War of the Worlds

"War of the Worlds" (PG-13)

Steven Spielberg knows how to make an exciting move. You WILL want to go see this film.

Ok, now that you know I'm not going to trash this movie, let me explain some things before you rush out to buy your tickets. I think you'll enjoy the movie more after reading this . . . especially if you have already read other reviews out there - some of which give too much away.

To those that say, "What the aliens do in this move makes no sense at all," I respond with this short informative story.

Every little boy comes across his first magnifying glass. It's a fascinating object that opens up a new word for the young inquisitive mind. Boys, it seems, are born to be scientists. It's hard wired into us. It's the schooling that actually gets in the way of actually becoming a scientist. That, or the fact that scientists don't have groupies pawing at them. But I digress.

Inevitably, this object is taken outside where the world offers far more items to be examined closely. Bugs are cool when viewed close up. Boys like bugs. And bugs look bigger under a magnifying glass. Big bugs are cool.

If it happens to be summertime, and it's a sunny day, it takes no time at all for a young boy to quickly discover that the sun makes this funny bright spot underneath the magnifying lens. A spot that can be unfocused, large and faint, or focused into a piercingly bright point of light. Within seconds of this discovery, anything unfortunate enough to be located under this focused light is sizzled. Perhaps for the unlucky, it is the palm of the hand or fingerprint that is blistered. But 90% of the time, it is an ant.

That's right, an ant. Ask any guy you know. Frying ants is great childhood fun. There are no fans of ants out there that frown on it. You get into grasshoppers or ladybugs and you tread into a gray area. But it's P. C. even in 2005 to fry ants.

The point is, the ants don't know why you are doing it to them. In fact, it makes no sense whatsoever. There is no reason to do it at all, other than it's just plain fun as hell. In this movie - we're the ants.

The death rays that come out of the Martian pods in this Spielberg version are light years ahead of the original movie from fifty years ago. If our army had these weapons, they would enjoy using them too. They would make up reasons to go to war to use them. It's no doubt a big factor why men wanted to drop one of each type of atomic weapon on Japan in 1945 - and film it. It's a guy thing.

To those that say, "If the aliens had been planning this for a million years, then why . . ."

I can't finish the question as it gives too much of the story away, but I'll defend Spielberg by saying this.

Suppose a million years ago the aliens stumbled upon this planet and said to themselves, "We'll come back here and do our thing later. We can't right now, but when we do, it will be great fun indeed!"

Then the aliens drew "Earth" on a large celestial map, folded it and put it away for future use when the time was right. Except something happened to the map. Or the owner and the map became lost. But then someone found it hundreds of thousands of years, even a million years later. It's now a treasure map, with historical value. It could be the fun world they had all heard about all their lives. The planet that was only "rumored" to be true. Perhaps there are very few Earths remaining where there is so much free hunting available. And after so much time passing, real knowledge of how our planet operates might be lost. Any knowledge actually gleaned from the ancient map might well be disregarded as only ancient superstition in today's views.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Lastly, some question the effects of EMP and its ability to knock out everything - even a mechanical wristwatch.

After we started dropping atomic weapons we realized the effects of EMP (electromagnetic pulse). It will indeed kill any and all electronic devices that are in the area, and because of the massive added magnetism that is produced, wristwatches and car motors are also adversely affected. What you see in the film is certainly plausible from both a nuclear and alien attack.

As far as the movie itself, I never for a moment thought the movie was set anywhere but a huge Hollywood sound stage. This is one of my pet-peeves with the film. It doesn't even have the long believable camera shots that were seen in E. T., where the neighborhoods actually looked believable. Here, the roads are open just wide enough for Cruise (Tom) to cruise out of town. It all seemed too phony, convenient and staged. It also ends abruptly as if the production suddenly ran out of money (impossible) or Cruise had other obligations. (Perhaps)

But that aside, this is a must-see summer blockbuster that will keep you on the edge of your seat. And as you watch you'll wonder what you would do if you were in the same situation. After all, we're just the ants in this one sided battle.

P.S. Avoid auditorium #18 at Egyptian Muvico for a few days, as the sound was malfunctioning on June 30th. It is playing on multiple screens there.

