Apparently there just wasn
Apparently it’s easier to make a movie that looks real than one that feels real. The Man Who Cried is a costume drama that bathes in its authentic European settings and painstaking period detail–it’s of a piece with arthouse fare like Divided We Fall, The Luzhin Defence or The Golden Bowl. Yet writer-director Sally Potter has penned such self-consciously awkward dialogue and wrangled such limp-dishrag performances out of the cast that all the historical verisimilitude is for nought.
The story, commencing in 1927 and spanning nearly twenty years, is that of Fegele, a Jewish peasant girl. At the age of five, she lives in a ramshackle, beleaguered Russian shtetl. Her father, a yarmulke-and-tzitzes-clad cantor, leaves to make a better life in America, and Fegele is separated from the rest of her family soon thereafter, landing in England, where she is dubbed “”Susie.”” In short order, she morphs into saucer-eyed, cherubic pixie Christina Ricci.
“”America’s Sweethearts”” is a movie about the movie business, in the tradition of “”The Player”” or “”State and Main””. But “”America’s Sweethearts”” is a cinematic tabloid, a National Enquirer of glass-house personal lives, eggshell egos and entourages. Hosting this madcap parody of the sybaritic lives of the rich and famous is Lee (Billy Crystal), an ace publicist responsible for the media feeding frenzy known as a press junket.
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Based on the well-known comic, GHOST WORLD tells the story of neo-cool Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) who, faced with graduation take a hard look at the world they wryly observe and decide what they really want. When Enid takes an interest in the offbeat Seymour (Steve Buscemi) and Rebecca focuses her attention on their mutual romantic fixation Josh (Brad Renfro), the girls’ friendship is forever changed.Directed by Terry ZwigoffWritten by Daniel Clowes & Terry ZwigoffBased on the comic book by Daniel ClowesProducers are Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Russell SmithExecutive Producers are Pippa Cross, Janette DayCastThora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Brad RenfroIlleana Douglas, Steve BuscemiAll registered users will automatically qualify to win tickets. Non-registered users have to register to become members of the EM community. By creating a profile you will automatically be placed on our weekly email list and will receive new concerning future contests, and other cool Eclipse exclusives.With all of that said, to enter
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In Hollywood, monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some are recognizable, easily distinguished by their pointy fangs, sharp claws and green, glowing radioactive scales. But the most terrifying ones look just like us, or worse, like someone we care about very much. A sister. An aunt. Or even your mother.
So goes the story of Joan Crawford, the silver screen legend who delighted audiences in the ’20s through the ’70s in such film classics as “”What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”” and “”Possessed.”” But at home, off camera, Crawford suffered from bipolar disease before theillness was being diagnosed, and it was her children who felt the brunt of her angry, violent mood swings.The film “”Mommie Dearest”” was based on the book Crawford’s adopted daughter Christina wrote years after her mother had passed away in 1977. It chronicles the trials and tribulations she and her brother, Christopher, suffered at the hands of their mother. And thanks to the movie, such episodes as the late night trimming of Crawford’s rosebushes to her opinion of wire hangers have become the stuff of cult movie legend. How sad, though, that these incidents really happened, and to such young, vulnerable children.But “”Mommie Dearest”” strives to achieve only one goal, and that’s to show both sides of Crawford (played to a tee by Faye Dunaway): the one her public adored, and the one her inner circle put up with. Early scenes show Crawford pampering Christina as photographers bathe them in lights. But the knowledge that Crawford can snap at the dropof a hat, and for the most insignificant reasons, always looms over the happiest scenes, and “”Mommie”” slowly becomes more a terrifying horror film than a gripping drama. A camp