At the center of this smoothly-produced crime thriller is a world-weary safecracker and jewel thief (Robert DeNiro), who’s on the verge of marrying his tough-but-sweet ladyfriend (Angela Bassett) and retiring to a peaceful life running his Montreal jazz club, where the likes of Cassandra Wilson and Mose Allison hold forth. But he’s enticed by professional pride and the prospect of a multi-million-dollar haul into participating in one final mega-caper.
If that premise sounds like a new variation on an old theme, it should; and what ensues, relying heavily on the mechanics of sophisticated, high-tech thievery, doesn’t do much to freshen the formula. Marlon Brando plays DeNiro’s fence and longtime partner, a mountainous, half-soused mastermind who desperately needs the big score to clear up festering debts, and Edward Norton is the young Turk, a nervy, razor’s-edge, quick-thinking con artist who poses as slightly retarded to snag a job as a janitor in the Montreal Customs House, deep within the bowels of which is secreted the object of the conspirators’ desire, a priceless, jewel-encrusted 17th-century French MacGuffin–uh, royal scepter.
A small band of online consumer advocates is attempting to turn this Friday the 13th into a nightmare for exhibitors and movie studios. The activist group, calling itself WeCanDoThis.com, is spreading its message via e-mail and its Web site pleading that consumers not see a movie Friday in order to protest the high price of tickets. It’s calling the effort the National Ticket Picket. WeCanDoThis.com expected its site to be up and running by Tuesday; its online home has been at IdeaTown.com. “”Thousands and thousands visited the site in the past 24 hours,”” said spokesman Mark Jonathan Davis, and hundreds of e-mails were sent asking that recipients pass the word along to boycott movies Friday.
This time, they say it’s for real. “”Charlie’s Angels”” star Drew Barrymore formally married actor-comedian Tom Green in a small outdoor ceremony last weekend, her publicist said Tuesday. “”It was a more formal ceremony, something they wanted to do for close friends and family,”” said Eddie Michaels. “”It was a beautiful, low-key event. They wanted to keep everything as private as possible.””
The couple has routinely joked about being married on talk shows and during other public appearances in recent months. Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu, Barrymore’s co-stars from “”Charlie’s Angels,”” attended the reception after the Saturday wedding, along with Barrymore’s mother, Jaid. Green’s parents flew in from Ottawa. Barrymore, 26, and Green, 29, were engaged in July 2000. Green said in April that they had eloped in March. It was Green’s first marriage and Barrymore’s second.
Who would have thought, after last year’s “”Battlefield Earth”” wrestled the designation of “”Worst Film Ever”” from 1987’s “”Ishtar”” that it would only hold the distinguished title for just over 14 months?
A tough act to top (or bottom), “”Earth”” massacred the traditional sci fi genre and practically buried John Travolta’s career under a pile of detestable dialogue. But that cinematic mess resembles George Lucas’ original “”Star Wars”” when compared to Hironobu Sakaguchi’s futuristic flop, “”Final Fantasy.”” Based on a popular video game series, the computer-animated “”Fantasy”” has already turned several heads with its eye-popping visual style that deftly creates palpable digital characters and lets them loose in dazzling alien worlds. Set in the year 2065, “”Fantasy”” follows Dr. Aki Ross (the voice of Ming-Na), a buff female scientist who’s plagued by recurring nightmares of a phantom invasion that decimated the Earth in 2031. Now Ross and her partner, Dr. Sid (the voice of Donald Sutherland), search the planet’s ruins for eight spirits, each of them contributing to a greater life force called “”Gaya”” that powers extraterrestrial entities. It’s on one of these recovery missions that Ross encounters Grey Edwards (the voice of Alec Baldwin), a muscle-bound acquaintance and potential love interest who tags along for the adventure. Only there is no adventure. Save for the film’s stunning visuals – and at times the film does indeed look fantastic – there is absolutely nothing else to extract from “”Final Fantasy.”” The life-like characters are artistic contradictions. Their designers go to great lengths to achieve authenticity. Characters have wrinkles, scars and facial blemishes, and Dr. Ross’ bouncy hair appears to have been recently shampooed and conditioned. But then the character’s mouths don’t match the dialogue, and the fantasy is ruined. My theory is that even digitally animated characters would hesitate to recite such pitiful dialogue, hence the glaring discrepancy. Packed with macho dialogue stolen directly from a 1980’s Stallone or Schwarzenegger vehicle, “”Fantasy”” hasn’t met a bit of bravado it didn’t cherish. It almost helps that most of the horrendous lines are uttered by the likes of James Woods and Baldwin, who’s gravely voice is tailored for such cheesy verses. All of this can be overlooked if “”Fantasy”” only made sense. It doesn’t. Approximately one hour into it, the film reaches the first of its three climaxes. This one involved our heroes escaping from what I think was a space station as the evil phantoms (who aren’t evil) plucked off the gun-totting team one by one. But Ross, Dr. Sid and Grey barely escaped, and I thought we were almost finished. We weren’t. A second, less-involving and jumbled mission began. Characters that were thought dead returned from nowhere without explanation, and the film plodded along for another excruciating 45 minutes. By this point my fantasy involved having the projector break or seeing the theater lights come back on. Neither happened. Watching “”Final Fantasy,”” you can’t help but wonder why the filmmakers spent so much time on the visuals and absoultely no time cleaning up the convoluted plot or ridiculous dialogue. Sure it’s cool that the entire film is animated, and the digital techniques look great, but was it necessary? The film does nothing extraordinary that would require it to be animated. In fact, it moves a good deal slower than any feature that uses human actors. I salivate to think what Ridley Scott or James Cameron could have done with “”Fantasy.”” The movie borrows crucial elements from Cameron classics like “”The Abyss,”” “”T2″” and “”Aliens”” anyway. Since “”Fantasy”” started as a game, it should come as no surprise that the feature length film feels like you’re watching a game. However, you’re not playing, so it’s not nearly as fun. But at least when you’re playing the game, you always have the option of turning the Playstation system off and walking away. Final Grade: D- Review by Sean O’Connell
