Showing posts with label 2000. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2000. Show all posts

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Review: First "CHICKEN RUN" Runs Wild at the End

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 54 of 2023 (No. 1943) by Leroy Douresseaux

Chicken Run (2000)
Running time:  84 minutes (1 hour, 24 minutes)
DIRECTORS:  Peter Lord and Nick Park
WRITERS:  Karey Kirkpatrick; from a story by Peter Lord and Nick Park
PRODUCERS:  Peter Lord, Nick Park, and David Sproxton
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dave Alex Riddett (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Mark Solomon
COMPOSERS:  Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell
BAFTA nominee


Starring:  (voices):  Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Phil Daniels, Lynn Ferguson, Tony Haygarth, Jane Horrocks, Miranda Richardson, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, and Benjamin Whitrow

Chicken Run is a 2000 stop-motion animated fantasy and comedy film directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park.  It is a British, French, and U.S. co-production produced by Pathe and Aardman Animations in partnership with DreamWorks Animation.  Chicken Run was Aardman's first feature-length animated film and, as of this writing, remains the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film in worldwide box office history.  Chicken Run is set at a British chicken farm where the chickens hope that an American chicken can help them escape the farm's vicious owners.

Chicken Run opens in post World War II England, specifically at an egg farm that is run like a prisoner-of-war camp.  The farm is owned and operated by the cruel Mrs. Malisha Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) and her submissive husband, Mr. Tweedy (Tony Haygarth), who eat and kill any chicken that is no longer able to lay eggs.  Inside the chicken yard, a rebellious chicken, Ginger (Julia Sawalha), is constantly engaged in escape attempts.  Her goal is to help all her fellow chickens escape the farm and find a new home in the land that lies behind a hill some distance from the Tweedy's farm. 

One night, Ginger witnesses a rooster glide over the coop's fences.  She learns that he is an American rooster, Rocky Rhodes (Mel Gibson), a.k.a. “Rocky the Flying Rooster” a.k.a. “Rocky the Rhode Island Red.”  Believing that Rocky can fly, Ginger begs him to help teach her and the other chickens how to fly so that they can escape the farm.  Rocky is not quite what he seems, however, and time is running out as Mrs. Tweedy has devised a new way to get more money out of the farm's large population of chickens.

I have been putting off seeing Chicken run for 23 years.  Then, I discovered that a sequel, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, was set to debut on Netflix December 15, 2023, so I decided to finally watch it.  I am a fan of the later feature-length animated films that Aardman Animations produced in partnership with DreamWorks Animation, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) and Flushed Away (2006).  I have also enjoyed a few of Aardman's animated short films, including A Grand Day Out with Wallace & Gromit (1989) and Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers (1993).

In the end, I like Chicken Run, not as much as I like other Aardman works I've seen.  Chicken Run takes some inspiration from director John Sturges 1963 war and adventure film, The Great Escape.  Chicken Run is also described as an adventure film, but it is really a sedate comedy and drama that only occasionally plays with its edgier elements.  Honestly, I think the storytellers under-utilize the Tweedys who are delightfully menacing and are endlessly funny as a dysfunctional couple.  The film is filled with interesting characters, inventive production design, and a novel plot, but the filmmakers seem to keep holding back the narrative's energy for the big ending – more than they need to as far as I'm concerned.

Chicken Run does not really live up to its comic and adventure potential until the last 20 minutes of the story before the end credits start.  The film suddenly seems to wind up and then explode in a final act of flying contraptions, determined poultry, and maniacal farmers.  In fact, the finale is the first time in the film that Mel Gibson's Rocky does not seem like an extraneous character.  I will try to see the sequel on Netflix, but for the time being, finally seeing Chicken Run seems to be the only run I really need to make at the story.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Saturday, December 16, 2023

2001 BAFTA Awards:  2 nominations: “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Peter Lord, David Sproxton, and Nick Park) and “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (Paddy Eason, Mark Nelmes, and Dave Alex Riddett)

2001 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical”

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Review: "MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2" is Still on Fire

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 31 of 2023 (No. 1920) by Leroy Douresseaux

Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
Running time: 123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action and some sensuality
WRITERS:  Robert Towne; from a story by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Barga (based upon the television series created by Bruce Geller)
PRODUCERS: Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeffrey L. Kimball (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Steven Kemper and Christian Wagner
COMPOSER: Hans Zimmer


Starring: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Serbedzija, William Mapother, Dominic Purcell, Nicholas Bell, Kee Chan, Antonio Vargas, and Ving Rhames with Anthony Hopkins

Mission: Impossible 2 is a 2000 action-thriller and espionage film directed by John Woo and starring Tom Cruise.  It is a sequel to the 1996 film, Mission: Impossible, and is based on the American television series, “Mission: Impossible” (CBS, 1966-73), that was created by Bruce Geller.  In Mission: Impossible 2 (also known as M:I-2), Ethan Hunt battles a rogue fellow agent in a bid to obtain a genetically modified virus.

Mission: Impossible 2 opens in a lab at Australia's Biocyte Pharmaceuticals.  There, Dr. Vladimir Nekhorvich (Rade Serbedzija), a bio-genetics scientist, sends a message to his old friend, “Dimitri,” which is the cover name for Impossible Mission Force (IMF) agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise).  Nekhorvich's employer, Biocyte Pharmaceuticals, has forced him to create a biological weapon, which he calls “Chimera,” and a cure for it, which he names “Bellerophon.”  Biocyte's CEO, John C. McCloy (Brendan Gleeson), plans to profit from Bellerophon as cure for Chimera after the virus is released into the unsuspecting world.

Nekhorvich injects himself with Chimera and carries Bellerophon with him and heads to the U.S., where he hopes to meet “Dimitri.”  However, he is intercepted by IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), who is, in some ways, Ethan Hunt's equal and opposite.  Ambrose and his men steal Bellerophon and begin their hunt to obtain Chimera, not knowing that it was inside Nekhorvich.

IMF Mission Commander Swanbeck (Anthony Hopkins) orders Hunt to lead his team – computer hacker, IMF agent Luther Stickwell (Ving Rhames), and helicopter pilot, William “Billy” Baird (John Polson), on a mission to get Chimera before Ambrose does.  Swanbeck also orders Hunt to add to his team a professional thief named Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), who was, until recently, Ambrose's girlfriend.  Can Ethan trust Nyah, or has he gotten to close to her?  And is Ambrose more than a match for Ethan?

I divide the six Mission: Impossible movies into two trilogies.  Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), and Mission: Impossible III (2006) make up the first trilogy.  Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011),  Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), and Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) form the second trilogy.

That's just my personal thing.  M:I-2 is its own thing.  Directed by Hong Kong auteur, John Woo, the film features the hallmarks of Woo's directorial style, including his “bullet ballet” action sequences, stylized imagery, slow motion action and character drama scenes, Mexican standoffs, and fight sequences that recall the Chinese martial arts sub-genres “wuxia” and “wire-fu.”  However, the film doesn't really kick into high gear with some of Woo's best flourishes until its second half.

The first half of the film focuses on Ethan Hunt's obsession with Nyah Nordoff-Hall, which mirrors Sean Ambrose's obsession with her.  This “love triangle” allows Woo and his screenwriters to build tension between Hunt and Ambrose that explodes with jealousy and rage and eventually leads to a fight to the death.  M:I-2 may be the film in this franchise in which Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt shares the most screen time with other characters, especially Newton's Nyah and Scott's Ambrose.