classic, “”Dearest”” is remembered more for Crawford’s legendary manic outbursts than for its performances, and there are two powerful ones. First, Dunaway masters the difficult role of Joan Crawford, zeroing in on the twilight of the star’s career. During thecourse of the film, Crawford rides a roller coaster of highs and lows, fighting for roles, losing her deal at MGM, winning an Oscar for “”Mildred Pierce,”” and descending into the depths of alcoholism when she loses yet another contract at Warner Bros. But the standout is Mara Hobel, a golden-haired beauty who gives an emotionally devastating performance beyond her years as young Christina. Playing Joan’s whipping post, Christina grows up fast for her brothers sake, and her eyes bear the burden of a survivor who knows that trouble can lurk around each and every corner. It’s an emotion achild should never know, but Hobel miraculously achieves it.GRADE: BTHE EXTRAS:Released by Paramount on DVD, “”Mommie Dearest”” lacks an audio commentary (which is odd, for Paramount), but does feature the film’s original trailer and a photo gallery. The pictures in the gallery are washed out and faded. They are 20 years old, after all. Becauseof their poor quality, they really just serve to show you how good the actual film’s transfer looks. In general, the DVD extras are a bit slim, though.GRADE: DOVERALL EXPERIENCE:Thanks to HBO, which ran the film practically once a day for a decade, film buffs who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s may only know Crawford through “”Mommie Dearest,”” instead of through her filmography. That’s a shame. The natural beauty truly ruled Hollywood until her film’s stopped making money, and the system got the better of her. Whether you’re familiar with Crawford’s work or not, “”Dearest”” entertains without spotlighting too much of the industry wars waged by the star. Instead, the film precedes such popular behind-the-scenes shows like “”True Hollywood Story”” or “”Behind the Music,”” portraying the grotesque side of a legendary celebrity that few could have imagined.FINAL GRADE: B-
Whether you’re excited or bored with “”Dracula 2000″” will depend solely on your reaction to the film’s simple, almost unnoticeable intro: “”Wes Craven Presents.”” Fans of the legendary horror filmmaker, though, might be disappointed by the end result, as they’re hero served predominantly as a producer and had no input to the film’s direction or script, two areas where this film needs serious guidance.
After a brief setup, “”Dracula 2000″” fast-forwards to (you guessed it) the year 2000. In London, Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) presides over a fortune in historical relics that are attained through his partner, Simon Sheppard (Jonny Lee Miller). Van Helsing’s most prized possession is held in a safe in the basement of his headquarters,which is infiltrated by a band of thieves (led by Omar Epps) with the help of Van Helsing’s assistant, Solina (Jennifer Esposito). The only things they find, though, are bones, crucifixes and a silver coffin, which they make off with. Van Helsing, knowing what’s in the casket, pursues. It’s on a getaway flight to New Orleans that the criminals finally pry the coffin open, expecting jewels but instead unleashing the undead corpse of Count Dracula (Gerard Butler). The prince of darkness makes quick work of the thieves and continues on to the Big Easy, where he seeks out Van Helsing’s estranged daughter, Mary (Justine Waddell),who has vampire blood coursing through her veins. And on the streets on New Orleans, during Mardi Gras to boot, Van Helsing and his assistant, Simon, must confront Dracula and attempt to protect Mary from her gruesome fate.Director Patrick Lussier tries hard to drag the Dracula legend into the 21st century, injecting a techno soundtrack and flashy visuals to make it appealing to Generation X. But it’s like fitting a classical square peg into a trendy round hole. They don’t mesh. Lussier also has to overcome an insipid, lackluster screenplay, one that chooses to ignore everycliche that’s been addressed in horror films for ages. In this “”Dracula,”” characters are left alone with closed coffins and they never call for help when its opened. Mary escapes Dracula’s clutches, but she runs straight for a cemetery. And the most lethal weapon Simon can brandish is a Bible, which explodes when the pages