3,000 Miles to Graceland – By Sean O’Connell

The premise had promise: Five hardened criminals draped in jewel-encrusted leisure suits and sporting pork chop sideburns attempt a casino heist at the height of International Elvis Week in Las Vegas. An explosion here, a double-cross there, a few more explosions and -whoops – far too many double-crosses, has this testosterone-flavored flick rolling craps.

Recently released from prison, Michael (Kurt Russell) hooks up with his buddy, Murphy (Kevin Costner), at Nevada’s “”Last Resort”” motel. The two and their gang of misfits venture on to Las Vegas, where they plan on waltzing into the Riviera hotel during an Elvis convention and make off with a fortune in marked bills. There plan isn’t much more involved than that, though Michael does fiddle with some wires in an elevator while his partners grab the cash from the casino’s vault. It just prolongs the inevitable, namely a wicked gunfight between the crooks and a handful of security guards who couldn’t shoot a peanut butter and banana sandwich in Jungle Room of Graceland.Outside the casino, “”Graceland”” grinds slowly and steadily into a predictable, boring blend of dupes, dopes and dead-end plot twists. After “”star”” turns in “”Tango & Cash”” and a slew of John Carpenter films, Russell sure knows how to shuck and jive his way through this type of muscle-bound fare, but Costner completely mails it in as the psychotic Murph. To be fair, the laughable supporting cast gives the two macho men absolutely nothing to work with. Courtney Cox holds her own as Russell’s scheming love interest, but the rest? Christian Slater, David Arquette, Ice-T, Howie Long and Thomas Haden Church? Were the real actors on strike? Nope, just smart enough to take a pass.To no one’s surprise, director/co-writer Demian Lichtenstein mastered his trade in the music video industry – a claim to fame that’s quickly becoming a sign of incompetence as opposed to a badge of honor. A student of the worst elements of “”Natural Born Killers,”” his jittery camera movements and oily visuals resemble Oliver Stone without the imagination. This casino bomb has been dealt an 11, and still manages to bust.THE EXTRASHere’s the funny part: There are none. Pardon me, there is a trailer. But the whole film, with its quick-cuts and anorexic plot, feels like one long trailer. Clearly the studio and everyone involved with “”Graceland”” just wanted to put it out of their memories. You should follow their lead.FINAL GRADE: FBy Sean O’ConnellAug. 16, 2001

Gump Happens!!! Win Forrest Gump Special Edition DVD

THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED
Courtesy of Paramount Home Video you can be the first to own a copy of the long awaited DVD Release of “”Forrest Gump – Special Edition DVD””!

One of the most beloved and critically acclaimed films of all time, FORREST GUMP, arrives on DVD for the first time on August 28 from Paramount Home Entertainment. Loaded with more than two hours of extras, the FORREST GUMP: SPECIAL COLLECTOR

Anatomy of a Thriller – Behind The Others, by Tiffany N. D’Emidio

Acclaimed Spanish Director, Alejandro Amendabar’s “”The Others”” is a bone chilling, psychological thriller that takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. The Director’s first American film is a strange tale of loss, fear, and psychological war far. The film features a talented ensemble cast which is headed by Hollywood, A-Lister, Nicole Kidman.

Kidman stars as Grace, a widow raising two ailing children who are suffering from a mysterious affliction to light. Kidman brings to the table an outstanding portrayal of a woman on the edge of sanity. Her character suffers from excruciating headaches which only subsides by forcing complete quiet through out the house at all times.

Not only did this talented Director write and direct the film, but he wrote all the music as well. We recently sat down with this hot director. Here

The Others – By Sean O’Connell

M. Night Shyamalan’s spooky “”The Sixth Sense”” may have ruined the modern ghost story as we know it. Because of the atmospheric fright fest, it’s nearly impossible to sit through another dimly lit shadow dance with the supernatural without expecting (or at least hopingfor) a mind-blowing twist. But, as proven in “”The Others,”” a methodical but ultimately disappointing chiller written and directed by Chilean-born filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar, we realize that the existence of said surprise doesn’t guarantee success.