Anyway, the film really begins to rumble in the second half.  The last half-hour or so is a masterpiece of directing, film editing, cinematography, and stunt coordinators and stuntmen.  My high rating is mainly because of this exhilarating last act, which makes me want to see this movie again.

Tom Cruise was in his late 30s when Mission: Impossible 2 began filming, yet he looks much younger onscreen, about a decade or so (at least to me).  His long hair, that boyish grin, his immature and petulant anger and jealousy would be largely gone 19 months later when his trippy drama, Vanilla Sky (2001), arrived in December 2001.  So for me, Mission: Impossible 2 is a good-bye to the Mission: Impossible film franchise's beginnings.  The series would rapidly begin to morph with the third entry, and boyish Tom Cruise would finally give way to adult Tom Cruise.  At least, I now remember why I loved this film so much 23 years ago, and now, I want to see it again.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

2001 Image Awards (NAACP):  2 nominations: “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” (Ving Rhames) and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Thandie Newton)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review: Director Peyton Reed Brought It with "Bring It On"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 111 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bring It On (2000)
Running time:  98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sex-related material and language
DIRECTOR:  Peyton Reed
WRITER:  Jessica Bendinger
PRODUCERS:  Marc Abraham and Thomas A. Bliss
EDITOR:  Larry Bock
COMPOSER:  Christophe Beck
Black Reel Awards winner


Starring:  Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union, Clare Kramer, Tsianina Joelson, Rini Bell, Nathan West, Shamari Fears, Natina Reed, Brandi Williams, Lindsay Sloane, Holmes Osborne, Sherry Hursey, and Cody McMains

The subject of this movie review is Bring It On, a 2000 high school sports comedy from director Peyton Reed.  The film spawned four direct-to-DVD sequels and a stage musical.  Bring It On (the original film) focuses on a head cheerleader who makes a shocking discovery just before the upcoming cheerleading championship tournament:  the previous captain of her high school’s cheerleading squad stole their best cheer routines from an inner-city school.

All-American girl Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) sees her dream finally come true.  She is now the head cheerleader of the Rancho Carne Toros, at her high school in suburban San Diego.  The Toros have won The Nationals of the high school cheerleading championship the last five years, and Torrance is not about to let anything – her parents, her little brother, her grades, or her college future – get in the way of a sixth consecutive title.

The big shocker comes when Torrance learns that her predecessor was stealing the routines that earned the Toros their reputation from an inner-city high school hip-hop cheerleading squad, the Clovers of East Compton.  And the Clovers and their captain, Isis (Gabrielle Union), are looking to get even with the Toros at the 2000 Nationals.  Now, Torrance and her Toros are going to have to learn all-new routines, all while dealing with the trials and tribulations of high school life.

Bring It On was a hit with ‘tweens, teens, and 20-somethings back in 2000.  Although it’s competently directed and the writing doesn’t do much in the character department, the Machiavellian-lite, cutthroat world of competitive youth events, in this case, the world of competitive cheerleading, provides this movie’s fireworks.  It’s fun to watch the catfights, preening dumb jocks, and every kid with a smart aleck attitude.

The cheerleading performances, from the practices to the championship, are rousing enough to make you stand up and cheer.  The acting isn’t all that great, and the script doesn’t give the black cheerleaders enough room to show that there is actually character behind their sass.  Kirsten Dunst’s performance is serviceable for this flick, and Eliza Dushku’s hot babe, Missy Pantone, makes what started out as a dull Disney-like teen movie into a real movie the moment she struts on stage.

6 of 10

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Updated:  Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2001 Black Reel Awards:  1 win: “Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress” (Gabrielle Union)

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review: "When the Sky Falls" Means Well (Happy B'ay, Kevin McNally)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 73 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

When the Sky Falls (2000)
Running time:  107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
MPAA – R for brutal violence, strong language, drug content and some sexuality
DIRECTOR:  John Mackenzie
WRITERS:  Ronan Gallagher, Colum McCann, and Michael Sheridan; with additional dialogue by Guy Andrews
PRODUCERS:  Nigel Warren Green and Michael Wearing
EDITOR:  Graham Walker
COMPOSER:  Pol Brennan


Starring:  Joan Allen, Patrick Bergin, Liam Cunningham, Kevin McNally, Jimmy Smallhourne, Gerard Mannix Flynn, Jason Barry, Pete Postlethwaite, Des McAleer, Owen Roe, Gavin Kelty, and Ruaidhrí Conroy

The subject of this movie review is When the Sky Falls, a 2000 crime drama directed by the late John Mackenzie.  The film is a fictional account of a real-life Irish investigative reporter’s battle with a Dublin drug lord.  This film stars one of my favorite actors, Joan Allen, and Kevin McNally, an actor of whom I became a fan after his roles in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.  When the Sky Falls did not receive a theatrical release in the United States, although it is partly a U.S. production.

When the Sky Falls, a fact-based drama, focuses on Sinead Hamilton (Joan Allen), a reporter who invades the drug underworld of Dublin, IrelandMackey (Patrick Bergin), the police officer who helps her, is mostly ineffectual because bureaucracy and lack of resources tie his hands.  Her husband, Tom (Kevin McNally), doesn’t particularly care about her work, but he supports her.

Sinead consorts with Mickey O’Fagan (Jimmy Smallhourne), minor thug who just might lead her to the big fish, Dave Hackett (Gerard Flynn), a brutal drug boss.  Add the Irish Republican Army to the danger mix, and you have a lone woman as a crusading reporter headed for doom.

The film is based upon the story of real life Dublin reporter Veronica Guerin with Sinead Hamilton as the fictional version of her, and for all the drama of the last year of Ms. Guerin’s short life, When the Sky Falls is rather tepid.  Although the film is less than two hours long, it drifts from one genre to another.

At moments, it’s a fairly intense crime thriller about a woman going after greedy men who would see the whole of Dublin addicted to heroin so that they could be fabulously wealthy.  At other times, it’s a clunky and clumsy crime drama about cops willing to go to any extreme to nail a criminal; that is whenever Patrick Bergin’s Mackey takes over the story.  It’s also a lame, movie of the week melodrama about a crusading reporter whenever Sinead Hamilton visits the offices of the newspaper for which she writes.

Anyone of the three storylines could have made a good film at a running time of one hundred and six minutes.  As it is, the subplots and storylines crowd the movie, and the filmmakers don’t do any of them justice.  The cast is mostly good, but seem to run on simmer and slow burn, lest they really let loose and chew up the scenery.  Dog forbid this movie should be as passionate as its real life subject matter.  I like Joan Allen, but this is one of her weaker performances – decent, but the kind of low wattage thing we can get from a TV movie.  When the Sky Falls is a fairly good film, but if you don’t see it, you won’t be missing anything important.

5 of 10

Updated:  Sunday, April 27, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: "High Fidelity" is Endearing, Refreshing (Happy B'day, Nick Hornby)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 68 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

High Fidelity (2000)
Running time:  113 minutes (1 hour, 53 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some sexuality
DIRECTOR:  Stephen Frears
WRITERS:  D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack, and Scott Rosenberg (based upon the book by Nick Hornby)
PRODUCERS:  Tim Bevan and Rudd Simmons
EDITOR:  Mick Audsley
COMPOSER:  Howard Shore
BAFTA Award nominee


Starring: John Cusack, Iben Hejejle, Todd Louiso, Jack Black, Lisa Bonet, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins, Shannon Stillo, Joelle Carter, Lili Taylor, Alex Desert, and Bruce Springsteen

The subject of this movie review is High Fidelity, a 2000 comedy, drama, and romance from director Stephen Frears.  The film is based on the 1995 novel, High Fidelity, from author Nick Hornby.  High Fidelity focuses on a record store owner, who is a compulsive list maker, as he recounts his top five breakups, including the one that just occurred.

