tribute band Blood Pollution has an ace up their sleeve. Front man Chris Coles (Mark Wahlberg), a mild-mannered copy machine technician, possess extraordinary pipes and an uncanny ability to replicate the vocal stylings of Dragons singer Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng). But Coles’ slavish devotion to Dragons contributes to his perfectionism, and his strict stage demands push his bandmates too far. Fed up, they unanimously vote to replace him with a rival band’s lead singer, sending Chris back to his dead-end day job. Thankfully, Chris isn’t out of the music business long. Professional groupies Nina and Samantha play a video tape of Blood Pollution’s last show for the members of Steel Dragon themselves, and they invite Chris to L.A. to audition to replace Beers, who has fallen out of favor with the band. Setting up one of the film’s finest scenes, Chris and his girlfriend/manager Emily (Jennifer Aniston) arrive at the mansion-based headquarters of Steel Dragons where Chris gets to meet his heroes and roll the dice on fulfilling his rock and roll dreams.Chris passes the initial test, but his trial by fire has just begun. Before long, the rigors of the job he thought he wanted take its toll on the admittedly-superficial life he led, and Chris realizes that the hours he wasted fantasizing about being someone else never gave him any time to establish his own personality. Can “”Rock Star”” actually be asking us to feel bad for the heavy metal hero who fills his days with enough pills, booze and groupies to gag Ozzy in his tracks? Initially, yes, but midway through, under the guiding hand of knowledgeable director Stephen Herek (who helmed similar fare in “”Mr. Holland’s Opus””), “”Rock Star”” begins to peel away the cliched elements of the touring saga and reach for genuine emotions. Of course, the film never strays too far. Touching mentoring speeches are shared backstage and on tour buses, but they’re delivered by bloated road managers (Timothy Spall) and haggard drummers (Jason Bonham) hooked up to dialysis machines.Herek knows exactly how this story ends, but he takes his time getting there. Instead of chopping up his scenes into unrecognizable pulp, Herek allows them build to refreshingly satisfactory climaxes. There’s also a clever sense of cyclical irony established as the film progresses that is unexpected but appreciated. When necessary, the director even reduces the film’s ballsy pop metal soundtrack to a whisper, allowing crucial bits of dialogue between the leads to be heard and savored. It’s a credit to John Stockwell’s able script, because the soundtrack does indeed grind, perfectly capturing everything beautiful and cheesy about hair metal and lending a sense of credibility and sarcasm. AC/DC, a band that also replaced their original singer with a sound-alike, is cranked on more than one occasion.The secret, though, is Wahlberg, who continues to draw on his versatility and range, shedding the albatross of his hip-hop background and establishing himself as a genuine leading man. In one scene, when he and Aniston’s Emily arrive at Steel Dragons’ mansion and gawk at the band’s assorted memorabilia, Wahlberg’s eyes are engulfed with glee, but he buckles it under a belt of composure, like a kid fidgeting at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning who can see the back tire of a shiny new bicycle from his vantage point. His raw enthusiasm and fanatical devotion make him the ultimate tour guide to this enthusiastic romp through a world that is becoming all too familiar to us after films like “”Almost Famous”” and “”This Is Spinal Tap”” but still has enough material to pack a concert hall to the rafters.Grade: B+By Sean O’ConnellSept. 7, 2001

Harry Potter – It’s All That And A Bag of Toads!

Warner Bros. took a gamble, sinking an enormous amount of time, talent and energy into one little boy who legend promises will become world famous, known by every child the world over. The studio wants – no, needs – the public to embrace this boy, as talks of franchises, merchandising rights and long-term production deals run rampant. That boy is Daniel Radcliffe, a British child actor plucked from obscurity and thrust into the limelight when he was chosen to play J.K. Rowling’s magical hero, Harry Potter. And the studio’s gamble paid off.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first in what’s rumored to be a 7-part series of Potter pictures, adapts Rowling’s feverish bestseller into 152 minutes of pure magic and delight. Only a muggle wouldn’t know the story by now, but for their sake, let’s explain. Orphaned as a baby, Harry Potter has endured years of abuse at the hands of his domineering muggle (meaning “”non-magic””) relatives, unaware that his parents, who were murdered, were powerful wizards, and that he was one, too. On his eleventh birthday, Harry receives an invitation in the form of a giant messenger, Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), to attend Hogwarts, a grand school for witchcraft and wizardry, where he will uncover his past and accept his destiny.Hagrid informs Harry that, as a baby, the young wizard became the only person to face an evil sorcerer, Lord Voldemort, and live to tell. This feat, and the lightning bolt-shaped scar he received as a result, has earned Harry a degree of notoriety, which works to his advantage once he arrives at his new school. The personable young Potter makes fast friends with two other first-year wizards: know-it-all Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), the fifth child in a long-line of wizard children.Together they make a gleeful Scooby gang, repeatedly poking their noses where they don’t belong with curious results.Potter and his pals do stumble upon a plot involving Voldemort and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a gem with the power of immortality that could revive the evil wizard, who