Showing posts with label 2001. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2001. Show all posts

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Review: "THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF" is Crazy (Literally), Sexy, Cool

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 6 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

Pacte des loups, Le (2001)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:  France; Language: French, German, Italian
The Brotherhood of the Wolf (2002) – USA title
Running time:  142 minutes (2 hours, and 22 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence, gore, and sexuality/nudity
DIRECTOR:  Christophe Gans
WRITERS:  Stephane Cabel and Christophe Gans
PRODUCERS:  Richard Grandpierre and Samuel Hadida
EDITORS:  Xavier Loutreuil, Sébastien Prangère, and David Wu
COMPOSER:  Joseph LoDuca


Starring:  Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel, Emilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci, Jérémie Rénier, Mark Dacascos, Jean Yanne, Jean-Francois Stévenin, and Jacques Perrin

Le Pacte des loups is a 2001 French period film, action and horror movie directed by Christophe Gans.  The film was released in the United States in early 2002 by Universal Pictures under the title, The Brotherhood of the Wolf (the title by which I will refer to this film in this review).  The film's plot is loosely based on the legend of the “beast of Gévaudan” and a real-life series of killings that took place in France in the 18th century.  The Brotherhood of the Wolf focuses on a French knight and his Native American companion who are sent to investigate the mysterious slaughter of hundreds of people by an unknown creature in the county of Gévaudan.

At the beginning of The Brotherhood of the Wolf, Old Thomas d'Apcher (Jacques Perrin) recounts a fantastic fable/story of his youth.  It is France of 1765, and the King sends two envoys to the Gevaudan province (which no longer exists) to investigate a series of brutal murders of which the locals believe is committed by a mysterious beast.  The envoys are the Chevalier Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), a naturalist, and his companion, Mani (Mark Dacascos), a Mohawk Iroquois shaman of New France (Canada).  They arrive in Gevandan to find the provincials bigoted and superstitious, even in the midst of the death all around them.

Among the colorful cast of characters include a mysterious and powerful priest, Henri Sardis (Jean-Francois Stevenin), and a sly and dangerous one-armed hunter, Jean Francois de Morangias (Vincent Cassel).  The young Thomas d’Apcher (Jeremie Renier) becomes a hunting companion of Fronsac and Mani.  Two strong female characters compete for the attentions of the virile and intelligent Fronsac: Marianne de Morangias (Emilie Dequenne), Jean Francois’s beautiful younger sister, and the nubile and hypnotic courtesan Sylvia (Monica Bellucci).  As Fronsac and Mani pierce the veil of mystery and terror that covers the province, intrigue and deceit surround them, and the beast continues to kill.

Directed by Christophe Gans, The Brotherhood of the Wolf bends genres as easily as the film’s beast tears through its victims.  Horror, thriller, western, martial arts, and mystery, the film is filled with suspense, terror, romance, eroticism, and political intrigue.  It is at times intoxicating and mind bending and at other times, languid and thoughtful.  It is difficult to categorize, but the movie is largely fantasy and action, but different from most of the movies that both genres recall.

Fronsac is a man of reason who sees a human conspiracy behind the killings that is darker and more insidious than any beast of Hell.  Still, this man of science also understands the mystic worldview and belief system of his friend and blood brother, Mani.  Fronsac is enlightenment’s soldier against the backward and ignorant peasants and nobles of Gevaudan.  The provincials fear the ways of a city like Paris, and Sardis and Jean Francois resent the capital’s intrusion into their world.  They disdain the confidence and intelligence of the King’s envoys.  The beast is a physical manifestation of the provincials superstitions, isolationism, hatred, and evil that feeds upon the populace, and the creature resists the authority of the government.

The movie’s creature is a computer-generated image (CGI); at its best is fearsome.  At its worst, the creature, especially during some daylight scenes, is hokey.  However, Gans wisely holds revealing the beast in scenes that go by so quickly that we rarely get a good look at it.  Sometimes, just the unseen beast’s roars, growls, and footsteps are enough to set the heart racing.

Le Bihan as Fronsac is strong and strongly confident.  He is the romantic lead upon which the audience hitches its wagon.  When he and Mani arrive early in the movie, after the film’s opening murder, they appear in a driving rainstorm, masked minutemen with the presence of demigods.  Mani’s assault upon the villagers recalls fight scenes from The Matrix, but his are down to earth and more physical, more visceral; the threat of danger to him from the attackers is much greater.  Decascos is mostly very good on the screen as Mani, though a few bits of his screen time are a little flat.  When Gans unleashes him late in the movie, Decascos is a beautiful force a nature, a small storm in human guise tearing through his antagonists.

Vincent Cassel’s Jean Francois is the serpentine equal to Fronsac.  He dominates all of his screen time, except for his scenes with Fronsac, in which both must share the screen.  The movie nearly bursts from having to contain both their magnetic presences.  They alone are worth the price of admission, but the rest of the cast, both veterans and newcomers, make the most of their roles.

Although a little long, The Brotherhood of the Wolf is wonderful; a dark horse, it is one of the best films of the year 2001.  Gans and his screenwriting partner, Stephane Cabel, created a script that melds raw action with social intrigue, and the result is quite an accomplishment.  The Brotherhood of the Wolf is plainly good entertainment.  Not quite high art, it is eye candy that is very smart and very fun.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Edited:  Wednesday, October 4, 2023

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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Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" a Nice Ode to 1940s Era Films

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 255 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
Running time:  103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some sexual content
PRODUCER:  Letty Aronson
EDITOR:  Alisa Lepselter


Starring:  Woody Allen, Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Brian Markinson, Elizabeth Berkley, Wallace Shawn, Charlize Theron, David Ogden Stiers, and Carol Bayeux

The subject of this movie review is The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, a 2001 romance, crime-comedy and mystery film from writer-director Woody Allen.  The film follows an insurance investigator and an efficiency expert, both hypnotized into stealing jewels by a crooked hypnotist using a jade scorpion.

New York City – 1940C.W. Briggs (Woody Allen) is the top insurance investigator for North Coast Casualty and Fidelity of New York, and he is his boss, Chris Magruder’s (Dan Aykroyd) go-to-guy when it comes to solving the thefts of high value items that North Coast is insuring.  C.W. has also been sparring with the company’s latest hire, Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt), an efficiency expert with an eye on putting C.W. in his place.

At a dinner party, a crooked hypnotist named Voltan (David Ogden Stiers) uses a jeweled charm, the Jade Scorpion, to hypnotize C.W. and Betty Ann.  Soon, the combative co-workers are babbling like love struck kids.  Their colleagues think this is some kind of clever hypnosis gag, so no one realizes that Voltan has placed C.W. and Betty Ann under a post-hypnotic suggestion.  Voltan controls C.W. and makes the insurance investigator use his professional skills and inside information to steal a fortune in jewels from two prominent families that have insured their treasure with North Coast.  With the police after him for the robberies, will C.W. ever get a clue that he’s a hypnotized dupe?

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is Woody Allen’s delightful ode to movies from the 1940’s, like his delightful 1987 movie, Radio Days, was.  Jade is a nod to the light mystery films of the 40’s, but here, this material isn’t particularly strong, although the acting is quite good and gives the movie a sense of earnest fun.  The entire cast seems up to recreating both the style and ambience of 40’s era movies and the characters in them, and that’s a credit to Allen’s direction.

Helen Hunt is spicy as Betty Ann Fitzgerald, and she makes an excellent foil for Allen’s C.W. Briggs, who is the typical wisecracking character Allen plays in his comedies.  Charlize Theron glams it up to create the sexy, bold, and randy Laura Kensington, a character with an unfortunately too small part because she gives this flick a much-needed kick in the rear every time she’s on screen.  Brian Markinson, Elizabeth Berkley, and Wallace Shawn also add the right touches to their parts and add flavor to this film.

