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The Prestige (2006)
A better title for this movie should have been "Two Jerks as Magicians." This movie contained two of the most unlikable characters maybe in movie history. Hugh Jackman and Christian play rival magicians who try to outdo each other. Both sacrifice personally for their actions. Scarlett Johansson play the woman caught between th two. She realizes that both of these guys are jerks. So why does the movie tack some kind of mega happy ending where one character lives happily ever after. This film cries out for a darker ending in which both Bale and Jackman get their comeuppance at the end. If you want a story about magic, watch The Illusionist instead. It is superior to this movie in every way shape and form.
That '70s Show (1998)
What will happen next?
I've decided to look ahead and how the lives of our favorite characters will be in the future after the show ended.
Eric and Donna marry, divorce, marry again, and divorce again, just like JR and Sue Ellen on Dallas. Eric goes into a coma after seeing Return of the Jedi and realizing Leia was Luke's sister and Darth Vader was Luke's father.
Donna's father moves out to Hollywood and gets a cute blonde named Heather. Whether it is Heather Thomas or Heather Locklear I don't know but since he is inexplicably lucky with women, he may get both. Plus, he finally gets rid of that perm.
Kelso marries Jackie's mom, in a little ode to real life.
Fez becomes the dictator of his country and Jackie finally marries him. After being ousted from power, Jackie returns to the US and opens shoe stores with Imelda Marcos.
Hyde finally gets clean and sober but goes broke after his record store goes out of business because he doesn't sell CDs.
All these characters end up living with Red and Kitty. Since Kitty hosts AA meetings at the house now, all of them realize they can't stand each other when they are completely sober.
Tommy Chong's character meets a guy named Cheech and start a comedy act.
As for that guy who was on the last season of the show, nobody cares about him anyway.
If you enjoyed watching Walker Texas Ranger the TV show, you will probably like this TV movie. It has enough action to keep Walker fans interested. Unfortunately, like most episodes of the show, the story does not survive much scrutiny. The main storyline about Koreans trying to find the kid and the device that used to guide missiles is okay. They did need a better child actor playing the kid though. He steals his father's work that should be private and then runs from the police. Of course, if this kid was not such an idiot, this would be a short show. The second storyline about a ranger being framed for murder just doesn't work. It tries to incorporate CSI type material that just doesn't fit Walker Texas Ranger. The show was about old fashioned police work and fighting, not about dull crime lab stuff. Worst of all, Clarence Gilyard, who plays Walker's partner, just has a brief cameo. Also missing is Nia Peeples as the Ranger who could swing into action. Janine Turner's inability to fight is all too apparent. Jaw dropping finale might infuriate fans of the show. 5/10
Der Untergang (2004)
What an achievement
Downfall is an extremely compelling movie. This is a realistic view of the last days of the Third Reich, set mostly in Hitler's bunker. When you are watching scenes in the bunker, you feel a sense of claustrophobia with the bombs coming down on Berlin. Bruno Ganz is excellent as Hitler. He sees Hitler in a delusional fanatic convinced that the war can still be won and he will personally lead them to victory. The fact that most of his troops are dead or captured and entire armies have been destroyed does not seem to faze him. Anyone who does not fight to the death is a traitor and a coward to him. If he goes down, he thinks the entire German people should go down with him. You see this in the movie with a scene of boys 12-14 years old manning artillery guns, blinded by their loyalty to him. The film does an excellent job in showing how even toward the end, many Germans were blindly loyal to Hitler. They do want to see Germany after the fall of the Third Reich. They would rather commit suicide and even kill their own children to spare them the fall of the Third Reich. See this compelling movie, even though it is in German.