- See it on "The Big Screen"


 

Land of Dead

"George A. Romero's Land of the Dead" (R)

Another in the string of gore fest movies. There is something cool when thinking of, or watching someone, partake in barricading themselves in a shopping mall when the world comes to an end and money is worthless. There are so many things in a large shopping mall that could easily keep you entertained for weeks, especially if the power stayed on. And if a zombie did manage to sneak in now and then, you could dispose of them quickly.

Unfortunately, this latest version doesn't have the shopping center element of previous "Dead" movies. Instead this is a one year later view of the world after we've managed to figure out how to live on the other side of the river from the marauding dead. (Rich people live in luxurious towers, middle class on the streets.)

All in all it is well thought out. It's a movie that makes you think about the long term problem of millions of zombies roaming the earth forever. So there's more of an "Escape from New York" movie feel, and less shopping center/zombie kill fun.

Another disadvantage is the casting of Asia Argento for eye candy appeal. She's neither eye candy nor appealing in my judgment. She was the terribly miscast undercover girlfriend of the Russian bad guy in Vin Diesel's otherwise terrific film "XXX." Miss Argento's not sexy, nor is she a stellar actress, and she always looks like she could use a nice shower. But she's the daughter of Italian filmmaker Dario Argento (so what!) so she gets work.

The film is gross, just as you'd expect, and it's always good to see that Dennis Hopper hasn't changed a bit. You know why you go to these kinds of movies. For my money "House of Wax" is a better bet, but it's your choice.

- Wait For DVD


 

Star Wars

"Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" PG-13

I have refrained from reviewing this movie because Star Wars fans don't appreciate people who don't understand and/or and disregard their beloved movies as trash. These movies are like hockey, it's a love it or hate it kind of thing.

For those who enjoy Sci-Fi, the first three Star Wars movies were great. Especially if you are old enough to have seen the originals in their first run in theaters. But let's face facts. The last two ("The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones") were total trash. At least to folks who are of voting age. Yeah, there were memorable scenes (the pod racers) where you get to test your home video entertainment center. But Jar Jar Binks was the biggest miscalculation of George Lucas' career (again - in the opinion of those who are old enough to pass judgment) and as a whole, the movies were all hype.

So here was Lucas' final chance to end the saga with a final episode that would leave young and old viewers with a feeling it was all worth it. Did he succeed? Well, yes and no.

Soon after the story opens we are introduced to a menacing looking robot with an annoying (to him) deep hacking cough. He's obviously sick, which makes absolutely no sense since he's basically a metallic robot with no lungs. We know this because we can see through most of his outer shell. So how is he sick?

Science fiction is fine, but common sense has to remain intact.

I could have done without the scenes of R2D2 doing slapstick comedy (think Three Stooges) at the peril of "bad robots" who were trying to capture him on an enemy ship. Cute only to kids and brainwashed Lucas fans.

Seeing Yoda swashbuckel with a tall menacing human only seemed like a bad Muppets moment to me. Yoda is a symbol, a master teacher. Certainly not a cool action figure. And all you have to do is look at the selected photo above to realize Samuel L. Jackson was a horrible casting decision. At least Jar Jar Binks only gets 4.3 seconds of film time and keeps his mouth shut.

And oh, have we seen enough light saber fighting to last us the rest of our lives? Half way through this film I was over my lifetime quota.

But those are the examples of the misses in this film. The reason to see this final installment is in the truly menacing way that young Anakin (Hayden Christensen) turns to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader. Christensen plays the part perfectly. Even if you have only seen the three original Star Wars films (lucky you) this alone is worth the price of admission, or at least the price of a DVD rental. Whether or not you buy into Lucas' final installment, "Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" should bring closure and end your hunger for more Star Was films.

God, let's hope so.

- Wait For DVD


 

Batman

"Batman Begins" (PG-13)

THUD! WHACK! POW!!

Those who grew up with the TV show "Batman" remember those words graphically superimposed on the screen as Batman and Robin punched and kicked their way through waves of bad guys.

Thankfully the hokey words, music, and yes even Robin are missing from this version of the story. Unfortunately, Robin may reappear in later sequels.