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion isn’t great Allen, nor is it anywhere nearly as good as Radio Days.  It’s a minor, but good Allen flick that will entertain Allen fans to one extent or another.

6 of 10

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Updated:  Monday, May 19, 2014

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

Friday, June 13, 2014

Review: "Not Another Teen Movie" is Wacky (Happy B'day, Chris Evans)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 108 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Not Another Teen Movie (2001)
Running time:  89 minutes (1 hour, 29 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong crude sexual content and humor, language, and some drug content
DIRECTOR:  Joel Gallen
WRITERS:  Michael G. Bende, Adam Jay Epstein, and Andrew Jacobson and Phil Beauman and Buddy Johnson
PRODUCER:  Neal H. Moritz
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Reynaldo Villalobos (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Steve Welch
COMPOSER:  Theodore Shapiro


Starring:  Chyler Leigh, Chris Evans, Jamie Pressly, Eric Christian Olsen, Mia Kirshner, Deon Richmond, Eric Jungmann, Ron Lester, Cody McMains, Sam Huntington, Joanna Garcia, Lacey Chabert, Samm Levine, Cerina Vincent, Beverly Polcyn, Ed Lauter, Paul Gleason, Mr. T, Molly Ringwald, Samaire Armstrong, Nectar Rose, and Randy Quaid with Nick Bakay, Melissa Joan Hart, and Sean Patrick Thomas

The subject of this movie review is Not Another Teen Movie, a 2001 comedy and parody film.  Not Another Teen Movie is a send-up and spoof of the teen movies that came before it, especially those that appeared in the two decades proceeding Not Another Teen Movie’s release.

When a group of screenwriters is trying to write a movie script that parodies two decades of teen movies, the script could end up packed to the gills from too many film references, and that’s what happens to Not Another Teen Movie.  This flick is a parody of teen movies going back to John Hughes’s Pretty in Pink (1986), but it especially focuses its satirical eye on the wave of the teen films that were released in the second half of the 1990’s.

That was a time when teenagers had so much disposable income because of a booming economy, and the entertainment, food, and apparel industries did everything they could to offer as many product choices as possible to these affluent and relatively affluent teenagers; there certainly was no shortage of films geared towards these youngsters.

In fact the high school that is central to the plot of Not Another Teen Movie, John Hughes High School, is named after filmmaker John Hughes, who came to prominence in the 1980’s with such popular teen flicks as Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club (1985).  Not Another Teen Movie is a tale of high school melodrama and sexual shenanigans.  Jake Wyler (Chris Evans, who is also currently playing “Johnny Storm” in Fantastic Four), handsome senior, but disgraced former starting quarterback, takes a bet that he can turn a homely, nerdy girl into the prom queen.

His choice for the girl to transform is Janey Briggs (Chyler Leigh), a dirty poor, white trash girl, who (of course) is extraordinarily beautiful once she’s cleaned up, takes of her glasses, and loosens her hair out of a long ponytail.  They gradually fall for one another; now, Jake and Janey must travel from their inauspicious beginnings and go through 20 years of accumulated teen movie refuse in order to get to their teen movie happy ending.

Not Another Teen Movie parodies or references several John Hughes films and such teen classics as Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), The Goonies (1985), Can’t Hardly Wait (1998), She’s All That (1999), Varsity Blues (1999), plus Clueless, Never Been Kissed, Road Trip, and Ten Things I Hate About You.  Like 2003’s Scary Movie 3 (and the entire Scary Movie franchise, for that matter), Not Another Teen Movie is full of hilarious scenes sprinkled generously over a piss-poor plot and a dead screenplay.  Luckily some of the scenes are either super funny or so totally out of left field that they could blow minds: Chris Evans’ Jake Wyler singing Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun;” Deon Richmond’s Malik, the token black guy running into Sean Patrick Thomas’ unnamed black guy at a party where Malik is supposed to be the only black guy there; and the prom night musical number that is actually sung by the cast.

Moviegoers who have seen at least one teen movie (whether they were a teen at the time or not) going back to Fast Times at Ridgemont High in 1982 will find something they recognize from that sub-genre of films that chronicle the wacky misadventures of high school students.  That makes Not Another Teen Movie a must-see in spite of its flaws.

5 of 10

Updated:  Friday, June 13, 2014

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Special Effects Keeps "Evolution" Going (Happy B'day, Orlando Jones)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 118 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Evolution (2001)
Running time:  101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, and for sci-fi action
DIRECTOR:  Ivan Reitman
WRITERS:  David Diamond and David Weissman, and Don Jakoby; story by Don Jakoby
PRODUCERS:  Daniel Goldberg, Joe Medjuck, and Ivan Reitman
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Michael Chapman (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Wendy Greene Bricmont and Sheldon Kahn
COMPOSER:  John Powell


Starring:  David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott, Ted Levine, Dan Aykroyd, Ethan Suplee, Ty Burrell, Sarah Silverman, and John Cho

The subject of this movie review is Evolution, a 2001 science fiction comedy from director Ivan Reitman.  The film follows four people who are fighting an alien organism that has been rapidly evolving into outlandish creatures ever since its arrival on Earth inside a meteor.

Evolution makes me think of Ghostbusters (the former was released 17 years to the date of the latter’s release).  Maybe, that’s because both films share the same director, Ivan Reitman, and maybe because both films seem to have the same ebb and flow.  While the latter pretty much realized its promise of being a very funny and popular film, the former pretty much failed on both counts.

Dr. Ira Kane (David Duchovny), a biology teacher (and disgraced government employee), and his colleague Harry Block (Orlando Jones) see fame and fortune when firefighter cadet Wayne Grey (Seann William Scott) alerts them to a meteorite that recently crashed into a local cave.  The meteorite emits a bluish fluid, and Dr Kane and Prof. Block are shocked to discover that the fluid contains many single-cell organisms that are evolving before their very eyes.  The alien life forms evolve and adapt at such an incredible rate (into countless wonderful animal-like forms) that they threaten to prove Charles Darwin right – the strongest will survive and they will take over the world.  When the military suddenly arrives, they only make matters worse.  Of course, it’s up to Kane, Block, Grey, and sexy government scientist Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore) to save the world from the fate of this alien evolution.

This film has two things going for it, the comedic performances of the actors and the special effects.  Reitman, a veteran of many excellent funny movies, leans on the latter for his new film.  Whereas Ghostbusters used SFX in service of a great cast of funnymen, Evolution seems enthralled by the CGI technology that didn’t exist at the time of Ghostbusters.  Weird animal aliens fun amok in this film, some resembling dinosaurs and wild animals, others resembling slugs and worms.  I was impressed by the visual finesse of the special effects, but I’d hoped that the movie would be funnier, but it only managed to be lukewarm.

The cast only manages to be really on their game for about half of the film’s running time.  Seann William Scott and Orlando Jones are seemingly inspired, but Reitman doesn’t really let them reach the heights of which they are capable.  Duchovny plays it a bit too cool, but at times he is bursting at the seams to really let his funny side loose.  Ms. Moore is almost reduced to being the pretty female attachment, which is an utter waste when one considers are tremendous acting talent.  Maybe, she isn’t a comedic actress, but she can do more than just be the female costar.

Occasionally intriguing, sometimes pleasant, and infrequently exciting, Evolution is sadly another mediocre film that only lazily aimed at being special.  The filmmakers either didn’t put in the work required to make this film really good, or despite their best efforts, they assembled enough defective parts to ruin what could have been a good film.