Transporter 2 (2005)
Terrific piece of entertainment
Transporter 2 is an escapist movie with stunts and chases that have to be seen to be believed. You might not even believe it after seeing anyway. Forget about the plot, which is basically a retread of Man On Fire and just go with the action. I like it when a movie just goes for it and doesn't care about credibility or anything. This movie, just like the first movie, doesn't take place in the real world. It is in a fantasy world where a guy can do amazing stunts both on foot and with any vehicle he drives, especially how he gets rid of a car bomb attached to the bottom.. We're living in troubled times and this movie provides an escape from that world for two hours. On that level, I enjoyed this movie. I don't know how this will do at the box office, but I managed to tune out real life tragedies while watching this movie. 7/10
The Wedding Date (2005)
The Wedding Date is a fairly predictable romantic comedy. Will Debra Messing and Dermont Mulroney end up together at the end? I don't think anyone will see the outcome is in doubt. There are also a few funny moments but nothing that is laugh out loud funny. Yet, I enjoyed this movie more than I did a lot of other romantic comedies. Why? First, I like Messing and Mulroney as a couple. The camera loves Messing, who unlike say, the cast of Friends, will have a promising movie career after her show ends. Second, the movie is sweet without becoming mean, a problem I had with How to Lose A Guy in Ten Days or My Best Friend's Wedding. Third, the movie is done in 90 minutes and doesn't wear out its welcome that Hitch did. I think comedy filmmakers should know when to cut scenes and unfunny subplots that drag the movie down. Also, I think the characters in this movie are fairly smart, another problem in Ashton Kutcher's movies. So, a 6/10 for this movie.
Red Eye (2005)
Red Eye is a very good thriller with good acting and a fast pace that keeps the tension going. A hotel manager is flying back to Miami from Texas after her grandmother's funeral. While at the airport, she meets a strange man who she flirts with. When she gets on the plane, she discovers they are sitting next to each other. However, his real plot and intentions become apparent. He needs her help to assassinate the Director of Homeland Security. If she fails to cooperate, her father will be killed. Since the Director is going to be staying at the hotel where she works, he wants her to set the Director up for slaughter. As she tries to get word for help, there are many tense scenes, especially on the airplane flying to Miami. The only problem with the movie is the actual assassination attempt itself, which strains credibility a bit and should have been caught by the authorities. I am willing to forgive the movie for this minor grip because it is well made and it doesn't overstay its welcome.
La marche de l'empereur (2005)
A great movie
March of the Penguins is an incredible movie covering a year in the life of emperor penguins. It begins with penguins surfacing from their home in the sea to find a mate. The movie covers this mating process from conception to when the baby penguins are left on their own. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, we see the hardships the penguins have to face for reproduction. Sometimes either the male, the female,or the new baby will die due to the weather or predators. The risk the penguins have to take is often more compelling than some other movies I have seen this year. If you want to see something different late in the summer (I know I have), then this is the movie for you. This is undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year.
The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
better than I expected
I am a big fan of the Dukes of Hazzard TV series. I have been skeptical of this movie since I heard it. Like the series, it is enjoyable but you shouldn't think about it too much. However, the casting of the lead roles leaves a lot to be desired. Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville have not exactly impressed me in previous roles and they did not change my minds in this movie. Scott's Bo is simply stupid while Jon Schneinder's Bo was just young and impulsive. Knoxville's Luke is supposedly the smart one, but Tom Wopat of doing that on the show. The actors playing Rosco is just playing it straight and has none of James Best's humor. Enos and Cletus are interchangeable characters not worth mentioning. Fortunately, the film does have Jessica Simpson in skimpy outfits plus Willie Nelson, Lynda Carter, and Burt Reynolds filling out the cast. The real star of the movie is The General Lee itself and gives the movie's best performance. The movie is at its best when it centers on the car. I wish the movie had taken out the scene in which the General Lee is going through a black neighborhood while Bo and Luke have black dust on them (making them look like they have offensive black face on them). The plot doesn't make sense. Did it really take a geologist to figure out there's coal underneath the Duke's farm? Of course if they didn't, there wouldn't be that side trip to Atlanta for Bo and Luke to pick up girls. A 5/10 and I think that rating is just right.