are flipped open. Epps, Esposito and “”Star Trek”” sweetie Jeri Ryan, playing a local newswoman who’s bitten by the Count, have fun when they’re in vampire character, and the film features some killer fight sequences. But it’s just not enough to save this anemic horror shlock, which seems to have had its creativity sucked dry.GRADE: D+THE EXTRAS:As bad as the film is, the “”Dracula 2000″” DVD – released by Buena Vista Home Video – offers plenty of extras for fans to relish. There is a running feature-length commentary by Lussier, as well as deleted scenes with optional commentary. As we’ve seen recently(especially in Fox’s “”Monkeybone””), the deleted scenes improve on the final story, clearing up some misconceptions and rounding out the plot. There are also extended scenes on the DVD, which also come with commentary. Aside from the added scenes, “”Dracula 2000″” offers fans a “”Behind the Scenes”” look at the film, which interviews several members of the crew, storyboards, and audition reels for Butler, Waddell, and the young Colleen Fitzpatrick, known to pop enthusiasts as Vitamin C.GRADE: B+OVERALL EXPERIENCE:Why do the bad movies come with so much additional information? Do we need to know what makes them so bad? In “”Dracula,”” the deleted scenes add to the overall film experience, and they deserve your time. In fact, all of the extras improve the final film. Without them, you’re left with a tedious horror film, while with them, you’re left with a mediocre Saturday evening on the couch.FINAL GRADE: C
Though the attempts are numerous, the success rate of a “”Saturday Night Live”” skit jumping to the big screen is low. “”The Blues Brothers,”” “”Superstar”” and “”Coneheads,”” off the top of my head, turned humorous four-minute sketches into 90 minute hits. How rare, then, that Mike Myers’ “”Wayne’s World”” was able to strike it rich not once but twice with his creative cable-access hero Wayne Campbell in the movie “”Wayne’s World”” and the sequel, “”Wayne’s World 2.””
When the first “”Wayne’s World”” came out in 1992, the skit was at the height of its popularity. Myers and co-star Dana Carvey, who played blonde ball of nerves Garth Algar, had made words like schwing and sphincter socially acceptable, and audiences were encouraged to “”party on.”” The loveable losers were huge on “”Saturday Night Live,”” andthe film version of the skit seemed inevitable.But unlike its predecessors, “”Wayne’s World”” manages to take the concept established on “”SNL”” and expand it. Wayne and Garth, still broadcasting from Wayne’s basement in Aurora, Ill., are approached by a sleezy TV executive (deliciously played by a then-outcastRob Lowe) to syndicate their show, all so he can reap enormous profits. All the guys want to do, though, is score with hot babes. Garth has his eye on a foxy coffee shop vixen (Donna Dixon), while Wayne is smitten with Cassandra (Tia Carrere), the lead singer of a local rock band who positively “”wails.”” Just ask, Wayne.The film milks laughs out of a number of unusual sequences that seemed odd at the time, but now seem routine given how much of Myers’ bizarre psyche we’ve been exposed to. Myers and Carvey lampoon “”Laverne & Shirley,”” single-handedly revive rock legendsQueen through a rousing Karaoke performance of the band’s “”Bohemian Rhapsody”” and present three endings to the same movie. Take that, “”Clue.””Given the success of the first film, “”Wayne’s World 2″” was blessed with a bigger budget and a modicum of credibility, which led to the casting of bigger names in smaller roles. Myers, Carvey and Carrere all return, but the villainous role is beautifully filled by Christopher Walken, here playing a sleezy record contractor who’s eager to signCassandra’s band. He drives a wedge between Wayne and Cassandra, prompting Wayne to win his girl back by putting on an enormous rock concert and luring the coolest bands to Aurora. No way. Way!Garth seems to have moved up in the world. He falls for, and lands, a babe named Honey Hornee (Kim Basinger). Uber-chick Heather Locklear, forever worshipped by the boys, also appears as herself at an Aerosmith show, and yes, the band does show up to play a few songs. More importantly, none of the first film’s twisted humor is lost in the sequel. Wayne spends the majority of the film interacting with a “”weird naked Indian”” in his dreams, the duo recruit a legendary roadie