After seeing Identity, I decided to go back and see some John Cusack movies that I hadn’t seen.  I can call them “John Cusack movies” in the sense that Cusack’s personality pretty much dominates almost any film in which he stars.  He’s presence is simply quite dynamic and magnetic.  When he first came on the scene, many predicted that he’d be a huge star, and for some reason, his star isn’t as big as it should be.  However, few actors of his generation have a combination of tremendous acting talent and the sense about him that the camera loves.  Some have one or the other, but having both is rare.

In High Fidelity, John is Rob Gordon, owner of Championship Vinyl, a record store the specializes in collectible LP’s, emphasizing vinyl over compact disc, although the store does have a selection of hip and cool cd’s.  As the movie begins, his current girlfriend, Laura Lydon (Iben Hejejle) is leaving him.  So Rob, the film’s very dominate character and a compulsive list maker recounts his top five breakups, all the while trying to regain Laura’s companionship.

The film is based on a novel by Nick Hornby (the film About a Boy is also from one of his novels) and co-written by four writers including Cusack.  Although the film has a director with a pedigree, Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters), and a Hollywood hotshot as one of its screenwriters Scott Rosenberg (Con Air), this is John Cusack’s show.  In the beginning, the character Rob is a little hard to take.  It’s easy to see why he’d have problems with women, although Rob seems to think that his problems stem from his girlfriends.  Cusack builds Rob Gordon slowly, layer upon layer, before our eyes.  Rob talks a lot, and quite a bit of him is a mystery, but Cusack brings us in really close.  He totally breaks the mythical fourth wall between fictional character/performer and viewer, and though Rob remains something of an enigma, we learn enough about him to love him and to root for him.

There are quite a few interesting characters in the film that we don’t see more of because this is Rob’s show.  They might strengthen the story, but the storytelling is still excellent solely because of Cusack’s Rob.  Laura remains as elusive as Rob is, so we might need her version of High Fidelity to get her side of the relationship.

The film is funny, touching, and in its own quirky way, very romantic.  The supporting performances give Cusack’s Rob room to do his thing and give us enough to make Rob’s environment beyond his musings interesting.  High Fidelity could have been a disaster because in many ways, Rob ain’t going anywhere.  He doesn’t have any plans, and he is unsatisfied with his life, but not enough to do something – to act, so we could have brushed him off as a loser.  I didn’t because I want to hear every word he has to say.  Kudos to Cusack for making Rob so endearing and this film so refreshing.

7 of 10

2001 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical” (John Cusack)

2001 BAFTA Awards:  1 nominations:  “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack, and Scott Rosenberg)

2001 Black Reel Awards:  1 nomination: “Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress” (Lisa Bonet)

Updated:  Thursday, April 17, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: "Pitch Black" Near Pitch Perfect Horror

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 94 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Pitch Black (2000)
Running time:  109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
MPAA – R for sci-fi violence and gore, and for language
DIRECTOR:  David Twohy
WRITERS:  Ken Wheat & Jim Wheat and David Twohy (from a story by Ken Wheat and Jim Wheat)
PRODUCER:  Tom Engelman
EDITOR:  Rick Shaine
COMPOSER:  Graeme Revell


Starring:  Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Claudia Black, Rhiana Griffith, John Moore, Simon Burke, Les Chantery, Sam Sari, and Firass Dirani

The subject of this movie review is Pitch Black, a 2000 horror thriller and science fiction film from director David Twohy.  The film puts the survivors of a cargo spacecraft on a desert planet, where they must survive an onslaught of murderous creatures, and their hope for survival rests in a dangerous criminal.

Before The Chronicles of Riddick, the character Richard B. Riddick first appeared in the movie, Pitch Black.  The film by screenwriter turned director David Twohy (Warlock, Waterworld) was a surprise, modest hit in early 2000, and is about a group of space travelers marooned on a seemingly lifeless sun-scorched world where the glaring sunlight hides a dark secret.

Riddick (Vin Diesel) is a convicted murder being transported by a bounty hunter (Cole Hauser) masquerading as a law officer.  When the space ship carrying them crashes, the two men have to temporarily put outside their conflict.  They and the rest of the ragtag band of survivors are slowly finding signs of hope that they may endure the harsh world and maybe even escape, when something begins to skitter around the shadowy edges and the dark beneath the lit surface – something vicious and hungry.

Pitch Black is a very pleasant and entertaining sci-fi, horror film.  Wrought with thrills and fraught with perilous obstacles for the characters, the film has a quick setup before rapidly plunging into non-stop frights and tension.  Though the acting isn’t noteworthy, it’s quite serviceable to the meat the story.  Twohy does an exceptional job taking what was B-movie material no more special than most “original” TV movies on the Sci-Fi Channel and turning it into a fairly entertaining B-movie film experience.  It’s not great, but when the film kick starts the humans’ battle for survival, Pitch Black becomes quite good.

The film also loses none of its potency on the small screen.  Pitch Black should please viewers who like a mixture of sci-fi and horror in the tradition of Aliens or John Carpenter’s The Thing.

7 of 10

Updated:  Monday, August 19, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Review: "The Original Kings of Comedy" - Remembering Bernie Mac

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 3 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)
Running time:  115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and sex related humor
DIRECTOR:  Spike Lee
PRODUCERS:  David Gale, Walter Latham, and Spike Lee
EDITOR:  Barry Alexander Brown
Image Award nominee


Starring:  Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac

The subject of this movie review is The Original Kings of Comedy, a 2000 concert film and documentary from director Spike Lee.  This stand-up comedy film featured Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac, who at the time, were probably the four major African-American stand-up comedians.

First, I must note that I liked half this movie – the half with Bernie Mac and Cedric the Entertainer.  I like D.L. Hughley as a political and social commentator, but not so much as a stand-up comic.  I have mixed feelings about Steve Harvey, and I’ll leave it at that.

For two years in the late 90’s into early 2000, comedians Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac toured the United States in a comedy show called “The Original Kings of Comedy.”  Director Spike Lee (Malcolm X) captured a two-night performance by the “Kings” in Charlotte, North Carolina on digital film, which became the documentary/concert film, The Original Kings of Comedy.

All four of the performances have film and television backgrounds in addition to their stage work, but they are best known to and most liked by urban i.e. African-American audiences.  In fact, the huge success of the concert tour so surprised mainstream i.e. white news media that the tour was the subject of numerous stories.  Those writers expressed shock at how the Kings played to packed houses, but there wasn’t really a secret to their success.  Tickets prices were cheap (usually around 10 bucks), and tours of King’s were kind of geared toward the so-called urban audience are rare.  Some concert venues consider large gatherings of African-Americans a security risk and demand exorbitant insurance coverage from tour promoters.

I can only hope that the Charlotte shows were not indicative of the tour as a whole.  Much of the performances were thoroughly dry and not funny.  It’s hard to chose between who was worse - tour “host” Steve Harvey (of TV’s “The Steve Harvey Show”) or D.L. Hughley (of TV’s “The Hughleys”).  The audience seemed to like them.  Maybe it was a black thing, or perhaps a certain “class” of black thing – not so monolithic, after all, eh?

Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac were hilarious, especially Mac.  They are gifted both as comedians and storytellers, something that is important for all the Richard Pryor wannabees to remember.  Pryor just didn’t tell jokes; he told hilarious, often uproarious, stories.  Many of the profanity junkies that currently pass for comedians would do best to understand what made Pryor so funny and why he enormously crossed over to white audiences.  Cedric and Mac are funny storytellers, and their humor, laced with tales about black folks, actually reaches to a larger segment of the black population.  In fact, a lot of people from different backgrounds can relate to Bernie’s tales, which is why he has the most diverse work history as an entertainer of all the “Kings.”

Much of the comedy here deals with black culture, black folks, black people’s habits, black people who grew up in the 70’s versus young blacks of the 90’s, old school versus hip hop, and, of course white people.  And they deal with white people rather stiffly.  It’s telling that many of the white faces in the audience were not smiling.  Some of the barbs against white folks were mean, and mostly not funny.  When Redd Foxx, Pryor, and Eddie Murphy joked about whites, it was funny and dead on true.  Mac approaches their touch.  The rest of these guys act as if they’d never met a white person.

Lee covers the stage, the audience, and to a lesser extent, the backstage very well – just enough directing not to take away from the main show.  The performances don’t live up to the hype.  I will recommend this to people who want to see the work of a fine entertainer, and that’s Bernie Mac.

5 of 10

2001 Image Awards:  1 nomination: “Outstanding Motion Picture”

Updated:  Friday, August 09, 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: "Charlie’s Angels" Pure Pop Pleasure

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 99 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Charlie’s Angels (2000)
Running time: 98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for action violence, innuendo and some sensuality/nudity
WRITERS: Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon, and John August (from the television series by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts)
PRODUCERS: Drew Barrymore, Leonard Goldberg, and Nancy Juvonen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russell Carpenter (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Peter Teschner and Wayne Wahrman
COMPOSER: Edward Shearmur


Starring: Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Sam Rockwell, Kelly Lynch, Tim Curry, Crispin Glover, Luke Wilson, Matt LeBlanc, Tom Green, LL Cool J, and John Forsythe (voice)

The subject of this movie review is Charlie’s Angels, a 2000 action comedy from director McG (the stage name of Joseph McGinty Nichol). The film is an adaptation of the television series, “Charlie’s Angels,” which was originally broadcast on ABC from 1976 to 1981. The film stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu as three women employed by a private investigation agency and working for the voice known as “Charlie.”

When I first saw Charlie’s Angels, the big-screen adaptation of the late 70’s television series of the same name, I was sure that it was the best action/comedy that I’d seen in years, if ever. Having seen it again in anticipation of the 2003 sequel, I’m sure that it is one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen and one of the best action/comedies ever made. Although the film’s tongue is firmly planted in the Angel’s cheeks and the film is geared towards men, it’s so very entertaining that everyone should get the joke.

The mysterious Charles “Charlie” Townsend (voice of John Forsythe) has three very special little ladies in his employ: Natalie Cook (Cameron Diaz), Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore), and Alex Munday (Lucy Liu). Under the supervision of John Bosley (Bill Murray), Charlie’s Angels use martial arts, high tech skills, and sex appeal in their investigation work for clients who can afford Charlie’s agency. This time the client is kidnap victim Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell) who runs a giant software company. The girls not only have to rescue him, but also have to retrieve Knox’s revolutionary voice-ID software. However, the girls run into more than they were told to expect, including a sleazy billionaire (Tim Curry) and his mysterious, tall, thin, ass-kickin’ bodyguard (Crispin Glover).

Directed by music video maestro McG (videos for Korn and Sugar Ray, among others), Charlie's Angels is a high-octane, comic book-styled, action movie parody and farce. None of it should be taken seriously, least of all its conspiracy-within-a-conspiracy script. This is played for fun, recalling the best action movie scenes and clichés: car chases, exploding buildings, pumping soundtrack, quick-cut editing, and Matrix-style “wire-fu” martial arts. Maybe the funniest thing about this film is that this time women do the butt stomping. Usually in action movies, the girls are just the hang-ons of the male stars, following them around and screaming at the appropriate moments during gun fights, fist fights, car chases, aircraft falling out the sky, explosions, etc. This time the girls are in control. This time their sex appeal rules the story instead of just being sex used to decorate the violence. The ladies kick the butts and leave the men panting.

It’s all done so stylishly, and it’s all good and so cool. The vapid material gets inspired performances from the cast, but the actors really make this fun to watch. Bill Murray is tired though. His Bosley is just him doing his shtick, but it is so uninspired that he should have been embarrassed to see himself in the finished product. He was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

But don’t let that keep you from watching this funny, exciting, and very wild action cartoon. Come on. Pull the stick out. Sit back and be entertained by this delicious serving of popcorn movie.

7 or 10

2001 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Song” (Jean Claude Olivier-Writer, Samuel Barnes-Writer, Cory Rooney-Writer, Beyoncé Knowles-Writer, and Destiny’s Child-Performers for the song “Independent Women Part 1”)

Updated: Thursday, June 27, 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

"George Washington" Appropriate for MLK Day

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 10 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

George Washington (2000)
Running time: 89 minutes (1 hour, 29 minutes)
WRITER/DIRECTOR: David Gordon Green
PRODUCERS: Sacha W. Mueller, Lisa Muskat, and David Gordon Green
EDITOR: Zene Baker and Steven Gonzales


Starring: Candace Evanofski, Donald Holden, Damian Jewan Lee, Curtis Cotton III, Rachael Handy, Paul Schneider, and Eddie Rouse

The subject of this movie review is George Washington, a 2000 indie drama film from writer-director, David Gordon Green. The film, which earned four nominations at the 2001 Independent Spirit Awards, is set in a depressed North Carolina town and follows a group of children covering up a tragic mistake.

In poor rural North Carolina, three children cover up a tragic accident, and this group decision affects all their lives. It begins when Nasia (Candace Evanofski), girl on the cusp on being a teenager, leaves her boyfriend, Buddy (Curtis Cotton III), because she thinks he acts too young, and falls for Buddy’s friend, the enigmatic George Richardson (Donald Holden). George, on the other hand, has his mind on being something bigger – being a hero who saves lives – but he has a secret to hide.

David Gordon Green made a splash among critics and fans of independent cinema with his film, George Washington. Green’s film emphasizes mood, atmosphere, and emotion, and his film is certainly more meditative and contemplative than most mainstream American films. Green’s natural dialogue sounds wonderful in the mouths of the young cast (all novices), and George Washington is one of the few times when an entire cast of child actors gives such tight performances that ring true to the ears and delight the eyes. The film is a bit slow at times, almost as if Green is determined to make a film that is so different from standard Hollywood fare – kind of like an indie/student art film. It’s perfect for that audience, but may be slow for audiences used to movie fast food.

6 of 10

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Ginger Snaps" Breaks Werewolf Movie Mold

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 23 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Ginger Snaps (2000)
Running time: 108 minutes (1 hour, 48 minutes)
Unrated by the MPAA
DIRECTOR: John Fawcett
WRITERS: Karen Walton; from a story by John Fawcett and Karen Walton
PRODUCERS: Karen Lee Hall and Steven Hoban
EDITOR: Brett Sullivan
COMPOSER: Mike Shields

HORROR with elements of comedy

Starring: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers, Jesse Moss, Danielle Hampton, John Bourgeois, Peter Kelegan, Pak-Kong Ho, and Christopher Redman

The subject of this movie review is Ginger Snaps, a 2000 Canadian horror film and werewolf movie. The title is a pun on the term, “ginger snaps,” which in the U.S. is a name for a kind of cookie. In this film, there is a girl named Ginger who “snaps,” as in goes really crazy.