5 of 10

Updated:  Thursday, April 10, 2014

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

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: "Super Troopers" Can Be Funny (Happy B'day, Jay Chandrasekhar)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 36 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

Super Troopers (2001)
Running time:  100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, sexual content and drug use
DIRECTOR:  Jay Chandrasekhar
WRITERS:  Broken Lizard (Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske)
PRODUCER:  Richard Perello
EDITORS:  Jumbulingam (Jay Chandrasekhar), Jacob Craycroft, and Kevin Heffernan
COMPOSERS:  38 Special


Starring:  Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Marisa Coughlan, Brian Cox, Daniel van Bargen, Michael Weaver, Dan Fey, Jim Gaffigan, and Lynda Carter

The subject of this movie review is Super Troopers, a 2001 comedy starring the comedy troupe, Broken Lizard, and directed by member, Jay Chandrasekhar.  The film focuses on five Vermont state troopers, who are pranksters and screws ups, trying to outperform an overachieving local police department.  Although Super Troopers was shown at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, it did not receive a national U.S. theatrical release (by Fox Searchlight Pictures) until 2002.

Movie reviewers often take the easy road or the high-minded road when they opine on what we film lovers call the guilty pleasure – the bad movie that is “really (seriously, now) entertaining.”  So a movie often has to be taken for what it is, and what it is may not amount to very much.  Perhaps the filmmakers were expressing themselves in the only way they knew.  They were being themselves or being true to their game.  Or maybe speaking in their own voices and not in someone else’s voice, and they made a movie just to have a silly time.

This is Super Troopers, and for the sake of the usual argument, this is a poorly constructed movie.  It’s way too long, has a poor story, a predictable plot and premise, a boring setting, and is set in an indeterminate time, etc.

The plot, in which the appealing underdogs must overcome the overachieving jerks in order to save their low rent livelihoods, is the stiff upon which this cast hangs their act, and the act is the show.

Broken Lizard is a New York and Los Angeles based comedy troop made up of this movie’s director and his co-writers.  The movie is merely a vehicle for their uproarious act.  I’ve never seen them onstage, but, based upon this funny (no, really) film, I’m anxious to taste them.  They are difficult to categorize.  They aren’t slackers, because they lack the phony Gen X cool, and they aren’t thugs, ruffians, and lowlifes.  Goofy and dumb doesn’t quite fit.

They’re like regulars guys, and their extreme antics are their means to wile away the extreme boredom, continued dullness, and constant pain-in-the-ass throb of life.  Their sexual antics are loud without being raunchy.  Their act is harmful, but like “Beavis and Butthead” and “Bart Simpson,” they are mostly harmful to themselves.  Broken Lizard comes across as regular guys having a way too wild time.

When you watch Super Troopers, you can forget about what a movie is supposed to be like and what’s supposed to be in a movie, you just have a great time laughing at these clowns.

Yeah, maybe the show does go on a bit too long, as if Broken Lizard is not aware that as funny as they are, they can wear out their welcome, but that doesn’t take away from the fun, not by much.

6 of 10

Updated:  Wednesday, April 09, 2014

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

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Review: Reese Witherspoon is the Heart of "Legally Blonde" (Happy B'day, Reese Witherspoon)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 115 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Legally Blonde (2001)
Running time:  96 minutes (1 hour, 36 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for language and sexual references
DIRECTOR:  Robert Luketic
WRITERS:  Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith (based upon the novel by Amanda Brown)
PRODUCERS:  Ric Kidney and Marc Platt
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Anthony B. Richmond (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Anita Brandt Burgoyne and Garth Craven
COMPOSER:  Rolfe Kent
Golden Globe nominee

COMEDY with elements of romance

Starring:  Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber, Jennifer Coolidge, Holland Taylor, Ali Larter, Bruce Thomas, and Raquel Welch

The subject of this movie review is Legally Blonde, a 2001 comedy starring Reese Witherspoon.  The film is based on the 2001 novel, Legally Blonde, from author Amanda Brown.  The film focuses on a blonde sorority queen who follows her ex-boyfriend to law school after he dumps her and discovers that she has more legal savvy than she or anyone ever imagined.

Legally Blonde is trash.  Let’s get that straight, so we don’t fool ourselves.  Another fish out of water story with the stereotypical dumb blonde, sorority/fraternity cardboard cutouts, Ivy League elitists, lecherous bosses etc.  It does have one redeeming element – the incomparable and very talented Reese Witherspoon.

Ms. Witherspoon is Elle Wood, a blonde sorority queen, fully prepared to receive an engagement ring from her boyfriend Warner (Matthew Davis), when he suddenly dumps her, pleading that he needs someone smarter than her – someone who would better fit his law career and political ambitions.  Elle decides to follow Warner to Harvard Law School in order to win him back.  Of course, Harvard admits her so that we can even have a movie, although, in reality, they would have ignored her.  But one can understand that Reese/Elle’s charm and bubbly personality not mention her knockout body, would win over even the most conservative and pickiest college admissions officers.

Ms. Witherspoon is a talented actress, and, not only is she likeable, she is outright engaging and has an aura of pure friendliness.  Her movies are a win-win situation for the audience.  Legally Blonde is unadulterated B-movie material that she elevates to uproarious comedy.  Being funny isn’t enough.  The audience has to like her, and she has to sell them on her personality because the movie is all about her.  She does the job winningly.  Notice how I can’t stop gushing.

What else is there to say?  Sometimes, the star is the movie, and the star is so good that she can make a diamond out of a handful of coal dust.  Even when the movie stumbles, Ms. Witherspoon is still a delight to watch.

6 of 10

2002 Golden Globe (USA):  2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” (Reese Witherspoon)

Updated:  Saturday, March 22, 2014

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

Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: "Corky Romano" Has Enjoyable Cheap Laughs (Happy B'day, Fred Ward)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 140 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Corky Romano (2001)
Running time:  86 minutes (1 hour, 26 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for drug and sex-related humor, and for language
DIRECTOR:  Rob Pritts
WRITERS:  David Garrett and Jason Ward
PRODUCER:  Robert Simonds
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Steven Bernstein (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Alan Cody
COMPOSER:  Randy Edelman


Starring:  Chris Kattan, Vinessa Shaw, Peter Falk, Peter Berg, Chris Penn, Richard Roundtree, Fred Ward, Matthew Glave, Roger Fan, Dave Sheridan, Vincent Pastore, and Kip King

The subject of this movie review is Corky Romano, a 2001 crime-mafia comedy.  The film stars “Saturday Night Live” alumnus, Chris Kattan, as the loser son of a low-level Mafia boss forced to infiltrate the FBI.

Bad movies can be hilarious, eliciting countless belly laughs; sometimes they can be uproarious, which is the case with the Chris Kattan vehicle Corky Romano.  The writers filled the scripts with such implausibility (the central premise of a bumbling idiot infiltrating the Federal Bureau of Investigation stretches the imagination; then, again, who thought 9/11 could happen?), so one must really suspend disbelief.  Chris Kattan, an excellent physical comedian, probably as good as Jim Carrey, firmly takes control of this rickety movie.  He manipulates his co-stars as ably as he maneuvers his body and makes Corky Romano quite funny.

Corky (Chris Kattan) is an assistant veterinarian with dreams of being a licensed vet.  His father “Pops” Romano (Peter Falk) is a wealthy low-rent hood specializing in rackets and gambling, but some unknown person has implicated Pops on murder charges.  The feds are after him, and he’s facing hard time (in the typical “upstate” prison).  He and his sons Paulie (Peter Berg) and Peter (Chris Penn) have hatched a plan to have Corky infiltrate the local FBI office the way the feds have obviously penetrated the Romanos’ operations.  Paulie, a functional illiterate, and Peter, a closet homosexual, have no faith in their brother Corky, but they assist him in his mission to pass as an agent of the FBI and retrieve whatever incriminating evidence they have on Pops.