Like so many movies lately, this is a prequel, showing us for the first time how the infamous Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) started life. We also find out about his phobia of bats. (Here I was going to print the phobia associated with the fear of bats, but in the published list of hundreds of phobias, (most of which sound like a list from the writers at Saturday Night Live) the fear of bats does not seem to be a documented fear that humans have. Strange.)

Liam Neeson stars in the film, as does Rutger Hauer, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine. Unlike other reviewers I'm not going to tell you if these stars are good guys or bad guys, as it will only serve to spoil the surprises.

What I can tell you is that Gotham city has become a cesspool of crime, with payoffs reaching the top government officials. Bruce Wayne, having witnessed the brutal death of his parents during a street robbery while he was still a young boy, has left the country and has spent many years laying so low that he is assumed dead back in Gotham.

It's a long move (140 min.) so we spend good deal of time getting to know Bruce's background. But fear not, as there is enough action to keep your attention throughout.

Eventually Bruce makes his way back to Gotham City to reverse the evil that has taken hold. And with his untold billions of cash reserves in the bank, Bruce's spending is nothing less than open ended as he equips himself with the goods and gadgets to put the odds in his favor in his fight with injustice.

Plausible? No. And if it were plausible, the citizens of Gotham would immediately point to Bruce Wayne as the obvious guy behind the bat mask.

If Seattle Washington suddenly had a superhero single-handedly running around the city disposing of criminals with obviously exotic multimillion dollar gadgets at his disposal, you think perhaps the name Bill Gates would pop into your head first?

The effects are bigger, the sounds are louder (you may need cotton at some theaters who are tweaking up their sound for this one) and you'll no doubt find yourself rooting for the Billionaire. No, not Gates – Bruce Wayne. Batman.

Expect a sequel to be rushed into theaters next year.

- See it on "The Big Screen"


 

Smith

"Mr. and Mrs. Smith" (PG-13)

Vince Vaughn is a funny guy.

That alone made up for the shortcomings in this long story about a supposedly normal couple who in reality are both world league assassins for different teams. Eventually they have to set their sights on each other.

It ends up as a "War of the Roses" style of movie, only not quite as good. It probably sounded GREAT at the initial Hollywood script reading.

Women will love looking at Brad Pitt for two hours. Angelina Jolie isn't too bad on the eyes either. And Vince Vaughn is funny if you like Vince's brand of delivery. But this one would be better served on a DVD at home.

- Wait For DVD (If your wife can wait)


 

Wax

"House of Wax" (R)

It's a horror film, folks. Either you like them or you don't.

If you don't like them, read no further.

For those still in the game, keep in mind I am recommending this movie. But first I'll need to explain what you're in for.

In this installment of slaughtering innocent people in unusual ways, a group of low IQ young adults (they are supposed to be normal, but that's an overstatement) go on a road trip to a big college football game in Baton Rouge, but due to a closed road in the middle of the night (don't you hate when that happens?) while driving on a road that was supposed to be a shortcut, per the GPS system (really hate that) they are forced to spend the night in tents in the woods in a spot where the wind occasionally blows rotten foul stench into their camp.

Now, camping is bad enough, but the smell, which is obviously from rotting flesh (which we immediately figure is human corpses) would cause enough concern that most would have simply pulled up the tent stakes and driven on a few miles.

But not these knuckleheads.

Not only are these idiots ill concerned with what all their noses are warning them about, but they also don't see anything wrong with purposely breaking the headlight of a menacing truck that pulls up on them in the middle of the woods. After smashing the headlight and obviously causing the driver to see red as he backs away from their camp to speed off into the night, they simply go to sleep in their tents as if nothing unusual occurred.

Keep in mind neither the guys nor the young women are the least bit concerned about anything at this point!

Paris Hilton is one of the women. In real life I don't even think she would be this stupid. And she's pretty stupid.

Later in the film these good-for-nothings walk into buildings where they are not invited. Snoop in private rooms where they are not wanted. Pick up things that don't belong to them, as if they were toddlers. They act as though nothing is wrong with the way they misbehave. You definitely wouldn't want these kids in your neighborhood.