In the horror and dark comic film, Ginger Snaps, Brigitte “B” Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins) and her sister, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle), are local outcasts because of their fascination with death and the macabre. Sullen and frequently dressed light goth, the girls earn the derision of their classmates. However, one night while wandering near the woods on their way to get a minor revenge against tormenting female classmate, a large wild animal attacks and bites Ginger.

Sam (Kris Lemche), a local drug dealer with an eye on “B,” runs over the beast while it’s chasing the girls and realizes that the thing is a werewolf. Before long, Ginger is exhibiting hostile behavior and becomes sexually aggressive. Her body begins to change, and once she realizes and accepts that she is becoming a werewolf, Ginger wants “B” to share it with her just as they promised to share death in a suicide pact. Brigitte is having second thoughts, and she gets Sam to help her find a cure for Ginger. Ginger, however, isn’t taking “no” for an answer.

Ginger Snaps is a novel take on the werewolf mythos, mixing in elements of teen angst, feminism, grrrl power, and lots of teenage female body issues, especially menstruation. The film comes across as a bit gross at times, but film’s ideas are engaging. It’s unique and interesting how the “curse” of the werewolf is tied to the “curse” of that time of the month and to Ginger and B’s close and intense relationship. Most of the credit should go to screenwriter Karen Walton for her sharp and witty dialogue. Though the script tends to drag, the chatting between the characters has an intimate feeling (even when characters are fighting amongst themselves) that gives the illusion that these people really know each other. The performances are occasionally tepid, but sometimes nuanced and passionate. Mimi Rogers is creepy as the girls’ mother, Pamela.

Ginger Snaps seems about five or ten minutes too long, and it really tends to drag. However, the film has good atmosphere and is a nice twist on the werewolf movie. I especially like the fact that the creature effects are makeup and (apparently) animatronics rather than CGI.

6 of 10

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: "The Whole Nine Yards" Surprises (Happy B'day, Bruce Willis)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 54 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Whole Nine Yards (2000)
Running time: 98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Lynn
WRITER: Mitchell Kapner
PRODUCERS: Allan Kaufman and David Willis
EDITOR: Tom Lewis
COMPOSERS: Randy Edelman and Gary Gold


Starring: Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Natasha Henstridge, Amanda Peet, Kevin Pollack, Harland Williams, and Carmen Ferland

The Whole Nine Yards is a 2000 crime comedy starring Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry. The film focuses on a struggling dentist living in Montreal and his neighbor, a former mob hitman living under an assumed name.

Nicholas “Nick” or “Oz” Oseransky (Matthew Perry) is an American dentist living in Canada, struggling with his practice and suffering his monstrously selfish wife Sophie (Rosanna Arquette) and her tiresome mother (Carmen Ferland). His troubles start to pile when a hit man, Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski (Bruce Willis), moves into the neighborhood under the witness protection program.

Sophie figures Jimmy has a bounty placed on his head by whatever group he betrayed to the authorities. She forces Nick to go to Chicago and rat out Jimmy to Janni Pytor Gogolak (Kevin Pollack), a mob boss who has a score to settle with The Tulip. Sophie assumes that Gogolak will pay her husband a finder’s fee for locating The Tulip. But things are never so easy as one, two, three. Everyone, from Sophie to Jimmy and from Janni to Jimmy’s sexy wife, Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge), has a plan of his own, and poor Nick’s just a pawn. Will he survive them?

The Whole Nine Yards is both surprisingly funny and good; in fact, it’s probably one of the best crime comedies since Get Shorty. The film’s strength and quality lies in two things: the cast and the writing. Most of the stars are pretty good character actors, and they usually don’t get credit for being so, Bruce Willis especially. He’s a big time movie star and can generally carry a quality action flick. Put him in a quality ensemble piece, and he soars because he can play well off his colleagues. Amanda Peet has a sexy energy that livens the film, but the big surprise is Matthew Perry. He’s a funny guy, an expert at mixing sarcastic asides and pratfalls. He’s also quite good at playing the ordinary joe barely making it in extraordinary circumstances.

Mitchell Kapner’s script is light and breezy, but tightly written. It goes by quickly and smoothly, but it gives the cast a lot of room to play to their strengths. The sarcasm is nice, but Kapner’s feat is that he uses ugly violent crime and murderous characters to make a good comedy – a farce about mobsters, hit men, and cops, who despite the obvious differences in their respective professions, often act like the same people.

7 of 10


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Dude, Where's My Car?" Makes Dumb Funnier Than it Should Be

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 66 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000)
Running time: 83 minutes (1 hour, 23 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for language and some sex and drug-related humor
DIRECTOR: Danny Leiner
WRITER: Philip Stark
PRODUCERS: Broderick Johnson, Andrew Kosove, Gil Netter, and Wayne Rice
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Stevens (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Kimberly Ray


Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Seann William Scott, Jennifer Garner, Marla Sokoloff, Kristy Swanson, David Herman, John Toles-Bey, and Hal Sparks

I planned never to see Dude, Where’s My Car?, figuring my initial curiosity to be a sign of intellectual weakness. After seeing Seann William Scott in Bulletproof Monk and really digging his performance, my intellect further weakened, I decided to seek out some of his other films and came across Dude, Where's My Car? again. Scott co-stars in this outlandish comedy with Ashton Kutcher, who came to prominence in the television series “That 70’s Show.” Whatta you know: this turned out to be one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.

Jessie Richmond (Kutcher) and Chester Greenburg (Scott) wake up one morning to find Jessie’s car missing, and they have no memory of what happened the night before except for the wild and crazy things people tell them that they did. At first, Jessie and Chester are excited and proud of the calamity and craziness they allegedly committed, but in time they come to be frustrated that they got so wasted that they can’t remember anything. And they need their memory to find the car, which is the key to a lot of weird trouble for them. They owe a transvestite strip dancer a suitcase full of cash, and people claiming to be aliens are looking for an important, universe-endangering object. Losing the car was just the beginning; you have to see the film to believe how hilarious the adventure to find the car gets.

I’m sure this film was cynically conceived and produced to cash in on the youth movie craze. Film studios figure that if they make movies starring familiar young faces from TV and pad the story with jokes about sex, bodily fluids and functions, teenage jargon, twentysomething slang, and general crassness, they’re bound to make a mint, if not in theatres then in home video and television. It’s a can’t-lose option: marrying the lowbrow, the dumb, the rude, and a bit of cultural decay.

This time the studio got lucky and the movie turned out way funny. I’d rather believe that this was a happy accident, but regardless this is funny, in the vein of Dumb and Dumber, accept that Jessie and Chester, for all their dimwittedness, tend to be a little smarter than their adversaries. You can root for these guys, by awed by their occasional show of smarts, laugh at them, and with them. Dude, Where’s My Car? comes close to being the perfect dumb-but-funny movie. Don’t take it seriously, and you’ll laugh your proverbial ass off. Don’t be stuck in the mud; see it and laugh like a madman.