Once inside, Corky, through the usual movie luck, misunderstanding, and being in the wrong place at the right time somehow convince the feds that he’s a topnotch agent.  His boss Howard Shuster (Richard Roundtree) loves him, and Corky catches the eye of a comely, young FBI wench, Agent Kate Russo (Vinessa Shaw), who is, of course, trying to show the guys that she’s just as good as any male agent.  While most of his colleagues think that Corky is the not only the real deal, but a great G-man, Agent Brick Davis (Matthew Glave) is a rival with Corky for Shuster’s attention and approval, and he out to prove that Corky is a phony.

If you set your brain on dumb, you’ll have a great time because Corky is an very good, bad movie.  Although it’s short on the kind of grossness one can expect from the American Pie and Austin Powers films, Corky Romano has it’s share of bizarreness.  All the male characters in the film really crave the attention of their male peers and associates (in addition to the whole father-son-mentor subtext), and there is a not-too-subtle gay subtext of physical attraction between men, not to mention that certain male characters are always paired together.  Either way, Corky Romano is many cheap laughs, and sometimes, that is hard to find in many movies that claim to be funny.

5 of 10

Updated:  Monday, December 30, 2013

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review: "Black Knight" is a Black Mark on Martin Lawrence's Career (Happy B'day, Tom Wilkinson)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 40 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

Black Knight (2001)
Running time:  95 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for language, sexual/crude humor and battle violence
DIRECTOR:  Gil Junger
WRITERS:  Darryl J. Quarles, Peter Gaulke, and Gerry Swallow
PRODUCERS:  Michael Green, Arnon Milchan, Darryl J. Quarles, and Paul Schiff
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ueli Steiger (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Michael R. Miller
COMPOSER:  Randy Edelman


Starring:  Martin Lawrence, Marsha Thomason, Tom Wilkinson, Vincent Regan, Daryl Mitchell, Michael Countryman, Kevin Conway, and Jeannette Weggar

The subject of this movie review is Black Knight, a 2001 comedy starring Martin Lawrence and directed by Gil Junger.  At the time this film was produced, Junger had primarily directed episodes of television series such as Living Single and Ellen.  This movie is also loosely based on Mark Twain’s novel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889).  In Black Knight, Lawrence plays an amusement park employee who awakens to find himself in 14th century England after an accident.

Black Knight is a really bad movie, and I mean “bad” in its pejorative sense.  There’s nothing cool or hip about it, and Martin Lawrence could lose much of his street credibility behind this garbage.  He goes out of his way to harangue, embarrass, and make fun of people (his comedian’s job, I guess), and then he makes a dog like this.  Who’s dumb, now?

Those moments in the movie that might illicit a chuckle are so few and far between that a viewer could be too tired to laugh by the time he found anything worth a guffaw.  The movie is a star vehicle, one of the those movies made especially as a showcase to further the career and star power of its lead actor, so it’s not supposed to be art – just a commercial property; many star vehicles are.  However, this thing is practically impossible to watch, and it could turn people off Lawrence for a long time, if not forever.  All it takes is a few bombs like this, and people are wary of paying the high cost of a movie ticket to see a movie star’s latest work.  Ask Eddie Murphy.

A fish out of water story, Lawrence plays Jamal Walker aka Skywalker, an employee at a medieval theme park, who through some kind of accident, ends up in 14th century England.  Bare with me.  A despot, King (of England, I guess) Leo (Kevin Conway) comes to believe that Jamal is a Moor (that would explain his dusky complexion) who is a messenger from Normandy sent to herald some kind of Norman delegation.  To complicate matters, Jamal falls for Victoria the Chambermaid (Marsha Thomason), a black woman (if they can pass off Jamal’s presence, they can pass off hers) who is leading a covert assassination attempt against King Leo.

Okay.  In time travel stories, especially ones in which African-Americans are in lands where they were unlikely to be in a particular era, require a huge, willing suspension of disbelief.  And we know that the extreme cultural differences between the denizens of 14th century England and Jamal would ostensibly allow Martin to be very funny – the hip black man versus the so unhip, bland, not streetwise white medieval folks.  The premise might have sounded very funny when the writers first discussed it, laughing while they sat around smoking pot, drinking expensive liquor, or nursing a pile of coke on the living room table.  But tragedy struck when the premise became an awful script and Martin, probably awash in personal and mental problems, just couldn’t get his funny up.

Better luck next time.

1 of 10

2002 Black Reel Awards:  1 nomination: “Theatrical - Best Screenplay-Original or Adapted (Darryl J. Quarles and Peter Gaulke)

Updated:  Thursday, December 12, 2013

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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: "Rush Hour 2" Improves on the Original (Happy B'day, Chris Tucker)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 113 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Rush Hour 2 (2001)
Running time:  90 minutes (1 hour, 30 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for action violence, language, and some sexual content
DIRECTOR:  Brett Ratner
WRITER:  Jeff Nathanson (based upon the characters created by Ross LaManna)
PRODUCERS:  Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman, Arthur Sarkissian, and Jay Stern
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Matthew F. Leonetti
EDITORS:  Mark Helfrich and Robert K. Lambert
COMPOSER:  Lalo Schifrin


Starring:  Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, John Lone, Ziyi Zhang, Roselyn Sanchez, Harris Yulin, Alan King, Jeremy Piven, Saul Rubinek, and Gianni Russo with Don Cheadle

The subject of this movie review is Rush Hour 2, a crime comedy and action film from director Brett Ratner and starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.  The film is a sequel to the 1998 film, Rush Hour.  In the new film, Chan’s Lee and Tucker’s Carter are on vacation in Hong Kong when they get caught up in a counterfeit money scam.

Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) is once again the foil for Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) as Carter comes to Hong Kong on vacation and spends much time subjecting Lee to verbal barbs.  The rest and relaxation is cut short when an explosion kills two American agents.  Lee learns that this case may be tied to crime boss Ricky Tan (John Lone).

Tan is a former policeman and was the partner of Lee’s father until Tan betrayed him.  Lee and Carter follow the case back to Los Angeles, where they meet Isabella Molina (Roselyn Sanchez), a sexy customs agent.  Isabella informs them that Tan is part of an international scheme to launder 100 million dollars in counterfeit U.S. currency.  Lee and Carter head to Las Vegas, the epicenter of Tan’s scheme, for an explosive showdown.

Rush Hour 2 is Rush Hour, but with some improvements.  The screen chemistry between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, which was quite good in the first film, is even better this time around.  It’s as if three years haven’t passed between the first film and this one.  They have a near-flawless rhythm and flow, and their performances turn this flimsy joke of a crime plot into action/comedy gold.  Rush Hour 2 does have one big problem – there’s not enough of it.

7 of 10

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Updated:  Saturday, August 31, 2013

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


Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: "Scary Movie 2" Bad and Funny

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 9 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

Scary Movie 2 (2001)
Running time: 83 minutes (1 hour, 23 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong sexual and gross humor, graphic language and some drug content
DIRECTOR: Keenan Ivory Wayans
WRITERS: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Alyson Fouse, Greg Grabianski, Dave Polsky, Michael Anthony Snowden, and Craig Wayans (based upon characters created by Shawn and Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer)
PRODUCER: Eric L. Gold
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Steven Bernstein (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Tom Nordberg, Richard Pearson, and Peter Teschner


Starring: Anna Faris, Marlon Wayans, James DeBello, Shawn Wayans, David Cross, Regina Hall, Christopher Masterson, Tim Curry, Kathleen Robertson, Chris Elliot, James Woods, Andy Richter, Tori Spelling, and Natasha Lyonne

The subject of this movie review is Scary Movie 2, a 2001 comedy and parody film. Directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans, this movie is a sequel to the 2001 hit film, Scary Movie, and is a spoof of horror-thriller films.