The bottom line to all this is you might actually root for death to swoop down upon these worthless souls, if only to keep them from reproducing.

Movie Facts:
1) The director will present scenes that will make you jump.
2) The actors are easy on the eyes for all audience members.
3) The deaths are bloody and painful – (and yes, sometimes the audience will actually cheer!)
4) You will want to see how it ends.

Success! Even if the kids are simpletons.

Let's all hope this is not a true snapshot of the upcoming youth in America, or we're all in for a real life horror movie.

- See it on "The Big Screen" (So you can enjoy the cheers of cool death to stupid characters!)


Interp

"The Interpreter" (PG-13)

"The Interpreter" has a lot going for it, if only because it's based on an original idea. Nicole Kidman plays a United Nations interpreter who accidentally overhears a conversation on the floor of the UN - an assassination plot - spoken in a whisper in a little known African dialect. She just happens to be one of a handful of folks in the US who could understand such a language.

It's this and a few other things that cause a Secret Service agent (played by Sean Penn) to become more than a little suspicious. Penn is perfectly cast as the "paid to pick apart BS stories" kind of government employee. He has baggage himself, so Kidman has her turn at turning the screws during intense confrontations.

Though there is action, you're in for more of a mental joust between these two stars.

Thoroughly enjoyable film.

If you're a bit confused at the end of the film, you're not alone. But the world is a big place, and there are a lot of motives out there for regime toppling. I don't think you're supposed to really know all the angles. Even the CIA is guessing all the time, and usually guessing wrong.

Note: I cannot keep quiet about the fact that Kidman's hairdo leaves her hair wanting (needing) to fall into her eyes constantly like a shaggy dog. Because even the shortest dialog scenes between two people take hours or even days to shoot, every time the camera cuts back and forth between Penn and Kidman, her hair is in her eyes, then mysteriously pulled away from her face, then in her eyes, then away from her face, without her ever lifting her arms or a breeze of any kind in the room. Very disturbing.

Note to budding directors: A simple can of hair spray could have alleviated the whole issue.

- Wait For DVD


 

Sin City

"Sin City" (R)

You probably won't like it.

That's my take on the latest movie by Robert Rodriguez, the guy behind movies like:
"El Mariachi"
"Desperado"
"From Dusk Till Dawn"
"Once Upon a Time in Mexico"

He's done others, but first let's examine the ones above. If you saw two or more of those films and thought they were a little too strange for you, then you won't want to sit through "Sin City."

Also be aware that Quentin Tarantino has a hand in this thing as well. That's good news to some, but then again . . .

It's weird.

It's film noir (black and white) with small swatches of color, much like the fake coloring you get by wiping a wet cloth on the B&W album cover of Led Zeppelin's "In Through the Out Door." (At this point you'll probably need to log onto e-bay if you don't have one of those collectables sitting on your shelf.)

It's moving comic book scenes mixed with live action in some of the first hour. But this doesn't really continue long enough to let that put you off from sitting through the picture.

What's it about? I'm not sure many leaving the theater really knew. And strangely, no one walked out before it ended. But let's just say it's three different stories about really tough guys (they bleed a lot but not as badly as the guys they are fighting.) Why are they fighting? Mostly because the bad guys are just plain bad - and oh yeah, they mistreat women too.

The girls are all bad. Bad girls (they tote guns and knives (swords too!) and most are prostitutes).

There's a lot of blood, but it's rarely red. Mostly yellow or something other than red, as it's film noir, right? But the blood is in color. But usually not red. Cool huh?? That depends on you.

The blood is only red when on the face of the "good guys." Bruce Willis is a good guy for one third of the film. Notice the continuity errors as the "red" blood changes position each time the camera cuts to and from the "good guy's" face. Unintentional? Can't be. They spent too much time on each shot to miss it.

Intentionally sloppy? I'd say so.

Bothered me, personally.

The men are unshaven. Dirty. The women are pretty and exude sex - cheap sex. All of them. Even Jessica Alba, the least whorish of the lot, plays a scantily clad stripper.

She looks good. Perhaps that's why no one walked out. It's a lot like visiting a strip club, and seeing a few really ugly fights while you're there. Sound like fun? Again, it depends on you.

