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The Dead Girl Review


Very Good
With her debut feature Blue Car, Karen Moncrieff zeroed in on a troubled adolescent girl and a relationship with her favorite teacher; the film had the focus of a short story (a mixed blessing for a feature film). In The Dead Girl, her scope widens but that sharpness remains. The girl of the title is found in a field, and Moncrieff spends time with four women affected by her death: Arden (Toni Collette), who finds the body; the morgue attendant/student (Rose Byrne) who receives it next; Ruth (Mary Beth Hurt), the wife of a man who may know more about the death than he lets on; and a mother (Marcia Gay Harden) in town to identify a body.

Following these sideline characters, the screenplay circles the girl herself, a prostitute played by Brittany Murphy in a final, haunting segment. This structure eschews typical ensemble payoffs -- only a few of the characters intersect and they sure as hell don't learn valuable lessons from each other -- for its own subtle rewards. These narrative threads, never running over 20 minutes, are as close to short fiction as Blue Car, but the new film also has the unity of a fine, slim story collection.

Continue reading: The Dead Girl Review

Cherry Falls Review


OK
By now, the audience for slasher films is perfectly attuned to the rhythms of Scream and its spawn of imitators, each more formulaic than the next. Attractive teenagers flirt with one another, meander around campus chatting on their cell phones, then abruptly find themselves isolated in an abandoned library or, God forbid, alone in the house. That's when the masked killer attacks. Cue the shrieks.

Put Cherry Falls a notch above the competition for the audacity of its wry comic twist. Yes, there's a creepy, longhaired psychopath, either a convincing drag queen or a ferociously strong woman, deliberately seeking out virgins for slicing and dicing. Virgins. The resourceful students of Cherry Falls High School soon realize that they have a deliciously simple choice: sex or death. Which would you choose?

Continue reading: Cherry Falls Review

Happy Feet Review


Very Good
Hollywood is led by followers, and whenever a studio comes up with an unexpected left-field hit, other studios tend to rush out imitations, following blindly like lemmings (or penguins) over a cliff.

So when the 2005 documentary March of the Penguins became a surprise hit and ahem, broke the ice, more penguin movies became a possibility. Luckily, one was already in the works, and even more luckily, Happy Feet is the project of Aussie auteur George Miller (best known for Babe), who does not follow anyone's lead. It takes only a few seconds -- the time it takes one of the penguins to sing the first verse of Prince's "Kiss," while another sings "Heartbreak Hotel" -- for Miller's film to qualify as the weirdest movie of the year. (Not having seen March of the Penguins, I wasn't aware coming into this film that each emperor penguin has its own "song." Knowing that fact could have helped me to grasp the concept sooner. Or not.)

Continue reading: Happy Feet Review

Uptown Girls Review


Bad
You have to pay close attention, but there's a subtle hint in an early scene of Boaz Yakin's unwatchable Uptown Girls that let's us know what's in store: A TV playing in the background of a useless scene shows Looney Tunes scoundrel Wile E. Coyote plunging off a cliff to his umpteenth demise. Those who pay good money to sit through this dud will relate to that sinking feeling.

Haphazardly slapped together without an original bone in its anorexic frame, the film stars Brittany Murphy as Molly Gunn, daughter of a late rock icon. Since day one, Molly has been living like a pig in you-know-what off her father's royalties. One day, though, her accountant bolts for South America with all of her savings, forcing our intrepid heroine to climb down from her pedestal and find a paying job.

Continue reading: Uptown Girls Review

Summer Catch Review


Weak
Kids today, they don't just want to see heartthrob and master thespian Freddie Prinze Jr. loving on the ladies. No, they want to see him doing something that takes a little more in the acting department: namely, playing baseball.

Through a series of drippy voiceovers, we are informed that there's no better proving ground for Major League Baseball than the Cape Cod summer baseball leagues, where college also-rans and hopeful dropouts go to play in the hopes of attracting big league attention. Our man Freddie has landed a spot as a pitcher on the prestigious Chatham A's, where he is hoping for his big break.

Continue reading: Summer Catch Review

Trixie Review


OK
It's a damn shame when a bad movie happens to a great actor. It's even worse when you try to enjoy their performance in the film while being distracted by a terrible wasteland of a script. Such is the sad case of Alan Rudolph's latest "screwball noir" farce, Trixie, a misguided attempt at expanding the noir genre by giving it a comedic twist.

