David Gale

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Election (1999) Review


Extraordinary
Talk about redemption. After starring in some of favorite movies ever, Matthew Broderick had to go and make Godzilla. Election proves that once again he should stick with comedy, with this little gem easily ranking as one of the top comedies in recent memory, and the best thing to ever come out of MTV's film division. (Then again, Broderick's next pic is Inspector Gadget... dunno what to make of that one.)

The story of a high school student body presidency up for bid sounds simple and even cliched, but director Payne makes quick work of the stereotypical teen comedy, turning the tables on just about everyone in the picture.

Continue reading: Election (1999) Review

Aeon Flux Review


OK
Music video director Anton Corbijn's video clip for industrial dance band Front 242's "Headhunter" featured a topless woman in a surreal black outfit holding a giant egg and wandering around a desolate industrial park. It's a music video that is absurdly artificial and at the same time engagingly artful.

Aeon Flux, Girlfight director Karyn Kusama's second film, is like a 95-minute remake of that video. It's visually sumptuous for no other reason than to indulge arty gluttons. And that's fine by me. I dig it, arty glutton that I am. Based on the animated short films of Peter Chung, the movie succeeds in translating Chung's fluid and sparse design. While it would be impossible to have an actress bend and slide like the heroine in the original MTV animated series, Charlize Theron is suitably acrobatic and looks great in spandex and black leather. The costumes are futuristic and the landscapes, mostly CGI, are eerily organic takes on mid-century design.

Continue reading: Aeon Flux Review

Aeon Flux Review


OK
Music video director Anton Corbijn's video clip for industrial dance band Front 242's "Headhunter" featured a topless woman in a surreal black outfit holding a giant egg and wandering around a desolate industrial park. It's a music video that is absurdly artificial and at the same time engagingly artful.

Aeon Flux, Girlfight director Karyn Kusama's second film, is like a 95-minute remake of that video. It's visually sumptuous for no other reason than to indulge arty gluttons. And that's fine by me. I dig it, arty glutton that I am. Based on the animated short films of Peter Chung, the movie succeeds in translating Chung's fluid and sparse design. While it would be impossible to have an actress bend and slide like the heroine in the original MTV animated series, Charlize Theron is suitably acrobatic and looks great in spandex and black leather. The costumes are futuristic and the landscapes, mostly CGI, are eerily organic takes on mid-century design.

Continue reading: Aeon Flux Review

Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat Review


Weak
Early in Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat, Lawrence goes on a brief tirade about his hatred for critics because they make a habit of judging things they know little about. After sitting through this sloppy, made-for-movie comedy special, it makes me wonder if Lawrence hates criticism so much that he refuses to evaluate his own work.

Runteldat operates in much the same fashion as Lawrence's You So Crazy, where he spends 90 minutes barking out offensive remarks punctuated with bookends of profanity. Some of the jokes garnered genuine belly laughter - in particular, the bits involving white parents' use of "time out" and references to the black stars of the COPS television show. Some jokes however, especially the drunken husband routine, drag on for what seemed to be an eternity -- even the "live" audience appears restless in some cutaway shots -- while other jokes are just stale regurgitations of many I've seen pass through my email inbox a multitude of times. Please Martin, we all know how similar babies are to old people.

Continue reading: Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat Review

Jakarta Review


Unbearable
Simply put, this is one of the worst movies you'll ever see. Sex and the City's Chris Noth hams it up as an ex-CIA agent (now a bum) mysteriously shipped back to Jakarta for unknown reasons... though they likely have something to do with the mysterious woman in the red dress. But mostly it's just an excuse to get Noth in a bunch of fights and chases. Incomprehinsible and awful. Of special note -- horrormeister Troma is a co-producer on the film, proving once and for all that it should stay far, far away from making "serious" movies.

Bride Of Re-Animator Review


Weak
It says "H.P. Lovecraft's" above the title, but rest assured, the grand master of the weird tale never wrote a book by the name of Bride of Re-Animator.

This update/retelling of the Frankenstein story is every bit as cheesy as the original tale, but much of the geeky humor that made the original Re-Animator such a classic is sorely lacking here. The film is just a continuation of the story of Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) as he works on his green serum that can reanimate dead tissue. Naturally, as the body count rises, it shrinks in lockstep.

Continue reading: Bride Of Re-Animator Review

200 Cigarettes Review


Grim
The bad news: This story of a bunch of New Yorkers on New Year's Eve, 1981, is so trite and stupid that it doesn't merit any attention whatsoever. The cast (playing uber-NYCers) are uniformly grating and obnoxious -- and Courtney Love as ringleader makes it even worse.

Continue reading: 200 Cigarettes Review

The Fighting Temptations Review


Weak
In the gospel musical-comedy The Fighting Temptations, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a reluctant choir director. When he inevitably rises to the task, though, he doesn't really direct the choir so much as spazz along in its wake, jumping and shouting and waving his arms like he's accepting a whole case of Best Supporting Actor Oscars. Gooding, we see in some credit cookies, can be an exuberant, even dexterous dancer. But we don't see that in the movie; we only see Cuba the strained comedian, grasping for soul. The movie's poster advises "Don't fight the feeling!" -- and I couldn't: I couldn't fend off the feeling that Gooding is the weakest link in his own vehicle. Orlando Jones, on the other hand, has yet to receive an Oscar, but I couldn't help but think the movie would've been significantly better with him in the choir-director role.

