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Death Sentence Review


Grim
In Paul Talbot's excellent Bronson's Loose! The Making of the Death Wish Films, Brian Garfield, author of the original Death Wish novel, says he was disappointed in the 1974 Charles Bronson film of his book because it lacked subtlety. In fact, he wrote the sequel, Death Sentence, to counteract what he saw as the negative effects of the film. Death Sentence, the book, is about reformation and going legit. It's about why vigilantism just doesn't work. Man, did this movie screw up that message.

Director James Wan's (Saw) version of Death Sentence is practically a celebration of vigilantism. Sure, the film hammers home the message that the business of revenge is soul-rotting, but it doesn't offer up any other solutions. The legal system doesn't work. Cops are lazy and slow. Worse, they are helpless. And the bad guys always can and will find you. The only place a person is safe today is behind the barrel of a gun.

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Joshua (2001) Review


OK
Movies produced with the support of religious or pseudo-religious groups typically employ one of two structures to get their message across: 1) Outsider comes to a sleepy town and wakes it up with his message of love and compassion or ability to perform miracles. Or 2) Armageddon arrives, the saved ascend to heaven, and the poor saps left on earth suffer through hell.

Fortunately Joshua is the former, and it's probably the most mainstream release to ever make it to theaters. With stars Tony Goldwyn, F. Murray Abraham, and Stacy Edwards, this is a classy production. Not only is the acting credible and the production values high (they even trek to Rome for the finale), but the story isn't all bad either. It's actually pretty simple: A man named Joshua (Tony Goldwyn) wanders into the sleepy town of Auburn one evening, rents a barn to live in, and promptly starts rebuilding the recently-burned-down Baptist church, unbidden by its parishioners. Meanwhile, the local Catholics take an interest in the cryptic man, employing him to carve a wooden statue.

Continue reading: Joshua (2001) Review

A Sound Of Thunder Review


Terrible
The best thing that can be said for the embarrassing A Sound of Thunder is that at least it presupposes an audience whose belief in evolution is ironclad, sadly a minor triumph in these increasingly Scopes monkey trial-like times.

Adapted with sub-simian grace from the iconic Ray Bradbury story, the film puts us in the year 2055, where a Chicago firm called Time Safari takes wealthy, bored men back in time and hunt dinosaurs. The trick here is that Bradbury - prefiguring all the great time travel paradox stories and films to follow - realized one couldn't just do this without creating massive complications further down the time pipeline. So Time Safari has its hunters walk through the 65-million-year-old jungle on a pathway suspended above the ground, with the strict dictum not to touch anything, never step off the path and not to bring even the most microscopic thing back with them. And the dinosaur that they "hunt" (over and over again) has been selected for the fact that it's going to die anyway, bare seconds after the safari team shoots it. Thusly the time continuum remains unchanged and everybody's happy.

Continue reading: A Sound Of Thunder Review

Sudden Death Review


Grim
There are Die Hard clones, and there is Sudden Death. How identical are these two films? Instead of taking place in an office building, Sudden Death takes place in a hockey arena. Star Jean-Claude Van Damme isn't a cop; he's a fireman. His wife isn't held hostage; his daughter is. The villains don't want bearer bonds; they want money transfers. The computer geek isn't black; he's white.

Continue reading: Sudden Death Review

A Sound Of Thunder Review


Terrible
The best thing that can be said for the embarrassing A Sound of Thunder is that at least it presupposes an audience whose belief in evolution is ironclad, sadly a minor triumph in these increasingly Scopes monkey trial-like times.

Adapted with sub-simian grace from the iconic Ray Bradbury story, the film puts us in the year 2055, where a Chicago firm called Time Safari takes wealthy, bored men back in time and hunt dinosaurs. The trick here is that Bradbury - prefiguring all the great time travel paradox stories and films to follow - realized one couldn't just do this without creating massive complications further down the time pipeline. So Time Safari has its hunters walk through the 65-million-year-old jungle on a pathway suspended above the ground, with the strict dictum not to touch anything, never step off the path and not to bring even the most microscopic thing back with them. And the dinosaur that they "hunt" (over and over again) has been selected for the fact that it's going to die anyway, bare seconds after the safari team shoots it. Thusly the time continuum remains unchanged and everybody's happy.

Continue reading: A Sound Of Thunder Review

Joshua Review


OK
Movies produced with the support of religious or pseudo-religious groups typically employ one of two structures to get their message across: 1) Outsider comes to a sleepy town and wakes it up with his message of love and compassion or ability to perform miracles. Or 2) Armageddon arrives, the saved ascend to heaven, and the poor saps left on earth suffer through hell.

Fortunately Joshua is the former, and it's probably the most mainstream release to ever make it to theaters. With stars Tony Goldwyn, F. Murray Abraham, and Stacy Edwards, this is a classy production. Not only is the acting credible and the production values high (they even trek to Rome for the finale), but the story isn't all bad either. It's actually pretty simple: A man named Joshua (Tony Goldwyn) wanders into the sleepy town of Auburn one evening, rents a barn to live in, and promptly starts rebuilding the recently-burned-down Baptist church, unbidden by its parishioners. Meanwhile, the local Catholics take an interest in the cryptic man, employing him to carve a wooden statue.

Continue reading: Joshua Review

Sahara Review


Terrible
Nearly 25 years ago, Paramount Pictures struck gold with a film about an archeologist-adventure seeker named Indiana Jones. His quest to unravel mysteries and conquer evil around the world remains one of the most thrilling stories of its kind. Based on the trailer, Sahara, with its treasure-hunting hero Dirk Pitt, would appear to embody many of its predecessor's markings. Yet, what's lurking behind all of Sahara's explosions, one-liners, and plotting enemies is a monotonous, unsatisfying trek through an endless desert that would even have Dr. Jones scrambling for a new crusade.

Matthew McConaughey plays Dirk, the carefree leader of an exploration team working to recover lost artifacts from the ocean floor off the coast of Western Africa. Dirk is infatuated with the story of a captain from an ironclad American Civil War battleship who owned the last known U.S. gold dollar. As luck would have it, this ship just so happened to journey from Virginia to the nearby nation of Mali after the war. With the permission of his boss Admiral James Sandecker (William H. Macy), Dirk and his team, including his wiseass sidekick Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), are given three days to search the Niger River for the ship and the lost gold coin.

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Ray Review


OK
Every time former Booty Call-er Jamie Foxx rasps his voice, sways gracefully on a piano bench, or hugs his own torso in triumph, we lose the actor we've come to know completely. Left standing in his place is the late Ray Charles, staring back at us from behind those trademark sunglasses - and yes, we eventually learn why he wears them.

Foxx's tribute, solidified whenever he breaks into Charles' signature grin, goes beyond mimicry to find the soul of one of America's most gifted songwriters. You'll undoubtedly leave Ray talking about Foxx's career performance. The discussion may continue right up until Oscar night.

Continue reading: Ray Review

Mystery, Alaska Review


Weak
Oh no. Someone let David E. Kelley out of his cage for a second time this year. This time, the water in his Lake Placid is frozen over, giving us the setting for Mystery, Alaska.

The title's surely a Mystery and gives you no clues about the film - so what's it all about? Those expecting a schlocky horror flick like Lake Placid will be let down. Is it a surreal and light dramedy like Ally McBeal? That's closer. Reality: Mystery, Alaska is simply a grown-up version of The Mighty Ducks. Hey, this is a Disney film.

Continue reading: Mystery, Alaska Review

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