Movie and Actor Reviews

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

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Dick and Jane

Sunday, December 25, 2005

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Rumor has it

A funny idea, alas, doesn't necessarily make for a funny movie. "Rumor Has It ... " bubbles with promise on the page: A young woman (Jennifer Aniston) learns that her Pasadena family is the inspiration for the book and subsequent movie "The Graduate." This means that her grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) is Mrs. Robinson, her late mother is Elaine, and ... who is Benjamin Braddock, the man who slept with both her mother and grandmother, and nearly broke up her parents' marriage?

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

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Skinny people in fast food movie

Avril Lavigne tucks into Fast Food Nation Staff and agenciesThursday December 22, 2005
Burger queen: Lavigne lines up for Fast Food Nation. Photograph: Anthony Harvey/PA
Canadian pop princess Avril Lavigne is to make her acting debut in a new film about the evils of the fast food industry.

Lavigne will join the ensemble cast of Fast Food Nation, already featuring the likes of Patricia Arquette, Bobby Cannavale, Luis Guzman, Ethan Hawke, Greg Kinnear, Kris Kristofferson, Esai Morales and Catalina Sandino Moreno. The film will be directed by indie darling Richard Linklater, who recently completed work on A Scanner Darky, adapted from the novel by Philip K Dick.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

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DVDs for Christmas

Trouble finding the perfect Christmas gift? You can’t go wrong buying a DVD. Here’s my Top 10 list. Some of these might surprise you, but fans of these movies or television shows would certainly appreciate these more than your generic DVD in the big crate at Wal-Mart.

Cinderella Man. Just released, this movie should win a few Oscars. Russell Crowe plays Jim Braddock, a washed up boxer who’s lost his punch and works hard to keep food on the table for his family during the Depression. Because a different fighter can’t show up for a fight, Braddock’s former manager gives him a second shot and he comes back in rare form, pounding the faces of everybody who enters the ring.

Ninth season of MASH. Best military series ever made. Funny, at times, dramatic and always original.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force season four. A cartoon featured on Adult Swim, Aqua Teen is unlike any other adult cartoon. It never attempts to take political stances like Southpark or Family Guy. Nor does it stick to a plot. It’s just filled with hilarious, occasionally gross, scenes from its four main characters: Frylock, a talking box of fries with powers; Meatwad, a cute ball of meat who’s naïve; Master Shake, a walking, talking milk shake with a straw and attitude toward everybody; and Carl, a hairy New Jersey guy who’s foul and very rude. However, it’s only funny for those who like to laugh at very stupid things.

Lost. Very addictive and for good reason, it’s the best T.V. drama in the past 10 years.

24. Another addictive drama. Surprisingly, FOX has stuck with Keifer Southerland and the rest of the 24 cast. I say this because any time FOX lands a quality show, they cancel it within two seasons. At any rate, this would be a great gift to anybody anxious for the new season coming out in January.

Firefly. Speaking of great series canceled by FOX, Firefly was the best fantasy series on television for six weeks in 2002. They may have lost their contract, but the actors rebounded by creating Serenity, which topped the Box Office for one week in this summer. Essentially, this series is a cross between an old western – with .45s and holsters -- and Star Wars – with spaceships and foreign planets. Fans of either genre should appreciate this DVD series.

Godfather. Good for any man, any time.

The Shawshank Redemption. This is one of the most widely owned DVDs in the world. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out on two of the best-ever acting performances by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

Pulp Fiction. A classic that makes one think, laugh and think some more.

Frankenstein. A must have for anybody who likes horror.

Friday, December 09, 2005

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Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp is the most talented actor in Hollywood. From his first film, Nightmare on Elm Street to Ed Wood to Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp gives us something we don’t see very often, a versatile actor. He’s not like Adam Sandler, who can only play dumb roles that come off as funny occasionally. He’s not like Matt Damon, who is gifted but doesn’t naturally fit in comedy.

Indeed, Depp seems to walk into any role and walks away from the Hollywood scandals, which may be more impressive than his 40 movies.

My two favorite Depp films are Ed Wood (1994) and Blow (2001), both based on real events and people.

In Ed Wood, a very young Depp plays Ed, a horror director in the mid 1900s deemed the worst-ever director. With a pencil-thin mustache and slick black hair, Depp shows the exact same exuberance and never give up attitude as Ed Wood. In the film, Ed is laughed at by the big boys for his ideas, but doesn’t quit. He seeks funding from the likes of churches and butchers. Ed’s main attraction to nearly every film is featuring the original vampire, Bela Lugosi. When Ed enters Bela’s life, Lugosi was a drug addict. In the movie, Bela tells Ed that his friendship made his final days worthwhile. The way Depp portrays Ed toward Bela makes your neck hairs stand up. Never once, do you feel that Wood is just trying to use Bela to attract movie goers. Instead, when the media swarms Bela at a rehab facility, Ed shoes them away, telling Lugosi, “Those people are parasites. They don’t care about you.”