7 of 10

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: "Battle Royale" is a Bullet with Butterfly Wings

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 187 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Batoru rowaiaru (2000)
Battle Royale (2001) – U.S. title
Running time: 114 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Kinji Fukasaku
WRITER: Kenta Fukasaku (based upon the novel by Koushun Takami)
PRODUCERS: Kinji Fukasaku, Kenta Fukasaku, Kimio Kataoka, Chie Kobayashi, and Toshio Nabeshima
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Katsumi Yanagishima
EDITOR: Hirohide Abe

ACTION/DRAMA with elements of crime, horror and sci-fi

Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, and Takeshi Kitano

Early in the new millennium, Japan is on the verge of societal collapse. Not only is unemployment high, but schoolchildren are also abusing the system by staging strikes to not attend school, and when they do attend, they attack the teachers. The government introduces the Millennium Education Reform Act V or Battle Royale Act. It’s a strict new form of punishment whereby the government via lottery chooses a group of students and takes them to a desert island where the students are ordered to fight to the death. Each student is turned loose with a backpack containing supplies and one weapon. The students must use those weapons on one another until there is only one student left standing. Each Battle Royale can have only one winner. The students who refuse to cooperate and play by the rules are killed by an explosive charge placed in a metal collar that each student has around his or her neck.

Zentsuji Middle School #4, Class E finds itself selected to play the super brutal game of Battle Royale. Their teacher, Kitano (played by the famous Japanese actor and auteur Takeshi “Beat” Kitano), is the game master, and he’s showing no mercy. Out of the chaos that is Battle Royal, two students, Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Noriko Nakagawa (Aki Maeda), join together in hopes of finding like-minded classmates who want to fight the system and beat the game, but it’s every student for himself.

Battle Royale (Batoru rowaiaru) is one of the most controversial films in recent memory primarily because it’s about a group of school children forced to kill their classmates in order to survive. It’s a bang-up Lord of the Flies as only a Japanese filmmaker could do it. The film is certainly disturbing not only its depiction of violence, but also in its concept. Director Kinji Fukasaku and writer Kenta Fukasaku make sure that the audience gets to know every student. We don’t get to know each intimately, but we learn enough to care about each one and fear for his or her safety.

This isn’t some horror flick with a body count. It’s mad social commentary, and although Battle Royale’s notion of how a government fights juvenile delinquency and flagrant law breaking seems a bit extreme and fanciful, the film gets it right in spirit. It’s a reverse Logan’s Run and a grisly-with-a-cherry-on-top riff on “the most dangerous game” (hunting a human), and I must admit there is something… fun in watching the expressions of terror and desperation on the students’ faces as they struggle to live, beg for the lives, or fight for their lives. There is also something alluring in watching the bloodlust and the triumph of the killers. Maybe, this is so controversial because it appeals to something dark and ugly in us, but Battle Royale is a must-see treat for true movie lovers.

9 of 10

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review: Wes Craven Makes "Scream 3" Worth the Repetition

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 52 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Scream 3 (2000)
Running time: 116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong horror violence and language
DIRECTOR: Wes Craven
WRITER: Ehren Kruger (based upon characters created by Kevin Williamson)
PRODUCERS: Cathy Konrad, Marianne Maddalena, and Kevin Williamson
EDITOR: Patrick Lussier
COMPOSER: Marco Beltrami


Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, Parker Posey, Scott Foley, Deon Richmond, Emily Mortimer, Lance Henriksen, Jenny McCarthy, Matt Keeslar, Patrick Warburton, Liev Schreiber, Kelly Rutherford, and Jamie Kennedy

When a series of murders are tied to Stab 3, a movie about the tragic events in her life, the most famous survivor of the Woodsboro massacre, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), leaves her secluded residence in Northern California to visit Stab 3’s Hollywood film set. Of course, the remaining survivors of Woodsboro and of the other Woodsboro-related murders – hot tabloid TV reporter, Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox), and Woodsboro deputy, Dwight “Dewey” Riley (David Arquette), are also on the scene. But they all soon learn that in the third film of a trilogy, all the rules are thrown out the window. The killer could be anyone, and even heroes can die.

Scream 3 is supposedly the closing chapter of the Scream franchise, and it’s a pretty good send off. Ehren Kruger’s script is certainly in the heart and vein of Scream creator Kevin Williamson’s scripts for the first two films. Kruger ably captures the self-referential, meta-lite atmosphere of the earlier films, and Kruger’s is less a satire or homage to horror flicks and more itself a good horror movie.

The cast is good, and the actors really understand their parts. The players who are supposed to be campy murder victims play their parts with relish, while the leads are intense and skillful. But the true hero of Scream 3, as he was for the first two, is horrormeister Wes Craven, who may be the most successful director of horror films in the history of movie making. He’s also skillful and adept at making even the rough spots in this move work, because he helms slasher flicks with the verve of an auteur making art films.

Scream 3 is not great, but it’s scary and funny and hard to stop watching. It’s clever and witty, both in its smart moments and in its lesser scenes. Though it seems to fall apart in some scenes of its last act, the film is worth viewing for its many genuinely creepy moments that keep you on the edge of your seat.

6 of 10


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Original "Big Momma's House" is a Fun House

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 35 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Big Momma’s House (2000)
Running time: 98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for crude humor including sexual innuendo, and for language and some violence
DIRECTOR: Raja Gosnell
WRITERS: Darryl Quarles and Don Rhymer; from a story by Darryl Quarles
PRODUCERS: David T. Friendly and Michael Green
EDITORS: Kent Beyda and Bruce Green
Image Awards nominee


Starring: Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Paul Giamatti, Jascha Washington, Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Ella Mitchell, Cedric the Entertainer, and Tichina Arnold

FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence) is a master of disguise, but to catch an escaped convict, he’ll have to pull off his greatest masquerade. Murderer and bank robber Lester Vesco (Terrence Dashon Howard) has escaped from prison. Vesco is looking for his old girlfriend, Sherry Pierce (Nia Long), long suspected by the police to be Vesco’s accomplice because she worked at the bank he robbed, and also suspected of knowing where the money from the robbery, which was never recovered, is. Panicked by news of Lester’s escape, Sherry takes her young son, Trent Pierce (Jascha Washington), and heads to the home of Big Momma, Sherry’s massively fat grandmother, Hattie Mae Pierce (Ella Mitchell), in Cartersville, Georgia.

Malcolm and his partner, John (Paul Giamatti), also head to Georgia and put Big Momma’s house under surveillance in hopes of discovering whereabouts of both Lester Vesco and the Sherry is allegedly hiding the money. When an emergency suddenly calls Big Momma away from her house for a week or so, Malcolm and John are afraid that Sherry will change her plans to stay at Big Momma’s house. Malcolm, using his and John’s fantastic abilities at creating prosthetics and masks, disguises himself as Big Momma. He, however, doesn’t count on falling in love with Sherry while pretending to me Big Momma. Will the romance and the effort it takes to maintain the disguise cause Malcolm to miss the arrival of Vesco and the return of the real Big Momma.

There’s something appealing about a man playing a woman. It’s especially interesting if the man is playing a woman for comedy, but there is something really attention-grabbing when a black man plays a fat black woman, which is what actor/comedian Martin Lawrence does in Big Momma’s House. Just seeing Martin in that get-up as a morbidly obese, black Southern matron elicits raucous laughter, so one sees Big Momma’s House strictly for the comedy. Martin is damn funny in drag, although he can disguise himself quite well to play a variety of comical male roles, as he does here, early in the film playing an older Asian hood.

Big Momma’s House if filled with sidesplitting comedy and a generous helping of belly laughs. The film falls apart when it tries the romantic comedy angle between Malcolm Turner (without his Big Momma getup) and Sherry Pierce; it’s dry and rings hollow. The actual police procedural (or what tries to be) doesn’t amount to much, so Paul Giamatti’s John is wasted. It’s hard to tell if Lawrence and Giamatti have any real screen chemistry, but something’s definitely there when they’re on screen together.