Strangely, though the stories plod along, you do find yourself wanting to know how it all turns out - much the way "Pulp Fiction" led you through a long train wreck of storyline.

The cast is huge: Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Jessica Alba, Brittany Murphy, Mickey Rourke, Benicio del Toro and Devon Aoki.

Good luck recognizing some of these people under all the makeup and grime.

Did I mention the intentional 1950's overacting and cartoon "dame" one liners that fall so flat there's nary a chuckle in the theater?

Yeah, this is a film that is defiantly "out there" in terms of entertainment. Single guys like me will enjoy it enough not to complain too loudly, but don't consider this thing a date movie without expecting some negative feedback over your midnight after-movie-snack. A chick flick this ain't!

So for the first time, I'm going to split my rating.

If you're a single male: - See it on "The Big Screen"

Otherwise: - Wait For HBO Release


Baby

"Million Dollar Baby" (PG-13)

Clint Eastwood can act. Everyone knows it. But he's proven he can direct and produce movies as well as he acts.

He proves it again with "Million Dollar Baby," as Eastwood runs a run down boxing gym with one sole "contender" in the house, so to speak.

But in the shadows of the gym is a girl boxer named Maggie Fitzgerald, (played wonderfully by Hilary Swank.) I know you think you know how this film plays out, and you'd be wrong. And not for the reasons you think.

I don't give away endings of movies. Depending on what reviews you already read about "Million Dollar Baby," you may already know too much.

You see, Mr. Eastwood has seen a few movies too. He knows how a Hollywood paint-by-the-numbers movie is done, and he didn't want to make another one. With the addition of Morgan Freeman as Scrap, a washed up boxer who lost his right eye in his 106th fight, the cast is perfectly rounded to give you a dynamic multi layered view of the story as it unfolds.

About the ending that everyone is discussing (1/2 the people thinks it's great and 1/2 the people think it sucks) - let me be one of the few not only to keep the ending a secret, but to add this . . .

I could believe the ending if the film was set in 1940. But in the year 2005, there is no way the ending could happen as shown. And I personally thought the ending was great.

There's a brain teaser for you, huh?

"Million Dollar Baby" is a must see film. It will hold up just as well on a TV as it does on a multiplex big screen.

- Wait For Video/DVD


Aviator

"Aviator" (PG-13)

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Howard Hughes in "Aviator," a movie about Hughes' life, as directed by Martin Scorsese.

First of all, including the previews your local theater will show, you'll be in the theater for three hours, so plan accordingly or wait to rent the DVD.

The film is thoroughly enjoyable, as Howard Hughes led quite the exciting life of a playboy and genius aviation nut. DiCaprio does a surprisingly good job as Hughes. The rest of the cast is equally up to the task, though I've never been much of an Alan Alda fan. Thankfully he plays Senator Brewster (bad guy) so it helps even more if you naturally dislike the actor.

I must give credit to Kate Beckinsale, who plays Ava Gardner, the actress that Howard Hughes escorted around town but could not quite land (no pun intended). Kate Beckinsale is perfectly cast as hot babe that won't fall for Hughes as other women did.

If you are at all interested in the life of this richest man of his time, it's an enjoyable three hours out of the house.

- See it on "The Big Screen"


Ong-Bak

"ONG-BAK: THE THAI WARRIOR" (Unrated, but would be an "R")

This Thai film is perfect for those wishing Bruce Lee was still alive and making films.

Tony Jaa plays a Thai kick boxer (he's a superstar in Thailand) who does all his own stunts. In this particular film there are no special effects other than multiple camera angles and slow motion. It brings you back to reality and reminds you just how silly "The Matrix" films have become with their "actors on wires" kung-fu and millions of dollars of Industrial Light & Magic effects.

The plot is slim – based solely on Tony Jaa getting his tiny farming village Buddha statue back after it was stolen by Bangkok thugs. (Really it's just the head of the statue that is stolen. Those stone statues are heavy, you know!)

Though this Thai language film obviously has English subtitles in the American release, the dialog is simple and easily readable. And with long stretches of fighting scenes, there's less reading then you would think.

