Something good did come out of the decade: a slew of great date movies. Not surprisingly, there was a formula to it. The typical woman would get a love story usually featuring a hunky, emotionally lost male lead. The typical man would get a macho storyline featuring slapstick, sports, violence, or male bonding. Sometimes he got to see bare breasts. It all led to movies that didn't require three days of negotiation: Hoosiers, Witness, Field of Dreams, Tootsie, Say Anything (for the music geek subset), and the John Hughes stuff for the teens.
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Raise Your Voice takes a feeble stab at building a feature film around a preconceived pop soundtrack of Duff tunes. It aims for Fame and ends up with famine. Following graduation from Riverdale High - seriously, were Archie and Jughead her classmates? - squeaky-clean Terri Fletcher (Duff) enrolls in the summer program at an elite performing arts academy. Competition is fierce, and so are the backstage stereotypes. Upon arrival, Terri falls for a British songwriter (Oliver James), befriends the hyperactive geek (Johnny K. Lewis), coaxes the talented recluse (Kat Dennings) out of her shell, and locks horns with the resident snob (Lauren C Mayhew). Who has time to sing when the student body is filled with such cardboard caricatures of standoffish overachievers?
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Trashy and foul-mouthed (and playing with her boobs throughout the film), I wracked my brain to figure out where I'd seen her before. Turns out Baron was Mitch Taylor's mother in the cult classic Real Genius. Here she's reunited with Dr. Hathaway himself, William Atherton.
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But that all changed on September 11, when American support for patriotism and military might -- no matter who the adversary -- hit a sudden, fever pitch. And so it was that the spring 2002 release (a dumping ground for films with very low expectations) of Behind Enemy Lines was pole-vaulted forward to the holiday heyday of November 30, 2001, buoyed by sky-high audience approval at test screenings. You want your ripped-from-today's-headlines movie? You got it.
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U-571 takes the Das Boot path, starring a dozen of the sweatiest men in Hollywood (the makeup department working overtime on this one), all led by everyone's favorite naked bongo player, Matthew McConaughey. Loosely based on real events, U-571 involves a WWII mission to capture a German Enigma encryption device from a sinking German submarine adrift in the middle of the Atlantic. Skipper Bill Paxton and his 2nd in charge McConaughey hop to the task, dressing up their wreck of a sub to look just like a German U-boat. One guy on the crew speaks German, so there shouldn't be a problem in posing as a rescue ship, right?
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The Hangman's Curse, which is based on a novel by Frank Peretti, opens as Abel Frye--a troubled student in small town Washington state--hangs himself in the dark corridors of Rogers High School. Apparently Abel's peers teased him to the point where he didn't want to live any longer.
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Cal (Crudup) is a Manhattan architect with a wife and 3-year old son who, for a largely unexplained reason, is discontent. His interior landscape is entirely his own, as he revels in the brooding inner drive that propels him to abandon his family and set out on the road. To help convey the mental anguish he's experiencing, the film employs hallucinatory images, flashbacks, time phase cuts, and other borrowings from films like the successful Memento, though without the consistency or effectiveness of that fine work.
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An unremarkably routine superhero movie based on the cult-favorite comic book about a satanically-costumed blind vigilante, "Daredevil" plays like a C-grade grad project for a night school course called Superhero Filmmaking 101.
Faithful to his inspiration -- the era of "Daredevil" issues written by "Batman" revitalizer Frank Miller and comic-crazy film director Kevin Smith -- in several important details, writer-director Mark Steven Johnson's one stroke of true genius comes in the pulses of fluid, misty, ghostly imagery he uses to depict the sightless crime fighter's enhanced ability to "see" through sound waves and smells.
But most of the picture apes its action style -- and many whole fight scenes -- from last year's "Spider-Man." It has the same ineffectual opening voice-over, the same unconvincingly CGI-assisted rooftop leaping and building-swinging (Daredevil uses a grappling-hook-modified walking cane instead of spider-webbing) and its hero has the same slow-mo back-flip method of dodging weapons thrown by villains.
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