who once beat a candy store owner to death for some M&Ms, and Chris Farley shows up as the world’s most eager concert bouncer. While notas sharp as the first film, “”World 2″” still showcases some hilarious bits, all courtesy of Myers’ creativity and drawing power from the celebrity community.GRADES:Wayne’s World: BWayne’s World 2: C+THE EXTRAS: Released by Paramount on DVD, “”Wayne’s World”” 1 & 2 both offer feature-length commentaries by their respective directors (Penelope Spheeris for the original, Stephen Surjik for the sequel), and exclusive cast & crew interviews. They offer a bit more insight into the films, though a commentary track by stars Myers and Carvey could have beenfunny. Paramount’s specialty appears to be the commentary track, and they don’t disappoint here. Though aside from interactive menus and trailers, there’s not much else. GRADE: C-OVERALL EXPERIENCE:In the long line of “”SNL”” films, “”Wayne’s World”” and its sequel rise toward the head of the pack, making them worth owning. Paramount has already released several of the “”SNL”” films, including “”The Ladies Man”” (which was one of the studio’s worst) and “”Coneheads”” (one of the best). As long as the studio sticks to this type of fare, and staysclear of the likes of “”Stuart Saves His Family”” or “”It’s Pat,”” I’m content to give them my support. These movies are funny, and will make good additions to your collection.FINAL GRADE: B-
After the frantic “”Money Talks”” and “”Rush Hour,”” many wondered what director Brett Ratner was doing taking on a Frank Capra-ish family film about a Wall Street tycoon (Nicolas Cage) given a glimpse into the life that could have been. But with the right cast and a heartwarming screenplay, the versatile Ratner proves he can survive outside of ChrisTucker’s long shadow and deliver a humorous holiday flick in “”The Family Man.””
Cage plays Jack Campbell, a wealthy businessman who’s on the verge on completing a massive financial deal. Jack is the typical scrooge. It’s Christmas, but he makes his workers stay late at the office to firm up the pact. He sleeps with beautiful women, flirts with his penthouse neighbors and splurges on the finest cars, clothes and liquors. Jack’s not completely evil – he is seen giving his doorman choice financial advice on where to invest the man’s holiday tips – he just has different priorities. That wasn’t always the case, though, and a phone message from an old girlfriend, Kate Reynolds (Tea Leoni) reminds him of his early days. Apparently back in college, Jack had an opportunity to go to London and study, but Kate asked him to stay behind with her. Jack chose London, and his life was never the same.It’s a chance encounter with a homeless man (Don Cheadle) at a convenience store one night, though, that brings Jack’s past into the present. After a brief, cryptic conversation with the man, Jack goes to sleep in his penthouse and wakes up in an alternate reality,wherein he left that flight to London years ago and stayed with Kate. The couple now lives in New Jersey, where they’re raising two children. What’s worse, Jack works at his father-in-law’s shop as a tire salesman, and the hallowed corridors of Wall Street are miles away. The only problem is that Jack has retained all of his memories, and no one believes his rantings that he’s not the father, husband and suburbanite they think he is. And the only way for Jack to get back to the life he thinks he wants is to find the value of the life he left behind.Released in a cramped Christmas season, “”Family Man”” opened small ($15M) and went on to earn a tidy but none-too-spectacular $75M. Dismissed as sappy and “”just another feel good film,”” “”Family Man”” had a hard time competing with Oscar contenders like “”Cast Away,”” “”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”” and “”Traffic.”” It’s a shame, for “”Family Man”” really is a cute flick with fine performances from Cage, Cheadle and Jeremy Piven, playing Jack’s best friend, bowling buddy and overall partner insuburban warfare. After a string of dark brooders (“”8MM,”” “”Bringing Out the Dead””), it’s refreshing to see Cage trying his hand at goofy comedies again. He does “”frazzled”” quite well, and he turns it on for this role. And Makenzie Vega, playing the couple’s young daughter Annie who knows this man isn’t her father, sets up some gentle jokes.The rock of the