There is a gal in the film that is totally miscast, (bad acting and annoying voice) but you can ignore her and still enjoy the action.

It's bloody toward the end, and a bit more violent than the older Bruce Lee films, but if you have ever secretively found yourself enjoying a kung-fu flick, this is a must see.

- See it on "The Big Screen"


 

King

"King Arthur" (PG-13)

The tale of King Arthur has been told many times, but never before has it been told with the backing of Jerry Bruckheimer. You know this guy, right? He's the producer (money man) behind movies with weight. Movies with big sound and big budgets. He's the "Arnold" of producers.

Just to name half of his movies:
"Top Gun"
"Flashdance"
"American Gigolo"
"The Rock"
"Black Hawk Down"
"Days of Thunder"
"Pearl Harbor"
"Thief"
"Beverly Hills Cop"
"Armageddon"
"Con Air"

So if these are your kind of movies, think of what Jerry will spend to produce an epic tale like "King Arthur."

In this version, Arthur and his conscripts are forced to complete one last mission. This will lead them straight into the jaws of the monstrous Saxons.

Another band of enemies are the Picts. But luckily for us movie watchers, Keira Knightley is cast as one of their ferocious fighters. If you're not a Knightley fan, this role just might change your mind.

Look again at the list of eleven films above. Either you liked those films or you didn't. This should help you decide whether of not to see this film.

- See it on "The Big Screen"


Daggers

"House of Flying Daggers" (PG-13)

Here's another Chinese, subtitled action movie along the lines of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." By now you should know whether these movies are for you or not.

If it helps you decide, "House of Flying Daggers":

1) Is better than "Crouching Tiger."
2) The scenery of China is breathtaking.
3) The acting is top notch.
4) The movie making polish of this film will make Hollywood envious.

This film needs to be seen in a theater.

For thousands of years throughout history, Chinese rulers have had to defend themselves from marauding invaders and rebellions. In this fictitious story set in the year 859 A.D., two men, Leo and Jin, are put in charge of finding the new leader of the Flying Daggers (having already successfully killed the previous leader) to save their ruler from the coming revolution.

It took them three months to rid their land of the first leader – now they are given only three days to repeat their success.

But the main thrust of the story revolves around a beautiful blind female dancer named Mei, who works at a local brothel. Turns out she is more than competent in the art of martial arts. Trouble ensues and she soon ends up in prison where it is revealed that she has ties to the Flying Daggers. Mei has 24 hours to reveal information about her clan of rebels or suffer certain torture.

After seeing the martial arts talents of this blind member of the Flying Daggers, we can only imagine how dangerous her sighted coworkers must be!

But Mei is soon rescued by Jin, one of the same men who has three days to find the Flying Dagger's new leader (to kill them). Jin's true plan is to trick Mei into believing he is her ally so Mei will lead him to the Flying Daggers, whereupon he will complete his job of killing their leader.

But as Jin and Mei move through the different landscapes of China toward the camp of the mysterious Flying Daggers, he starts to fall in love with his blind companion, which adds obvious complication to his assigned task.

The only fault I can find with the movie is feeling that the director was so pleased with his film that he refused to allow his editor to cut enough fat out of some of the scenes, including the ending, which seems to go on and on. This is one instance where you don't have to rent the DVD to see the director's cut - we're seeing it from the start.

But this is nit picking. It's a great movie.

- See it on "The Big Screen"


Shaun

"Shaun Of The Dead" (R)

I went into this movie ready to enjoy all the ripe opportunities that a sick "Day of the Dead" comedy movie could offer. How tough could it be to add some wit and grins to a world full of slow moving dumb zombies? I think the slow witted zombies were the ones behind this lame script.

Here, a loser (Shaun) and his loser acquaintances (no one you've ever heard of) don't really get it (both infectiously and mentally) when England comes down with a disease that brings people back to life after they are stricken with the disease itself. (Remember, this was all started with the classic "Night of the Living Dead" movie). Soon they (the loser cast) are all mulling their way through the situation that is supposed to be both gory and funny as hell, all at the same time.

Well, they got the gory part right.

