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It's rare to find
a scary movie these days. Leave it to the Japanese to come out with
one. And leave it to Hollywood to block the release of the Japanese
film in America until they could remake it and snatch our hard earned
dollars first. The Japanese graphic even looks scarier!
At least this time
Hollywood did a decent job. I've never seen the 1998 Japanese film
"Ringu," but it is said to be one of the scariest movies
of all time (The Japanese "Exorcist") and made huge dollars
at the overseas box office.
The story starts
out as an urban legend. You all know an urban legend or two, right?
A wild story that someone told you that happened to their cousin
- except the exact same story is being told hundreds of time around
the country so it's obviously a yarn.
A classic from the
70's is the kid in the neighborhood who ate Pop-Rocks candy, then
chugged a Coke, and his stomach blew up and he died! Yeah, right.
Well here's a legend
of a video tape. If you find it - and watch it - you die! Cool!!
One teenage girl
tells her girlfriend that after you watch the tape, the phone rings
and you're told you're going to die in seven days.
If you were a teenager,
would you watch it? (And would you want an unlisted phone number
Naomi Watts ("Tank
Girl" and "Mulholland Dr.") plays Rachel Keller,
a reporter for a Seattle newspaper who watches the video tape after
four teens mysteriously die. She watches, then . . . Ringgg!
Oops - it's that damn phone call, warning of impending death.
But it's no joke.
It's downright creepy. For real.
Keep in mind this
film teeters on the edge of being corny, and I can't stress enough
the fact that you have to see it in a movie theater of quiet movie-going
peers. Two or three clowns will turn this into a quip-fest of chattering
up at the actors on the screen. Some audiences actually like
talking to the screen. Avoid those theaters - at least for this
If your audience
is quiet, I guarantee a creepy two hours that will have everyone
nervously chattering afterward, much like the original "Friday
The 13th" but with far less gore. The less you know before
you enter the theater, the better. But this one works, folks.
See it on "The Big Screen" - In a well behaved theater
From the moment
the opening titles start, you can see this is one cool action flick.
The foreign cast is selected perfectly and the movie opens with a
roar . . . before slowly unraveling twenty minutes later. By the
time it all ends, the audience around you should be laughing at
the lack of direction.
Frank Martin (played
by an Englishman named Jason Statham) is a BMW driving, BMW loving,
professional illegal transporter who lives to transport unknown
items from point A to point B while following his special rules.
Rules that "bad guys" seem willing to pay a lot of money
Rules like: Never
change the deal. Never use anyone's name. Never look in the package
It's not that the
packages he transports are really unknown to him - he knows exactly
how much they weigh and how big they are. Technical stuff is his
gig. As any UPS guy knows, the size, weight and dimensions are the
key to the price. Right?
It's what's inside
the package that he cares little or nothing about. And he's a stickler
for his rules. It makes the opening scene both exhilarating and
funny at the same time. When the deal suddenly changes and four
bank robbers enter his getaway car instead of the three that he
was expecting, Frank will have nothing to do with it. Meanwhile
the cops are on their way.
Great scene. Enjoy
it. Rewind it and watch it again. (Are you getting the picture here?)
As I said, the casting
Jason Statham (Cool Transporter - (should wear a "Dangerous
When Irked" button on his lapel) - tough guy)
Shu Qi (The Package)
Matt Schulze (The
Villain (Played the scruffy gang guy in "The Fast And The Furious."))
The problem for
some American viewers will be understanding the dialog, with Jason
being from England, Francois speaking English wrapped in a thick
French bearnaise sauce, and the Chinese hottie, Shu Qi, who learned
just enough English to finish filming. All in all an English/French/Chinese
in a blender approach. The subtitles on the DVD release will be
Shu Qi is well known
in China, and has been in over 40 Hong Kong films - 13 of which
I own on DVD with English subtitles - so I must admit I was anxious
to see her first Hollywood release. Shu does the best she can with
what script there is, but that's not saying much. Mostly frightened
screaming for her first 4, or was it 8 scenes? A lot of screaming.
I've seen Shu in too many movies to blame her, it's the directors
fault for telling her to, "Just scream." There are moments
when you can see her start to blossom, then the script shuts down
and runs willy-nilly down a sloppy brainless action path.
is a good French actor and does a great job as the cop who thinks
he knows exactly what Frank is up to but just can't quite prove
anything. But his accent is thick enough to cause whispers of, "What
did he say?" throughout the theater.