cast, though, is Leoni. Turning in one of her strongest performances to date, and looking perfectly natural in either flannel pajamas or a strapless gown, Leoni subtly adds credibility to the film’s broad, irregular premise. Her Kate does what Cage’s Jack can never do – she accepts the reality of their situation without ever forgetting thedreams she and Jack had when they stood at the airport gate years before.GRADE: BTHE EXTRAS:Packaged by Universal into a “”Collector’s Edition,”” the new “”Family Man”” disc comes brimming with extras that dive deeper into the charming film. The disc features three feature-length commentaries: one with Ratner and the film’s writers, one with producer Marc Abraham (who must consider this film his baby), and one with the film’s composerDanny Elfman. There are deleted scenes, outtakes that consist of Cage and Piven giggling like school girls, a Seal music video, and a montage of the phrase “”Hi Jack!”” You’ll understand after watching the film. There’s also an informative “”Spotlight On Location”” feature that splices several interviews with Ratner and Abraham together with clips fromthe film. The disc also features a choose-your-own-fate type word game that’s time consuming, and the results are disappointing. It’s like cracking open a fortune cookie with a sappy missive. Then, for those with DVD-ROM capability, the disc offers screensavers, wallpapers, and another game. GRADE: B+OVERALL EXPERIENCE:Sweet to a fault, “”Family Man”” is a heartwarming holiday charmer, that just won’t appeal to everyone. In other words, cynics and bitter old fogies, steer clear. While it might not replace “”It’s a Wonderful Life”” or “”A Christmas Story”” as a required Christmas classic, it’s an enjoyable family comedy that showcases Tea Leoni’s ample talents, and shows that Nic Cage still has some personality, which was in doubt. The extras are plentiful, and interesting. And the audio transfer of the film is top-notch. For fans, a good purchase.FINAL GRADE: B+
Julia Roberts’ dissenters who claim the blockbuster actress to be overhyped and a tad overrated (a group whose thesis I happily subscribe to) might sing a different tune after viewing “”Notting Hill,”” a perfectly delightful comedy from the writer of “”Four Weddings and a Funeral.”” While Roberts can not be lauded for elevating the film, she finally finds the character she can most relate to, and it’s amusing watching the film play out.
Roberts plays world-famous film actress Anna Scott, a Hollywood star who’s as beloved as, oh say Julia Roberts. As in Julia’s real life, there’s very little Anna can do that isn’t picked up by the media and beamed into the living rooms of adoring fans.On the opposite end of the pond – or England, for the geographically challenged – is William Thacker (a frail, hilarious Hugh Grant), the owner of a small travel bookstore located in the quaint village of Notting Hill. Thacker, who wouldn’t know a box-office point from a pencil point, has his world turned upside down when a carefully disguised Scott enters his store looking for a book. Despite his clumsiness and persistentstammering, love blooms.Recognizing who Anna is, William goes to her hotel to court her with traditional methods, innocently believing flowers and personality will be enough to win the heart of a Hollywood player. Instead, in one of the film’s finest jabs, he’s caught up in a press junket, where he’s forced to make up questions about a film he’s never seen for actors he can’tidentify. It’s Grant at his most uncomfortable, and it’s delightful.But eventually William does meet Anna, and the courtship begins. More jokes are wrangled out of the glaring mismatch, and the two struggle to keep the relationship quiet for Anna’s sake. But eventually the press do find out (as they’re wont to do), and Anna breaks the relationship off out of frustration and fear. Will William be able to win back the world’s most famous actress, who happens to be just a girl, standing in front of a boy,telling him she loves him. Must you ask?The beauty of “”Notting Hill”” is its ability to travel familiar paths without ever becoming generic or cliched, at least not until the film’s final act, which involves the couple’s break-up and inevitable resolution. While Roberts and Grant are a fine pair, its Hugh who we most identify with; a pie-eyed simpleton who’s granted access behind-the-scenes