First of all, it's an English movie. I've seen some great foreign movies in my day but few of those came from England. I approved of "28 Days Later" which was an English serious version of "Shaun of the Dead." For comedy, Monty Python's "Life Of Brian," comes to mind, but that was 1979! I wouldn't walk out on my deck to see England's Mr. Bean do anything, so that pretty much sums up my thoughts on today's English humor.

Benny Hill, yes. Mr. Bean, nope. (But a shot of Mr. Bean would have no doubt helped this awful flick.)

Not since the "The Big Bus," (1973), my personal measuring stick for terrible movies, have I wished I was doing something else - anything else . . . shaving flea infested goats would be more enjoyable.

This is one sad sack of college level film making that doesn't deserve your $9. It doesn't deserve your pay per view money. And don't rent it on DVD.

But if you think a lame two-hour, bad SNL sketch of English Style humor with gore sounds like your thing, then maybe you could watch it on HBO, if your only other alternative is shaving flea infested goats.

Avoid!


Kill Bill II

"Kill Bill II" (R)

I didn't recommend "Kill Bill" as it was a bit too weird for a trip to the theatre. But "Kill Bill II" succeeds in delivering a wild ride – even if you haven't seen the original one.

Either you like Quentin Tarantino or you don't. All his films have the same flavor. But this time, Tarantino cooks this meal thoroughly, and in the end you'll find this one appetizing meal. A great rental.

- Wait For Video/DVD


 

Spider-Man

"Spider-Man 2" (PG-13)

Hollywood has seemed to turn around the trend of sucky-sequels (see also - Bourne Supremacy, Dawn of the Dead and Kill Bill II).

If you enjoyed Spider-Man, you may enjoy this one just as well.

But in my opinion:
1) The evil nemesis is better here than the Green Goblin.
2) I STILL don't understand why everyone is enchanted with Kirsten Dunst. In a town where every pretty waitress wants to be an actress, Kirsten must have the best Hollywood agent on the planet.
3) The older you are, the more you'll appreciate the dark side of being a superhero. The director explores it in depth here. The younger you are, the more you'll squirm and fidget for the action to start.

- See it on "The Big Screen"


Bourne

"Bourne Supremacy" (PG-13)

Matt Damon does his thing in part two of the Bourne series. If you liked the first one, you'll like this one equally well. There are some implausible scenes, but it's an action picture so don't think too hard about the details. The one problem with the film that may upset some people over 25 – this film is shot using MTV shaky-cam techniques. Kids don't seem to mind.

- See it on "The Big Screen"


Collateral

"Collateral" (R)

Tom Cruise is a bad guy.

OK, really what I mean is he's a bad guy in "Collateral." He's supposed to be bad. He's a good bad guy. That is to say . . . well, you get the drift.

The good news is, he succeeds so well you might just find yourself literally on the edge of your seat when the tension mounts. He's likely to shoot anybody at any time in everyday situations. It's more believable than you think.

Jamie Foxx plays a taxi driver who picks up Mr. Cruise and agrees to drive Cruise for the night for a set fee. Little does Foxx know that Mr. Cruise plans to kill someone at each of his stops along the way.

This is more than pure traffic accident viewing. The story actually takes time to explore what makes each man tick as they drive for hours into the night.

Truly a thrill ride to see.

- See it on "The Big Screen"


Open Water

"Open Water" (R)

"Jaws" was a great movie. I remember living in Peabody Massachusetts when that movie came out in the summer of '75. We didn't get into the ocean past our knees for two years after seeing that movie.

So it was with great anticipation that I went to see "Open Water," a story about a couple on their vacation who end up getting left behind in the middle of the ocean while scuba diving with a day tour group in the Bahamas. This movie is based on true events, and I have heard of such events over the years. But keep in mind that movies that claim to be "based on true events," or "based on a real story," are actually "loosely" based, with most of the re-enactment enhanced for Hollywood storytelling effect.

Such is the case here. These are not two people you would want to spend a great deal of time with, so when the sharks show up, it's hard to really give a hoot. You'll spend more time thinking about what YOU would do in the situation than really worrying about these two people.

The best scene, although a bit too short in my opinion, is the thunder storm in the dead of night. When you're in the middle of the ocean, it's darker than anything you can imagine. Only the sudden flashes of lighting reveal the large stormy waves around them as the sharks nip at their heels.

