Cynthia Stevenson

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Jennifer's Body Review


Good
A snappy script and a lively approach to the genre make this a gleefully grisly teen horror movie thoroughly entertaining. And it also features terrific performances that break stereotypes and pull us into the carnage.

Teens Needy and Jennifer (Seyfried and Fox) have been best pals since childhood, but their friendship has now shifted: Needy likes everyone and has a nice-guy boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), while Jennifer is the school's ice-queen babe. One night their favourite band Low Shoulder is performing at a local bar, and Jennifer has her eye on the singer (Brody). But he decides to sacrifice her to gain musical success. The problem is that she's definitely not a virgin, and her voracious hunger for boys takes a nasty turn.

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The Player Review


Extraordinary
From the master of independent cinema, Robert Altman, comes the blackest of satires, The Player. Postmodern, intelligent, suspenseful, funny, brilliant. All of these very useful adjectives apply to this film. There is no way around it: The Player is great.The Player, as I stated, is a black satire from the director of Short Cuts, M*A*S*H, and Nashville. It follows Griffin Mills (Tim Robbins), a villain we love to hate, and, ironically, our main character. Mills is getting postcards. Each one is a threat on his life, and telling others, due to the fact that his position as a studio exec is threatened by up-and-coming producer Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher), is a threat on his career.At the beginning, Mills is charismatic, even likable. But he's quickly shown for the snake that he is. In the words of Tim Robbins, who deserved but was not even nominated for an academy award for his role, "he's manipulative, he's a son of a bitch." It's true, it's all true.The threatening postcards lead him to believe that a writer is sending them. A rejected writer. However, in the cruel industry of movies which kills more ideas than WWII killed people, this does not narrow it down. What does narrow it down is one of the more bizarre moments of the film. He's in the hot tub with Bonnie, story editor and girlfriend (and, by, the way, the only moral character of the movie), when he asks her about his own life. However, unable to formulate it into his own life, he explains it through movies. He gives her a pitch, asks her how long it will be before the writer-in-question becomes dangerous, and she narrows the selection of writers down by providing a five-month time period before danger arrives.Using this, he selects David Kahayne, hack-writer of the bubonic plague of Hollywood: the unhappy ending. David's what movie people call "unproduced", a writer who's a member of the WGA (Writer's Guild of America, which holds a fairly good monopoly on writers in Hollywood) but who hasn't sold a script. He calls his girlfriend June Gudmundsdottir (Gretta Scacchi, pronounced good man's daughter) and finds out where to find him. The surprise there, of course, is that his nickname is, according to June is "the dead man".Kahayne is in Pasadena, enjoying himself at the Rialota watching The Bicycle Thief. Mills confronts him about the postcards, and, in a fit of rage, kills him in a parking lot. Of course, fitting with the Hollywood that it satires so well, he didn't kill the right person. And now, Griffen Mills is being investigated by the police, is falling in love with June, is trying to secure his position as head of the studio, and, on top of it all, fearing for his life.The movie is artistically brilliant and interestingly postmodern. In a very ironic way, the ending is the beginning: a pitch by the mysterious psychotic writer of a movie called The Player, about the events you have just seen. It references itself: naming the record for a tracking shot in an American motion picture (formerly held by Orson Wells' Touch of Evil) while breaking it. Having a main character from D.O.A. being asked if he remembers the film. Talking about eliminating the writers from the artistic process the day after Mills has murdered the writer.There normally isn't much I can say about a film. In my life, there are maybe ten films I could go on and on about, and you have the luck to hopefully see this one. It makes statements. It predicts things. It was ironic at the time it came out and is ironic now.For instance, Griffin Mills is quoted as saying "movies are art, now more than ever" while, at the very same time in the real world, movies were flocking back to the existence of the art film. It is sheltered in a unique ambiguity: June discovers the Mills killed her boyfriend and doesn't care. The good are punished, the bad survive: Bonnie is fired and left for proverbial dead while June and Mills live happily ever after.This is the film for movie buffs. It makes you stop and think about what speeds in front of your face at 24 frames a second. It states things about the industry in a uniquely detached manner, where people talk about all the dark things of the industry as if they were drinking cappuccinos.For instance, another quote by Griffin Mills, asshole producer but satiric god, addresses the elements needed in a modern studio film: "Suspense, laughter, violence. Hope, heart. Nudity, sex. Happy Endings."It is brilliant. It is one that you have to own. It is the movie to watch.

Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London Review


OK
As I walked into the theater showing Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, it seemed as if a thousand kids were talking all at once, led by one particular youngster who had the authoritative rasp of a Teamster leader. The noise continued during the screen scramblers ("I guessed Steve!"), the promotional stills ("That looks like the movie...") and into the coming attractions. I began to wish I had slept in.

Then a miraculous thing happened: Cody Banks 2 started and there was a heavenly quiet--occasionally broken by laughter--that was maintained for the next hour and forty-odd minutes. That's a tremendous compliment for a kids' movie. I would like to say that Cody Banks 2 has a lot to offer adults, as well. For anyone over the age of 16, the movie moves briskly and doesn't make you curse the gods of time. In this pre-summer movie season, those qualities will be a blessing.

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Agent Cody Banks Review


Terrible
I recently read an article that argued TV shows like CSI and James Bond movies are primarily responsible for young people's increased interest in criminal forensics and special military forces. Since Hollywood is both smart and shameless, it uses these notions to its advantage, devouring the success of Bond and vomiting up films like Spy Kids and Agent Cody Banks. Although the original Spy Kids worked, Agent Cody Banks proves that things seldom taste as good a second or third time.

Agent Cody Banks was made just to make money, and to stock Toys 'R' Us shelves and McDonald's Happy Meal boxes with cheap action figures. The script, which feels like the cheapest writers available threw it together in a week, is actually quite impressive in how every mind-numbing scene attempts to manipulate the minds of susceptible adolescents. It uses every trick in the book, from pre-teen humor and Bond rip-offs, to busty secret agents, phony special effects, and, of course, Frankie Muniz. If -- God forbid -- the movie is a hit, the producers have even secured an easy sequel with its carefully formulated ending.

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Happiness Review


Essential
Holy smokes.

Happiness has been mired in controversy for the entire year, and not without good reason. Put simply, Happiness is one of the most shocking films I've ever seen - this from a man who adores A Clockwork Orange.

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Forget Paris Review


Good
It's a shame that so many romantic comedies are in current release, because inevitably, something good is going to be overlooked due to the cinematic glut of warm fuzzies. As the third of its type in about as many weeks, Forget Paris is one of the strongest entries of the genre.

Billy Crystal directs and stars in this Baby Boomer romantic fable about a pair of star-crossed lovers (Crystal, as Mickey, and Debra Winger, as Ellen) who can't seem to get their relationship right. Going through a dozen iterations of "boy meets girl, boy loses girl," the couple's story is told through a narrative from their friends over dinner.

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Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London Review


Terrible

Last year's kiddie secret-agent comedy "Agent Cody Banks" was a stupid movie that got by on clever charm. It starred Frankie Muniz (from "Malcolm in the Middle") as a junior-high James Bond who had to get over his fear of talking to girls in order to complete his mission and save the world from some contrived evil.

The picture got a enough mileage out of Muniz's amusing believability as a secret agent on training wheels and out of its tongue-in-cheek twists (to keep his parents in the dark, the CIA did his homework and housework while he was on assignment) to balance out a lot of slapdash screenwriting -- so all in all, it squeaked by as good family fun.

But the rushed-into-production sequel "Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London" is twice as stupid and without even an infinitesimal hint of the cleverness that kept the original afloat.

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Agent Cody Banks Review


Weak

Yes, "Agent Cody Banks" is a "Spy Kids" clone. As such, I went into it expecting an uncreative, cash-in-on-a-trend children's movie -- the kind parents are loathe to suffer through, yet for some reason take their kids to see anyway.

But while its plot doesn't stand up to even a modest amount of logical scrutiny, the flick has a comical, junior-James Bond spirit that's hard to resist. Of course, there are a couple differences between James Bond and highly-trained CIA spook Cody Banks (played by "Malcolm In the Middle's" Frankie Muniz): 1) Cody is 15 and lives with his parents who don't know he's a spy, and 2) Cody is hopelessly inept at talking to girls.

His tendency to get tongue-tied around cute classmates becomes a major problem when his hubba-hubba CIA handler (Angie Harmon from "Law & Order") assigns him to get close to the adorable Natalie Conners (Hilary Duff, better known as the Disney Channel's "Lizzie McGuire"). It seems the girl's scientist father is unknowingly developing nanobot technology for a villain (the ominously tan Ian McShane) who wants the microscopic 'bots to eat away US missile guidance systems. It's part of his evil plan to render the country defenseless for no adequately explored reason.

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Cynthia Stevenson

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