With its generous helping of laugh-out-loud comedy and a generous side of flatulence and juvenile humor for the kids, Big Momma’s House is simply a comedy that works. Add Martin Lawrence’s Big Momma to the list of great comic performances by actors in drag.

6 of 10

2001 Image Awards: 1 nomination: “Outstand Actress in a Motion Picture (Nia Long)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Sunday, February 13, 2011

2001 BAFTA "Best British Film" Winner: BILLY ELLIOT is Amazing

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 137 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Billy Elliot (2000)
Running time: 110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some thematic material
DIRECTOR: Stephen Daldry
WRITER: Lee Hall
PRODUCERS: Greg Brenman and Jonathan Finn
EDITOR: John Wilson
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Jamie Bell, Gary Lewis, Jamie Draven, Julie Walters, Jean Heywood, Stuart Wells, and Nicola Blackwell

When Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) takes a fancy to ballet dancing over boxing, his newfound love comes at the most inopportune time - his family is slowly disintegrating. His dad Jackie (Gary Lewis) and his brother Tony (Jamie Draven) are striking coalminers. His mother’s passing has made his father a broken man, and his brother is a violent strike agitator. His teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (Julia Walters who received an Oscar nomination for this supporting role), however, sees something in Billy and encourages him to think about auditioning for a position at the Royal Ballet Academy in London. With her encouragement, Billy strives through his self-doubt and his personal troubles to dance to his heart’s content.

Set in an northern England mining town in 1984, Billy Elliot is an inspirational movie that exceeds beyond the usual expectations even for a movie of its type. You don’t have to go very far into the film before you realize how this movie can make you feel so good while being, for the most part, quite sad. Through the despair and hardships, Billy has to succeed at being himself. A young lad (11), he stands in the face of obstacles and rushes headlong into doing what he wants. He simply uses the bumps in the road as momentum for his next dance step. It is easy to see why audiences took this fine film to heart.

The acting is exquisite from top to bottom with the director making the most of his cast and the actors drawing every last drop of quality storytelling from the script. Every now and again, a child actor has a performance that stands out as so good it matches the performances of the best adult actors, such as Anna Paquin in The Piano and Haley Joel Osmet in The Sixth Sense. Mr. Bell’s performance joins their company because he does something few children can do: to hold the audience’s attention and to carry the film with the craft of acting, rather than with the trick of being cute, precious, and precocious.

As Billy’s suffering father, Jackie, Gary Lewis nearly steals the show. Lewis plays Jackie as a man on shaking ground. He’s lost his wife and his job, and his elder son seems to run the house. When Jackie finally sees his son dance, Jackie has a reason to live, and he’s ready to fight for his son’s ambitions. Lewis totally sells us on the Jackie’s transformation from the beaten man to the loving, supporting dad.

Director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter Lee Hall, do more than just play to our emotions. Daldry is certainly a director to keep an eye on despite a misstep like his follow up to this film, The Hours. In Billy Elliot, he and Hall have created a film that sends our spirits soaring and inspires us to dream or to, at least, vicariously enjoy the triumph of Billy. It is truly a work of art when you can engage the mind, the heart, and the soul. Billy Elliot will stand out as one of the finest films in recent memory.

9 of 10

2001 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Julie Walters, “Best Director” (Stephen Daldry), and “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen” (Lee Hall)

2001 BAFTA Awards: 3 wins “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Greg Brenman, Jonathan Finn, and Stephen Daldry), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Jamie Bell), and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Julie Walters); 9 nominations “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Stephen Warbeck), “Best Cinematography” (Brian Tufano), “Best Editing” (John Wilson), “Best Film” (Greg Brenman and Jonathan Finn), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Gary Lewis), “Best Screenplay – Original” (Lee Hall), “Best Sound” (Mark Holding, Mike Prestwood Smith, Zane Hayward), “Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer” (Stephen Daldry-director and Lee Hall-writer), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Stephen Daldry)

2001 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama” and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Julie Walters)


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: 2001 Oscar Nominee "U-571" Great Historical Fiction for Men

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 111 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

U-571 (2000)
Running time: 116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for war violence
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Mostow
WRITERS: Jonathan Mostow, Sam Montgomery, and David Ayer; from a story by Jonathan Mostow
PRODUCERS: Dino De Laurentiis and Martha De Laurentiis
EDITOR: Wayne Wahrman
2001 Academy Award winner


Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, David Keith, Jake Weber, Jack Noseworthy, Tom Guiry, Will Estes, Erik Palladino, Dave Power, Thomas Kretschmann, and Terrence “T.C.” Carson

It’s 1942, and Nazi Germany is decisively winning the Atlantic war. Their Enigma encoding device makes their ciphering system unbreakable, so the Allies cannot decipher Nazi messages they intercept. When the German submarine U-571 becomes adrift in the North Atlantic, Naval Command sends an American sub masquerading as a German sub to intercept U-571, in hopes of capturing the German’s sub Enigma machine. After disaster strikes, Lt. Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) and the survivors commandeer U-571 and race for safety with a German warship right behind them.

U-571 is woefully inaccurate history. Apparently, the British Royal Navy was the first to capture the Enigma machine, and did so before the United States entered World War II. History aside, U-571 is a rousing old-fashioned submarine movie that keeps up the edge-of-the-seat suspense from start to finish. The performances are good, but the movie’s success as a thriller-at-sea is mainly because of director Jonathan Mostow and his creative crew: cinematographer, editor, sound and sound editing, etc. If only this effort had gone into making a historical accurate movie, but cinema doesn’t owe history the courtesy of being accurate. On its own terms, U-571 is a rousing sea-going adventure and an excellent “movie for guys who love movies.”

7 of 10

2001 Academy Awards: 1 win for “Best Sound Editing” (Jon Johnson); 1 nomination for “Best Sound” (Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, Rick Kline, and Ivan Sharrock)

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Saturday, January 29, 2011

2001 Oscar Nominee "The Emperor's New Groove" Plays a Looney Tune

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 24 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Running time: 78 minutes; MPAA – G
DIRECTOR: Mark Dindal
WRITERS: David Reynolds; from a story by Chris Williams and Mark Dindal with Roger Allers and Matthew Jacobs
PRODUCER: Randy Fullmer
EDITORS: Tom Finan and Pamela Ziegenhagen-Shefland
Academy Award nominee


Starring: (voices) David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton, Wendie Malick, Kellyann Kelso, Eli Russell Linnetz, Stephen J. Anderson, Bob Bergen, Rodger Bumpass, and Tom Jones

In a once-upon-a-time, Disney storybook version of the Incan Empire, Emperor Kuzco (voice of David Spade) is a selfish and childish monarch who rules over his kingdom as if it were his personal play land. However, Yzma (Eartha Kitt), the vengeful priestess who was his advisor before he fired her, turns Kuzco into a llama, but Yzma’s co-conspirator, Kronk (Patrick Warburton), fails to properly dispose of llama Kuzco. Pacha (John Goodman), a gentle llama herder, inadvertently rescues Kuzco, who had actually planned on razing Pacha’s hillside home to build a summer palace. Pacha, while trying to teach him the value of friendship and selflessness, goes on a jungle adventure to help Kuzco regain both his humanity and his throne.

The Emperor’s New Groove certainly isn’t a Disney animated classic on the level of Bambi or Beauty and the Beast (but then what is), but it is something the company can do very well – produce delightful and funny family entertainment. Its wacky brand of comedy and self-knowingly sarcasm brings to life what is initially a painfully slow and clunky film. In spite of a shake start the film becomes a slapstick comedy about two buddies racing to reach a goal before their clownish, but relentless pursuers stop them. This is the kind of a funny animal fable Disney does well, one that emphasizes lots of life lessons for the young ‘uns (and many adults certainly could do to learn those lessons well).  In a way, this is also like a feature-length version of a Warner Bros. Looney Tune cartoon.