Great stuff! A real gem of a scene.

But it's not enough to keep this film afloat. And you'll be disappointed with how they end this movie as well. Not worth trip to a theater.

- Wait For HBO Release


Hero

"HERO" (PG-13)

Do you hate subtitles?

This alone will separate those that will sit through and enjoy this epic Chinese film about the unification of the Chinese kingdom in 3rd century B.C. and those that will grit their teeth through it.

There is enough swordplay throughout that few could sleep through it, even if they refused to read a word of the dialog. This is a big budget Chinese film released in the US starring Jet Li and other "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" type stars. The look is obviously "Crouching Tiger-ish," though in my opinion this film is much better.

If you are truly a film fanatic you would have to enjoy "Hero." And any director would love to have this one under their belt. Swordplay has never had a better accompaniment of basic earthly elements: wind, water, swirling leaves, etc. The sound of the film is equally top notch and must be viewed in a Cineplex theater to get the full impact. Even though Chinese people continue to pretend to jump into the treetops with ease, as well as running across bodies of water as if light as a water bug, here it plays more symbolic than the in your face "Crouching Tiger" film.

Regardless of whether you loved or hated the previous 215 Jet Li films (I hated all of them) don't let that dissuade you from this movie. He's perfect for the role of "nameless one" who no one seems to know anything about. Not even the emperor. It all comes down to the emperor and the abilities of the nameless one. If the emperor lives – unification of China will commence. If he dies, China will remain a group of warring states. No need for you to know any more about the story - just sit back and take it all in.

A truly moving, well acted, well written film – if you can handle 90 minutes of subtitles.

- See it on "The Big Screen"


 

Day After

"The Day After Tomorrow" (PG-13)

Jake Gyllenhaal is hoping to land the role of Spider Man in the future.

That's all I could think about as I watched Jack on the screen for two hours, acting just like Tobey Maguire, right down to keeping his lips from moving as he quietly delivered his sheepish lines.

You'll have plenty of time dissecting this movie as it drags along between special the effects. Special effects are the only reason to see this film, yet the special effects have problems too.

The story involves Dennis Quaid, (a climatologist who sees the next ice age coming long before anyone else does), a little bit of story with his wife, (a doctor who cares for young cancer patients), and their prodigy son (Jake Gyllenhaal), (who wants to play Spider Man part III or IV, whenever Toby tires of the staring role).

The son ends up stuck in NY with a number of kids, and it's up to Dennis to drive, then snowshoe to his rescue all the way from Washington DC. Yeah, ok.

There are so many holes in this TV movie quality plot that there is really no need to do much more than watch the effects and shove popcorn down your throat.

Everyone who finished junior high school (or lives where there is hail) knows that regardless of size, pea or bowling ball, hail comes down round. Why then would director Roland Emmerich decide to show bowling ball sized hail coming down on Tokyo in blocks and chunks?? Perhaps he didn't pay attention in science class and has never actually seen hail?

How cold would it have to be to freeze 20' of salty ocean water standing in the streets of NY for a day? Pretty darn cold. Colder than Pluto perhaps? And the best part is (according to Mr. Quaid, the world expert) the cold weather is coming and will kill everyone. You mean it's not here yet?? Didn't we see that the ocean is flash freezing? Are atoms still moving?

This is a summer movie. We're supposed to line up and watch a blockbuster like this every summer, and this is a big screen movie for sure. The story is so lame, I cannot recommend it. But it does look and feel good in a theater with good sound.

For those that remember the smart summer blockbusters of the past like "Jaws", you have to keep in mind that with all the advancements in special effects, the writing in movies today generally sucks.

- Wait For Video/DVD

    

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MOVIE REVIEWS

My Personal Rating System is as follows:

See it on "The Big Screen" .  .  .  . (Best of the bunch)
Wait for video/DVD 
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  . (Not a bad movie, but not worth $9)
Wait for HBO release  .  .  .  .  .  .  . (Not worth renting)
Avoid!  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
  . (Not worth your time - period.)

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- Reviews by Jim Ramsey
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