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Rent Review


Excellent
Whatever happened to the glut of movie musicals that the success of Moulin Rouge and Chicago was supposed to have unleashed upon us? Although the door for the long-moribund genre was indeed nudged open by those films, it fortunately never opened wide enough to subject us to the like of Mamma Mia! The Film or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Reloaded. Instead, studios have been fairly scrupulous about what they'll let through, and with the arrival of Rent, that's proved to be a good thing.

When Chris "Mrs. Doubtfire" Columbus was announced as the director of the evergreen 1996 rock musical - which updated Puccini's starving-artists opera La Bohème to the East Village in the late 1980s - it seemed like a bad joke. Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese had been buzzing around the project for years and getting the show's fans all excited, only to run into the usual budget/artistic/Miramax problems, not to mention a cast that was slowly getting past its prime. Handing the play over to the family-friendly Columbus seemed like admitting that the subject matter - a welter of squatting artists, homosexuality, heroin addiction, AIDS, and untimely deaths - was going to get watered down. Somehow, that didn't happen. While he's made the musical considerably cinematic, Columbus has also shown a surprising appreciation and fidelity to the source material; he should have tried directing something without children years ago.

Continue reading: Rent Review

Rent Review


Excellent
Whatever happened to the glut of movie musicals that the success of Moulin Rouge and Chicago was supposed to have unleashed upon us? Although the door for the long-moribund genre was indeed nudged open by those films, it fortunately never opened wide enough to subject us to the like of Mamma Mia! The Film or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Reloaded. Instead, studios have been fairly scrupulous about what they'll let through, and with the arrival of Rent, that's proved to be a good thing.

When Chris "Mrs. Doubtfire" Columbus was announced as the director of the evergreen 1996 rock musical - which updated Puccini's starving-artists opera La Bohème to the East Village in the late 1980s - it seemed like a bad joke. Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese had been buzzing around the project for years and getting the show's fans all excited, only to run into the usual budget/artistic/Miramax problems, not to mention a cast that was slowly getting past its prime. Handing the play over to the family-friendly Columbus seemed like admitting that the subject matter - a welter of squatting artists, homosexuality, heroin addiction, AIDS, and untimely deaths - was going to get watered down. Somehow, that didn't happen. While he's made the musical considerably cinematic, Columbus has also shown a surprising appreciation and fidelity to the source material; he should have tried directing something without children years ago.

Continue reading: Rent Review

Monkeybone Review


Terrible
Despite Fox's attempts to market this film on the coattails of director Henry Selick's success with Tim Burton vehicle The Nightmare Before Christmas, be thou not fooled. Monkeybone bears none of the charm or character of its predecessor. The story of a cartoonist (Brendan Fraser) who falls into a coma and enters a world where the star he created, Monkeybone (who is -- get this -- both a monkey and a metaphor for the cartoonist's own penis), this film lacks as much in the way of creative inspiration as it does in taste.

It's not that the unending stream of preschoolish fart and pecker jokes are offensive, they're just tiresome and invariably expected. And they persist, from the opening scene to the entirely unsurprising conclusion. Fortunately, though, the film has some subplots. Unfortunately, they're absolutely senseless.

Continue reading: Monkeybone Review

Bicentennial Man Review


Good
Robin Williams wants -- and needs -- nothing more than to have his own The Truman Show -- a Hail Mary to ward off permanent stereotyping. Typecast as a goofy loudmouth in throwaway films ranging from Mrs. Doubtfire to Fathers' Day to Flubber, you have to look back all the way to The Fisher King in 1991 for his last great starring role.

Bicentennial Man aims to turn that all around by making Williams something we can relate to once again. Ironically, that's not as a human: It's as a robot.

Continue reading: Bicentennial Man Review

Cheaper By The Dozen Review


Weak
Can someone please pull Steve Martin's career out of the past? Once wild and crazy, Martin's now mild and lazy, a cookie-cutter comedian content to milk mediocre laughs out of reheated remakes of classic flicks. Results vary. Martin's Father of the Bride stayed sweet, while his updated The Out-of-Towners struck a surprisingly unpleasant chord.

Now there's Cheaper by the Dozen, a stale take on Walter Lang's 1950s farce of the same name that is based on the real-life story of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, the parents of 12 children. Here the original Gilbreth becomes Thomas Baker (Martin). Get it? A Baker's dozen? No, the jokes don't get much better than that one, unless you laugh when an athletic supporter lands in a pot of spaghetti sauce and Martin bellows, "Pasta de la crotch!"