On the English island of Jersey, shortly after the culmination of World War II, Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), keep the lamp of hope burning for their father, who left to fight and never returned. From out of the fog that perpetually surrounds the family’s mansion come three servants looking for work. We learn that they’ve worked at the house before and were hoping Grace would need help with the grounds and the children.But caring for these kids isn’t a picnic, as Anne and Nicholas both suffer extreme allergic reactions to sunlight, a condition that forces Grace to monitor their every move with militant precision. No door can be opened in a room until all other doors are closed. Curtains cover every window in the rooms occupied by the children. The servants are ordered to maintain these boundaries, and the game devised by “”The Others”” is underfoot. After the setup, “”Others”” unfurls the elements of its inherent ghost story as things begin to bump in the night. Footsteps pound across the attic floor, though no one appears to be up there. Grace hears whispers, laughter and crying, but can’t pinpoint where it’s coming from. And Anne swears she sees a family of “”intruders,”” even going so far as to converse with a little boy named Victor. Mann and Bentley hit the right notes as Anne and Nicholas, children being children who generate innocent chills just by being open receptacles for the paranormal. But it’s Kidman’s Grace who must anchor the insanity for this ghost story to work. It’s a wonderful role for the detached actress, whose naturally icy disposition permits her to portray Grace as a quiet control freak whose sanity unravels when challenged by the supernatural goings-on in her house. The image of her storming down the hall with shotgun in hand is memorably delicious and forbidding, a la Nicholson wielding an axe in “”The Shining.”” But all the suspicious mist and ominous shadows that lurk in almost every scene of “”The Others”” – expertly captured on film by cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe – can hardly hide the questions raised by Amenabar’s surprising conclusions. Rarely has one absorbing premise unraveled so quickly under the weight of the ludicrous twist proposed in “”The Others.”” Meant to shock and amuse, the twist really only manages to deconstruct important truths we were asked to accept for the first 90 minutes. Crucial character traits are forgotten and new ones are introduced haphazardly, with no explanation found in the preceding scenes. If you’ve accepted anything that has happened in the first two acts, and it’s easy to do, Amenabar’s resolution is impossible to accept, and it quickly deflates the mood the director took so long to establish. Amenabar’s following is building. Cameron Crowe’s next project, the Tom Cruise/Penelope Cruz drama “”Vanilla Sky,”” is a remake of Amenabar’s 1997 drama “”Open Your Eyes.”” After a brief run, the director’s subtle “”Butterfly”” recently hit video shelves. And “”The Others”” displays more than enough proof that Amenabar can excel as a writer, director or composer – a true triple-threat. Once he can make all three of his talents work in harmony, the vision he touches on here should finally be achieved. FINAL GRADE: C-

Osmosis Jones – By Sean O’Connell

In “”Osmosis Jones,”” a witty live-action/animation hybrid from the left side of the brain Bobby and Peter Farrelly share, a mayoral candidate (voiced by Ron Howard) with hopes of running a city found inside a human body delivers a campaign speech from the center of some nauseatingly stench-infested bowels. His platform, of course, is one of cleansing, and he calls for “”a healthier diet”” and more to achieve his goals. Named Tom Colonic, he’s knowingly described as a “”regular guy,”” and it’s gentle bathroom humor like this, laced throughout the film’s animated escapes, that highlight the finer sections of this originalfilm.

The body in question belongs to Frank (Bill Murray), a vile, unkempt zoo keeper and single father whose personal hygiene habits are borrowed from the animals he caters to. Lucky for Frank, he isn’t fighting the good fight against such nasties as cholesterol and heart failure alone.””Jones,”” as written by Marc Hyman, imagines Frank’s body as a fully functioning city, a high voltage metropolis of veins, arteries, organs and bodily fluids. Frank’s stomach resembles an airport where foreign (and domestic) objects arrive at pre-determined gates. His brain serves as city hall, home to a superficial mayor (voiced by William Shatner) who is under the public’s microscope for allowing Frank to treat his body the way he does. And a police force of white blood cells, unofficially represented by gung-ho renegade Osmosis Jones (voice of Chris Rock), keep Frank safe from harm.On a routine inspection of the mouth, triggered by Frank’s ingestion of soiled egg parts, Jones encounters what he believes to be a serious infection. In fact, a deadly virus named Thrax (Laurence Fishburne provides his devious voice) has infiltrated Frank’s body with alterior motives. Thrax hopes to kill Frank off in 48 hours, a record time that would guarantee the virus a place in the medical journals. Eager to save Frank from this hostile takeover, Jones teams up with Drix (enthusiastically voiced by David Hyde Pierce), a robotic multi-tasker sprung from a cold pill Frank swallows. Pop star Brandy lends her voice to Jones’ blood cell love interest, Leah. Kid Rock and the deceased Joe C. even make a cameo as “”Kidney Rock.”” Pay special attention to the various backgrounds, as they’re often littered with inside jokes and puns. As clever and inventive as “”Jones””‘s animated tours through Frank’s body are, though, the live-action shots with Murray are just as flat. The lowest, most revolting examples of the Farrelly’s trademark bathroom humor are employed so Murray’s Frank can scratch his crotch, sniff his sweaty armpits, ingest enough fat to stop a rhino’s heart and vomit on his daughter’s teacher (Molly Shannon). This unfortunate character later has a zit explode on her. It’s “”hilarious.”” How one script alternates so easily between these repulsive scenes and the quick-witted animated sequences is beyond me. By the time Chris Eliott rears his talentless head as Frank’s best friend, you’ll be wishing the entire film had been hand drawn. Then we’re back in Frank’s body, and the film is resuscitated. Rock and Pierce, a fine duo, wring stimulating jokes out of the obviously cliched buddy cop scenario. Rock even spins a fresh take on his well-known “”We were so poor, we grew up surrounded by crack”” routine. Despite its live-action foibles, “”Jones”” could be the cure for what ails audiences this summer season. 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

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.

Win Free Movie Tickets

THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED Be the first to see the hot new Lions Gate Films’ “”O””, starring Julia Stiles, Josh Harnett, and Mekhi Phifer. The screening will be held in Washington, DC Tuesday August 28, 2001. To qualify to win simply read the story below and register to receive our newsletter. We will notify winners at random, Monday, August 27, 2001. The film is rated R and no one under 17 will be admitted without a guardian. “”O”” opens on Friday, August 31, 2001.

A contemporary retelling of Othello, Shakespeare

Entertainment News for The Rest of Us