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True Romance Review

Pardon the unprofessional lingo, but True Romance is one of the more awesome movies of the past 20 years. It is a film about the guttural connection between the heart and soul and the blood and guts. It is a brilliant romance about people who love movies, are obsessed with Elvis, and who love so deeply that they will kill in the most heinous, merciless, cold-blooded ways. It may seem contradictory to call a movie like this both hardboiled and sweet, but True Romance is a movie that thrives on its contradictions. It is wacky, scary, violent, funny, and completely off-the-wall -- just like love itself.

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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The Darwin Awards Review

Poor Finn Taylor can't catch a break. By all reports he's the nicest guy in the world, and he typically toils for three or four years on each indie flick he directs. When they finally hit the screen they flop. His last outing, Cherish, was a bizarre story about a cop falling in love with a girl under house arrest who he's assigned to watch. I guess it wasn't bizarre enough, though. I had to reread my review of it just to fully remember what it was about. Cherish bombed with a $180,000 gross.

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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Reservoir Dogs Review

Now here's a stellar directorial debut from some guy named Quentin Tarantino.

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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After The Sunset Review

Before I begin my review of After the Sunset, there is one thing I need to get off my chest. Salma Hayek...awoogah!!!

Thank you for permitting that interruption.

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One Tough Cop Review

One Tough Cop sure makes for one boring movie. This true story of a case in the life of NYC flatfoot Bo Dietl has that "ripped from today's headlines" feeling usually reserved for TV. It's best left there.

Murder By Numbers Review

Since her "breakthrough" performance in the Sylvester Stallone action vehicle Demolition Man, I've never much liked Sandra Bullock or her selection of films. My initial reaction to the previews of Murder by Numbers was a laughing fit. But I ventured into the theater not based upon the marquee name of Bullock, but by the crew behind the camera - renowned director Barbet Schroeder, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, composer Clint Mansell, and screenwriter Tony Gayton (who wrote the solid, upcoming film The Salton Sea). In the end, I didn't know who to blame for this awkward and schlock-filled "serial killer" flick, which is about as enjoyable as watching that new Andy Richter TV show.

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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Short Cuts Review

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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Rush Hour Review

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't used to like Jackie Chan or Chris Tucker. I have never seen either of them in a movie I liked -- until now. Rush Hour, the 1998 action comedy directed by Brett Ratner, successfully blends two immensely different personalities. The film also works because it contains the perfect amount of action and comedy. By themselves, Chan and Tucker do not provide anything inspiring or refreshing, but when they are combined, they form a surprisingly entertaining comedic duo.

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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Rush Hour 2 Review

I enjoyed the original Rush Hour, the 1998 action comedy that grossed more than $250 million worldwide. Through its central characters, played by Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, the film provided audiences with a fresh, exciting combination of action and outrageous comedy. Although not a great film, and certainly not worthy of a sequel, director Brett Ratner admirably stitched together two immensely different characters, finding a charismatic delight in the diversity of Tucker and Chan.

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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At Close Range Review

Christopher Walken's hair and bushy mustache almost make the maudlin At Close Range worth watching, but not quite. Sean Penn plays Walken Jr. here in what ought to be a meeting of great Method actors but turns out to be a stillborn dud. Dad's a gangster, son wants to work for pa (and doesn't know he's a crook), and slowly gets pulled into his increasingly violent world. A real mess ensues (as occured in the real-life story on which the film is based), and in the end we all leave the film feeling so depressed we're ready to commit suicide.

Mulholland Falls Review

Just so you know, there are no waterfalls in Los Angeles. The titular Mulholland Falls refers to the smarmy practice of taking a criminal to the high point of the mountainous Mulholland Drive and booting him off, only to catch up with him sometime later at the bottom.

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 Florentine Review

The Florentine has that desperate desire to be Reservoir Dogs, with a rogues' gallery of ex-cons, mobsters, and sad sacks all trying to make a go at life and intersecting at their favorite bar. Alas, few of their stories are worth paying much attention to, though James Belushi is (unintentionally) hysterical as a scam artist taking advantage of poor Luke Perry.

The Music Of Chance Review

Quirky doesn't even begin to describe The Music of Chance, based on a Paul Auster novel and directed by Philip Haas (Up at the Villa). It all starts simply enough: Two men (James Spader and Mandy Patinkin) lose a poker game and decide to sell themselves into indentured servitude, building a rock wall for Charles Durning, in order to settle the bets. Patinkin sings, Spader gets beaten up and sports a mustache, the two learn a bizarre lesson about, er, something. Strangely compelling, it's hard not to get sucked into this one, even if you can't figure out why.

Masked & Anonymous Review

Masked & Anonymous, as a title, comes across as a vague, artsy moniker as inaccessible as the film it represents. But look closer at the name of this movie about revolution and despair, and you'll discover a clear reference to the film's writers; credited as Rene Fontaine and Sergei Petrov, the screenwriters have been unmasked, as it were, revealed to be the film's iconic star, Bob Dylan, and director Larry Charles (HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm).

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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Corky Romano Review

The one question that eats at me after seeing Corky Romano is why Touchstone spent so much money marketing this throwaway film. Since June, I haven't been able to turn on the TV or go to the movies without getting hit by some ad depicting Chris Kattan as the spastic Corky, shrieking out A-Ha's "Take On Me" in his yellow Miata. Why would Disney sink so much cash into the Corky hype machine? Honestly, I was hoping that all the goofball ads were actually a front for a decently funny movie.

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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