At the heart of all great films is the joy of discovery. We become not merely entertained with a fascinating story and engaging characters, but consumed by a vivid new landscape that excites and frightens us. In its own twisted way, True Romance opens up a whole new world. And this world of pimps, guns, drugs, and love is zanily, ridiculously brilliant. Not often do we see such a world in what is otherwise a simple love story, but that is the essence of True Romance; it is the most warm-hearted movie ever made about killers, coke dealers, and hookers.
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Four years later, Taylor drops another oddball flick on us, and the trouble is obvious before frame one. For starters, the name of the movie is The Darwin Awards, which sounds like it's going to be a documentary about those nutty people who kill themselves doing stupid things, thus earning posthumous "Darwin Awards" (as written up in a series of books of the same name) for ridding the gene pool of their DNA.
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Before he became a household name, Tarantino stunned us all with this low-budget tale analyzing the before-and-after (and remarkably very little of the "during") of a diamond heist. Set largely within the confines of one warehouse, the movie is so chock full of witty and quotable dialogue ("Mr. Brown? That sounds too much like Mr. Shit. ") and eye-popping scenes (when, say, the suspected cop is doused in gasoline and has his ear cut off) that it has become an instant classic. Not incidentally, it also remade both the heist movie and the gangster flick, spawning countless imitations, just like later Tarantino works would do.
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Bullock plays hard-nosed, seasoned homicide detective Cassie Mayweather, who has more issues than four of my ex-girlfriends combined. After a young woman is found dead in her district, Cassie and her new partner Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin) take the case and discover conflicting evidence. Using techniques she must have picked up by watching CSI, Cassie's intrepid sleuthing leads her to cocky high school student Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling, who eerily resembles a Muppet), who owns a unique pair of boots linked to the crime scene but were stolen weeks before the crime. Richard's airtight alibi and carefree nature only confounds Cassie's intrepid sleuthing skills and brings to surface memories of a tragic event in Cassie's life, involving a bitter husband and 17 stab wounds.
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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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Chan and Tucker are truly opposites. Jackie is known for his modest demeanor and amazing physical abilities, but not for his amazing grasp of the English language. Chris is boastful and outspoken, a shameless motormouth that just will not shut up. The pairing of these two actors works well. Chan provides us with the action and Tucker provides us with the witty comic relief.
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Unfortunately Ratner does not find the same joy in Rush Hour 2, an occasionally amusing comedic adventure that leaves us with a profoundly annoying Chris Tucker fighting for attention while Jackie Chan fights one-dimensional Chinese villains with his bare fists. The film contains some neat action sequences, a great third act, and the most hilarious outtakes I can remember - but the clash of genres feels intrusive and awkward. I wanted more excitement, more character dimension, and a whole hell of a lot less of Chris Tucker's irritating mouth.
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Mulholland Falls is the preferred method of ridding 1950s L.A. of unwanted baddies, and it is most often used by a foursome of elite cops: Nick Nolte, Chazz Palminteri, Chris Penn, and Michael Madsen. Their newest mission: to find the murderer of Allison (Jennifer Connelly), a girl whose bizarre death leads the gang to a General (John Malkovich) at the Atomic Energy Commission and his number one thug (Treat Williams).
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The result of this combination is an overly ambitious film that's as muddled and cryptic as a mumble-filled Dylan vocal. Dylan stars as the symbolically named Jack Fate, an apparent musical legend, jailed in the midst of a brutally downtrodden America where the government has taken over, war is rampant, and even the counter-revolutionaries have counter-revolutionaries.
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Man, was I wrong. Corky Romano is one of those throwaway, cliché-ridden TV-star-to-film vehicles built upon the most rickety of plots. Fortunately for Chris Kattan's precariously positioned career, Corky does have some good laughs, even if most of them are of the lowest-brow variety.
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