In San Diego, two detectives (Dafoe and Pena) converge on a suburban stand-off where a killer, Brad (Shannon), claims to be holding hostages. As the tension builds, Brad's girlfriend Ingrid (Sevigny) and his theatre-director friend Lee (Kier) arrive to help the cops, explaining Brad's somewhat strained relationship with his mother (Zabriskie) and his eccentric Uncle Ted (Dourif).
They also talk about how he has never quite been himself after a mind-opening trip to Peru.
Continue reading: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done Review
The original Ladykillers pitted Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, and their band of British crooks against a kindly old landlady in 1955. The Coens shift their action from England to the Deep South, where Tom Hanks wheezes and grins as a genteel criminal mastermind plotting to rob a Mississippi riverboat casino. He and his motley crew take up residence in the home of Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall), a churchgoing Bible Belter with a room to rent near the boat's dock. The men fool Munson into thinking they perform in a musical group, though they're forced to consider devious actions when the old lady discovers their criminal plans.
Continue reading: The Ladykillers (2004) Review
Best described as Driving Miss Daisy 2, A Family Thing is a way-way-melodramatic picture about an aging, backwards, racist, Arkansas hick, Earl Pilcher (Robert Duvall). Earl's mother, on her death bed, writes him a letter, telling Earl that in reality, she was not his mother at all, that his real mother was a black woman, and that she died having him in childbirth. Mom #2 implores him to seek out his half-brother in Chicago, for reasons never really explained.
Continue reading: A Family Thing Review
Cab driver Max (Jamie Foxx) is having an ordinary night until he picks up Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith). They have a pleasant, interesting conversation, which director Michael Mann lets unfold at a natural, almost seductive pace. When they finally part ways, you feel as if you've watched a short romantic comedy. Enter Vincent (Tom Cruise).
Continue reading: Collateral Review
Michael Mann is a masterful director, capable of finessing scenery-chewing actors into subtly spectacular performances, and creating thick mood and atmosphere through his stylish filmmaking acumen. He can create a seat-gripping real-world thriller from something as outwardly tedious as corporate whistle-blowing ("The Insider"). He can turn a heist movie into a meaty, character-driven tour de force ("Heat") and he can make a superb Hannibal Lecter movie without Anthony Hopkins (1986's "Manhunter").
In "Collateral" he works his intelligent, polished magic on a B-movie noir script that would likely have become a catch-phrase-fraught action-explosion flick in the hands of most big-budget directors -- a film about a battle of wits engaged when a Los Angeles cabbie (Jamie Foxx, who knows he's losing that battle) is forced to chauffer a silver-haired, high-priced assassin (Tom Cruise, who knows he's winning) around town on a ruthless, one-night streak of witness murders designed to derail a big federal trial.
Mann doesn't waste time laying out who's on trial or what they're charged with -- those things aren't relevant to the killer or his unwitting accomplice. "Collateral" is about conversations and head games, about what people say and do not say with their language, their looks and their demeanor. Half the movie takes place in Foxx's cab, where the two men are constantly sizing each other up -- and while neither actor gives a standout performance, they both have an inherent ability to tinge their characters with unexpected depth, which make this the better half.
Continue reading: Collateral Review
Even if it did drop the ball on tracking Sept. 11 terrorists, the real CIA still looks a whole lot smarter than their movie counterparts who recruit Chris Rock as a temporary agent in the dumb, loud and flashy action-comedy "Bad Company."
A high-gloss, low-IQ product of an unholy union between producer Jerry Bruckheimer ("Pearl Harbor," "Coyote Ugly," "Armageddon") and director Joel Schumacher (who helped bury the "Batman" franchise), the film plays like somebody spliced random moments of a Chris Rock stand-up routine into what is otherwise a cliché-riddled but self-serious spy thriller -- and did a poor job of it to boot.
Standing out like a circus clown at a funeral, Rock plays the long-lost twin brother of a CIA operative killed in the middle of negotiating a deal for a stolen Russian nuclear suitcase bomb. To keep the deal on track, a high-ranking spook played by the venerable Anthony Hopkins (what was he thinking?) taps Rock with the old "your dead twin brother was a spy and we want you to take his place" speech.
Continue reading: Bad Company Review
Toni Kalem's "A Slipping Down Life" has been sitting on the shelf since 1999, and it's not hard to see why. Based on Anne Tyler's novel, it tells the story of Evie Decker (Lili Taylor), an introverted small-town girl who becomes fascinated with a Jim Morrison-like singer/songwriter, Drumstrings Casey (Guy Pearce).
While the rest of Casey's audience grows impatient with his impromptu on-stage poetic babblings, Evie feels she understands him and carves his name on her forehead -- backwards so that she can read it in the mirror. Because of her stunt, she gets to meet her idol and forms a strange relationship with him.
"A Slipping Down Life" awkwardly straddles realism and dream imagery, but neither works very well. Evie is so shy and quiet that she appears psychologically damaged, and she is so incompatible with her two best friends (Shawnee Smith and Sara Rue) that you spend the film wondering why they would ever hang out together.
Continue reading: A Slipping Down Life Review
The Coen Brothers flopped with last year's comedically clumsy and questionably hammy "Intolerable Cruelty," and now that they have repeated and amplified the same arched-performance mistakes in "The Ladykillers," I am beginning to understand what it is about Joel and Ethan's movies that their detractors dislike so much.
The characters in the Coens' recent comedies have frequently been oblivious to the world beyond their whimsical capers, and in these last two pictures even the protagonists have become objects for audience ridicule, making them poor surrogates for getting us involved in their stories.
Tom Hanks takes that bullet in this loose remake of a 1955 British laffer about a band of crooks inadvertently foiled by the little old landlady who rents them a room. All toothy, affected mannerisms and blabbering balderdash as the endlessly loquacious supposed mastermind of the criminal enterprise, his character is nothing but caricature -- an over-educated, old-fashioned, pocket-watch-and-hankie type Southern gentleman who goes by the tongue-tying moniker of Professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, Ph.D.
Continue reading: The Ladykillers Review