Everything seemed to be in place to make a good film out of Trixie, starting with a great cast of Nick Nolte, Will Patton, Dermot Mulrooney, newcomer Brittany Murphy, Nathan Lane, and the wonderfully versatile actress Emily Watson. The story follows a misunderstood girl named Trixie, who has an annoying habit of mixing up her metaphors - with such memorable lines as "life is no bed of gravy" and "it's like looking through a needle for a haystack." Trixie holds dead-end jobs as a security guard for low-rent department stores but yearns for something better in her life. Don't we all. Eventually she takes a job at a casino resort as an undercover cop and gets involved in a tangled mess of a political sex scandal/murder mystery. Don't you just hate when that happens?!

Continue reading: Trixie Review

Cherry Falls Review


OK
By now, the audience for slasher films is perfectly attuned to the rhythms of Scream and its spawn of imitators, each more formulaic than the next. Attractive teenagers flirt with one another, meander around campus chatting on their cell phones, then abruptly find themselves isolated in an abandoned library or, God forbid, alone in the house. That's when the masked killer attacks. Cue the shrieks.

Put Cherry Falls a notch above the competition for the audacity of its wry comic twist. Yes, there's a creepy, longhaired psychopath, either a convincing drag queen or a ferociously strong woman, deliberately seeking out virgins for slicing and dicing. Virgins. The resourceful students of Cherry Falls High School soon realize that they have a deliciously simple choice: sex or death. Which would you choose?

Continue reading: Cherry Falls Review

Sidewalks Of New York Review


Very Good
Edward Burns' best movies rarely show the busy intersections and tall buildings of New York City. He covers the blue-collar attitude perfectly, representing a side of the Empire State most moviegoers rarely see anymore. I think that's why his first film, The Brothers McMullen, was so appreciated. It's also why I own No Looking Back, a telling look of working class malaise, on videotape.

Like a lot of other New Jersey and New York residents, Burns can't help but be tempted by the city life. In his fourth film, Sidewalks of New York, he examines three men and three women whose romantic lives intersect. It's a pleasant and amusing turn after the potent dreariness of No Looking Back. But why do I get the feeling that anyone could have directed Sidewalks? I guess it's because setting a romantic comedy in New York City seems silly, if you can't capitalize on the atmosphere. And Burns can't. Try as he may, he's still a big city outsider. And I think he's better off that way.

Continue reading: Sidewalks Of New York Review

Girl, Interrupted Review


Good
As near as I can tell, the 60s were about being crazy. Whether it was being crazy while fighting communists in Vietnam, or being crazy while burning bras, or being crazy while marching on Washington, the 60s resounded with insanity. So what better way to tell the story of the 60s than from within the walls of a mental ward known as Claymoore? Hence is the promise given to us in the ads of Girl, Interrupted.

The reality is a bit different.

Continue reading: Girl, Interrupted Review

Don't Say A Word Review


Weak
Surrounded by hype, high hopes, and the promise of an over-the-top performance by Clueless's Brittany Murphy, Don't Say a Word looked full of promise. Hell, when I hear that "I'll never tell" whisper on the TV commercial, goose bumps run up my spine.

Alas, Word is filled with little but disappointment, a kooky mix of Girl, Interrupted and Ransom, with Michael Douglas and company collecting a paycheck to plod through a vapid and dull kidnapping thriller.

Continue reading: Don't Say A Word Review

Good Boy! Review


Good
Man's best friend: an expression used for ages to describe the relationship between people and their dogs. Rarely has there been a need to question a canine's faith, but after watching Good Boy!, it makes me wonder if what we've been saying for years is right.

Twelve year-old Owen Baker (Liam Aiken) has spent his summer break walking the neighborhood dogs to prove to his parents (Molly Shannon and Kevin Nealon) that he is responsible enough to have a dog of his own. The dog Owen eventually adopts, which he names Hubble, proves to be much smarter than the ordinary canine; Hubble instantly knows how to sit, stay, roll over, and even play dead. Based on his previous training experience, Owen finds this degree of intelligence extremely odd. In search of answers, late one night Owen follows Hubble into the woods near their home; there he sees his new dog communicating with a bright light in the sky.

Continue reading: Good Boy! Review

8 Mile Review


Very Good
What up, dawg? Rolled wit my boys to the 8 Mile screening to see my homey Eminem's new movie. Man, that shiznit was off da hook. At first, I was worried that Eminem might sell out, 'cuz I seen him everywhere talkin' about this movie, man. He showed the love on MTV's Movie House, and was on the cover of my father's Entertainment Weekly wearin' boxing gloves. But no worries, this ain't no Glitter II. Em kept his cool, and his new movie was straight dope.

Word.

