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James Karen - Sunday 10th June 2007 at Tony Awards Los Angeles, California

James Karen
James Karen

The Pursuit Of Happyness Review


Very Good
There is a part of The Pursuit of Happyness -- most of the last third, honestly -- that is just plain too bleak. It's taking an eternally optimistic guy just trying to scrape by and doing more than making things rough for him; it's kicking him in the crotch and spitting on him, and maybe humiliating him a little bit. It's some really holiday good cheer.

Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is one of those downtrodden guys for whom better times are always just around the next corner. He's a salesman, hawking some over-priced and under-used equipment to hospitals around San Francisco. What Chris wants is a better life for his family, his angry and overworked wife Linda (Thandie Newton, unconvincing with her brittle, bottled up range) and his delectably cute five-year-old Christopher (played by Smith's real-life son Jaden -- or, as he's loftily billed in the credits, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith). And the idea he latches onto, because it does not require a college education, but could still pay off big time, is to become a stockbroker.

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Girl Review


Good
Dominique Swain jumps from one Lolita to another with Girl, this made-for-cable romp about a brainy beauty virgin who decides to let it all slut-out with the local grunge-rock hero (Flanery). What lessons does she learn along the way? I never really figured that out... but for some reason, I didn't completely hate the film -- maybe because Swain is so damn cute.

Return Of The Living Dead Part II Review


Good
This mega-campy sequel to Return of the Living Dead (itself a campy takeoff of Night of the Living Dead) offers one of the most sarcastic and silly horror experiences put to film. The setup is unbearably simple: Nerve gas falls off an army truck, kids find it and break it open, and the gas ends up reviving the dead folks in the nearby cemetary.

Those unfortunate enough to be alive and remaining in the town are forced to fend off the legions of zombies, all of whom want nothing more than braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains to munch on. But once a zombie chows on your skull, you turn undead too -- manifest by a gray-green pallor and a near-immediate desire to eat brains. As one character puts it, "Those brains... smell so good! So rich and spicy!"

Continue reading: Return Of The Living Dead Part II Review

Thirteen Days Review


Excellent
I don't often override the writers at filmcritic.com, free speech and individual preference being what they are, but every now and then I disagree with a critic so much, I am called to make a response. (And since we published this review in January 2001, the reader mail has let me know just what they thought of this bit of criticism....)

Thirteen Days is the film in question -- and unlike staff writer James Brundage I felt the film was a truly powerful one, an eye-opening dissection of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a sobering study of how close we came to annihialation during the Cold War, and a peek behind the scenes of detente. An excellent companion to another (even better) Kevin Costner vehicle, Oliver Stone's JFK, Thirteen Days is not an actor's showcase like JFK is, but rather lets its story do the telling, taking us behind the scenes as decisions with cascading consequences are made. To be sure, Roger Donaldson was likely a poor choice as director -- his arbitrary use of black and white vs. color, his heavy-handedness in glorifying Kennedy at every turn, and his preachy doomsaying all wear a bit thin. But even he can't ruin the film completely.

Continue reading: Thirteen Days Review

The Return Of The Living Dead Review


Very Good
Not another sequel to Night of the Living Dead, The Return of the Living Dead is actually a semi-parody (pioneering for its time) of George Romero's films, with the same plot points (marauding zombies, nasty blood effects) but with a sense of humor not really found in the originals.

The story features two doofus military employees, who accidentally unleash nerve gas on a corpse -- who promptly reanimates -- and end up spreading the plague to a nearby cemetary. A group of punk rockers (including scream queens Jewel Shepard and Linnea Quigley) hanging out at the cemetary play dinner for the zombies that take to the streets.

Continue reading: The Return Of The Living Dead Review

Invaders From Mars Review


Bad
Hunter Carson describes one of the titular invaders as "a giant Mr. Potato Head" and that's about as spot on a description you can get for the plasticine mind-suckers that come to earth to take over our hero's parents' brains. Unbearable special effects are the worst part of this remake of the 1953 classic; the rest of the movie is merely forgettable.

Apt Pupil Review


Very Good
Controversy shrouded the production of Apt Pupil for years. In fact, the setting of the film subtly belies its age: It's set in 1984, for no readily apparent reason other than that was contemporary when it was written. Given its subject matter -- star student becomes obsessed with the Nazi down the street -- a little controversy is expected. McKellan is pretty far over the top in his role as a member of the Hitler Silver club, and the story doesn't completely gel. The dynamic between he and Renfro is fun -- probably the best part of the film. It's a fairly good rental, but little more than that.
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John Krasinski Used His Experience To Make The Hollars

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James Karen Movies

The Pursuit of Happyness Movie Review

The Pursuit of Happyness Movie Review

There is a part of The Pursuit of Happyness -- most of the last third,...

The Pursuit of Happyness Trailer

The Pursuit of Happyness Trailer

In The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a family man struggling to...

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Thirteen Days Movie Review

Thirteen Days Movie Review

I don't often override the writers at filmcritic.com, free speech and individual preference being what...

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