One pet peeve of
mine that far too many movies have abused - as any kidnapper knows,
(or again, any UPS guy), you can't gag someone with a 3" x
4" piece of duct tape across their mouth.
But that aside,
it really doesn't matter much because after an hour or so you'll
begin to lose interest and decide to hit rewind and return the video
in the morning.
Wait For Video/DVD
is back and witty as ever in Red Dragon, the prequel to "Silence
Of The Lambs," and a remake, of sorts, of "Manhunter,"
which was directed by Michael Mann. (The styles of "Manhunter"
and "Red Dragon" are light years apart, but the premise
is close.) If you like the other two, Red Dragon will creep you
out in all the right ways.
This movie starts
out before Hanibal is imprisoned, but it doesn't really cover his
entire killing spree because that will no doubt be the prequel-prequel,
to "Silence," much like the Star Wars epic. But it does
give us a taste (pun intended) of his ghoulish side before he was
corralled behind the thick glass wall in a basement of a Baltimore
hospital for the criminally insane. It's the Tooth Fairy we're after
in this one, with Edward Norton playing Will Graham, an FBI investigator
with a nose for sniffing out creepy white serial killers.
Speaking of noses
- I wasn't the only one in the theater who noticed that the actress
who plays Edward Norton's wife has a strange nose that looks like
it met up with a serial killer with a dull pair of scissors. No
enjoy the banter between Hanibal and Will Graham as they play mental
tug-of-war over the inner workings of the Tooth Fairy, and grimace
as the Tooth Fairy plies his trade.
The film should hold up nicely as a rental in your dark family room
as you eat fava beans and sip on a nice Chianti. But for the full
effect, I'd recommend your local theater to pay a visit to Hanibal
and the creepy Tooth Fairy who calls himself the Red Dragon. And
there's nothing like a 30' screen to show off the flaws of a bad
See it on "The Big Screen"
If you love Bond
movies - you'll love "XXX."
If you line up to
see the opening of Bond movies - time to get in line for "XXX."
In 2000 an unknown
bouncer (and struggling actor) named Vin Diesel starred in a movie
called "Pitch Black." For those of us who caught that
low budget "B" move, the bad guy, Vin Diesel, caught our
attention, and he was sure to break into bigger Hollywood roles.
For those that missed "Pitch Black," you just might want
to rent it. Part II is in the works now.
After playing supporting
cast roles in "Saving Private Ryan," (a must see film)
and "Boiler Room," (a so-so movie), Diesel finally got
the break out role of a lifetime in "The Fast and the Furious."
This would propel him toward Arnold Schwarzenegger status. (Arnold
has put on a few years and is in dire need a of a hit movie).
XXX puts Diesel
right up there with the top Hollywood dogs, and "XXX"
will put pressure on the 007 films as well. As much as I hate to
believe the snow boarding, tattooed kids of today will be taking
over the world soon, the reality is - they will. Vin Diesel is the
future, so you might as well enjoy it.
And enjoy it you
will. It's pure energy, from the pounding music to the never ending
adrenaline rush scenes. Believable scenes? Not really. But if 007
makes you grin, you'll be grinning ear to ear during this one.
Diesel plays Xander
Cage, a guy who makes his living doing crazy unlawful stunts, films
them, then sells the video to a huge bloodthirsty audience. (Those
who know who Steve-O is, you know this part is NOT far fetched.
If you don't know who Steve-O is, just ask your kids.) This illegal
stunt work can only lead to recruitment for Xander Cage by the NSA
to save the world from . . . oh what does it matter. Like all the
James Bond movies, you just go for the thrills.
This is a must see
flick, in a huge movie theater with a good sound system. There is
a HUGE avalanche scene that must be "felt" to be fully
appreciated, so don't skimp on your choice of theaters. IMAX should
be showing this film.
Only one warning
for you parents out there. The Xander Cage character has tattoos
all over his damn body, and every day it seems kids (of both sexes)
are getting more than their share. Diesel is just the kind of role
model that will invariably pressure those good-natured fence-sitting
kids to go ahead and get some "tats" of their own. If
I had a young impressionable kid going to this movie, I might have
an adult-to-kid refresher talk about how tattoos may be cool THIS
YEAR, but, blah, blah, blah.
