James Garner

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Film And TV Icon James Garner Dead At 86


James Garner

James Garner, an icon of 20th century cinema, passed away on Saturday from natural causes. He was 86. Since then, the world of entertainment has commemorated his life with messages, tributes  numerous recaps of his career.

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Battle For Terra Review


Good
Made two years before the similarly themed Avatar, this original, vividly designed sci-fi animation makes an astute commentary on current issues. And this depth of feeling more than makes up for the relatively slack pace and thin characters.

When a giant ship of humans arrives at an isolated planet, they don't really understand that the residents are living in peace with nature and others. So they launch an all-out attack on the world they have named Terra. But a feisty local named Mala (Wood) stands up to them, teaming up with crash-landed earthling Stanton (Wilson) and his robot sidekick (Cross). And earth's General Hemmer (Cox) is more than happy to indulge in annihilation top get his hands on this planet.

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Battle For Terra Review


Grim
In this day and age, you simply cannot produce unsophisticated animation like the kind on display in the campy Battle for Terra and hope to compete.

Pixar's industry pioneers push the envelope with each new cartoon, while their closest rivals at DreamWorks Animation have narrowed the quality gap. Even Xbox and Playstation video games boast superior visual sequences to those found in Terra, which chokes on its competition's digitally animated dust.

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire Review


Excellent
The song-and-dance numbers are out. The cheery sidekicks are nowhere to be seen. The predictable villains in black are nonexistent. This summer, Disney comes out with both guns blazing, literally, in its newest animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire, an imaginative and eye-popping mix of action, adventure, and sweeping vision landscapes filled with gorgeous computer enhanced animation.

Continuing on its recent arc of solid storylines in its animation and quality visuals, Atlantis is successful in both being a wide-eyed roller-coaster ride for kids and is interesting enough to keep adults from passing out from boredom. The film follows the adventures of Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox), a bookworm/boiler room attendant/linguistics expert who probably hasn't had a date in years. Milo's grandfather was an explorer looking for Atlantis who knew where to discover the location of the lost city -- in a hidden journal. With the help of eccentric billionaire Preston Whitmore (John Mahoney), the lost journal is recovered, providing new clues to Atlantis's whereabouts. Milo then joins a group of rag-tag explorers -- including a 200-person Navy, enough surplus to take over a small county, and no cute sidekicks -- in the search for the city of Atlantis.

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The Ultimate Gift Review


OK
And here I thought the ultimate gift was a Nintendo Wii.

As part of the trend in faith-driven filmmaking (and based on an apparently very popular self-help book), The Ultimate Gift is inspirational filmmaking at its most average. The tale involves a recently deceased business tycoon (James Garner), who gives token fortunes to various family members, all of whom have been ingrate layabouts their entire lives. The exception is young grandson Jason (Drew Fuller), who's the worst of all. He gets a series of tasks from lawyer Ted (Bill Cobbs), designed to see if Jason can actually become a useful member of society and thus, worthy of his inheritance.

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Grand Prix Review


Excellent
Sorry, NASCAR fans. Grand Prix isn't your usual chips-hot-dogs-beer-and-babes trip to the speedway.

John Frankenheimer crafts a surprisingly rich and interesting movie that's set during the rise of auto racing. Not only does it capture the spectacle of these tiny little open-air cars hurtling around European village streets (no ovals here), it also builds an interesting story of rivalries, friendly and otherwise.

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The Notebook Review


Grim
With just four films under Nick Cassavetes's belt, it's almost unfair to compare the director to his trailblazing father. In the case of The Notebook, however, it's unavoidable.

Thanks to papa John (Husbands, Gloria), the name Cassavetes has come to symbolize intrepid, no-apologies filmmaking and the unconventional human interaction within Now, 15 years after the maverick's death, his heir has traveled to the opposite pole, adapting a Nicholas Sparks novel into a standard tearjerker, filling the screen with handfuls of manipulative Hollywood clichés.

Continue reading: The Notebook Review

Atlantis: The Lost Empire Review


Excellent
The song-and-dance numbers are out. The cheery sidekicks are nowhere to be seen. The predictable villains in black are nonexistent. This summer, Disney comes out with both guns blazing, literally, in its newest animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire, an imaginative and eye-popping mix of action, adventure, and sweeping vision landscapes filled with gorgeous computer enhanced animation.

