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Revenge Review


Very Good
Revenge refers to two people's actions in Tony Scott's rough-hewn underseen 1990 drama. It starts with a Navy fighter pilot (Scott had just made Top Gun) named Jay (Kevin Costner), who retires from the Navy and opts to visit an old client named Mendez (a fierce Anthony Quinn) in Mexico. It isn't long before he's sweatily banging Mendez's impossibly gorgeous wife (Madeleine Stowe). They escape for a weekend getaway, but it isn't long before Mendez, an obvious mafioso of some kind, tracks them down and has his thugs go to town on the duo. Amazingly, they both survive, and revenge #2 kicks in.

Don't expect a lot of twists and turns along the way: Often pegged as a thriller, Revenge is in actuality a straightforward story of obsession and, um, revenge. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again, with plenty of blood spilled along the way.

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Duma Review


Very Good
The phrase "man's best friend" couldn't be more accurate when it comes to me and my dog. Not only does he greet me at the door when I come home drunk, he also is quite effective at warding off the bratty neighborhood kids when they come close to my house. Nobody I know has this kind of kinship with their pet, but plenty of movies depict it with enough charm to convince me that everyone has this relationship. Of the recent films about the relationship between man and beast, Carroll Ballard's Duma has its head quite a bit above the rest.

In the wilds of Australia, a mother cheetah is mauled and eaten by two lions, leaving her three cubs to fend for themselves. One of these cubs is picked up by a young Australian boy, Xan (Alexander Michaletos), and his father, Peter (Cambell Scott). On their way home, father and son decide to keep the cub and raise it as their pet, giving him the name Duma. It is obvious that the father and son have a strong connection, and it's made especially clear when they arrive home and the mother (Hope Davis) is hardly seen. Well, little Duma grows up and gets too big for farm life, so Peter tells Xan that they will take Duma back where they found him. Tragically, Peter loses his long battle with cancer and dies right before the trip is to take place. Xan finds it hard to get used to his new city home and, needless to say, so does Duma. After a panic breaks out at his school, Xan decides he needs to take Duma home himself. They take Peter's motorbike and head out to find Duma's home, running into a lost tribesman and several kinds of wildlife on the way.

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Dreamer: Inspired By A True Story Review


Good
Take Seabiscuit, remove the cussing, the drunkenness, the Depression, and all the death, and add in one prococious little blonde girl. You pretty much have Dreamer, a perfectly acceptable family film that, nonetheless, adds nothing to the genre.

Heck, if you throw in a zebra as well you have Racing Stripes, which came out a year earlier and told the same story: Girl adopts horse that no one believes in (in Dreamer it's a horse with a broken leg, not a zebra), who goes on to fame at the races. The film is based on a true story -- as the title probably clued you in -- about a horse named Mariah's Storm, a female who broke her leg and, after being completely written off, eventually returned to the track and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's pretty much the same story here, though the horse is named Sonador (Spanish for "dreamer," if you add in a tilde), and genre-appropriate villains are written in to the tale.

Continue reading: Dreamer: Inspired By A True Story Review

A Cinderella Story Review


Good
A short time ago in a valley far, far away, a timeless tale was modernized. A royal ball was turned into the Halloween homecoming dance, the evil stepmother was turned into Stifler's Mom (Jennifer Coolidge), the stepsisters became valley girls, and the glass slipper switched into a cell phone.

In this latest telling, Cinderella is Sam (Hilary Duff), aka PrincetonGirl818, a girl who spends her days studying to get into Princeton (because that's where princesses go), her nights slaving for her evil stepmother at a Valley roller-diner with the class of a collagen injection. The majority of her school hours are spent text messaging her secret admirer, Austin (Chad Michael Murray), aka Nomad. (I really feel sorry for whoever actually has those AIM IDs.) The evil stepsisters are social jokes with the combined IQ of an imbecile, and the fairy godmother is a waitress sister with an attitude (Regina King).

Continue reading: A Cinderella Story Review

A Walk To Remember Review


Very Good
A Walk to Remember can and will be known best as "The Mandy Moore Project," the first feature where the popular teen singer stars on the big screen. She is the focal point of the marketing, the reason that most kids will see the movie, and the one player to be under the microscope. Luckily for Moore, and the film, her flaws are few, as she slides easily into one of the more interesting teen roles in recent adolescent films, as the originality of her character, her well-metered performance, and director Adam Shankman's lively delivery lift this movie above most of its counterparts.