Continue reading: 8 Mile Review

Riding In Cars With Boys Review


Extraordinary
Chick flicks can be hard to watch. I'll admit it: It was painful to sit through Beaches. Steel Magnolias was a trial. As a man, even as one who prides himself on being fairly sensitive, there's something almost disturbing about watching films that beg for audience waterworks. In short, don't set me up for an emotional episode. If it's going to happen, let it happen; don't lead me down a fiery path to tearjerker destruction.

Riding in Cars with Boys follows the life of Beverly Hasek (Drew Barrymore) as she takes up the difficult role of motherhood at the age of 15, while at the same time, never giving up her dreams. And, while a quintessential chick flick, Riding in Cars chooses to take a higher road -- a genuine road, filled with life lessons so real you can feel them burning their way down your throat and tugging at that little place inside you that says, "Hey, this could have been me!"

Continue reading: Riding In Cars With Boys Review

Just Married Review


Bad
Since I'm getting married this spring, I figured Just Married would be a funny diversion from all of the wedding planning and decisions my fiancé and I are making these days. Much to my surprise, this mean-spirited film scared me more than it entertained. I hope married life isn't anything like the bit of hell portrayed in Just Married.

Ashton Kutcher (TV's That '70s Show) plays Tom Leezak, a quirky late-night radio traffic reporter who has little to show for his life, except for the beautiful woman who has recently and inexplicably become his wife. She is Sarah McNerney (Brittany Murphy), a young free spirit and daughter of one of Beverly Hills' richest tycoons. Their marriage meets with great opposition from her snobbish family, especially from her father who wishes she had married her old flame and refined family friend, Peter Prentis (Christian Kane). For their honeymoon, Tom and Sarah take an expensive vacation to visit the great capitals of Europe. Unfortunately, their vacation follows a downward spiral that finds the two newlyweds fighting at every moment and looking nothing like the happily-ever-after couple they should be.

Continue reading: Just Married Review

Sin City Review


Good
Innovative and dazzling in its absolute loyalty to thevisual style of its inspiration, "Sin City" brings comic bookpages alive to a degree that is unprecedented in movie history.

A triptych of dark, violent tales set in a fallen cityof corruption and grime, the film is a collaboration between film directorRobert Rodriguez (of "Desperado" and "SpyKids" fame) and graphic novelist FrankMiller (responsible for the gritty reinventions of Batman and Daredevil),whose unique touch in the unusual role of co-director is unmistakable.

Pages from the "Sin City" books were clearlyused as storyboards for the stunning, stark black-and-white cinematography,which features exclamation points of illustrative color: the golden tressesof a beautiful femme fatale, white-on-black silhouettes, red splashes ofblood from brutal murders that occur just out of frame.

His influence can also be felt (along with that of Rodriguezpal Quentin Tarantino, who is curiously credited as a "special guestdirector") in the "Pulp Fiction"-like plot structure thatlends itself well to the interconnected short stories, each of which makeup in atmosphere what they sometimes lack in profundity.

Continue reading: Sin City Review

8 Mile Review


Good

OK, yes -- Eminem can act. In fact, he can carry a movie. The charismatically angry white hip-hop star is in every scene of "8 Mile" -- a film inspired in part by his own days as a hungry young rapper, scrapping his way through smack-down rhyme battles in mid-1990s Detroit. And while some may say he's not doing much more than playing himself, Eminem shows enough resourceful nuance and emotional intuition that he cannot be summarily dismissed.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's directed by Curtis Hanson, who has proven his acumen and passion for producing movies as inspired and extraordinary as "L.A. Confidential" and the off-kilter, tragically overlooked intellectual comedy "Wonder Boys."

The story here is not a rise-to-glory cliché with a lucrative recording contract waiting for the hero at the closing credits. It's a realistic, struggling-class drama about a tough kid from the white side of the Motor City ghetto who wants to prove himself as a rapper and "get out of the D."

Continue reading: 8 Mile Review

Sidewalks Of New York Review


Good

Lauded after his 1994 debut "The Brothers McMullen" as a potential Woody Allen for the reflectively cynical generation, writer-director-actor Edward Burns may truly begin living up to that label with "Sidewalks of New York," a sardonic yet hopeful love letter to the difficulties and dilemmas of the Manhattan mating game.

Structured around on-the-street interviews with its characters, the picture is a compound parable of crossing paths in the messy love lives of half a dozen Gotham denizens, starting with a cocksure young TV producer played by Burns himself.