The Upside of Anger (2005)
The Upside of Anger contains some of the career highlights of many actors, including Joan Allen and Kevin Costner. Joan Allen plays a woman with four daughters whose husband has left her. Costner is Allen's next door neighbor who falls in love with her. the movie covers the relationship with them and the relationships of the four daughters,who are very well cast. The Upside of Anger is about learning to live again after changes in life. Director Mike Bender does a really good job of writing and directing this film. The film's only flaw is Bender's own character in the movie as Costner's producer on the radio. He comes across as someone who we can't entirely love or hate. He is supposed to be a sleazy guy because he dates younger women and dates one of Allen's daughters, but since the character seems sincere in his affections for her, I couldn't get myself to completely hate him. He dates younger women, so what? The attitude the other characters have toward this character actually upsets the balance of the movie, which is supposed to be about how anger is self destructive in the long term. Maybe the character was ill used or should have been cut from the film entirely. Otherwise, this movie is worth a rental and maybe better than some other films that have been out recently. 7/10
Like previous Rob Cohen movies, The Fast and the Furious and XXX, Stealth is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Yes the movie is silly and full of explosions, but you are entertained watching it. Stealth is not as good as either of his previous movies because it tends to be a little self righteous at times. For example, the scene where nuclear weapons need to be destroyed at a collateral damage of 500-1000 people. Since nuclear weapons can kill hundreds of thousands of people, the argument doesn't hold ground. Stealth tells the story of three pilots who are asked to train an artificial intelligence that flies a plane by itself. When it becomes self aware, which always seems to happen in the movies, the pilots must try to stop it. There are some incredible flying sequences. Other sequences don't quite work, such as the scenes on the ground in Alaska and North Korea. Overall watch this movie, just don't think about it too much. 6/10
The Island (2005)
better than I expected
When I saw The Island was directed by Michael Bay, I was skeptical. He makes a lot of exciting action movies but when something is not blowing up, his movies get stale. Bad Boys II was particularly annoying and did anybody really care who got the girl in Pearl Harbor. Well, The Island pleasantly surprised me. In the future, Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johanson live in a state of the art city where everybody awaits a chance to go to the island. I don't think I am giving anything away (since it is given away in the previews) that they are in fact clones of real people who just use the clones to increase their lifespan. After the two discover the truth, they escape. There are a lot of well made car chases and a great action sequence on top of a building. Yes the story is a mix of THX-1138, The 6th Day, Logan's Run, and Michael Bay action movies, but I went around for the ride. It may not be a great movie (it borrows too much from what came before) but it is a fun movie to watch. It is also better scifi than Steven Spielberg's overrated War of The Worlds remake.
The Jacket (2005)
This movie at first seems to be in the vain of The Butterfly Effect with reality switching from the past to the future. The Jacket is a better movie than The Butterfly Effect because The Butterfly Effect contained unpleasant characters and events. This movie stars Adiran Brody as a Gulf War veteran framed for a murder he didn't commit. He is sent to an insane asylum where he is experimented on by an unscrupulous doctor played by Kris Kristofferson. During one of the experiments where he is a morgue slab, he is transported forward in time where he finds out he has been dead for almost 15 years. How did this happen and can he change it? Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are a little too easy for this complex type of movie. Still the performances by Brody, Kristofferson, Keira Knightly, and Jennifer Jason Leigh make this film watchable. The film make not make much sense in the end but it is better than most repetitive remakes and sequels that have been out lately. 7/10
Hide and Seek (2005)
Hide and Seek is a pretty good thriller. Both Robert De Niro and Dakota Fanning are excellent in this story about a recently widowed father who moves to the country with her daughter. The daughter starts seeing an imaginary friend named Charlie. Is Charlie real or a figment of her imagination? The ending, which I will not reveal, is the least satisfying part of the movie. It goes on like a conventional thriller which we have seen many times before, such as The Shining. Elizabeth Shue is wasted in a role that looks like was more important in an original draft of the script. Famke Janseen comes across better as Fanning's therapist who thinks something is wrong. I give this film a 6/10.