What happened to Cuba Gooding Jr., anyway? Everyone knows his career has taken a rather, shall we say, broad turn after his Jerry Maguire Oscar. But it didn't happen immediately. His roles in As Good As It Gets and What Dreams May Come weren't showstoppers, but you can see why he took them, working as he did with other talented actors and filmmakers. He did a movie with De Niro, too, remember? But what really sticks in the memory is a string of recent, bottom-drawer comedies: Rat Race, Snow Dogs, Boat Trip. Listen to how those names form an odd aural trilogy of implied crappiness. Post-Temptations, he will play a mentally challenged fellow in Radio. I can't help but think of Eddie Murphy's line in Bowfinger: "Find me a part as a retarded slave, then I'll get my Oscar."

Continue reading: The Fighting Temptations Review

Re-Animator Review


Excellent
The heady and fabulously gruesome works of H.P. Lovecraft have lent the plotlines to more than 20 movies, and most of these films are unbearable direct-to-video shlock.

But 1985's cult classic Re-Animator launched this return to Lovecraft's work, and if later filmmakers had learned anything from Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna's horror masterpiece, they would have assured old H.P. a much stronger legacy.

Continue reading: Re-Animator Review

Tupac: Resurrection Review


Excellent
It's easy to forget that Tupac Shakur was just 25 when he was gunned down at a Las Vegas intersection in September 1996. In such a brief period of time, he lived a full life: rapper, movie star, convict, and cultural figurehead. That's quite a position for someone any age. I can't imagine how someone that young handles it.

The answer, according to Lauren Lazin's documentary Tupac: Resurrection, is you struggle. The movie is not a glorified big screen version of Behind the Music, but a thoughtful and smart examination behind the street swagger and angry posturing that makes rap music so hated and so popular. Through interviews, photographs, and other footage, Tupac tells his story. The longer he talks the more one realizes how familiar his story sounds.

Continue reading: Tupac: Resurrection Review

Pootie Tang Review


Unbearable
After a hard, busy day, I'm sitting in the movie theater waiting for the projectionist to start Pootie Tang. I become relaxed, comfortable, with a notepad in one hand and a pencil in the other. The lights dim. The movie starts. But the image is out of focus, then it goes black. The house lights shine brightly. The theater is experiencing technical difficulties. This is a warning from God: "Run for your life while you still have the chance," screams a little voice in my head. Then the lights dim once again, and the movie restarts. I regret not dashing for the door.

I cannot remember any other movie without subtitles that creates a language for its characters, but never teaches it to the audience. The main character in Pootie Tang utters phrases like "I'm gonna sine your pitty on the runny kine" and "Sipi-tai!" But what does that mean? Not that it matters -- you won't even try to follow this hopeless, incoherent story. Instead I wondered about the cologne on the man next to me, if that lovely cashier was wearing a wig, and what I needed at the store later that night. Anything to clear my mind from the painful occurrences transpiring on screen.

Continue reading: Pootie Tang Review

Orange County Review


Good
Forget She's All That and its brethren. Back in the 1980s, the maestro of teen films -- John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles) -- taught us to produce films in the finicky teen-comedy genre. His simple rule -- a single motivation is required for all main characters: lots and lots of angst. Just create a simple story of teenagers yearning to escape the downtrodden existence of childhood and the microcosm of high school, and success is surely guaranteed.

Life has been good for Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) in simple Orange County, California. He's a good kid with a love of catching waves, a sweet girlfriend, and despite his eccentric family, life is always like riding six-foot waves that curl for days. After a freak surfing accident drowns one of his best buds one summer, Shaun begins to reassess his life and inspiration strikes one day in the form of a novel by Marcus Skinner. He decides to become a writer, trades in his surfboard, improves his grades, and waits for his acceptance letter from Stanford College to study under his new idol Skinner. But when Stanford rejects him due to a guidance counselor's mistake, Shaun only has 24 hours to fix the problem and get the hell out of O.C. to follow his dreams and work out the angst.

Continue reading: Orange County Review

Election Review


Extraordinary
Talk about redemption. After starring in some of favorite movies ever, Matthew Broderick had to go and make Godzilla. Election proves that once again he should stick with comedy, with this little gem easily ranking as one of the top comedies in recent memory, and the best thing to ever come out of MTV's film division. (Then again, Broderick's next pic is Inspector Gadget... dunno what to make of that one.)

The story of a high school student body presidency up for bid sounds simple and even cliched, but director Payne makes quick work of the stereotypical teen comedy, turning the tables on just about everyone in the picture.

Continue reading: Election Review

Coach Carter Review


OK
Even those unfamiliar with real-life high school basketball coach Ken Carter might find familiar elements in the inspirational drama based on his achievements. After all, how many different ways can you tell the story of a coach who inherits a team torn apart and transforms them from chaotic underachievers to state title contenders?

Except in this case, the events actually happened. Coach Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) benched his undefeated Richmond Oilers in 1999 because the team failed to meet academic requirements he established at the start of the season. Amid protests from both school faculty and area parents, Carter locked his players out of the gymnasium and drove them into the library until their grades were up to snuff.

Continue reading: Coach Carter Review

The Wood Review


Weak
Another week, another coming of age story. Turns out timing can be everything, and The Wood's unfortunate release one week after the somewhat similar (but much better) American Pie will leave viewers drawing unfavorable comparisons between the two.

The story behind The Wood, as in Inglewood, California, follows three best friends on the day when one is set to be married. Of course, he's having the jitters, so they reminisce about their childhood growing up together and chasing girls, which, basically, is what they all still want to be doing.

Continue reading: The Wood Review

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