The four survivors from the first Scary Movie: heroine Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris), gay jock Ray Wilkins (Shawn Wayans), pot head Shorty Meeks (Marlon Wayans), and his sister Brenda (Regina Hall) endanger themselves again when a college instructor, Professor Oldman (Tim Curry), and his wheelchair bound assistant, Dwight Hartman (David Cross), recruit them to spend the weekend in an old mansion called Hell House for a research project on insomnia. Cindy’s new admirer Buddy (Christopher Kennedy Masterson), Theo (Tori Spelling), and hottie Jamie Lee Curtisto (Kathleen Robertson) join them for the hijinks.

If a really bad movie can be really hilarious, this one is. How bad is it, one might ask? Well, that wouldn’t be a rhetorical question. The filmmakers nearly discard story and plot and replace them with dumb sight gags and gross humor, primarily of the bodily functions and bodily fluids type.

Directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans, Scary Movie 2 is at times quite funny, even hilarious; at other times, it is embarrassing in it over reliance on bodily fluids and sex jokes. After seeing a masturbation scene, simulated oral sex, an appearance by Lester “Beetlejuice” Green, one can only wonder if the filmmakers used a single 13-year-old American boy’s brain to create this film and passed it around during production.

Director Wayans specializes in taking scenes from other movies and parodying them with visual puns and gags, and he continues that here. He has become over time more skilled at stringing together longer strands of gags in lieu of story in his movies. He isn’t a strong storyteller. When the jokes run out, his movies rapidly run out of energy, as was the case in the I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.

Utilizing as many joke and gag writers as Walt Disney does for its animated films, Wayans turns his movie into a dirty joke book, and certainly doesn’t get the smart and sassy results Disney gets in one of its films. The plot, about a weekend experiment in proving life after death or some such lie, is merely a weak idea upon which to hang this film’s nasty proceedings. The story, if written, would only be a few lines in length, and the plot is merely a path by which Wayans and his accomplices laid out the yucks and giggles.

Small roles by James Woods and Chris Elliot are painfully embarrassing to watch, so filled with vileness and sickness as they are. Still, this movie has moments that are truly uproariously funny, and this makes the movie slyly attractive. The filmmakers certainly succeeded in making a funny movie, but they chase off many viewers with their determination to be hardcore funky. Most of the cast is actually up to the task of making the movie be what it’s supposed to be. Do we dare call that good acting?

What else is there to say? Scary Movie 2 is really bad and really funny. But beware; it is a humor that turns off many viewers.

5 of 10

Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: "Jurassic Park III" is a Third of the Original Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 2 (of 2001) by Leroy Douresseaux

Jurassic Park III (2001)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror and violence
DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston
WRITERS: Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor (based on characters created by Michael Crichton)
PRODUCERS: Larry J. Franco and Kathleen Kennedy
EDITOR: Robert Dalva
Razzie Award nominee


Starring: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, John Diehl, Bruce A. Young, and Laura Dern

The subject of this movie review is Jurassic Park III, a 2001 science fiction and dinosaur movie from director Joe Johnston. Steven Spielberg, who directed the first two films in the Jurassic Park franchise, executive produced this film. Although musical themes by John Williams, who composed the music for the first two films, are used, Don Davis provides the musical score for Jurassic Park III.

Jurassic Park III is purely and simply product; it is created and delivered to its consumers in the form of movies, toys, and interactive media. The movie is a quick, chaotic thrill, that attempts to waste nothing via tight, concise action and storytelling and wastes all its potential to be a really good movie in an attempt to make sure no one gets too long a glance and at this scared, awkward baby.

Based more on the Steven Spielberg directed 1993 original than the 1997 Spielberg follow up The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2, this movie stars Sam Neill who reprises his role from the original as Dr. Alan Grant. William H. Macy and Tea Leoni play a divorced couple that tricks Dr. Grant into finding their son (Trevor Morgan) who is presumed missing on an island used by InGen, the dinosaur creating frankencorp, to produce dino specimens for their dino theme parks.

The cast, led by, Neill is up to the task of making a really good film. Neill is earnest and believable as Grant, and the character fits him like old, familiar clothes. Macy is always a pleasure to watch. His Paul Kirby is a weak, flawed and disingenuous man who climbs out of the morass of wimp hood into manhood as the film progress. Leoni’s Amanda Kirby is equally up to the task of transformation, and that is shocking. She is a likeable actress, but she is usually one note only; it was refreshing to see her play a character that can actually grow as the movie progresses. Morgan as their son Eric and Alessandro Nivola as Grant’s assistant Billy Brennan are also both fully fleshed three-dimensional characters. The viewer cares about these characters, and we cringe when they are in danger as much as we cheer them on their quest for survival.

These wonderful characters are the mark of strong writing, but what does go wrong? Johnston is a capable director and has shown the ability to control the pace of an SFX film that could get out of control in less skilled hands, as he did in Jumanji (1995). It seems as if the movie is hung on a thin, thread. Its premise is a basic and quick “get in, snatch and grab, get out.” The creators are blessed with even more knowledge about dinosaurs than its two predecessors, as well as SFX (special effects) and CGI (computer generated imagery) capabilities that surpass the original's (a movie that is still as good today as it was back in 1993).

One gets the sense that the filmmakers were very concerned about making a short movie, one in which the audience would not get to restless. That’s understandable. No matter how good the computer and effects work get, or how much new technology dates the original, any follow up to Jurassic Park cannot have the impact that the original did. Every dino sighting in the first film was a thrill; it was like discovering a whole new world. Jurassic Park was and will always be a landmark of cinema, a testament to both Spielberg’s savvy and skill and a testament to Hollywood SFX men, the special ones who always introduce us to something that we never thought we’d see on the big screen. They show us the amazing and do it with such class, quality, and skill that they leave us breathless and speechless and wanting more.

So how can part three compete with that? The sequel deals with it by running away from trying to be something special. It scampers through the dino-infested jungle of its predecessors like a madman, as afraid of its own shadow as it is of the raptors.

Granted that the characters are fighting for their lives, they rarely take the time to stop and observe something that would and should leave them speechless. A hallmark of the first was how the characters could be both fascinated and horrified by the wonderful things before them. They’re seeing real living breathing dinosaurs, and they’re only mildly interested. Yes, they’re genetic replicants, but these dinos are as close to the real thing as they’ll probably ever see. Even Dr. Grant didn’t seem too awed by the appearance of this film’s giant predator villain, the Spinosaurus, which runs through the film like a clumsy, wrecking bawl, screeching and slobbering all over the proceedings. Even the new look raptors mostly seem to be stiff and nervous models on the runway of an annual Paris toy show.

Through all this, one can see the skill and talent of Johnston and his writers, which includes Alexander Payne, the auteur of the (sadly) ignored Election. Even in a quick 90 minutes, one can see the quality of the work of the cast and crew. It’s a shame we got a truncated Reader’s Digest version of a story that could have been so much more. Still, it was as nice a treat as one can expect from a summer movie.