Wes Craven re teamed with Kevin Williamson, who made the overrated Scream trilogy, made this often confusing werewolf movie. Ricci and the guy playing her brother try really hard to make this movie work. However, there are simply too many characters running around that I lost track of who is who after a while. There are also unfunny attempts at comedy in this movie. It might have been better if it was played straight. How come there are cameos by Scott Baio and Craig Kilborn without a single laugh? Ricci and brother are likable characters and I did like the movie based on their performances. The film goes on and on almost endlessly, even though the film claims to be only 97 minutes long. It feels much longer, though. A generous 5/10
Direct Action (2004)
bang, bang, bang
Dolph Lungren plays an honest cop who is going to testify about police corruption on the force. First, he has to drive around a rookie woman police officer. Will they spend the rest of the day running from the corrupt cops wanting him dead? Of course, they will. Will they get into a lot of gun fights where everybody shoot at everybody else? Of course they will. Does this make for a pretty clichéd but pretty entertaining movie? You bet it does. I have definitely seen much worse films than this one. Sure it is predictable (is it a coincidence that one of the dirty cops looks like Al Pacino in Serpico) but it is fun to watch. You are not going to watch Oscar winning stuff, but it is worth your time to rent this movie out.
Fantastic Four (2005)
don't listen to the critics
For the second week in a row, the critics got it wrong. First, they overpraised Steven Spielberg's been there-done that version of War of the Worlds and this week they trash The Fantastic Four. This movie is fun to watch and is far more enduring than Tom Cruise's slow moving flick. It is not as good as the first two Spiderman movies, Superman movies, X-Men movies, or Batman and Batman Begins. The guy who plays Mr. Fantastic comes across as exciting as your high school physics teacher. You know the class you took senior year in high school to impress colleges and put you to sleep every day. The other actors are pretty good such as Julian McMahon, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, and the guy who plays the Human Torch. The other problem with the movie is that it takes too much time to get to Doctor Doom trying to conquer the world. Other than that, this movie is fun and I hope see more of The Fantastic Four. 7/10
Good but could have been shorter
Hitch is a romantic and sweet movie. Will Smith and Eva Mendes have very good chemistry together. Kevin James is very funny as the awkward guy trying to date the very beautiful model. Smith is the "date doctor" who is both trying to help James get the girl and work on his own love life. As much as I liked this movie,why do I score this movie only 6/10 instead of higher? Simple, this film, like too many films this year, goes on needlessly long. Was it really necessary for Hitch's profession to be a secret? Would a tabloid journalist really care about a professional "date doctor?" No to both questions and because of these elements, the film nearly runs aground in this pointless subplot toward the end. Fortunately, the film has established enough good will so it can overcome these difficulties. It only needed tighter editing.
War of the Worlds (2005)
a mixed bag
Of all blockbusters released this summer, this one is the weakest. This is surprising given that it is directed by none other than Steven Spielberg. He invented the blockbuster with Jaws and added to it with ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the Jurassic Park movies. Recently, however, something has gone wrong. The Terminal and Minority Report were incredibly boring even with big stars in it. War of the Worlds is better than either of those past two movies. There are terrific special effects and John Williams's music is always good. The problem is we don't connect with the main characters. Tom Cruise is simply Tom Cruise and he is more tolerable than his recent interviews on TV in which he comes across as an arrogant jerk. His two children are another story altogether. The usually watchable Dakota Fanning just screams and yells a lot. His son is played by a bland pretty boy who is just annoying. When he disappears 3/4 of the way toward the film, we don't miss him. Tim Robbins steals every scene he is in and I would've liked the film to be more about him. A very disappointing 5/10
The Pacifier (2005)
Better than you expected
The Pacifier has to be one of the strangest movies I have ever seen. It is more than the typical fish out of water about a Navy SEAL who must babysit five kids because they are vital to national security. He teaches the kids self respect. In the course of the movie, he manages to not only stop the bad guys from hurting the kids but 1) teaches the oldest to drive, 2) directs a school production of The Sound of Music, 3) teaches self defense to a troop of girl scouts, and 4) fall in love of course. Vin Diesel is very good in this movie. Lauren Graham is also good as the school principal and love interest for Diesel. I am not a Gilmore Girls watcher but I think Graham is very appealing in this movie alone and I would like to see more of her. Sure the story doesn't bear much scrutiny, but this movie is just plain fun to watch. 7/10
Coach Carter (2005)
a terrific movie
Coach Carter is one of the best movies of the year and one of the best movies I have seen. Samuel L. Jackson gives one of his best performances as the new head basketball coach at his high school alma mater. Carter makes his team do sprints, pass, and play as winners not just as individual players. Plus he makes the team keep at least a C+ average in school and that they attend classes. When they fail to keep that average, he cancels practices and some games until they keep their grades up. I personally like what Coach Carter teaches them. Basketball will not always be there for them. If they get an education, they can have a life after high school and even go on to college. Coach Carter makes his team winners both on and off the court. I wish there were more coaches like Coach Carter in both high school and college to prepare young people for life as adults.