for precious few moments. How does he behave? How would you? But, as in “”Weddings,”” the bulk of “”Hill””‘s laughs are reserved for the supporting players, particularly Will’s circle of friends and his roommate, Spike (Rhys Ifans). The film’s bone dry British humor bounces lively from these character actors, resulting in most of the film’s strongest scenes. Sorry, Julia.GRADE: BTHE EXTRAS: For reasons unknown, Universal chose to release “”Notting Hill”” as one of its brand new “”Ultimate Edition”” DVDs. Not to take anything away from the movie. As it stands, it probably deserves extra treatment, and its fan base would probably be interested in the film’s back story. But the studio just recently released a “”Collector’s Edition”” disc for””Hill,”” which features most of the same extras. The “”Ultimate Edition”” now spreads over two discs, which makes it feel more comprehensive. And there are a few new features on the disc, including a featurette on the film’s “”Seasonal Walk”” sequence and two music videos – one from Shania Twain, one from Elvis Costello. But the rest are holdovers from the “”Collector’s Edition,”” including arunning feature commentary, deleted scenes, music highlights (I don’t recall the music being so prevalent), and a humorous feature entitled “”Hugh Grant’s Movie Tips.”” They all reflect the jovial mod surrounding the film, suggesting that it was as much fun to make thefilm as it was to watch. The only one absent from most of the extras is Ms. Roberts. Go figure. The new “”Notting Hill”” DVD comes in Universal’s odd clear case, a tri-fold plastic setup that allows for some creative artwork, but little else. However, with the existence of a similar “”Collector’s”” version of the film, it makes you wonder if the “”Ultimate Edition”” is worth your money. GRADE: C+OVERALL EXPERIENCE:The movie “”Notting Hill”” is far more charming and entertaining than you’d expect. The leads have good chemistry and the supporting characters are hysterical, in a British sense. If you like Rowan Atkinson’s “”Mr. Bean”” (which was also written by Curtis), you’ll laugh at “”Hill.”” But for anyone who forked over cash for the previous “”Collector’s Edition,”” you should be okay with that. Other fans who waited, anticipating an “”Ultimate Edition,”” your ship has come in. FINAL GRADE: B-
“”Legally Blonde”” Pretty in PinkGrade: B1999’s underrated Election was memorable mostly for the sparkling, magnetic performance of Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick, a high school overachiever who pursued her goals with a manic, good-natured singlemindedness and a delicious comic edge. Now Tracy Flick comes of age–and how–in this facile, perky comedy of redemption, as Witherspoon plays sorority Pollyanna and fashion doyenne Elle Woods.
Dressed to thrill in an audacious, pastel explosion of pinks and turquoises, Elle enrolls in Harvard Law School in a bid to reclaim her social-climbing boyfriend (Luke Wilson). Instead of fulfilling the expectations of her egghead classmates by falling on her face, Elle sets the place on its ear, smashing the dumb blonde stereotype by embracing it with smarts, style and class. Much of the repartee is featherweight, especially the sorority scenes that dominate the first half-hour; “”Legally Blonde”” isn’t above cheap, sitcom-y laughs, a la “”Bridget Jones’s Diary”” or “”The Wedding Planner.”” But depth matriculates with devilishly clever handling of difficult situations, such as Elle’s novel responses to Socratic grilling by law school profs and her handling of a murder case as she defends a sorority sister, played with desperate abandon by Ali Larter of “”Final Destination.”” This should be a breakout role for La Reese; though she doesn’t trade in overt, blunt sexuality like, say, Denise Richards or Nicole Kidman-she’s a bit too generic looking and fleshy-she plays the camera like a Stradivarius, with glamor and emotion to burn. The only young actresses who could give her a run for her money are Natalie Portman, Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles. Also noteworthy here are Selma Blair (“”Cruel Intentions””) as a starchy brunette classmate, and Raquel Welch as a wealthy matron. Directed by Robert Luketic. Written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith. Running time 1:40. Rated PG-13. For Movie Reviews and Commentary, go to www.kenrosenberg.com