Continuing on its recent arc of solid storylines in its animation and quality visuals, Atlantis is successful in both being a wide-eyed roller-coaster ride for kids and is interesting enough to keep adults from passing out from boredom. The film follows the adventures of Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox), a bookworm/boiler room attendant/linguistics expert who probably hasn't had a date in years. Milo's grandfather was an explorer looking for Atlantis who knew where to discover the location of the lost city -- in a hidden journal. With the help of eccentric billionaire Preston Whitmore (John Mahoney), the lost journal is recovered, providing new clues to Atlantis's whereabouts. Milo then joins a group of rag-tag explorers -- including a 200-person Navy, enough surplus to take over a small county, and no cute sidekicks -- in the search for the city of Atlantis.

Continue reading: Atlantis: The Lost Empire Review

Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood Review


Grim
Are you disappointed that the Grumpy Old Men franchise died with stars Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon? Never fear. The familiar formula has been slightly doctored, recast, and relocated from Minnesota to Louisiana in Callie Khouri's Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, though Sassy Old Women certainly seems a more appropriate title.

Being neither a mother, daughter, nor woman at all, I acknowledge the fact that I'm not 100% qualified to comment on Sisterhood. I did trudge through it, though, which instantly earns me the type of respect normally bestowed on veterans of a vicious war. Just be warned. A self-proclaimed celebration of the feminine spirit, this story, this film... hell, the actual theater showing this film is no place for any transporter of testosterone.

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Support Your Local Sheriff! Review


Good
"It's bad enough to have to kill a man, without having to listen to a lot of stupid talk from him first." James Garner adapts his Maverick persona to this western-comedy, a clever and deftly-dialogued story about a blase gunfighter who takes the job of sheriff in a rough-and-tumble town simply for the money. Good thing he's an excellent shot and even better with a pistol. It's a clever spoof with some dry moments, but overall it's one of the old west's better comedies.

Space Cowboys Review


Weak
The good news about Space Cowboys is that Clint Eastwood proves to be a skilled comedic director. The bad news is that only the first half of the movie is a comedy - the second half is a sloppy attempt at a heart-pounding, Apollo 13ish, mission-gone-haywire space drama that's vague, oversimplified and unbelievable. There's a gem of an entertaining movie somewhere in there, but it's never fully realized.

The plot is solid high concept. If you did a double-take when you first heard that John Glenn would return to space, you'll love the basic premise of Ken Kaufman's and Howard Klausner's script - four daring, old Air Force codgers weasel their way back into NASA's space shuttle program to attempt an equipment repair mission that only they know how to perform. Our movie visions of strapping, young astronauts (Dennis Quaid, Bill Paxton, Ben Affleck, to name a few) are smashed once we see an aging James Garner pull on an airtight suit.

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The Americanization of Emily Review


OK
Arthur HIller directed this oddball black comedy (script courtesy of the masterful Paddy Chayefsky), which turns out to have little to do with Emily (Julie Andrews) at all. Rather, the film captures a quirky navy admiral who's intent on having the first casualty at Omaha Beach be a sailor -- and he wants to capture it on film. Lt. Commander James Garner doesn't want to go, and all manner of hijinks ensue. James Coburn steals the show, and rescues it from dated, overblown oblivion.

Sayonara Review


Good
James Michener's novel about an American G.I. (Marlon Brando) who falls in love with a Japanese kabuki starlet (Miiko Taka) after the Korean War is both timeless and bizarre. Timeless because it has that Romeo and Juliet feeling of crossed cultures -- the love affair made difficult here due to military rules and societal pressures, not to mention the fact that Brando's character agrees with those rules and pressures to start with. It's bizarre because of Brando's histrionics (Referring to sake, he says nervously to his Japanese gal, "We got rice back home but we just make rice pudding out of it, we don't drink it!"), Red Buttons in a serious role, and Ricardo Montalban playing a Japanese man (at least I think he's supposed to be Japanese). It's crazy. You won't know whether to laugh or cry, but you won't be able to look away.
James Garner

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