Ed Wood also liked to wear women’s clothing and to me, this must be one of the hardest roles for an actor… to actually dress like a woman when it wasn’t even remotely popular. When Depp wore his girlfriend’s Angora sweater, you could see the burden lifted from his face. As odd as it was perceived in that day, it was his escape. And it was also the primary reason his girlfriend left him. But Ed was OK. In a sense, Depp gave us a glimpse of the freedom Wood must have felt… he was no longer obligated to hide who he really was.

Ed Wood is ranked in the top 200 films at 179 by IMDb and it’s available on DVD. This would make a great Christmas present for Depp fans or horror film lovers. And if you’re interested in seeing the real Ed Wood’s work, I recommend Plan 9 from Outer Space. It received 3 stars out of 10, but you should see it just to hear the first line, “Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.”

Depp plays George Jung in Blow, a drama that doesn't exploit the world of drugs, nor condemn it. After seeing George's tragic outcomes as a world-class coke dealer, the profession doesn’t seem appealing. However, that really isn’t the main message of the movie and Depp’s acting actually makes you feel pity for George.

At first, Jung was a hardcore dealer, making deals left and right in California. Like all dealers, he started with pot and moved up to coke. A few connections later, he’s the go-to guy in the United States. Then comes his daughter, his shining light.

Like the habit itself, George tries to walk away from the business after nearly getting killed and busted, but he just can’t. He finally makes the decision to be a responsible dad and his caught making his final deal. Jung then spends his days rotting in jail always thinking of his baby girl, who never comes to see him.

In this movie, contrary to what you’d expect from a drug dealer, Depp does not act tough. Rather, he is all about business and making friends and making money, lots of it. I’m sure he spent a lot of time with the real George, as he displays several odd mannerisms throughout.

This film is not rated in the top 200, but would be a great complement to a DVD collector of movies like the Godfather. I would not recommend this film for a former drug user. Seriously.

Depp is currently working on six other films: Shantaram (2007), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2006), The Rum Diary (2006), Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (2007), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) and Kingdom Hearts II (2005).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

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Just Friends - C

Just Friends is a comedy that never really takes off. While it certainly has its funny moments, the picture fails to put a stamp on its flavor. Is it a Jackass type of comedy with raw, vulgar scenes or a romantic comedy like You’ve Got Mail? Truth is, it’s a little bit of both.

Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) is a good-looking, lean LA music executive, who 10 years ago was a fat, shy, pimple-faced kid. In high school in Jersey, the only thing he had going for him was his friendship with Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart), whom Chris harbored deep relationship-type feelings for. His secret was revealed at their graduation party when Chris wrote a heart-felt love note in Jamie’s yearbook, which was read to the entire party crowd by the school bully. Embarrassed, Chris attempts to leave, but is met by Jamie, who informs Chris he is the best friend ever, placing him in the dreaded friend zone. Chris used this friend zone 10 years later to mold his player skills. As a big time executive, Chris scores with any woman he so desires. The movie takes a strange twist when Chris is instructed to escort a Jessica Simpson type, Samantha James (Anna Faris), to Paris. Samantha mistakenly puts silverware in the microwave, forcing the plane to land in New Jersey. Chris takes Sam to his childhood home, where he hadn’t been since he graduated. At the local watering hole, he runs into Jamie and thinks he can impress her with his big-important life. To the contrary, she was insulted and missed the old Chris. There on, he tried to win Jamie over. But he has a little competition in the form of another former dork, Dusty (Chris Klein), who once had the face of a pepperoni pizza and also sported a crush on Jamie. Now, the enemy was a smooth talking, handsome guitar player who served as an EMT.

From there, the movie becomes extremely predictable. Chris does everything in his power to get Jamie and he slowly loses the fight to Dusty, who Chris learns has bad intentions. The funniest scenes are of Chris and his brother. They fight like their still in their teens. And the brother admits to Samantha that he visits his member daily while fantasizing over her poster that reveals much of Sam’s skin. He nearly gets his dream come true when Samantha was in need of a little attention. But Chris enters the bedroom just as the brother applies oils to Samantha.

This is certainly not Ryan Reynolds best performance and the director, Ryan Kumble, seems to struggle with the film’s direction. Just Friends will be one of those movies forgotten 10 years from now. But, Reynolds is a good actor and he will make another hit, like Van Wilder, that will be watched for years to come.