See it on "The Big Screen"
Mel's back at it
again, with another blockbuster hit movie. It's good to see him
act more like a normal guy after a few too many "Over The Top
- I'm Losing My Mind" roles. Here he's a retired preacher and
farmer, raising his two children alone after losing his wife to
a bizarre accident. Then bizarre crop circles turn up in his cornfield.
plays his brother who has returned to live with Mel after the accident.
Remember Joaquin Phoenix? He's the actor who played the "Wimpy
Lover Of His Sister And Little Boys & Leader Of Rome" role
in "Gladiator." Tough role to shake - tough typecast to
break - and I thought about it the entire movie.
I was never a fan
of Macaulay Culkin, and his speech impediment might have impeded
my ability to listen to him talk for more than thirty seconds. His
brother, Rory Culkin, shares his brother's deviated septum affliction
causing him to sound like he could use a good nose blowing. Rory
plays Mel's son, a kid who has a big asthma problem (you can see
the script writers using that angle a while later, HUH?). Rory acts
as though he been given an overdose of Ritalin throughout the movie,
but this being the infamous Macaulay family, that's probably a given.
All in all this
thing limps along like a TV movie, and commercials might actually
help the pacing by breaking up the monotony. This isn't bad acting,
and not a bad story. But you can feel the actors - acting.
It's unnatural, almost stage-like, with the only thing missing between
scenes is the director yelling, "Cut!"
Another bone to
pick: Why do people in the movies turn on a flashlight with it facing
their faces? Then they s-l-o-w-l-y turn the flashlight downward
into the room in which they are curiously looking. Stop That!!!
Do you do that? Nobody in the world does that! Just stop
it! And how many times do you drop a flashlight when you are gripping
it in the dark curiously peering through pitch blackness. Once,
twice, three times? Never?
The correct answer
is - Never. Unless you are directing a movie.
here's the part where you'll drop the flashlight, again."
At least the little
daughter Bo (Abigail Breslin) can act. She's probably six or so,
but she out-acts everyone in this movie, and will no doubt be directing
The movie's not
100% about those dreaded hoaxes called crop circles. The existence
or nonexistence of aliens (and God) is the real meat and potatoes
of the story. But the biggest question of all for you and your family
is whether you should rent the movie "Signs," or wait
for HBO Release.
Wait For HBO Release - (If you can)
Fifty years from
now, holographic TV will be disappointing. That's just one of many
things that I came away with after watching Spielberg's latest action
movie, "Minority Report." It seems a lot of things won't
be quite as good as one would expect 50 years hence - except I'm
sure that's not what Spielberg had in mind when finishing this movie.
The film is not
a flop. How could it be, given the amount of money involved and
Tom Cruise as the star. It's just that Spielberg should have given
it just a little more thought before releasing it.
Although you might
worry that I'm giving away crucial facts after reading the following,
rest assured I'm not ruining anything about this thin movie plot.
1) Real human eyeballs
won't roll down a hallway like marbles when carelessly dropped unless
you are watching a Saturday morning cartoon. Why doesn't Spielberg
know this? Maybe in 50 years this can happen?
2) When you leave
or are terminated from a company for any reason, your passwords/keys/ID
cards - whatever - are always immediately revoked/changed so you
can't come back later on your own. Why doesn't Spielberg know this?
Everyone in the theater knows it! Maybe in 50 years security will
3) When you want
to steal a brand new state of the art Lexus, just walk down to the
local Lexus plant, hop into a car as it's being manufactured, and
after the robots apply the paint, simply drive off. No problem.
In 50 years this will be easy and no one will care. Spielberg must
The first time you
see the police using their cool jet backpacks - think back to the
scene of the flying monkeys in "The Wizard Of Oz." They
were low tech 1939 special effects, but for some strange reason
Spielberg has trouble beating it. One policeman lands so sloppily
(filming wise) that Tom Cruise kids him about it. If these things
are supposed to be so hard to land and operate, why then can they
suddenly fly with Olympic Jedi grace and style through open windows
when they start fighting with them. And if you're wearing a jet pack,
I suppose your body must suddenly take on a Superman shell that
enables you to crash through floors of buildings without so much
as getting a scratch.
Maybe in 50 years.
Keep in mind this
is not a superhero comic remake like Spider-Man or Superman. It's
just you and me in a world 50 years from now. I think Spielberg
got the pages of his script mixed up with another movie.
But back to the
holographic TV. I'm a gadget freak, and I fully expect to see holographic
TV in my lifetime. But if it looks as poor as the version Spielberg
shows us, I'll be holding on to my Sony for a while. I've seen smoky
sports bars with better projection setups.