6 of 10

2002 Razzie Awards: 1 nomination: “Worst Remake or Sequel”


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Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: "The Fellowship of the Ring" is Still a Great Start to a Trilogy

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 5 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Running time: 178 minutes (2 hours, 58 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for epic battle sequences and some scary images
DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson
WRITERS: Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson (based upon the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien)
PRODUCERS: Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, Tim Sanders, and Fran Walsh
EDITOR: John Gilbert
COMPOSER: Howard Shore
Academy Award winner


Starring: Elijah Woods, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchette, Sala Baker, John Rhys-Davies, Ian Holm, Craig Parker, Andy Serkis, and (voice) Alan Howard

The subject of this movie review is The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, a 2001 fantasy film from director Peter Jackson. The film is the first of three movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s three-novel cycle, The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), specifically the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954).

In the adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkein’s novel The Fellowship of the Ring, a hobbit named Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood, The Ice Storm) inherits a ring from his famous uncle Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm, The Sweet Hereafter). When a wizard named Gandalf (Ian McKellen, X-Men and Gods and Monsters), who is a friend of the family, discovers that the ring is in fact the One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron, the ring must be taken to the place of its creation, the Cracks of Doom, the only place where the ring can be destroyed. That task falls upon the shoulders of Frodo.

Three fellow hobbits join Frodo on his quest, including one who becomes very close to him, Samwise “Sam” Gamgee (Sean Astin, Rudy). Before long the group becomes nine, a Fellowship to take the ring to the Cracks of Doom so that Frodo can destroy it. However, great evil besets them in the form of Gandalf’s mentor Saruman the White (the great Christopher Lee), who is now on the side of darkness, and his army of mighty Orcs, who serve the rings original dark owner, Sauron (voice of Sala Baker). Obstacles, great dangers, horribly evils, and death confront the Fellowship every step of their quest.

Directed by Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures, The Frighteners), The Fellowship of the Ring is the first of three films each released a year apart that will comprise the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even within budget constraints, Jackson has always proved himself to be an inventive and imaginative director. Like a painter, his canvases are well planned and constructed, and he does not waste shots; every frame seems important to the larger work.

He previous experience in dark fantasy, horror, and the weird made him an ideal choice to direct a film version of Tolkein’s sprawling epic, and Jackson delivers a nearly three hour film that is both visceral and subdued. An epic as good as any every delivered by a Hollywood studio, it captures the imagination while keeping the viewer nearly unawares of its length.

Nearly, that is. It’s a bit of hubris on Jackson and on New Line Cinema, Lord’s studio, to assume that an audience will tolerate Fellowship’s abrupt ending simply because the story is “to be continued” next year. The beginning, middle, and end of LOTR’s story are actually three separate films, not one film. It isn’t that FOTR’s ending is bad, just presumptuous of our patience and acceptance that this movie is like a serial. We will have to wait over two years to get the entire story.

These are certainly minor complaints in light of what Jackson delivers. He has a fine cast of actors, and the characters that he took from the novel he has made into excellent cinematic characters. The work of his SFX group creates nearly flawless special effects shots. Using New Zealand as the Middle Earth location of the stories is a wonderful choice. Between special effects and creative camera work, Jackson has created a world that is itself a character. Jackson and his fellow screenwriters Frances Walsh (a frequent collaborator of Jackson’s) and Philippa Boyens have created an excellent script makes the battle of good and evil unambiguous and quite compelling. Although the characters’ desires and personalities may occasionally straddle a gray area, what is right is clearly defined from what is wrong. That’s always the case regardless of character motivations and goals; moral relativism is kicked to the curb.

While he has made it highly emotional and thoughtful at its heart, Jackson has also managed to make a war and action movie. He juggles genres like fantasy, comedy, drama, and war and weaves them into an epic. The movie, both its back-story and the main story, spans time, has multiple locations and environments, and has a wealth of characters. Visually pleasing and intellectual thoughtful, it is one of the best films in recent memories, a grand fantasy that captures the imagination on a deeper level (than say The Phantom Menace) like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. We can only hope that the two follow-ups are this good.

Go see this film.

9 of 10

2002 Academy Awards: 4 wins: “Best Cinematography” (Andrew Lesnie), “Best Effects, Visual Effects” (Jim Rygiel, Randall William Cook, Richard Taylor, and Mark Stetson), “Best Makeup” (Peter Owen and Richard Taylor), and “Best Music, Original Score” (Howard Shore); 9 nominations: “Best Picture” (Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, and Fran Walsh), “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Ian McKellen), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Grant Major-art director and Dan Hennah-set decorator), “Best Costume Design” (Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor), “Best Director” (Peter Jackson), “Best Film Editing” (John Gilbert), “Best Music, Original Song” (Enya, Nicky Ryan, Roma Ryan for the song "May It Be"), “Best Sound” (Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Gethin Creagh, and Hammond Peek), “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson)

2002 BAFTA Awards: 5 wins: “Best Film” (Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, and Tim Sanders), “Audience Award,” “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (Jim Rygiel, Richard Taylor, Alex Funke, Randall William Cook, and Mark Stetson), “Best Make Up/Hair” (Peter Owen, Peter King and Richard Taylor), “David Lean Award for Direction” (Peter Jackson); 9 nominations: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Howard Shore), “BAFTA Children's Award Best Feature Film” (Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh, and Tim Sanders), “Best Cinematography” (Andrew Lesnie), “Best Costume Design” (Ngila Dickson), “Best Editing” (John Gilbert), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Ian McKellen), “Best Production Design’ (Grant Major), “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson), “Best Sound” (David Farmer, Hammond Peek, Christopher Boyes, Gethin Creagh, Michael Semanick, Ethan Van der Ryn, and Mike Hopkins)

2002 Golden Globes, USA: 4 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Peter Jackson), “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Howard Shore), and “Best Original Song - Motion Picture (Enya for the song "May It Be")



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Friday, October 26, 2012

"The Mummy Returns" with the Same Old Fun

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 22 (of 2001) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Mummy Returns (2001)
Running time: 130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for adventure action and violence
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Stephen Sommers
PRODUCERS: Sean Daniel and James Jacks
EDITOR: Ray Bushey III, Bob Ducsay, and Kelly Matsumoto
COMPOSER: Alan Silvestri


Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, The Rock, Freddie Boath, Patricia Velasquez, and Shaun Parkes

The subject of this movie reviews is The Mummy Returns, a 2001 adventure and fantasy film from director Stephen Sommers. It is a direct sequel to the 1999 film, The Mummy.

It is 1933, ten years after the events of the 1999 film, The Mummy. The British Museum Curator (Alun Armstrong) has shipped the mummified body of the first film’s villain, Lord Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), to England. He and his partner, Meela Nais, a girl who is the reincarnated body of Imhotep’s ancient love, Anck-su-namun (Patricia Velazquez) have plans to resurrect the Mummy to conquer the world. They’ve set their sights on the army of Anubis; combined with Imhotep’s power and Anubis’s forces, they can rule the world. However, the army belongs to the Scorpion King (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who Imhotep must defeat to control Anubis monstrous legions.

Standing in the way of the Mummy, his conspirators, and the Scorpion King, is the gang from the first movie. American adventurer Richard “Rick” O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) is married to Evelyn “Evie” Carnahan-O’Connell (Rachel Weisz). The have a 9 year old son Alexander “Alex” O’Connell (Freddie Boath), and Evie’s brother John Carnahan (John Hannah) is still around and up to no good. When the villains attack the O’Connell’s palatial London estate and Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr) arrives in time for the home invasion, the gang is all set to return to the sands of Egypt to save the world from the forces of darkness. And there is some weird reincarnation and avatar plot elements to boot added to the mixture.

Directed by Stephen Sommers, the director and co-writer of the first film, The Mummy Returns is more of a fantasy/adventure with elements of horror than its predecessor, which was equal parts horror, fantasy, and adventure. The first winked and nodded at Raiders of the Lost Ark, but Returns is Raiders-lite, much more sugar coated than Raiders or The Mummy.