The film features wonderful background illustrations of a fanciful version of the Andes and the Incan Empire. Lush jungle backdrops, imaginative sets and art direction, colorful costumes, and appealing character designs are a winning combination. Two things, however, really sell this film. First, the character animation and film direction maintain and lively pace and engages the viewers with an ever changing situation. This is truly a jungle adventure as the scenery changes creating sort of an edge-of-your-seat comedy caper.

Secondly, the voice acting is quite good. David Spade can be a little grating, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the self-absorbed Kuzco. John Goodman is fine as usual playing the wise and gentle older fellow with his deep and rich-sounding voice. Patrick Warburton’s rumbling tones are always welcome. The big surprise here is Earth Kitt’s voice performance as Yzma, as she deftly mixes comic menace and casual asides that make Yzma a grand villainness in the great Disney tradition of wicked witches and wily women of magic.

The Emperor’s New Groove will delight the kids and appeal to their parents, as well as adults who like hand-drawn animated feature films. While this isn’t a great Disney animated film, The Emperor’s New Groove, as a second tier Disney cartoon, is a better hand-drawn animated film than cartoons produced by other American studios.

7 of 10

2001 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Music, Original Song” (Sting-composer/lyricist and David Hartley-composer for the song "My Funny Friend and Me")

2001 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress” (Eartha Kitt)

2001 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Sting and David Hartley for the song "My Funny Friend and Me")

Monday, January 30, 2006

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: 2001 Oscar Nominee "The Cell" Finds Power in Vincent D'Onofrio

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 175 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Cell (2000)
Running time: 107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
MPAA – R for bizarre violence and sexual images, nudity, and language
DIRECTOR: Tarsem Singh
WRITER: Mark Protosevich
PRODUCERS: Julie Caro and Eric McLeod
EDITORS: Robert Duffy and Paul Rubell
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D’Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dylan Baker, Jake Weber, James Gammon, Colton James, and Jake Thomas

I never liked music video director Tarsem’s video for rock band R.E.M.’s fondly remembered single, “Losing My Religion,” – pretentious video for a pretentious song. However, I have a little more tolerance for Tarsem Singh (his full name) because of his movie, The Cell. In the film, science can send one person’s consciousness into the mind of another person. That scenario allows Tarsem to create wonderfully colorful and bizarre images that would make for a nice music video, but that also work in the context of a film narrative.

Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) is a serial killer, but before he can kill his latest victim, he has a seizure related to schizophrenia that puts him in a coma from which he will not recover. FBI Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) knows from studying the evidence in Carl’s house that they have less than two days to find the latest victim before she drowns in a cell (or chamber) Carl has rigged to flood via a time release device. But where is the cell?

Enter pyschotherapist Catherine Dean (Jennifer Lopez). She is the only person with experience entering the mind of another human being, so Agent Novak convinces her to journey into Stargher’s mind to communicate with him in hopes that he will reveal the whereabouts of his latest victim to Catherine. However, Catherine has never entered the mind of someone she hadn’t studied. When she enters Stargher’s mind, Catherine finds a world of revulsion and hyper bizarre images. Before long she meets Stargher’s idealized version of himself, a powerful, cross-dressing, behemoth emperor of a strange land, who captures and traps Catherine in his mind.

No doubt, The Cell was released in hopes of attracting the same audience that liked the mind-bending trip of The Matrix’s shifting realities. The Cell isn’t anywhere nearly as good as The Matrix, but it’s a convincing thriller; Tarsem also creates a real sense that the clock is ticking while they search for Stargher’s latest victim. The bizarre landscapes and visuals within Stargher’s mind are intriguing and, with a few exceptions, both visually striking and appealing.

Sometimes, it all seems a little silly, but the journey into Stargher’s mind and the Stargher character are the entire film. Jennifer Lopez’s acting is quite bad in this film; she shows no emotion or life for that matter. There is little or nothing there; she’s an empty vessel. Vince Vaughn is just as bad, if not worse. He’s not acting; he’s pretending and doing a bad job of it.

Vincent D’Onofrio, who always seems willing to put himself through the contortions of makeup or to jump through emotional hoops, gives the performance that saves this film. He has a great film presence, especially when he plays the heavy or plays a bad guy. There’s an air of menace about him, or better yet, he always looks like he’s about to go postal. So everything that is scary and thrilling about this movie goes through him, and luckily Tarsem just happened to notice that.

5 of 10

2001 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Makeup” (Michèle Burke and Edouard F. Henriques)


Thursday, January 27, 2011

2001 Oscar Nominee "The Contender" Contends Until the End

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 5 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Contender (2000)
Running time: 126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong sexual content and language
PRODUCERS: Willi Baer, Marc Frydman, James Spies, and Douglas Urbanski
EDITOR: Michael Jablow
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Joan Allen, Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges, Christian Slater, Sam Elliot, William L. Petersen, Saul Rubinek, Philip Baker Hall, Mike Binder, Robin Thomas, Kathryn Morris, and Mariel Hemingway

After the Vice President of the United States dies, President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) selects Senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen, Pleasantville), a Democrat who switched parties, as his nominee to replace the deceased VP. During the confirmation hearings before Congress, a combative rival, Rep. Sheldon “Shelly” Runyon (Gary Oldman) begins leaking lurid stories about Sen. Hanson’s wild past as a sexually promiscuous college student.

Runyon prefers a popular governor, Jack Hathaway (William L. Peterson, TV’s “C. S. I.: Crime Scene Investigation”), as the new VP instead of Sen. Hanson. With an eager young congressman, Rep. Reginald Webster (Christian Slater), at his beck and call, Runyon turns the hearings into his bully pulpit. As Sen. Hanson struggles with the decision to defend herself and answer the horrid charges, investigations into her past by rival interests unearth a mound of increasingly sensational stories.

The Contender could have been a boring Capitol Hill whodunit, but it saves the boring for the end. For most of its length, the film is actually a bracing thriller that gives a fly on the wall view of how nasty and petty our nation’s leaders can be. Writer/director Rod Lurie creates a fascinating, edge of your seat thriller that burns slowly and then explodes with each new shocking revelation. You can hardly take your eyes from the screen, but the film loses its bite, as it gets closer to the end.

It is as if all the air just blows out of the film. Luckily, the cast is game, and they save the film’s ending. When The Contender gets too preachy, it’s blessed to have good actors who can make even talking heads interesting. Joan Allen is what she always is – good. Her strange, subtle beauty gives her a look that makes you sympathetic to her; of course, she has much experience playing the put upon woman in such films as Nixon and The Crucible. Bridges is well liked and respected amongst his peers because he’s a craftsman and an artist. He pulls a trick on the viewer. For most of this film, you can think of President Jackson as a phony, but he sneaks in a broader view of the character that can have you shaking your head. Clearly, President Jackson is not what he seems to be and more than what he seems to be. Gary Oldman is good, even in this unsexy role for an actor who transformed many of the characters he played into sexy, charming rogues. He’s nothing but convincing as the low rent, thuggish nerd, Rep. Runyon.

If for nothing else, a political thriller with a cast of very good actors is worth watching, and The Contender is occasionally quite exciting, even if it limps to the ending.

5 of 10

2001 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jeff Bridges) and “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Joan Allen)

2001 Golden Globes: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Jeff Bridges) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Joan Allen)