Columbia Pictures surprised Final Fantasy preview audiences throughout the country, by giving us all a look at the new trailer for Spiderman and it kicks ass. The early reports are that audiences at several different screenings applauded and cheered when they realized what movie the trailer was for. Then imagine the let down when it said, “”Coming, May 2002″”. We want Spiderman now! It’s the only thing that can save this dismal, dreary summer at the movies.
“”The Last Dragon,”” Berry Gordy’s kung-fu/R&B hybrid, dared to combine two worlds that rarely mixed to create the story of yet another rarity, a black action hero.
THE MOVIE:Saturday afternoons in our house were spent in front of the television ingesting Godzilla flicks and Bruce Lee features. My desire to be as cool (or at least as fast) as the fleet-footed hero inspired approximately 11 months of karate lessons and a world of bruises. Much to my chagrin, I never did perfect the roundhouse kick, but it didn’t stop me from loving Lee’s films and the knockoffs that followed.By 1985, other kids my age (11 at the time) had already adopted their own hero: “”The Karate Kid”” himself, Daniel Larusso. But strip away his crane technique and affinity for Elisabeth Shue, and you’re still left with Ralph Macchio. Not the typical cloth heroes are cut from. No, I had someone else in mind. Someone who earned the title “”The Master,”” someone who scored with chicks like Vanity, and someone who knew about “”The Glow.”” and that person was Bruce Leroy.””The Last Dragon,”” Berry Gordy’s kung-fu/R&B hybrid, dared to combine two worlds that rarely mixed to create the story of yet another rarity, a black action hero. The film’s star, Taimak, is perfectly cast as “”Bruce”” Leroy Green, a martial arts student from the ghettos of New York City who, according to his instructor, has reached the final level. His last mission, which he must complete on his own, involves finding an unnamed “”master”” and achieving a legendary “”glow.”” Leroy set out, but his heart of filled with anxiety and trepidation.It doesn’t help that Leroy has made an enemy, a bruiser named Sho Nuff who struts his stuff as the self-proclaimed “”Shogun of Harlem.”” Apparently Mr. Nuff can’t swallow the fact that he might not be the “”baddest”” fighter in the borough, and he demands that Leroy fight him to prove his worth. Always the better man, Leroy takes the high road, choosing instead to find the “”master”” and woo the beautiful Laura Charles, a gorgeous video host with her own problems. When Charles’ problems miraculously become Sho Nuff’s problems, Leroy is drawn into a web of deceit, and the only way out for the master and his girl is through the snarling Nuff.Watching “”Last Dragon”” years later, I’m reminded just how musical it is. That should come as no surprise, as it’s produced by R&B legend Berry Gordy. While I focused on the many fight scenes as a kid, the silky smooth soundtrack, peppered with hits by Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and DeBarge, stood out this time through. Very few scenes play out without an R&B accompaniment, and it adds to the film’s flavor.I’m happy to report that, in the age of Jet Li and even Chuck Norris’ “”Walker Texas Ranger,”” the fight scenes hold up. The choreography hilariously includes several breakdancing steps, which seemed so natural at the time. And the special effects, particularly the infamous “”glow”” that surrounds the heroes, still look cool. Cheesy as all hell broke loose? Oh, no doubt. But its also giddy fun, and in some warped way, “”Dragon”” provides a window to an era (the ’80s) while honoring the films of a different decade (the ’70s) that Bruce Lee dominated.Grade: BTHE EXTRAS:We should consider it special that Columbia TriStar released “”The Last Dragon”” on DVD at all. The film itself, digitally enhanced but still a bit grainy, looks fine, and as mentioned, the special effects look decent. What’s most surprising is the director’s commentary, provided by Michael Schultz. I knew Schultz’s body of work included “”Car Wash”” and the Fat Boys’ phat jam “”Disorderlies”” (as turns out, Schultz still does a lot of TV work on David E. Kelley shows like “”Ally McBeal”” and “”Boston Public””), and I found his comments about the film’s history and impact interesting. The DVD also includes bonus trailers for CTHV releases and filmographies that explain what stars like Vanity and Taimak went on to do (which I won’t reveal here!).GRADE: B-OVERALL EXPERIENCE:As a fan, I am very excited that “”Dragon”” is out on DVD. It deserves credit for staying true to so many genres – urban comedy, kung fu kicker, R&B drama – and never losing its sense of humor. Karate fans, and Prince junkies who can’t get enough Vanity, will eat it up.FINAL GRADE: B+
It’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 years since John Singleton released his groundbreaking “”Boyz N the Hood.”” Maybe because it has automatically ingrained itself in the public’s mindset as the quintessential tour of L.A.’s toughest neighborhoods, or because so many films since then have begged, borrowed or stolen from it, but it just seems like we’ve been talking about “”Hood”” for decades.