This movie is an expensive and overlong would be epic that was made in the 1960s. What holds this movie back is the annoying character Max von Sydow plays. This character is so self righteous and arrogant that a little of him goes a long way. Von Sydow plays this one note character like he doesn't change over the years. You have to agree with the scene when he is thrown overboard and the ship captain hopes the shark eats him!!!! I wanted the shark to eat him too. Julie Andrews is good and the woman who plays the head of the Hawaiians are very good and put von Sydow's character in his place at times. However, this movie shows how one character can undermine an entire movie. This is a movie that should have been better by telling the interesting story of converting Hawaiians into Christianity. But when you find the lead character so unwatchable, it undermines the entire story.
The Boondock Saints (1999)
I can't believe people love this movie. This movie is extremely obnoxious. I couldn't either of the two main characters. All they do is kill mobsters, they claim. But these two brothers are such jerks that I had no sympathy for their cause whatsoever. The movie might have been better if it were more morally ambiguous. This movie, however, seems to take the side of the brothers and what they are doing is right. The fact that the brothers inexplicably get away with their murders is absolutely ridiculous. The fact that I read there will be a sequel to this piece of junk concerns me greatly. I see no redeeming value in this movie and see no reason to waste time watching it.
White Noise (2005)
noise signifies nothing
Sometimes a film's subject matter isn't as interesting as it thinks it is. That is the main problem with White Noise. I do believe that some things in life cannot be proved logically, but that doesn't mean it makes an interesting movie. Michael Keaton plays a man whose wife has recently died and tries to contact her on the other side. The problem with this film is that it runs out of story after about 45 minutes or so. Once he tries to make contact, the movie tries to extend this to a feature length film by having a silly thriller plot line. What the point of this subplot is with the rest of the plot I have no idea. Michael Keaton tries hard, but this film just doesn't work. His character is simply selfish in trying to communicate with the dead by neglecting his son with his obsession. A better movie could have been made if Keaton's character had realized that he must keep on living and try to move on. Instead, the movie tries to make it into a thriller plot line that doesn't belong. A very disappointing film. 3/10
Batman Begins (2005)
A great epic comic book movie
Batman Begins is the best Batman movie since the underrated Batman Raturns. We see Bruce Wayne as a three dimensional character and doesn't just put out which villain will try to kill Batman next. We see the pain that Bruce Wayne must go through to become Batman. He must not only confront his own demons but the demons that are tearing Gotham City apart. This movie best resembles the comic book which it is based on. The cast is perfect with Christian Bale, Katie Holmes, Michael Caine, and Liam Neeson among others. Though the movie is nearly 2 1/2 hours in length, I was mesmerized every minute I was watching. I put Batman Begins up there with Star Wars Episode III and the underrated Kingdom of Heaven as the three best movies of the year in what has been so far a mediocre year for movies. The low box office numbers for this year have been because of the low quality in movies. I think studio executives should look at Batman Begins and see how big budget blockbusters should be made. 10/10