The effects are not so much dazzling as they are neat. In the first film, Imhotep raised a gigantic wall of sand with his visage on the face of the sand wall; in this film, he does the same trick with a wall of water. Both are impressive, but the second one seems more paint by number, simply because it’s done to repeat the sand trick of the first film. It’s one of many SFX shots meant to up the ante of the first movie. In the jaded world of popcorn cinema, the audience has seen so much that the makers of bam-socko movies have to always top what’s come before.

The acting is over the top, but quite functional; they know what they’re supposed to do and no actor lets his artistic ego get in the way of making thoughtless fun. And this movie is indeed fun, if not a little too long. The Mummy Returns careens madly across the screen like a ball in a pinball machine. Whereas the first was more coherent and a little scarier, this one is a thrill ride designed to have the feel of video game or a cat and mouse chase.

Sommers does his job quite well; like his cast, he doesn’t intrude artistically on the need for mindless entertainment. His gift is his ability to steer this bucking bronco of a movie. I don’t know if he can use the camera with any panache or creative skill, but he can make an above average, sit-back-and-be-entertained film that is neither too dumb nor too smart, to leave a bad aftertaste in the mouth, or any after taste for that matter – a good home video rental.

5 of 10

Friday, October 19, 2012

Morgan Freeman Quite Good (of course) in "Along Came a Spider"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 15 (of 2001) by Leroy Douresseaux

Along Came a Spider (2001)
Running time: 104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence and language
DIRECTOR: Lee Tamahori
WRITER: Marc Moss (based upon the novel by James Patterson)
PRODUCERS: David Brown and Joe Wizan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew F. Leonetti
EDITOR: Neil Travis
COMPOSER: Jerry Goldsmith


Starring: Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Dylan Baker, Mika Boreem, Anton Yelchin, Kimberly Hawthorne, Jay O. Sanders, Billy Burke, Penelope Ann Miller, Anna Maria Hosford, and Michael Moriarty

The subject of this movie review is Along Came a Spider, a 2001 crime thriller and police procedural directed by Lee Tamahori and starring Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross. The film is adapted from James Patterson’s 1993 novel, Along Came a Spider, which was the first Alex Cross novel. However, the second Cross novel, Kiss the Girls (1995), was the first to be filmed, in 1997 and also starring Freeman.

When a teacher at a private school kidnaps a Congressman’s daughter right under the Secret Service’s nose, Detective Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) must find the child. The clever kidnapper, named Gary Soneji (Michael Wincott), sucks Alex into the case to make a name for himself. Alex must be sharp as ever in the game against an insane opponent though he still grieves for his partner who was recently killed during a stake out.

Along Came a Spider is a follow-up of sorts to Kiss the Girls, a previous film adaptation of a James Patterson novel, which also featured the Alex Cross, an African-American, Washington D.C. detective and profiler. While the latter film was slow and clunky, Along Came a Spider is brisk and breezy, and maybe a little too much of that at times, but a better effort than its predecessor. It certainly doesn’t seem like one of those numerous Silence of the Lambs copycats.

Director Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) chases Cross around the Washington locales, but the locales are window dressings behind the mind and presence of Cross. Freeman is of course, brilliant and convincing as Cross. Freeman plays him as sensitive, brave, earthy, and a rough neck when he has to be. Freeman, alone as the best American actor before Kevin Spacey exploded, is worth the price of admission, and Tamahori knows this. Tamahori is good, and he realizes how to capture on film the tension and detail of Patterson’s giant novels. Adapting a Patterson police procedural is difficult, but Tamahori and writer Marc Moss distill the novel’s spirit into Cross. The audience then has to read the story through Cross via his actions and personality. A lesser actor would be lost in converting the text of the novel into film; Freeman is up to the task and is the storyteller as much as, or perhaps more so than, Tamahori and Moss.

Although mostly driven by Cross’s character, Spider allows Soneji some good moments of his own. Cross’s tag along partner, Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter) slyly dominates quite a bit of the film with her ambiguous and plastic facial expressions. The victim, Megan Rose (Mike Boreem), has an endearing personality. As Rose, Ms. Boreem is the rare child thespian, an actor and not a pretender. She convinces that she is as smart, as brave, and as spunky as the character is supposed to be.

While on the surface Along Came a Spider is a by the numbers hunt and chase story in which the quarry is one of those mad genius criminals, it is a tour de force of Freeman’s screen presence. Not high art in and of itself, it is good Hollywood product. The art is in Freeman’s talent, and worth repeated viewings just for the man.

6 of 10

2002 Image Awards: 1 nomination: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Morgan Freeman)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: "Monster's Ball" Retains Its Dark Power (Happy B'day, Halle Berry)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 17 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

Monster’s Ball (2001)
Running time: 111 minutes (1 hour, 51 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong sexual content, language, and violence
DIRECTOR: Marc Forster
WRITERS: Milo Addica and Will Rokos
PRODUCER: Lee Daniels
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roberto Schaefer (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Matt Cheese
COMPOSERS: Asche and Spencer with Chris Beaty
Academy Award winner


Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Peter Boyle Buck Grotowski, Heath Ledger, Coronji Calhoun, Sean Combs, Mos Def, and John McConnell

The subject of this movie review is Monster’s Ball, a 2001 romantic drama from director Marc Forster. The film is best remembered for Halle Barry winning the Academy Award for Best Actress, the first black actress in a leading role to win the award.

Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thorton) is a racist prison guard who works on death row. As he followed his father Buck (Peter Boyle) into the profession, so has his own son Sonny (Heath Ledger, The Patriot) followed him as a prison guard. When Sonny botches the “last walk” of a condemned black man, Lawrence Musgrove (Sean “P. Diddy” Combs), Hank and Sonny fallout and a brutal physical confrontation with tragic consequences. Hank meets and falls in love with Lawrence’s widow Leticia (Halle Berry) who also loses her son Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun). Their relationship confuses and conflicts them as they awkwardly seek their way towards love for each other.

Monster’s Ball is one of those films that does not work as entertainment so much as it explores the storytelling possibilities of a visual medium. Directed by the little known Marc Forster, the film is tightly directed, every frame is of importance to the story. Forster’s visual panache recalls Steven Soderberg’s bold indie feature sex, lies and videotape, and Forster takes great care in steering away from formula storytelling.

The script by Milo Addica and Will Rokos occasionally plays fast and loose with credulity. The viewer really has to suspend disbelief during several scenes. What saves the story is the gritty realism that permeates the script. The writers trust the visual communication of the film, but don’t rely on glitz and glamour to prettify the story. The screenwriters understand that the director and the cast will contribute as well. The screenplay is blueprint and a drama as well.

The acting is superb. Too watch these fairly well known actors open themselves up to what must surely be alien lives and idea is breath taking. Nothing that Heath Ledger has done to date has been this good. His Sonny is both an angel and a martyr; his youthful and clean face is a glimmer of hope extinguished by the pain of his family’s sordid past. Peter Boyle has a long career of making great characters, and his portrayal, as Hank’s racist senile father is another creation well played.

The star crossed and cursed lovers of the film played by Thorton and Ms. Berry are mesmerizing. Thorton has tackled unusual and compelling characters in his career. Ms. Berry has let her guard down and plays a character worlds apart from the high profile, glossy, sex objects she usually plays. To open herself to play a character that would be ridiculed, reviled, and pitied in the real world, who is akin to a pariah, is an act worthy of praise. Ms. Berry bares herself before the camera to be a plain and common woman beset by sorrows. Leticia’s simple needs, wants, and desires are foreign to many viewers and actresses. It’s good to see a cutie pie actress tackle serious and challenging drama.