THE MOVIES:It’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 years since John Singleton released his groundbreaking “”Boyz N the Hood.”” Maybe because it has automatically ingrained itself in the public’s mindset as the quintessential tour of L.A.’s toughest neighborhoods, or because so many films since then have begged, borrowed or stolen from it, but it just seems like we’ve been talking about “”Hood”” for decades. What’s more surprising is that since then, Singleton has only completed 5 other films, and not one has made even a sliver of the impact “”Hood”” did. Not that Singleton hasn’t been working. He’s turned out a film every two years, transitioning from “”Hood”” to the musical road trip “”Poetic Justice”” and then hitting the campus in the controversial but heavy-handed “”Higher Learning.”” Now, Columbia TriStar has gathered Singleton’s three earliest works into one box set, allowing you to witness the birth of a semi-relevant filmmaker. The three films share various viewpoints, but tend to approach them from completely different angles. “”Hood,”” set in L.A.’s infamous South Central, follows several youths who work toward different ends in the ghetto. Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) dreams of a better life outside of the hood, while the tough-as-steel Doughboy (Ice Cube) works with what he has, wallowing in the lucrative drug trade. For his second feature, Singleton cast Janet Jackson as the dreamy Justice, who shares a ride up the California coast with opinionated thug Lucky (the late Tupac Shakur). The two opposites attract, of course, but the relationship meets immediate hardship when they reach their destination. And in “”Higher Learning,”” Singleton takes his radical views to the birthplace of controversy, the college campus. Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson, Ice Cube and Michael Rapaport play freshman who receive a crash course in racism and sexuality in a charged (yet exaggerated) college environment.These films have their own messages – “”Justice”” tackles tough relationships and senseless street violence in Oakland, “”Learning”” discusses everything from segregation and racial hate crimes to sexual experimentation in school – but “”Hood,”” which practically picked you up by the short hairs and shook you around, remains the director’s most accomplished work. “”Poetic”” was ambitious, “”Learning”” convoluted. After “”Hood,”” Singleton’s work progressively slipped downhill. His films remained interesting to a point, until he released the senselessly violent and bombastic “”Shaft”” remake in 2000. Though I haven’t seen “”Baby Boy,”” early word says it too misses the mark established by “”Hood”” a decade ago. Singleton has talent and a distinct viewpoint. These films, and not his later works, prove it.Grade: B-THE EXTRAS:Considering this box set uses the “”Director’s Signature Series”” name, you’d expect special treatment from said director. Yet only two of the three films come with commentaries, and the one that’s missing is the most sough after: “”Boyz N the Hood.”” Could it be that Singleton grew tired of talking about his most celebrated film? Does he feel that everything that needs to be said has been said? Or does he just want the film to stand on its own? Considering how insightful he is on the tracks for “”Learning”” and “”Justice,”” I’d hoped he would do one for “”Boyz,”” but now such luck. In fact, save for the trailer, “”Hood”” comes with no extras. It’s disappointing. The “”Learning”” disc and the “”Justice”” disc both feature commentaries, though neither appear recorded just for this collection. They also feature trailers, bios and filmographies, but little else. For a “”Signature Series,”” this collection seems to have gotten very little help from the director. One can only assume that Singleton was busy with his recent “”Baby Boy,”” but considering how important these films are to Singleton’s reputation and legacy, you’d think he’d give them a little more attention.Visually the three films look great, having been digitally mastered. The lack of valuable extras does hurt, though.Grade: C-OVERALL EXPERIENCE:Of his 6 movies, these are Singleton’s best. In fact, the decision the leave out “”Rosewood”” and “”Shaft”” makes this collection all the more valuable. Fans of the director should be happy to pick up these decent movie on DVD, especially the fantastic “”Hood,”” but anyone hoping to learn more about Singleton and what makes him tick may have to look elsewhere.Final Grade: C
Everybody’s Famous is the comical story of a father
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