Recently kicked out by his long-term, live-in girlfriend, Burns clicks with a pretty, polemic schoolteacher (Rosario Dawson) at a video store when they butt heads over the only copy of a movie. Meanwhile, Dawson's sad-sack ex-husband (David Krumholtz), a doorman and wannabe rocker who never got over their break-up, plays puppy dog to a button-cute, 19-year-old waitress (Brittany Murphy) until she agrees to go out with him. But the esteem-impaired girl is already sleeping with a manipulative, misogynistic father figure (Stanley Tucci), whose neglected, naive but rapidly wising-up, Upper East Side wife (Heather Graham) is a real estate agent who happens to be helping Burns find a new place to live.

Continue reading: Sidewalks Of New York Review

Riding In Cars With Boys Review


OK

When a movie says it's "based on" a true story, all too often it means that after the script doctors get through with it, what's left is too predictable and packed with clichés to bear any resemblance to the randomness of real life. Such is the case with "Riding In Cars With Boys."

But it just so happens that clichés and predictability are director Penny Marshall specialty. Idle since "A League of Their Own" -- which was totally trite yet thoroughly enjoyable -- Marshall applies her syrupy, low-cal sentimentality to this adapted autobiography of writer Beverly Donofrio, whose youthful ambition was derailed in 1965, by getting knocked up at age 15.

A maudlin but self-deprecating, bittersweet comedy-drama in which major crises are solved with little more than hugs, Beverly's journey through motherhood would be the stuff of a Lifetime Channel movie-of-the-week if not for its gusty sense of humor and a phenomenal performance of extraordinary depth and range by the previously beguiling but frivolous Drew Barrymore.

Continue reading: Riding In Cars With Boys Review

Girl, Interrupted Review


Weak

Teen angst gets the "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" treatment in "Girl, Interrupted," James Mangold's disappointingly common and commercial follow-up to his earlier, low-budget wonders "Heavy" and "Cop Land."

Poor Winona Ryder -- in her late 20s and still playing teenagers -- stars as 1960s suburban college drop-out Susanna, a compulsive writer stuck in an upscale asylum for a "rest" after mixing booze and a bottle of pain killers.

Borderline Personality Disorder is the maddeningly vague diagnosis of her psychological bugaboos -- the movie seems to want to make a point about our culture's tendency to seek scapegoats for our neuroses -- so Susanna is packed off to a New England psychiatric hospital where, in between the pill dole from the nursing staff, she writes endlessly in her dog-eared journal and fills it with tell-tale drawings the camera can cut to for moments of cheap insight.

Continue reading: Girl, Interrupted Review

Just Married Review


OK

In the screwball honeymoon-gone-wrong comedy "Just Married," giddy-in-love newlyweds Brittany Murphy and Ashton Kutcher are simply too exhausted for sex on their wedding night. Then the next day, a series of mishaps derails their attempt to join the "mile-high club" on their flight to Europe.

There's no nookie that night in their five-star castle-hotel either, because they get 86-ed for blowing out the electrical system by forcing the plug of an American sex toy into a European socket. And the next night in a Venice flop house the mood is spoiled by cockroaches.

Starting to sense a pattern?

Continue reading: Just Married Review

Spun Review


OK

An entertaining but hideous romp on the circus side of crystal meth addiction, "Spun" wants to be another "Trainspotting" and/or "Requiem for a Dream." Inundated with trip-cam trickery that keeps the audience riding the ups and downs of the main character's drug buzzes, the film is nothing if not stylish, but falls short for lack of depth.

Music video guru and first-time feature director Jonas Akerlund makes liberal use of the disorienting, grainy, washed-out look of bleach-bypass photography. When Ross -- a downward-spiraling college dropout (played by Jason Schwartzman of "Rushmore" fame) on the leading edge of addiction but still clinging to his letter-jacket memories -- takes a hit of speed, the movie's tempo is fed a brief burst of shaky acceleration. A rapid montage of sensory-assault, nervous-tension images dance across the screen, sometimes in the form of cinematic hyper-awareness (e.g., fish-eye lens ultra-close-ups of chapped lips, bloodshot eyes and nervous-ticking fingers), sometimes in the form of animated, soddenly pornographic hallucinations.

The world of "Spun" is an acutely realized day-lit underground of ghetto shacks and combustible meth labs in cheap, airless hotel rooms (greatly enhanced by a hip-trippy score from the Smashing Pumpkin's Billy Corgan) in which all the characters seem acquiescently ensnared.

Continue reading: Spun Review

Don't Say A Word Review


Weak

A standard-issue kiddie-kidnapping adrenaline thriller, "Don't Say a Word" has a single reason for being -- one fertile, previously untapped plot hook that goes completely to waste in the hands of director Gary Fleder.

The hook: The kidnappers want a nugget of information locked away in the head of a delusional teenage mental patient (Brittany Murphy), and they snatch an Upper West Side psychologist's 8-year-old daughter to force him to help.