To watch Thorton and Ms. Berry on the screen is a gift. When the mind calls for something other than a simple pastime, this movie fits the bill. A more unusual and hypnotic screen pair than Thorton and Ms. Berry is rare. They give bravura performances. Monster’s Ball may not be entertainment per se, but it is still a fine cinematic experience.

8 of 10

2002 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Halle Berry) and 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen” (Milo Addica and Will Rokos)

2003 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Halle Berry)

2002 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Halle Berry)

2002 Black Reel Awards: 1 win: “Theatrical - Best Actress” (Halle Berry)


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Review: "The Lost Empire" is a Unique Disney Film (Happy B'day, Michael J. Fox)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 38 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Running time: 95 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes)
MPAA – PG for action violence
DIRECTORS: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
WRITERS: Tab Murphy, from a story by Bryce Zabel, Jackie Zabel, Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, and Tab Murphy; from a treatment by Joss Whedon with additional screenplay material by David Reynolds
EDITOR: Ellen Keneshea


Starring: (voices) Michael J. Fox, Corey Burton, Claudia Christian, James Garner, John Mahoney, Phil Morris, Leonard Nimoy, Don Novello, Jacqueline Obradors, Florence Stanley, David Ogden Stiers, Natalie Strom, Cree Summer, and Jim Varney

The subject of this movie review is Atlantis: The Lost Empire, a 2001 animated film from Walt Disney Pictures. It was the first science fiction film created by Walt Disney Feature Animation. Set in 1914, the film follows a young man and his crew as they search for the lost city of Atlantis.

Unjustly ignored, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is not only a very good film (probably the best animated feature the year of its release), but it is also another example of why Walt Disney continues to be the gold standard in animated feature films.

Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, co-directors of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is the story of Milo Thatch (voice of Michael J. Fox), a young linguist who specializes in dead languages and who inherits his late grandfather’s obsession with the legendary lost city/state/continent of Atlantis. Milo joins a team of intrepid explorers searching for Atlantis as their guide because he can translate his grandfather’s book of Atlantean lore, which is also some kind of map to the lost empire.

Audiences and critics always expect the art of animation in a Disney film to be excellent even if the story isn’t. Both, in this case, are very good. From its 1914 urban setting to the journey into the ocean, through deep caverns, and to Atlantis itself, the animation is a scenic trip through the ability to not only draw beautifully, but to also tell a story with those drawings. The character designs by the great comic book artist Mike Mignola (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) are wonderful with their angular lines and wonderful curves. The animators took the designs and translated them into vibrant and interesting characters.

Screenwriter Tab Murphy (Disney’s Tarzan) crafted a script that captures the sense of wonder and awe of science fiction and fantasy films. It has the flavor of the 1999 remake of The Mummy and of Stargate. Not only is Atlantis: The Lost Empire a fine animated film, but also it’s a very good sci-fi. The film’s glaring weakness is in its stock characters - stereotypical ethnic characters, and unfunny comic relief, but those elements don’t hurt the film as much as they could.

Another part of the Disney magic is the voice cast, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire is no exception. In addition to Fox, James Garner, Claudia Christian, John Mahoney, Phil Morris, Leonard Nimoy, and Cree Summers among others deliver stellar work, a testament to their ability as actors to create characters.

Some of the computer animation seems awkward in the film, but much of computer generated imagery and all of its traditional cel animation is very good. Lost in the shuffle of the current wave of computer-animated films, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a gem, an entertaining film for young and old, and an artistic achievement.

8 of 10


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Review: Everything About "The Royal Tenenbaums" is Wonderful (Happy B'day, Wes Anderson)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 15 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Running time: 110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – R for some language, sexuality/nudity and drug content
DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson
WRITERS: Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson
PRODUCERS: Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel, and Scott Rudin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Yeoman (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Dylan Tichenor
COMPOSER: Mark Mothersbaugh
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Danny Glover, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin, Seymour Cassel, Kumar Pallana, Grant Rosenmeyer, and Jonah Meyerson

The subject of this movie review is The Royal Tenenbaums, the 2001 Oscar-nominated comedy and drama from director, Wes Anderson. The film follows siblings whose early success was mitigated by their eccentric father’s behavior. I love this film and…

Apparently, Rushmore was not a fluke.

When Royal O’Reilly Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) announces that he is dying, his family slowly, painfully reunites. His wife Etheline “Ethel” Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston) removed her philandering husband from the home over a decade prior to the beginning of the movie. Their three children are business whiz Chas (Ben Stiller), playwright Margot Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is actually adopted, and Richie “Baumer” (Luke Wilson), who grew up to become a professional tennis champion. Family friend and unofficial fourth Tenenbaum child is Elijah “Eli” Cash (Owen Wilson), a novelist and a drug addict, who is also in love with Margot.

Royal would like to get in good with his family, again, but he left so many open wounds when Ethel exiled him. The Tenenbaum children were celebrated prodigies who have fallen on bad times. Chas, a single father of two boys and who lost his wife the previous year in a plane crash, despises his father. Margot is a playwright in limbo, and Richie’s suffered a meltdown during his last championship tennis match. Royal is also disturbed by his wife’s engagement to her accountant Henry Sherman (Danny Glover), and he wants desperately to connect with Chas’s sons, his grandsons. What unfolds is a touching, but unusual family drama/comedy.

Directed by Wes Anderson of the aforementioned Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums is a film with a conventional story, the family drama, filled with the usual comedy, familial intrigue, and requisite feuds. What makes this film so different from other family dramas is Anderson’s conviction and determination not to be like other filmmakers or not to deliver something that is nothing more than film industry product. His vision is unique, and his storytelling technique demands not only one’s attention but that one also engage the film.

Anderson is a visual stylist, but in a quite manner. His cinematographer, Robert D. Yeoman has worked on Anderson’s other films and contributes a peculiar color palette that resembles Technicolor, but is merged with clean, earth tones. Tenenbaums has a dreamlike quality with a slight breath of realism. It’s eye candy, but doesn’t distract from the story; in fact, it keeps one attentive to what the camera reveals. Unlike many directors who are visually sharp by way of quick cuts and editing, Anderson doesn’t mind allowing his camera to linger on and to follow his characters.

The script by Anderson and Tenenbaum co-star Owen Wilson is filled with idiosyncrasies, but is, nevertheless, a story about a family and the damage family members do to one another. We’ve seen it before, but unlike American Beauty, Tenenbaums really manages to tell a familiar story in a unique and special way.

The performances are subtle and nuanced even as the characters appear to be over the top. We know that Gene Hackman is good, but he has a knack for giving range to familiar character types. His performances nearly always hint at characters that have lived long lives before their respective movies begin. Royal is like a book, and Hackman makes the mental exercise that it takes to figure out Royal worth it.

Gwyneth Paltrow continues to reveal the scope of her abilities. She is a classic film pretty face, but with the acting chops of serious thespian. Owen Wilson is his usual wacky self; he manages to be self-confident and endearing even when playing a not too bright character. However, the surprise here is his brother Luke Wilson. Even through dark glasses, he makes his eyes the windows to the soul of his troubled character. He is the film’s mystery man, and he is the sum of his family’s troubles. Wilson doesn’t miss a beat while carrying this burden.

The Royal Tenenbaums is filled with wonderful acting, directing, story telling. Too make such an offbeat clan and their associates so lovable, charming, and fun to follow is no minor feat. Anderson takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. Truly, he does it like few before him. Bravo!

We get all this and a wonderful voiceover narration by Alec Baldwin.

9 of 10

2002 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen” (Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson)

2002 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Screenplay – Original” (Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson)

2002 Golden Globes, USA: 1 win: “Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” (Gene Hackman)