The film may look like a relative to the Freddie Prinze Jr. vehicle She's All That (1999), but it's more like a cousin to Robert Mulligan's The Man in the Moon (1991). The story begins predictably enough: Landon (Shane West), a young teen sowing his oats through his high school years, is forced to take on charity work after orchestrating a stupid stunt that nearly paralyzes a kid. While mopping up hallways and tutoring youngsters, he comes across Jamie Sullivan (Moore), a level-headed duckling (not so ugly), with a good heart and religion at her core. If this were Prinze pap, Landon would spruce her up and show the world what it's been missing. Instead, in this Karen Janszen adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel, Jamie stays true to herself, and the shy girl has a life-changing effect on the guy.

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The Kid (2000) Review


Excellent
Remorse is a dangerous thing in the mind of a man. It can hold a person down, quell his dreams, suffocate innocence, and convert people into intolerable beasts. People often think that if they could go back in time and reverse the wrongs done to them, a great weight would be somehow lifted from their shoulders. Beat up that bully that destroyed your self-esteem, kiss the girl you were in love with, stand up to the father that used you for a whipping post. These memories haunt the minds of individuals all around us like the ghosts of the Winchester Mansion.

What if you really had the chance to change all of that? What if you could talk to yourself when you were only eight years old and explain how to take a stand for yourself, give the younger you understanding of why dad is so angry at the world, and give yourself hope for retaining individuality in a sea of conformity. In the new Disney film The Kid Russ Duritz gets that once in a lifetime chance.

Continue reading: The Kid (2000) Review

White Oleander Review


Very Good
White Oleander is one girl's dramatic coming-of-age story -- emphasis on the word "dramatic." A bright teen bounces around some dreadful foster homes, gets street-tough while in a facility for abandoned kids, and witnesses more tragedy in three years than any person should see in a lifetime. With such relentlessly morose subject matter, you'd think director Peter Kosminsky's adaptation of Janet Fitch's bestseller would lean toward TV melodrama -- and while the script may do so, Kosminsky's deft direction and fine editorial choices make White Oleander an effective and well-paced story of self-realization and determination.

The novel White Oleander was a 1999 selection of the ubiquitous Oprah Winfrey Book Club and you can tell why: There are so many brutally dysfunctional people in the story that Dr. Phil could produce months of television delving into their sorry lives. Astrid (Alison Lohman) is an only child, growing up in the Hollywood Hills with Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), her eccentric, urban-arty mother. After a series of events that Kosminsky smartly keeps off-camera, Ingrid kills her boyfriend. Or does she? And how? Regardless, the beautiful, hopeful, young Astrid is picked up by state services and sent to live in a double-wide with a foster family.

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A Time To Kill Review


OK
Remember the hoopla over the novel A Time To Kill? It was celebrated author John Grisham's second book -- actually his first book -- the book he published after The Firm became a hit. The book that no one wanted before he was famous. The book, apparently, that, if it hadn't had his name on it, would never have been published.

Now it's the fourth Grisham movie to be made, continuing in grand fashion that franchise of increasingly average film versions of his increasingly average writing.

Continue reading: A Time To Kill Review

What A Girl Wants Review


Weak
Don't be fooled by the title. Despite being named after a Christina Aguilera song, What a Girl Wants is not a movie about a good-girl-turned-trashy-ho. Rather, it's the story of a sweet, all-American girl who generally enjoys her life but can't get past one thing: She's never met her father. As her high school days come to an end, young Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) decides it's time to meet this mysterious man who managed to woo her mother so many years ago, and so she throws her passport into her backpack and heads off to London.

What ensues is a standard fairy tale: Daphne quickly finds her father, Henry (Colin Firth), but is hindered in her attempt to forge a meaningful relationship thanks to an evil stepmother and debutante stepsister who are only interested in Henry's status and wealth. Fortunately, Daphne's got her American charm on her side and, with the help of her wise grandmother and cute new boyfriend, she's able to win Henry's heart and even manages to get him back together with mom. They all live happily ever after, as we are told at the end.

Continue reading: What A Girl Wants Review

The Last Of The Mohicans Review


OK
James Fenimore Cooper and Michael Mann together? The Last of the Mohicans represents an unlikely collaboration that didn't seem all that great to me back in 1992, and now, in it's release as a "Director's Expanded Edition," still doesn't seem all that great, nor that expanded. The story of warring English and French in 1750s colonial America, and the culture clash that comes along with that, really isn't quite as timeless as people would like to think. Not to mention, Day-Lewis and Stowe's romance isn't very believable. Still too bland for my tastes.
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