Continue reading: Cheaper By The Dozen Review

Gremlins Review


Good
Funny how we remember old movies as being better than they really are. I first saw Gremlins as a little kid, and I loved the film so much that my parents got me a Gizmo doll for Christmas that year. In fact, even though they don't make Gizmo toys anymore, Gremlins will still please kids today with its juvenile story involving vicious little monsters wreaking havoc on adults.

However, watching the movie recently I found flaws I didn't notice before. While I used to hide under blankets when the evil gremlins appeared, I now laugh at the shallow, one-dimensional characters, the idiotic, repetitive storyline, and especially the corny special effects.

Continue reading: Gremlins Review

Nine Months Review


Good
Nine Months has all the makings of an incredible disaster. First, its star (Hugh Grant) is arrested for lewd conduct. Second, it's a remake of a French film (Neuf Mois), always a huge negative. Finally, it's a comedy decidedly for adults which is directed by the infantile Chris Columbus, the man who brought us the Home Alone franchise and Mrs. Doubtfire.

Imagine my shock; Nine Months is pretty good.

Continue reading: Nine Months Review

Christmas With The Kranks Review


Bad
Like the honey-glazed ham around which so much of its story sadly revolves, Christmas with the Kranks is tasty at first but soon congeals into little more than a fatty, gelatinous mess. Based on one of John Grisham's bestsellers that isn't about lawyers, Skipping Christmas, the film features the fine directing talents of Joe Roth (America's Sweethearts) and a script by Chris Columbus, who apparently, now that he's done with the Harry Potter series, can go back to cranking out family-friendly pabulum.

The promising premise has Luther and Nora Krank, a couple of parents who have just sent their daughter Blair off to the Peace Corps in Peru, faced with a holiday season alone in their suburban Chicago home. Not exactly relishing the prospect of once again throwing the big Christmas Eve party, and basically just fed up with the whole guilt-induced consumer frenzy, Luther (Tim Allen) convinces Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) to chuck the whole thing and spend 10 days on a Caribbean cruise instead. He also boycotts everything to do with the holiday, not buying or receiving any presents and taking no part in the neighborhood gatherings and decorations. Nora goes along reluctantly until the neighbors notice what's happening and turn on the Kranks in a campaign of condemnation and isolation that seems like something out of The Lottery. That is, before a convenient plot wrinkle ensures everyone will have to pull together and enjoy some holiday spirit.

Continue reading: Christmas With The Kranks Review

The Goonies Review


Very Good
The Goonies has convinced me that sterility might not be such a bad thing.

The Goonies stars Sean Astin and Corey Feldman in their formative years, as leaders of a ratty group of kids who live in the boondocks. When wealthy developers threaten to move in, they discover an old treasure map, and set off in search of "the rich stuff" to save their admittedly pathetic way of life.

Continue reading: The Goonies Review

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban Review


OK

Well folks, it's another year at Hogwarts Academy (two years in real life), and our rapidly maturing stars are back for another round of magical high jinks and mass merchandising in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Harry's been absent since the fall of 2002, and even casual viewers will notice that a lot has changed over the last two years. Director Chris Columbus (who did the first two films) is out, replaced with the controversial Alfonso Cuarón, who last hit the scene with the teen sex romp Y Tu Mamá También.

You'll notice Cuarón's touch right away. He likes to pick up the camera and get right in his actor's faces, moving all the while, a stark contrast to Columbus's traditionalism. Gone as well are the rich Technicolor tones of the Columbus movies; Cuarón prefers washed-out, yellowish shading that connotes decay and decrepitude. This is old-school wizardry, not kids stuff. In one fell swoop, Cuarón has reinvented the movies into an arthouse series that's as un-kid friendly as it gets.

How you feel about all of that depends on whether you're old enough to vote. I can't speak for the kids, but I heard more than one crying jag erupt during Azkaban's 150-minute running time. Will young kids relate to this iteration of Potter? Here's the story, you be the judge:

Once again, Harry's living with his cruel aunt and uncle, anxious to return to school. That happens soon enough, and quickly he discovers he's the target of the titular Prisoner of Azkaban, a wizard named Sirius Black who was convicted for killing dozens of people, most notably Harry's parents. Now he's escaped and is making his way toward Hogwarts, ready to snuff young Potter. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), now a troubled 13-year-old, doesn't seem overly fazed at first. He's up to his usual school antics; taking classes, sneaking out to go to town, dodging Draco. It isn't until Black arrives on the scene for real (well past the midpoint of the movie) that any of this starts to gel into a plot.