The spiders were
cool. The plasma firing shotgun was cool. But both scenes are pretty
short. The film is 2 hours and 30 minutes long. Perhaps more spiders?
The scene where
Tom Cruise "orchestrates" the computer with his hands
(see picture above) could have been totally comical, and I found
myself holding back a chuckle at times. But given 50 years, I'm
sure the mouse as we know it will be dead. This might be one option,
though you would work up quite a non-mouse sweat after an 8 hour
day at your workstation using those gloves. Got to be a better way.
At about the one
hour mark, the film went into Mtv, Blair Witch shaky film mode.
Everyone noticed it and it took away from the movie. I would expect
more from a veteran film maker.
It's not a bad L-O-N-G
film, but if it were a great film, I wouldn't have noticed how L-O-N-G
it was. If you haven't seen Spider-Man, The Sum Of All Fears, or
The Bourne Identity, go see those first. They were all better.
Wait For Video/DVD
Matt Damon hangs
by his fingertips in "The Bourne Identity," a movie that
will no doubt entertain you and catapult Matt Damon (Bourne) into
007 star status. He's a good choice for this film as an assassin
in a relatively bloodless PG-13 movie (like 007). But blood or not,
the action is still there, and whether or not you understand what's
going on, the quick camera work will keep you interested.
Bourne also has
Bond like abilities, except in his case he doesn't know he has these
special talents until he suddenly needs them, like a martial-arts-McGyver
with memory loss.
But unlike Tom Cruise,
Matt probably couldn't have carried the movie himself. The casting
department made a strong choice in Franka Potente, the woman who
stared in the movie "Run Lola Run." She accepts Bourne's
offer of $10,000 to drive him to Paris, something most people would
jump at, but whether or not she'd stay a minute longer in real life
might be questionable. But this being a Hollywood movie, there is
never any doubt.
I realize a lot
of women like the "bad boy" image of life on the wild
side, and they may even enjoy latching on to it for a free (or paid)
ride. But there is a big difference between dating millionaire bad-boy
Dennis Rodman for excitement, and hanging around Bourne - putting
your very life on the line hour by hour. I'm willing to bet there
is a finite limit on the amount of adrenaline one will endure before
calling it quits and walking away with the pocket full of free cash.
But having said
that, I'm glad she sticks around. Makes for a very enjoyable film.
See it on "The Big Screen"
Of All Fears" (PG-13)
To tell you too
much about the movie would be to risk giving too much away. If you've
watched too many previews or newscasts about this motion picture,
they've probably already spoiled it for you. So much for keeping
key moments a secret.
The story has some
laughable shortcomings concerning the actual workings of the US
Government, as well as some timetable issues, because after all
this movie is a prequel (prequels seem to be the "in"
thing these days) in a list of Tom Clancy books which follows the
career of a CIA analyst Jack Ryan.
But if you try to
tie the other movies ("The Hunt for Red October," "Patriot
Games" and "Clear and Present Danger") to this one,
you'll come away feeling the whole series is a Hollywood sham that
doesn't add up.
But if you go simply
expecting two hours of popcorn eating enjoyment, this movie will
more than fill the bill. Especially if it hasn't been ruined for
you by all the prerelease press that gives away all the surprises.
See it on "The Big Screen"
One of the
most anticipated movies of the year after the new Star Wars installment,
Spider-Man finally hits the theaters after some post 911 twin-tower
Is it a great movie?
Well, no it isn't. But it's good enough that although you probably
wouldn't want to see it twice, you'll want to see it once. Children
will come out of the theater crime fighting one another and jumping
about like an atomic Spidy on a blood sugar rush, while adults will
come out hopeful that the sequel will be even better than this first
The casting is good
with Tobey Maguire playing the meekest of leads, but Kirsten Dunst
playing the love interest is a bit odd. Though not ugly, Kirsten
seems to have sharp incisors left over from her role in interview
with a vampire.
But it's hardly
the star power we're after here, as even Willem Dafoe (spelled correctly
by the way) takes second fiddle to the special effects we all paid
to see. And the effects aren't half as phony in a theater as some
of the trailers you've seen on TV.
All in all it's
one of those rare films that works equally well for both kids and
See it on "The Big Screen"
Forget what the
critics said - wait for video and pick it apart for laughs.
Wait for video/DVD
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