But the movie (based on a book by Andrew Klavan) pays little more than lip service to the logistics of such a demand. Even though no doctor has been able to get through to her in 10 years, this shrink (Michael Douglas) garners the crazy girl's trust in a matter of hours -- thus negating the only fresh element in the entire script.

Continue reading: Don't Say A Word Review

Little Black Book Review


Good

On its surface, "Little Black Book" looks like an tritely pedestrian, gimmick-driven chick flick about an emotionally mixed-up career gal who gets more than she bargained for when she rifles through her boyfriend's Palm Pilot looking up old girlfriends.

So imagine my surprise at being thoroughly entertained by this weightless but canny comedy blessed with characters whose personalities aren't dependant upon plot devices, with snappy, spontaneous dialogue (even witty internal-monologue narration), with a story that flows organically, and with a very human heroine who (gasp!) isn't always likable.

Brittany Murphy plays a sweetly self-conscious aspiring TV journalist -- trapped in an associate producer job at a trashy TV talk show -- who is goaded into nagging doubts about her adoring boyfriend by tittle-tattling coworkers (especially the charismatically tart Holly Hunter) who have been warped into habitual scandal-mongers by years of wrangling prostitute grandmothers and midget Ku Klux Klansmen for a living. (Kathy Bates has a ball as the show's shameless, tyrannical host.)

Continue reading: Little Black Book Review

Trixie Review


Weak

Undeniably an ardently independent filmmaker with unique and eccentric vision, Alan Rudolph has made some peculiarly fascinating movies.

"Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" radiated with atmospheric, addled Algonquin Roundtable intellectualism. "Afterglow" made the threadbare theme of marital infidelity almost hypnotically riveting.

Even when he goes down in flames, like he did with last year's "Breakfast of Champions" adaptation, he does it so spectacularly that it's almost impossible to look away.

Continue reading: Trixie Review

Summer Catch Review


OK

With the normally vapid, blank and bloodless Freddie Prinze, Jr. heading up the cast and a bikini-heavy ad campaign, the amateur baseball movie "Summer Catch" looked to be a brain-dead, college-age "Bull Durham" wannabe. So imagine my surprise to find it an amusing and likable -- if shallow and sometimes bumbling -- romanticized comedy about emerging ballplayers itching for their big-league chance.

The picture takes place during in the summer baseball season at Cape Cod, where college athletes from all over the country come to play for free and hopefully get discovered by major and minor league scouts. The on-the-diamond parts of the picture are poorly structured and dependent entirely on play-by-play narration that isn't backed up by the action on the screen. ("The big story so far is Ryan Dunne...," says the announcer. Oh yeah, why's that?)

The characters are stock and two-dimensional -- the party animal (Matthew Lillard), the flamboyant show-off rival (Corey Pearson) of the struggling-with-his-inner demons hometown hero (Prinze).

Continue reading: Summer Catch Review

Brittany Murphy

Brittany Murphy Quick Links

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Brittany Murphy

Date of birth

10th November, 1977

Date of death

20th December, 2009

Occupation

Actor

Sex

Female

Height

1.6


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Brittany Murphy Movies

Happy Feet Movie Review

Happy Feet Movie Review

Hollywood is led by followers, and whenever a studio comes up with an unexpected left-field...

The Dead Girl Movie Review

The Dead Girl Movie Review

With her debut feature Blue Car, Karen Moncrieff zeroed in on a troubled adolescent girl...

Cherry Falls Movie Review

Cherry Falls Movie Review

By now, the audience for slasher films is perfectly attuned to the rhythms of Scream...

Happy Feet Movie Review

Happy Feet Movie Review

Hollywood is led by followers, and whenever a studio comes up with an unexpected left-field...

Uptown Girls Movie Review

Uptown Girls Movie Review

You have to pay close attention, but there's a subtle hint in an early scene...

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Summer Catch Movie Review

Summer Catch Movie Review

Kids today, they don't just want to see heartthrob and master thespian Freddie Prinze Jr....

Trixie Movie Review

Trixie Movie Review

It's a damn shame when a bad movie happens to a great actor. It's...

Cherry Falls Movie Review

Cherry Falls Movie Review

By now, the audience for slasher films is perfectly attuned to the rhythms of Scream...

Girl, Interrupted Movie Review

Girl, Interrupted Movie Review

As near as I can tell, the 60s were about being crazy. Whether it...

Don't Say A Word Movie Review

Don't Say A Word Movie Review

Surrounded by hype, high hopes, and the promise of an over-the-top performance by Clueless's Brittany...

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