And I use that term loosely. I think of myself as an astute follower of stories, but Azkaban can be baffling if you haven't read the book or don't have someone nearby to explain who's who. For those going into this blind, there are soul-sucking dementors (not especially terrifying here), shapeshifting wizards, old friends reunited, and a time travel subplot all coming together into one of the least satisfying dénouements in fantasy movie history. While it's riddled with plot holes (which I won't reveal since they'd spoil the ending), there's no doubt Harry's going to come out of it okay: The last half hour of the movie is rehashed from another angle as we run through the time travel bit, reliving the scenes from another angle.

Azkaban the novel gets mixed reviews from Potter maniacs -- some say it's their favorite book; others say it's the worst. However, if my research is correct, it is the worst-selling of the five books to date, and it will probably go down in history as the worst of the movies, too. (But I've been wrong before, of course.) In any case, by all accounts, the books really get good starting at #4 (due out in movie form next year), while Azkaban is a slim volume where comparably little happens. Ultimately Harry is in virtually no peril compared to that in the first two stories and those that follow. Heck, Voldemort doesn't even show up in this round.

The other notable problem is how radically older the cast has gotten since 2002's Chamber of Secrets. Radcliffe is valiantly fighting off puberty, but Emma Watson (Hermione) is looking her age; she's tarted up in jeans and a rainbow belt for most of the film, and sports a more stylish haircut to boot. Now 15, Rupert Grint (Ron) looks like he ought to be starring in the next American Pie movie as a wacky foreign exchange student. And Tom Felton, who plays Draco, is now 17 years old and ought to be playing rugby in college. He probably is. I couldn't believe it was the same actor.

Speaking of actors, Richard Harris is sorely missed as Dumbledore. I love Michael Gambon, but he doesn't do the kindly old wizard too well. He's got a Robert Mitchum-esque undercoating of villainy that he just can't shake. David Thewlis and Gary Oldman are fine as the new blood, but it's Emma Thompson that steals the show as a doddering divination professor.

The rest of the series remains intact. Twittering ghosts and pictures are as we remember them (Dawn French steals a scene as a portrait of a vain fat lady), the Quidditch match is an abbreviated bust, and Snape (Alan Rickman) is as menacing as ever. But nothing much happens - certainly nothing to enhance any of the characters aside from the tenuous hand-holding of Ron and Hermione - and Azkaban generates very little energy along the way.

I have high hopes that Mike Newell will reinvigorate the series with next year's Goblet of Fire (how it will clock in at less than 8 hours I have no idea), but I can't recommend Azkaban for anyone but die-hard Potter heads.

The DVD is just the thing for those Potterphiles, including two discs of extras, such as bonus footage, cast interviews, and games for the kids.

Wand by Hogwarts. Jeans by Guess.

Stepmom Review


Bad
One of the worst atrocities of American cinema in recent memory, here we get a one-two punch from two women (Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts) who really should have known better. The setup: Ed Harris is leaving his dried-up wife for a younger dish (see if you can guess who plays who), but mom won't leave well enough alone after she discovers stepmom is incompetent. A cancer diagnosis ensues, but there'll be lots of singing and cleansing tears before the funeral. Shiver. Just thinking about this story makes us throw up in our mouths a little bit. Chris Columbus's most notorious work.

Continue reading: Stepmom Review

Chris Columbus

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Chris Columbus

Date of birth

10th September, 1958

Occupation

Filmmaker

Sex

Male


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Chris Columbus Movies

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

Pixels Chris Columbus - Featurette Trailer

Pixels Chris Columbus - Featurette Trailer

Ahead of the release of comedy adventure 'Pixels' later this summer, the cast of the...

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Pixels - Extended Trailer

Pixels - Extended Trailer

Back in the eighties, NASA sent a time capsule up into space to connect with...

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Movie Review

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Movie Review

Now in its third instalment, it's clearer than ever that this franchise is based on...

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Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Movie Review

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Movie Review

There can't have been a very big demand for a sequel to 2010's The Lightning...

The Help Movie Review

The Help Movie Review

A strongly issue-based story gives a terrific cast plenty to play with in this hugely...

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Trailer

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Trailer

Watch the trailer for Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Percy Jackson isn't...

I Love You, Beth Cooper Trailer

I Love You, Beth Cooper Trailer

Watch the trailer for I Love You, Beth CooperDenis Cooverman is the valedictorian in his...

Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer Movie Review

Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer Movie Review

The NBA hands out a Most Improved Player Award at the end of each season....

Night at the Museum Movie Review

Night at the Museum Movie Review

Right around the time a monkey urinates on Ben Stiller's head, I came to terms...

Rent - Trailer Trailer

Rent - Trailer Trailer

Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer Prize-winning revolutionary rock opera Rent tells the story of a group of...

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