Alan Greisman

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The Bucket List Review

There will likely be people out there who will like The Bucket List. They will like its easy-to-follow premise, the hollow and overplayed jokes that occasionally come rumbling along, and the AARP-approved folksiness. And they'll really like Jack Nicholson, mugging for the camera as though terrified people will forget that he's still that same devilish old scamp he's been for longer than most moviegoers have been alive. This is not to say that the reason The Bucket List is a terrible film is because there are so many people out there predisposed to liking it. The Bucket List is a terrible film because it's thinly-conceived and even more thinly-executed faux serenity for the masses whose overbearing sentimentality trivializes death in a manner that's truly disturbing, even for Hollywood. But it will find its audience -- many terrible films do.

The conceit behind Justin Zackham's cloying script is a sort of retiree meet-cute: Stick two old guys from completely different backgrounds with utterly opposite points of view in the same hotel room, tell them both they've got terminal diseases that will kill them in a number of months, and then watch them try desperately to do everything in life they've never gotten around to. Make one of those old guys Nicholson and the other Morgan Freeman, add in a director like Rob Reiner who's shown himself in the past to possess both a sense of humor and compassion, and it would seem that the producers would have on their hands a film sure to please nearly everybody: raunchy camaraderie mixed in with earthy wisdom that stares death in the face and dares to crack a smile. Needless to say, that isn't the case here.

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Fletch Review

If you were in junior high or high school when Fletch came out, the movie holds enormous nostalgia value, particularly if you also happened to live in L.A. at the time (like me). Fletch revealed the L.A. that its denizens knew well -- the grungy beaches, the sun-cracked streets, the drab apartment buildings. Fletch's Lakers fetish, and the offices of the Los Angeles Times-like newspaper where he worked completed the L.A. milieu that audiences here immediately hooked into. What's more, we got Chevy Chase at his wise-ass best, in a crime caper tailored to the Beverly Hills Cop crowd (of which I was an admiring member), and thrumming with Harold Faltermeyer on the soundtrack. Sure, Faltermeyer's synthesizers sound supremely cheesy today, but this was the '80s, man. And nothing speaks the '80s like Faltermeyer's Casio keyboards, tuneful yet pulsing with that moneyed urban vibe; I think of it as the safe, consumer-friendly edge of high '80s decadence.

On first viewing (the movie's opening weekend), I admit I didn't get all of Fletch's jokes, but found myself pleasantly amused. Twenty-two years later, I get all the jokes, but I remain only pleasantly amused, nothing more, nothing less. This is a comfort movie -- smart and sassy enough to make good company, but a notch short of brilliant.

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Texas Rangers Review

I think it was supposed to come out in 1999, but it was the end of 2001 before Texas Rangers finally rode into movie theaters -- only to ride right out again following a complete lack of publicity. The most interesting anecdote I can remember about the movie's release is an Entertainment Weekly chronology of events on opening day at one theater -- where six people came for the screening.

Following the critically and commercially massacred American Outlaws, Texas Rangers also tried to spin American history with a hippish, young cast, in this case Dawson's Creek star James Van Der Beek, Ashton Kutcher, and Usher Raymond -- as the first recruits of what would become the famous Texas Rangers.

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'Night Mother Review

'Night Mother starts off with a real bang -- or at least, the promise of one -- as Sissy Spacek declares she will be shooting herself shortly. What follows, sadly, is 90 minutes of bickering with mom (Anne Bancroft, spooky as hell), which drag things down irrevocably. Will she go through with it? Why does she want to kill herself, anyway? Oddly, it's the former question that holds all our attention.

Alex And Emma Review

We've seen enough romantic comedies to know how the formula works -- guy gets girl, guy loses girl, guy gets girl back. Because these films are so ridiculously predictable by nature, a successful romantic comedy will have to masquerade its obvious intentions behind a story that leads us to the obligatory ending in an unconventional way. And for two thirds of director Rob Reiner's Alex and Emma, the story cleverly disguises what we perceive, and gives us every indication we're witnessing something fresh. Unfortunately, the final third reverts back to the conventional, and the film falls dramatically short of its potential.

Alex Sheldon (Luke Wilson) is a budding novelist suffering from a severe case of writer's block that is holding him back from starting his book and getting the paycheck he desperately needs. Alex's debt collectors have given him only 30 days to complete his novel, collect the money, and pay of his gambling debt. Otherwise, Alex's life story will come to an end. Almost out of options, Alex convinces stenographer Emma Dinsmore (Kate Hudson) to quickly translate his thoughts to the written word. The story Alex tells pertains to a 1920s romantic triangle between grade school tutor Adam Shipley (also played by Wilson), the beautiful French matriarch (Sophie Marceau) of Shipley's charges, and the family au pair Anna (Hudson).

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