Cary Brokaw

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Sex and Death 101 Review


Weak
Daniel Waters has one of Hollywood's most intriguing resumes. After writing his first film, Heathers, Waters trolled through the Hollywood meat grinder, writing some of the '90s worst big-budget movies: Demolition Man, The Adventures of Ford Fairline, and the widely-razzed Hudson Hawk.

Waters dropped out of Hollywood for nearly a decade before reviving himself to write and direct the largely forgotten Happy Campers. After another six year hiatus he returned again with Sex and Death 101, which has the distinction of reuniting Waters with Heathers star Winona Ryder... who's been through her own travails, as well.

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Short Cuts Review


Good
While one could argue that Robert Altman's 1993 film Short Cuts was simply an updating of his 1975 classic Nashville, with a much higher quotient of star power and slightly more prurient subject matter - an attempt to keep the once iconic filmmaker from straying into the shadowy irrelevance like so many of his '70s peers - and while that argument could very well be true, that doesn't deprive Short Cuts of any of its power, or disprove the fact that it's ultimately a better film.

Spinning together a series of short stories from the master of the form, Raymond Carver, Altman takes some 20-odd Los Angelenos and twists their lives together seemingly just for the fun of how their individual little lives play out and connect up, like a puppetmaster who can't stop adding new puppets to his repertoire. To flesh out his tapestry of early '90s Southern California life, Altman has a fine batch of actors and actresses, including everyone from the best of their generation (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Downey Jr) to the solidly respectable but not terribly exciting choices (Julianne Moore, Matthew Modine, Madeleine Stowe) to oddly effective musician stunt casting (Lyle Lovett, Tom Waits, Huey Lewis) to one lordly presence (Jack Lemmon).

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Mindhunters Review


Weak
In Mindhunters, a serial killer uses broken watches to reveal the time he's going to murder his next victim. Ironically, the film itself is like a watch -- a classy watch, in fact -- but a watch, nonetheless; similar in that both are reliable devices that do exactly what you expect of them and do so on autopilot, extracting little effort from the observer, until, of course, a battery change becomes necessary. Unfortunately, Mindhunters needs more than a simple battery replacement.

How's this for a final exam? Jake Harris (Val Kilmer), a controversial FBI instructor, immerses his students in elaborate, realistic training situations, and he pushes them to their limits for their final test. He flies his students (Christian Slater, Patricia Velasquez, Jonny Lee Miller, Clifton Collins Jr., Kathryn Morris, Eion Bailey, and Will Kemp) to a remote island used for war games practice, which has been deserted for the weekend.

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Closer Review


Terrible
Love and romance are tough stuff. Leave it to Mike Nichols and his adaptation of the callous play Closer to make it even tougher.

The setup holds promise: Four characters in dreary London couple and de-couple, falling in and out of relationships over a four year span. The story is told piecemeal, as it focuses on brief events in the couples' lives, separated by months or years. It begins as American stripper Alice (Natalie Portman) meets British obituary writer Dan (Jude Law) by happenstance. A year later, Dan encounters photographer Anna (Julia Roberts), whom he immediately begins to lust after. Later, Dan plays an internet prank on dermatologist Larry (Clive Owen), which unexpectedly sends him into the arms of Anna. They marry, and Anna promptly starts an affair with Dan. Dan confesses to Alice, she becomes a stripper again. Anna confesses to Larry, and she leaves him, sending Dan to Alice for the first time. And round and round we go until everyone's had a shot at everyone else.

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The Merchant of Venice Review


Good
When I heard that Al Pacino was playing Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, part of me was extremely skeptical. I was fearful he would bellow every other word ("If YOU prick US!"), which has been his acting technique for over a decade. Or, perhaps he would lapse into the Foghorn Leghorn accent that made The Recruit such a hoot.

It's been a crap shoot with the great actor for some time. Watching Pacino is like watching a beloved, over the hill athlete sticking around. He hobbles, the crispness of his movements isn't there, and the mixture of luck and confidence he once had is just a pleasant memory. More often than not, you just hope he just doesn't stumble. You just want a glimmer of what once was.

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